story is true.
It’s based on memories of my teen years on Merseyside where I was
Vollmecke (nee Swann.) remembers the Beatles from her teenage
years on Merseyside.
If you knew Glen - why not contact her? firstname.lastname@example.org
a two year art scholarship at the age of fifteen, and at first stubbornly
resisted association with the art students, due mainly to their
wild reputations and my own innate shyness.
Eventually, I began what proved to be some of the most memorable
years of my young life.
friend from art school raced alongside me one morning yelling excitedly
that she had a date with
Paul MaCartney, one of the Beatles playing at the Tower
ballroom, I wasn’t impressed.
Perched on a hill surrounded by fairground exhibits, and resembling
a huge medieval castle, was the Tower building. Originally standing
544 feet high and built in 1896 it resembled the Eiffel Tower in
Paris, and peered bleakly over the River Mersey, and was adjacent
to the Liver building on the other side, which was Liverpool, a
few miles away from my home town of Wallasey.
art school’s annual ‘Rag Day’ involved engineering colleges, and
art schools from within a fifty mile radius. John Lennon studied
at our ‘sister school’ in Liverpool. He was an eager costumed participant.
Parades of over forty floats, which resembled a Halloween holocaust,
provided wild, un-subdued entertainment for all who watched.
Lennon lived for most of his childhood on Menlove Avenue
wild evening as floats coasted inch by inch down the main street
in all their coloured splendor, a ‘gang’ from John’s
college ‘captured’ me. I was thrown onto over stuffed pillows in
the Egyptian float, until I snatched a huge oar from their display
and started swinging, needless to say I was released amid profuse
the hysteria of the moment, my focus of fascination was the sight
of John’s friends in their soccer outfits, while at the same time
wearing ballerina tutus.
I’m almost positive he was one of them.
one occasion our ‘life model’ Mary Antoinette Birtwhistle, who posed
at our school in the buff, decided to abandon her raincoat in sub
Being completely naked underneath the coat, and without the benefit
of warm clothing, the students in John’s crowd gleefully pelted
her with rotten eggs.
This caused a great deal of friction from ‘our side’ and after a
heated exchange, we dutifully gathered up Mary, grabbed her raincoat,
and shoved her on the next train home.
of our students, a pianist called Samuel and a talented musician
was engrossed in banging out jazz on an old Salvation Army piano
whilst our float moved slowly down the cobbled streets of Liverpool.
Suddenly several pounds of flour and rotten eggs descended upon
him from an abandoned building, absolutely ruining his loaned piano,
not to mention his bronchial tubes!
Needless to say, these wild and reckless rag days were coming to
an abrupt and hasty conclusion.
inevitable decision to terminate future rag days was made, much
to the regret of all involved.
Lennon lived with his in-laws during this time. The "Powels"
lived across the road from my brother’s home in Hoylake.
My brother was newly married, and also resided with his in-laws
who were named "Powel." Therefore it wasn’t surprising that confusion
within the postal system constantly occurred.
My brother’s first born son Mark, was often the recipient of many
of John’s fan mail, especially when Julian Lennon was born.
The cards and gifts were inadvertently sent to my family’s home
by mistake. Art schools first year offered freedom and challenges.
friend Diane and I often skipped classes on many a rainy afternoon
for a frolic in Liverpool.
I was dating a disc jockey "Clem" of the Iron Door Club, which was
located next to the Cavern.
This was where we met one grey rainy day, for coffee. Alone, we
envisioned a peaceful and romantic interlude in the tiny, empty
ballroom. However within five minutes we were rudely interrupted
by four belligerent lads, complete with sets of drums, wires and
microphones they set up their ‘gear’ amid exaggerated noise and
Clem loudly shouted as we departed, "give them a job and they
get big headed!" The
Beatles were unfazed.
McCartney - picture provided by Betty Morrow.
incident at the club, involved a loud pounding at the door one evening,
Clem as night manager excused himself, in order to investigate.
Upon returning, he explained that a lad named Ringo was frantically
trying to gain entry in order to join his ‘band,’ but obviously
was in the wrong club. He raced next door to the Cavern, albeit
late for his ‘gig!’ Clem just shook his head in disbelief.
