WRIGHT THINKING: Headland Carnival takes me right back

Fun on one of the rides at the Headland Carniival.
Fun on one of the rides at the Headland Carniival.

The annual Headland Carnival is now well under way and, my word, how it brings back childhood memories for me.

The first thing that strikes me is the change in the value of money since my boyhood on the Headland in the early Fifties.

You’ve probably seen the 50p off coupons for rides on the funfair in your Hartlepool Mail and I was just thinking that such a sum of money, 10 shillings in my day, would have paid for a good day out and enough left over for dad to go for a pint.

Of course, we never called it anything posh like a “funfair”; we always talked of “going to the shows.”

Today’s youngsters are probably much more worldly wise and harder to impress than my generation, but I always remember the sense of excitement in the days leading up to the big event on the Town Moor.

The sight of huge lorries with dodgem cars and the rest balanced on their trailers was always a great talking point among us lads.

And then, really quickly, our usually dull patch of grass near the sea became a magical world of sound and light.

Above all it was the smells that I remember; even now, the unmistakeable aroma of Wessler’s hamburgers and onions will take me back decades.

Today’s video games generation probably wouldn’t understand how we marvelled at the bright lights and throbbing music against the night sky.

Going along in daylight always felt a poor comparison – probably because it all looked so ordinary without the kind of theatre which came as darkness fell.

And, believe it or not, we all thought that working on the shows was the most glamorous job in the world.

Never mind footballers or pop singers – our dream was to be the lad in charge of the dodgem cars who could hop between the swirling vehicles while collecting fares and chatting up the local maidens at the same time.

The fact that he was doing all this with pop music blaring out of tinny speakers really was living the dream.

I always remember those days as family events accompanied by my mum and dad and my two younger brothers.

Like many other dads, ours had seen recent experience in the forces and he was keen to show off his prowess as a marksman on the rifle ranges – with the tempting prize of a fluffy toy at stake.

The day also marked an early attempt at teaching us financial management.

A gift of extra pocket money was doled out and “when it’s gone, it’s gone. “

This led to agonising decisions on where to spend your money.

We didn’t have Facebook or Tripadvisor in those days, so we gleaned feedback from our friends on whether a ride was brilliant or rubbish.

One of my classmates, Dave, was viewed as the leading expert on all things of this kind and one word from him could sway dozens of potential spenders.

One year, he came off the ghost train with the quick review I’ll always remember.

“It’s useless. It wouldn’t frighten my granny. “

And so, one stallholder was doomed to lower takings than expected.

The world has changed a lot, but I hope that today’s Hartlepool kids can still get some fun from this temporary treat on their doorstep.