Weekly Bingo Sessions
Weekly bingo sessions were held by Leiston Labour Party as part of their fund-raising. They were organised and run by Norman Fish and his willing band of helpers under the auspices of the Party’s social committee. As callers Ernie and I were closely involved with the running of these sessions and so, with Ernie’s mum and dad already active party members, it was almost inevitable that we too would end up joining both the local Labour Party and the social committee.
I even met my wife through bingo. Both her mum and dad were helpers; Charlie sold the game cards and paid out the winnings, and Blanche usually served refreshments. Kath occassionally came down with them on a Thursday night for something to do. After a few weeks I confided in one of the other helpers, Bob Bilner, that I quite fancied her and he encouraged me to ask her for a date. So it was that on Thursday 15th July 1971, after the evening’s bingo session, we went out on our first date – to Aldeburgh to enjoy fish and chips I believe. We’ve been married for over 38 years now and we have two grown-up children, two grandaughters and a grandson. For the fortieth anniversary of our first date we went to Aldeburgh for fish and chips before trying to re-visit the cliffs at Dunwich where we did much of our courting. Alas that part of our lives has long since fallen into the sea.
As part of the Social Committee Ernie and I, with our respective partners, helped with the organisation and running of dances, discos, social evenings and the annual childrens Christmas Party. I remember one of the bands we booked on a couple of occassions was the Tune Twisters. We also dreamed up and organised the Labour Party’s float in one Leiston Carnival, although I can’t recall which year it was. I do recollect that we begged and borrowed all sorts of blacksmiths tools and an anvil, and then had both Ernie’s and Kath’s fathers on the float dressed as village blacksmiths.
In addition to helping with social events we also became involved in the political side of the local Labour Party. I very much enjoyed the work connected with local elections. Firstly out canvassing for support and then, on election day itself, either being a ‘teller’ at one of the Polling Stations collecting the ID numbers of people who had voted, or, going out ‘knocking-up’. This meant calling on people who had previously indicated that they would vote Labour, but, who according to the information from our ‘tellers’ had not yet voted. For one election I was nominated as a candidate’s representative. This allowed me to be present on the floor of the hall whilst the count was in progress; something the candidates themselves were not allowed to do. It was very interesting to see our electoral system in action at close quarters.
Although not specifically mentioning Leiston Labour Party, more information about Labour in the East of England can be found on their web pages.