No doubt poor Ringo was his usual disoriented self that night.
Smiling, I understood.
one of Clem’s work nights at the Tower
ballroom where he was a disc jockey, we spotted the Beatles
arriving for their ‘gig.’ Four little black headed figures in black
leather jackets were coming to the stage to ‘set up.’
They owed Clem money, three pounds to be exact, approximately five
dollars. The conversation became heated, so out of curiosity I joined
My boyfriend demanded repayment, and did all the talking as they
humbly bowed their heads, barely saying a word. Paul suddenly pulled
out the lining of his pockets and said " sorry we don’t have
it mate. Honest!"
Cavern became a Mecca for the local students. It was a small
underground cellar of an old warehouse, in a dark dismal alley.
At night it became a sea of faces and neon lights. Our front, folding
metal seats often vibrated with the pounding music.
Groups from London often played the Cavern and seemed more prestigious
than our local lads, at this time.
you ever bring HIM home, your mother will choke you!"
floor literally shook as we sat dangerously close. It seemed that
Ringo and his drums would bounce from this tiny stage, and land
in our laps at any given moment.
Ringo’s musical talents were impressive, although his silly vacant
expression was hilarious. He spent many an evening ‘making eyes’
and pursing his huge lips in my direction as my friend and I danced
My sister Jean admonished, "if you ever bring HIM home, your
mother will choke you!"
As an art student, I worked part time at the Tower ballroom café
as a cashier. The lads often brought their trays laden with cellophane
packaged goodies through the check out. Ringo’s attempts at flirtation
were more amusing than annoying!
Remembering my sister’s warning, I remained aloof!
the Tower spotlight one evening was John, the manager’s son. He
fell for every girl who showed him attention, and was smitten with
me for around two weeks. On this particular night, he ‘spotlighted’
myself and a friend several minutes at a time while we danced, leaving
the "Fab Four" in total darkness.
The language and yelling, which emanated from the dark and gloomy
stage was unprintable!
especially, reacted angrily when the swooning teenage girls
excitedly grabbed his ankles, in an almost successful attempt to
extricate him from the stage. He became ‘heated’ quickly, and his
language was crude leaving no doubt as to his intentions.
was more patient but prone to being quick tempered and very sarcastic.
the ‘clown’ was dopey, adorable, and silly.
was painfully shy and kept quietly to himself, barely raising his
head to ‘view’ his surroundings.
I was a sensitive sixteen year old. My best friend Diane and I enjoyed
a rum and black currant in the Tower bar one evening. We were seated
in the almost empty room next to the Beatles. Shortly an ex boyfriend
entered. He was a bouncer for the Tower, we were not on speaking
terms, so he loudly stated that at sixteen I was underage and had
The group of four at the next table snickered, giggled and nudged
each other as I made a hasty albeit humiliated retreat, glass in
Suddenly Brian Epstein, their new London connection and manager
entered our lives. We sensed a ‘quickening’ an acceleration as though
we were losing something, we’d taken for granted. He hovered around
the ballroom which quickly emptied of its’ revelers, as one noisy
Saturday evening concluded. I paused to hear the conversation of
this imposing and confident foreigner, whom I sensed was in complete,
and irreversible control of our ‘lads.’
"Passing ships in the sea" was all I heard, as he gazed at the last
few teens rushing to catch the late bus home.
Soon afterwards, the lads left for Germany.
mother returned to live in her native island of Jersey near France.
At seventeen I was alone. For several months I worked in Jersey
then decided to try my luck in London’s West End. I found a job
in a fashionable store in Oxford Street, as a window dresser/designer.
As I proudly related my experiences in animated detail to my friends
and co-workers, I was thrilled to see the ‘lads’ in a postage stamp
sized photo in a variety magazine, Rolling Stones.
Excitedly I passed the page around, but these people were unimpressed.
Several weeks later, the lads returned from Germany and took London
by storm. The world would know the Beatles.
My co-worker said, "Glen, let me see that tiny clipping of
your Liverpool lads again!"
Written by Glen
Vollmecke (nee Swann.)
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