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Dickie Bows

In the fairly drab days of the 50’s and 60’s an excuse to play at being rich, just for one night was irresistible. My mom and dad, Olive and Ken Belcher both worked hard and loved an excuse to enjoy themselves.

Many of the larger companies had one special night a year which was called an “Evening Do” or a “Dinner Dance”. The invites would arrive in the post printed on the finest cotton gold edged paper with elegant scrolled writing inviting you to the “Do”. The fancy food menu would be referred to and it ended with “Carriages at 1:00 am.”

Dicky Bows

Introduction to the Chairman 1958

It usually involved the chairman giving a speech after the meal, sometimes a guest speaker, prizes being given out, a tombola [raffle] and general merriment all round. With dancing to the finest band available. The men had to wear evening shirts and jackets shiny patent leather shoes, with “Dickie Bows” and other items like cummerbunds. But more importantly the girls got to wear extravagant evening dresses, their finest jewellery, delicate handbags and accessories and if you could afford it a fur [usually Mink] stole.

Dickie Bows

Enjoying night out at Sutton Town Hall [Olive & Ken centre] 1967

Plans for this event were usually in the hands of the female. She would organise and oversee the men’s attire which was usually rented from places like Dormie Dress Hire.

But her plans for her own dress would take weeks and weeks to organise. What colour should she wear this year? Didn’t so and so wear blue last year? What kind of hand bag etc. Oh and the shoes??? All this would culminate in the hair appointment on the day, whilst father went to the bank to get cash, the car washed and the suit collected. Baby sitters sorted and for some a driver hired for your own Jaguar to be majestically transported to the venue [and back of course].

Dickie Bows

Penns Hall 1974

The night would sometimes involve being announced to everyone as you walked up to greet the Chairman and his Lady, shake hands and a little chat. This was when the chattering classes went into overdrive. As a man I was never party to this but I overheard some of the best one liners I have ever heard from the Ladies commenting on the new arrivals.

The men would wander around sticking their chests out saying hello to all and sundry, being introduced to people they don’t know [business prospect don’t you know]. Buying Tombola tickets by the dozen to impress everyone.

Dickie Bows

Still in love QEII 1997

As the years went on the organisations changed and as you got better off your table got bigger and more expensive. Definitely all run on expense accounts. After his first quite successful year in business around 1959 Dad was quite flush and it was rather unspoken that he would treat Mom to a Mink stole for Christmas.

I remember that Christmas day so well. Dad took us out in the car and showed us the new Auchinleck House being built at 5 ways Edgbaston.

He stopped the car and turned to Mom and said quite tearfully “ Olive, I know I promised you a Mink stole as soon as I was doing well. But a few days ago I had the chance to hire that hoist out to the builders of this building but it had to be new AND it’s going to be on hire for more than two years. It’ll make a fortune in hire! So I’m sorry your Mink stole is up there but I’ve got you a nylon stole for this Christmas and I promise to get you a Mink one as soon as I can.” Mom replied also tearfully “Oh don’t be so daft Ken. Business comes first.”

Dickie Bows

That Xmas card

Fast forward to Christmas 1969 and I remember the box for Mom under the Christmas tree. There was a card attached to the box. Mom kept the card all those years and I found it the other day. It says “From nylon to Mink in 10 years", I hope you like it, All my love Ken xxx. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Meet The Author...
Keith Belcher
Who Am I?

One day……. I left school in the mid 60's, after failing my English Literature GCE and just scraping a pass in English Language, my English teacher said to me "Belcher, you are illiterate; you will never do any good.”

I never could get to grips with Shakespeare or poetry. My first boss discovered my poor English especially in letters. Rather than put me down, he said to me “The best way to improve your English is to read, read and read some more!”

We decided on a genre that I liked and he brought some books for me to read. I was hooked and thereafter have read books consistently all my life.

I will always be grateful to him. Now 50 odd years’ later family and friends come to me and ask me to write letters for them.

Now retired after a life in construction equipment, vehicle rental and computer services my hobbies include vintage hi-fi restoration, classic cars and more important to me committing my memories to paper.

Some have said that they like my conversational style and that they would like to see more. I don’t know. Perhaps you will tell me. Then I might write a book……. One day.

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