Frank Clarke remembers the Christmas parties that Granada held for employees’ children

In those days, by now in the late 60’s/early 70’s, we used to have a children’s party one Saturday before Christmas. All the employees could bring their child – one, two, three, whatever they had. They gave the employees chance to go Christmas shopping with their wives and husbands and whatever you see. About eight of us used to be, but Miss Longhurst made sure everybody going in the Café by the Friday of that week knew that only those who were rostered to work Friday evening would be given meals.

Her girls, that’s how she called the staff, her girls who’d be too busy preparing for the children’s party. All the tables in the Café were laid out and it wasn’t the Café that we ended up with on Quay Street, it was the back where Sidney’s dining room was, past the old Studio 8 as it became and Studio 12 and they did, they laid all the tables out. We came in on the Saturday, served all the children and when the children had gone, they cleared everything away again….

Just recapping on the Sports and Social Club. As I said before, we had a party for them every Christmas, just for the children, and we’d get, one year we had Freddie and the Dreamers and another the Yardbirds. Belle Vue Zoo was still in operation and they would bring a couple of animals down to see the children. Once we had a boxing kangaroo and the kids loved it, but they came in, they’d see this group or something and they’d go and have their tea in the Café, then they’d come back then they’d watch a cartoon film while the meal was digested and then one year we arranged a wrestling match with one of our rigger drivers who was an amateur wrestler and another man who was a wrestler and we rigged one of the posts to collapse. So one of the ones off the Children’s Party Committee, told the kiddies before the wrestling started, this official wrestler, shall we say, was a baddie and he was naughty and they had to boo him. Well of course they did do. But he was the one that was going to fall on the rigged post in the corner. And when he did all the kids cheered. It was great and then they’d end up going to see Father Christmas.

In fact I checked this with my elder daughter you know, yesterday, and she admitted it. We sent the boys and the girls in, in twos. As they go into the grotto that had been built, they parted so, one saw one man who was the General Manager as Father Christmas, and the others saw a wood machinist as Father Christmas and they came out of the same exit. And I said to her yesterday, “did you ever know?” She said she never knew at all and they never knew at all, the five of them, the children, just as it was.

But every, this is why when we’d mentioned about it, to the Company, about this party thing, they said “well as long as you looked after them whilst they’re on the building, we’ve no problems. Just tell Miss Longhurst what you want setting up for the children. She’ll do it. Don’t bother about cost, we’ll stand it for you.” So what happened the three of us would go to, there was, again in Chorlton, down the bottom, near Brantingham Road, there was a Frank Clark who was tobacco wholesalers, toys and tobacco and two or three of us would go down there. We’d get off the ones that were coming, we’d sort them into sex, ages, go to see Roy Halls, see what they’d got. Leave it with them. Then all the toys would come up one day and they’d come on to, there was a cupboard on the Accounts floor which was locked up and all the stuff was put in there until the Christmas Party was done and finished with and any, we never had any left over because there was always one or two kiddies that would come at the last minute, stuff like that, but for four hours on a Saturday once a year, you know, it was nothing but the kiddies enjoyed it. They really did.

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