Dancehall in County Arcade

Bunkers, shelters and other buildings
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Post by stutterdog »

iansmithofotley wrote: Hi everyone,I think that the Mecca Group was taken over by the Rank Group. I have searched but can't find the origin of 'Locarno' relating to dance halls, albeit there were many Mecca Locarnos all over the country. Nearly every reference links back to Locarno in Switzerland.I used to go to the 'Old Mecca' in the arcade from 1961 until about 1967. I mentioned in another post that Jimmy Savile was the manager and Dennis Peace was his assistant. Dennis later became the manager when Jimmy left. I also remember the 'bouncers', I can remember three. One was an east European chap with dark hair. He was a good looking chap with a good physique and was very quiet but friendly when spoken to. Another one was stocky with fair hair, called Scotty. The third one was a very tall and big man, also with fair hair. He had had an eye injury and there was some disfigurement around one of his eye sockets. He was called Tony but I can't remember his surname. He was a very friendly man and his day job was as a salesman in a furniture shop, possibly Maples. I think that he got an award from the Police at some stage for catching a thief or helping the Police, or similar.Between 1961 and 1965 I was a regular. I worked in an office in Leeds and even used to go every lunch time (6d. entry charge) when it was open from 12n until 2pm. I also remember the place being open on Saturday afternoons.In those days the upstairs licensed club was called the Tudor Club and there was a membership system for people over 18 years of age. I was never a member because I was initially too young and then never bothered to join. The other 'bar' area was down a few steps on the side opposite the stage. This area was like a lounge and in those days was purely a 'coffee bar' with no alcohol.I think that in the early 60's the band was called the Delaney band but this later changed to the Bill Barron Combo, they were awful. At this time you have to remember that most of the dance halls in the country and those in Leeds such as the Capitol, the Astoria and the Majestic had always been 'ballrooms' with live bands, some of them were quite large. Discotheques and dancing to records had not yet been invented as most of the music was 'big band music'. It was only when rock 'n' roll and skiffle developed in the 50's that small groups (such as three guitarists and a drummer) became more and more popular and 'pop' music started to take over. My point is that the 'Old Mecca' must have been one of the first places that played nearly all its music by using records and used a disc jockey. I remember the disc jockeys, apart from Jimmy, being Brian, Cliff and Les. Going back to the resident band - the Old Mecca used to have two periods when the band would perform. These periods were from around 8.25pm until 8.55pm and from 9.25pm until 9.55pm. It was funny because when the resident band came on, everyone left the dance floor and went to the Tudor Club or into the coffee bar and hardly anyone danced to the band.It was hilarious because at 8.55pm the band would finish playing and everyone would scramble back on to the dance floor and try to get a partner as soon as possible. The reason for this was that at 9pm it was 'Nine o'clock smooch time' when the lights were turned low, a large mirrored ball, suspended from the roof, started to spin with a spotlight on it creating 'stars' and slow romantic records and ballads were played. This went on until about 9.20pm when the music would liven up again until 9.25pm when the resident band would play again. The whole thing was repeated and the dance floor became sparse again until 'Ten o'clock smooch time'. In those days the Old Mecca closed at 11pm.I can't remember when it was but the Old Mecca changed its name to The Spinning Disc. It was probably when the Merrion Centre was built and the 'New Mecca' opened.Another funny thing was that whenever you went to the Mecca, all of the regulars always used to stand in their own specific place except when the lads were roving around looking for someone to dance with. The girls always danced in the same place on the dance floor (usually around their handbags). The Leeds United lot always stood near the wall opposite the entrance, the late Mick Shoebottom (Leeds RLFC) and his mates always stood just to the left of the stage. A few of the local 'gangsters' always stood near to the place where ladies' handbags could be deposited ('Handbag Corner') which was to the right of the stage. I also remember there being a cloakroom downstairs and upstairs there was a balcony which went all of the way around the building. I think that Jimmy Savile had a flat just off the balcony through one of the emergency exits.At night time, after the County Arcade shops had closed, there were a series of large, tall, metal fences/gates erected which sealed off the parts of the arcade above and below where the Old Mecca was situated. There was another large fence/gate at the entrance from the street (which is now under cover and now forms part of the Victoria Quarter - Queen Victoria Street?). Entry to the Mecca was via a gate at this entrance which was supervised by staff/bouncers.I often wonder how many Loiners met their future husbands/wives at the Old Mecca. They were very happy days.Ian. My God ! Ian! What a memory you've got! You took me back nearly 50 years with your remaniscences of the good old Mecca which I attended with a small gang of my mates every Sat night in the late 50's and early 60's. We would go down to the Yorkshire Hussars, have a skinfull and then wonder up to the Mecca and get in just before 10pm.I think it was 10 bob to get in in those days.I believe it closed at midnight.Great days! After we had grown a little older (in our 20's) we went to the majestic because the girls seemed too young for us at the Mecca.I did'nt meet my wife there though.
ex-Armley lad

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Post by BLAKEY »

In the fabulous "uninhibited" Rock and Roll era of the mid 1950s it was just 6d, yes two and a half pence, for a great lunchtime session in The Mecca - then back to boring old office work for the afternoon.
There's nothing like keeping the past alive - it makes us relieved to reflect that any bad times have gone, and happy to relive all the joyful and fascinating experiences of our own and other folks' earlier days.

