19. Bad Boys

I have just two stories today, both about lads getting into trouble in the 1950s.
The first, in 1954, is about Teddy boys, who were really the first teenage cult in Britain. Their style was easily recognisable, with their drainpipe trousers, big drape jackets and tall hair. The rest of the population felt very threatened by their strangeness.

This event had front page billing in the Braintree and Witham Times. The headline read “Teddy boys in dance hall fight at midnight”. The dance hall in question was the Public Hall, and there were over 300 dancers. The report stressed that the fighting “involved Teddy-boys”. Details are rather confused. It may have started just with “an argument between two youths”.

But then, to quote from the newspaper again, there was a fight “between six youths surrounded by forty onlookers …When onlookers got mixed up in the fight, gang warfare resulted. Watchers admit the two gangs came from Maldon and Boreham, and no Witham people were involved.” I myself was very cheered to read this, even though it was nearly sixty years ago.

The writer of the column “Window on Witham” also discussed the occasion. Needless to say, he found that many people in the town were complaining. But he also wrote that “I have heard it said that many of the residents of Collingwood Road for instance are out of touch with the times, that they complain unnecessarily and forget that they were once young themselves”.

My second story concerns just one boy, who shall remain nameless. He was a seventeen-year old wages clerk, and in 1958 he broke into the Coronation café next to the Collingwood Road railway bridge (shown in the photo). For some unexplained reason, Police Constable Nutt was already hiding behind the fridge in the kitchen !
When the boy was asked his name, he said it was Frank Sinatra. This came up in court later, and the prosecutor, Mr Elligot, said that he understood Mr Sinatra to be “an American gentleman, either a politician or a film star, I don’t know which”.
The boy’s father said that his son had seen similar crimes at the cinema, presumably in films starring Frank Sinatra, and he thought that he could do the same. The boy was put on probation for three years.

The Coronation café on the left, and the shop called the Cabin on the right. They were on the main railway bridge which is near the station (their site is now occupied by 71 Collingwood Road).
The Coronation café on the left, and the shop called the Cabin on the right. They were beside the main railway bridge which is near the station (their site is now occupied by 71 Collingwood Road).

A version of this article appeared in the Braintree and Witham Times in February 2012

 

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