Ronnie

“Ray Jones” a familiar voice came from the direction of the entrance of the Mercantile building.

She said that she had seen me from the second-floor window as I passed by on the opposite side of the street so she had obviously come down and was waiting for my return.

I was taken completely by surprise; I had no idea she worked there. She remained standing on the entrance steps and I on the pavement below.

“We exchanged a few awkward pleasantries for a few minutes then lapsed into an embarrassing silence.

“I’d better get back to work” She said quietly.

I honestly can’t remember what I answered.

I headed back up Linthorpe Road, located the car and drove home.

*********************

I met Ronnie in September 1959 at an ICI Works dance at the Redcar Windsor Ballroom. She was with friends who worked at ICI and I was celebrating my 18th birthday. After dancing together quite a few times, she said that she had seen me having a turn on the drums in the local pub, where a friend and his group were playing. During the conversation, it was mentioned that a group of us went to the St Phil’s dance each week, which was not far from where she lived. She wouldn’t let me take her home, so I thought that was the end of that.

The next Saturday night, she turned up at the dance with a few friends. I walked her home that night and we started to see each other. Ronnie’s friend Christine palled up with Malla.

The Drifters – ‘Dance With Me’  1960
Dance with me
Dance with me closer, closer and closer
And maybe we’ll be lovers
When the music ends

The three of us lads all now had partners. We went to school together and worked at the same place, so we were a close-knit group. We went dancing every Saturday night, the swimming baths each Sunday morning and enjoyed many trips to the country or the seaside as a group or just in pairs.

Ronnie’s mother was a tyrant, but her dad was a bit of a mouse. As far as Mrs Slack was concerned, I was definitely from the wrong side of town, coming from close to the docks and factories, while they lived in the leafy semi-detached suburb of Tollesby. After dating for a while, Ronnie told me that her mam had forbidden her to go out with me.

Mam and Dad had always taught us that everyone should be accepted for what they are, not where they came from or station in life, so I was at a loss to know why I was so unacceptable. I went around to her home a few weeks later when I knew Ronnie was not at home, to discover the reason.

I was not expected and her mother was surprised to see me on the doorstep. She could only offer a lame excuse.

“Your dad has consumption. I don’t want my daughter near that.”

“My dad has asthma, nothing else.”

“Well, she’s not allowed to see you any more.”

The short confrontation was over. There was nothing more to say. I found out later that consumption was an old-fashioned term for TB. That night, when I met Ronnie outside the college where she attended night school, I told her what had happened. She laughed.

“I can’t believe you did that!”

We continued to meet in secret and eventually I was reluctantly accepted.

 

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