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Post by blackprince »

Oldvynal wrote: Hi all ,Reading all of your comments about the Mecca Locarno Dancehall in the county arcade brougt back many memories .I was a regular visitor there from 1960 to 1966, the place used to be heaving on a weekend .I remember Wilf Preen he was manager there from the mid 60s little chap with a black tash and jimmy saville was a regular DJ there and often stood outside chatting to the doormen when not on stage .The place was on three tiers .The basement was the cafe and jimmy use to frequent there with his blue and yellow mcaw parrott .from the cafe you went up a small flight of stairs to the main dancehall which was normally occupied with wall to wall birds .Mainly it was dancing to the latest hit records from bobby vee to the Beatles ,and on occasions dancing to live bands and of course after the Rock and Roll it was smooch time or what we called pick a bird time . Above the dancefloor was a balcony with tables and seating arrangements which you got to by a flight of stairs on the left ,At the Top of the stairs was a black door this was the club for members only and had to show your pass to enter it was called THE TUDOR CLUB I was a member of that club ,Inside was a small dance floor and a bar ,and this is where many of the Leeds United Players hung out .Bobby Collins . Gary Sprake, Gilesy to mention a few .The Mecca was a great place to go and had very little trouble as the doormen usually vetted everyone who entered .Its just a pity it was demolished for what is now a clothes shop .I did read an article in the Yorkshire Post that when they were dismantling the old mecca some workmen saw a couple dancing on the old dance floor and then suddenly dissapeared .I guess the place must have been haunted . Thanks for the description of "the Mecca" which takes me back to the few visits I made in my teens. My abiding memory is of girls in mini skirts dancing in groups around their handbags. I seem to remember that they were quite loyal to their friends and would refuse to dance with you if there weren't enough lads to dance with all the girls in the group.
It used to be said that the statue of the Black Prince had been placed in City Square , near the station, pointing South to tell all the southerners who've just got off the train to b****r off back down south!

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Post by iansmithofotley »

Hi everyone,Dennis Peace (78 yrs) died last Thursday, 30th September 2010. He used to be the assistant manager of the 'Old Mecca' in the early 1960's when Jimmy Savile was the manager and, when Jimmy left, he became the manager. Jimmy and Dennis were both very keen racing cyclists (Jimmy once road in the Tour of Britain) and Dennis still rode every day. He lived in Bramhope and could often be seen sitting outside Dunny's Cafe, next to the river bridge in Otley, after a ride in Wharfedale.Apparently, it appears he was involved in an accident during the early afternoon near to the Cavendish Cafe at Bolton Abbey. He was found next to his Pinarello bike and was badly injured. It is not known whether or not he fell off his bike, was involved in a collision with another vehicle or had had a heart attack. He later died at Leeds Infirmary. The Police are appealing for witnesses.Ian

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Post by exiled in essex »

My mum can talk for hours about the Mecca. She was a member of the Tudor Club and still has her membership card which must be 50 years old as she is 68 now. Jimmy Savile once knocked her flying on the stairs and then offered to buy her a drink but she turned him down because he gave her the creeps. My dad used to go in too but he hated it, he only went because my mum went and he was 'chasing' her at the time but she wasn't interested. They've now been married for 46 years so his persistence paid off in the end!Mum also learnt to dance at Mark Altman's.

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Post by huckleberry »

Have loved reading these memories of the Spinning Disc. I have a lot of memories - especially Saturday afternoons. Friends met there were Dave Naylor, originally from Bramley/mehanic at Ford, and had a green Ford Pop; Dennis Billingham from Leeds 16, and Dave O'Grady from Harehills - if anyone knows Dave it would be great to hear from him.Started going there for "junior" tea time session (long time ago) whilst at school; with Steve Green the DJ, Brent (the blonde one) was on Top of the Pops with Jimmy S; there was also Mick Ratcliffck, Paul ?, and not forgetting Tony Marshall. Who went on to be the manager at The Cat's Whiskers in Meanwood, and then MD of Butlins. Also Walt Thomas was there - and he also went to the Cat's Whisker's as a DJ. Peter Cutt was also one of the team - had his silver wedding a few years ago and put an announcement in the YEP - saying that if anyone knew Tony Marshall to let him know that they had lasted that long - he said it wouldn't!I was also one of the 6p dinnertime attendees - and was a member of the Tudor Club (underage!), but remember that you could get icy drinks in the cafe party - called Slush Puppies now. I also saw Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich there too.True we all danced round our handbags, and all did certain routines to specific records - but what fantastic days they were

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Post by DOBBO »

God bless the Mecca - at the old Mecca I used to go midweek because if you were in before seven o clock it was free entry ( or was it sixpence ?) I can remember seeing James and Bobby Purify there at the height of the MOD thing and at the New Mecca in the Merrion Centre going to see the Who - of all people in all places- Townshend cut his hand badly on one of his big guitar flourishes and bled heavily all through the gig
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Post by leedslily »

If I remember rightly, the shopping arcade in the 70s was called Swing-In.

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Post by Geordie-exile »

Just noticed that Barry Ryan, yer actual Barry Ryan, has posted on the Leodis comments page about the Mecca.I am unfeasibly excited about this. Positive swoonerama going on round here. ... SPLAY=FULL

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Post by buffaloskinner »

My Bro used to go to school with the Ryan bros, but I do love Barrys bit on LeodisName:Barry RyanComment:I remember when I was 15, I went there with my twin brother and some mates and every Saturday I saw this girl who I later found out was called Julie. Love at first sight... After three weeks of looking at her I finally got up the bottle to ask her to dance and remember ALL my mates were watching. I imagined she had the voice of Audrey Hepburn, she certainly looked like her, I'll never forget her reply as long as I live: ME: err. excuse me...err..would you like to dance? HER: (in the strongest Seacroft accent I'd ever heard) You'll 'ave to ask mi mate,' I'm sweatin" Pure Seacroft lol
Is this the end of the story ...or the beginning of a legend?

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