Closure - and a reincarnation
Sadly the Oak Leaf closed its doors in September 1962. Fittingly, the last record ever played on the jukebox was Frank Ifield’s smash hit of that year called ‘I Remember You’. There ends the story of The Oak Leaf. Or does it?
A year later, a group of original Oakleafers, together with some members of the Youth Club, formed the Saltdean 18-30 Club affiliated to the Community Association. Meetings were held in the newly-built Community Centre next to the Lido. In the summer, car rallies, barn dances and outdoor activities were organised while in the winter months there would be Saturday-night dances, all with live music with different themes. Who remembers a band called The Scorpions formed in 1964 by a few Oak Leaf lads? The Scorps, as they became known, would perform at the Saturday-night gigs. The 18-30 Club was good fun and ran until 1966. However, it could never re-create those brilliant Oak Leaf years and it would be two decades before Oakleafers would gather in any number again.
In 1986, two senior Oakleafers organised a reunion. It was well attended. Memories and long-lost friendships were rekindled and several more reunions were to take place over the next ten years at various venues. An address book was compiled - unfortunately this book has been either lost or mislaid.
All good things come to an end, however, and the last proper reunion took place at Saltdean Football Club in the mid-l990s. Yet before that evening ended, an agreement was made that any Oakleafer who wished could meet at the Plough Inn, Rottingdean, any year on the Saturday evening of Remembrance weekend. This arrangement was to continue for a few years but sadly the Oak Leaf was becoming a fast-fading memory destined to be confined to the history books.
For that very reason, how could we have allowed the year 2009 - the Oak Leaf's 50th anniversary year - to go by unnoticed! Twenty Oakleafers celebrated in style in the Loft Bar at the Plough Inn on Saturday the 5th of December. The evening was a great success enjoyed by all who attended. A promise was made to arrange a much larger reunion in the summer of 2010 - something we all look forward to.
That really is the end of the Oak Leaf Story - so far.
The place was in essence a product of its time and very much part of the coffee bar culture that existed in this country in the late 1950s and early 60s. The generation of young people who used it were born during or just after WW2, the latter, known as ‘baby boomers', were most fortunate - in my opinion - to be in their late teens or early twenties at that time They would go on to play a big part in influencing and shaping the decade that later on would be known as the Swinging Sixties.
The Oak Leaf Story is very much based on my own personal memories and recollections of that time.
Contributions from other Oak Leafers will enrich this history and create a unique record of a treasured chapter of Saltdean's past.
Grateful thanks to my good friend and fellow Oakleafer Douglas d’Enno for his donation of the two photos also his assistance in editing the Oak Leaf Story
Contacting Chris Wrapson
Would you like to help with organizing a reunion? Have you any photos of us lot inside, or outside The Oak Leaf, or motorbikes and cars parked on the front at that time?
Can you remember your favorite record playing on the jukebox, mine was Three steps to heaven by Eddie Cochran (Number one in 1960)
Maybe you have you an amusing story to tell - or a sad tale about a lost love :( Or perhaps you would just like your name mentioned as an Oakleafer?
What ever the reason it would be great to hear from you.
Its very easy to add your comments just Click here - Alternatively I can be contacted on 01273 306776
Added - 24/04/10
Here's a few of my memories
The 'Dungeon' had quite a lot of murals painted by myself who was 18 at the time and just started at Brighton Art College. I can't remember what I painted but recall painting a lot of prison 'bars' and rough stonework as well. I believe my payment for said work was free membership.
I also remember eating (on special occasions)at the Oak leaf Cafe before it became a Coffee Bar (we lived at Wavell House in Chichester Drive from 1948 ~ 1954) Andrew (Snowy) Noble 25 04 10
Re the Lido When we were younger ...10 or 11 (1953/54)?? Anyway before it was refurbished we would climb in through the broken fence and go 'newting' with small nets. The smaller pool was the better option as you could scoop newts out from the side of the pool. The large pool was quite dangerous as you had to climb into the pool which was largely dry and edge your way to the 'deep end' where the rain water had water accumulated. This had a steep slope into the water which became very slippery when wet, as it inevitably did, and there was nothing to hang on to except your mate who would have to stand on a dry bit of the pool and offer you his net to hang on to, to pull you out. If you slipped in on your own I really don't think you could ever have got out.
The other Lido memory was going into the old boiler rooms, some of the round tanks were massive and at least one had a circular plate removed from the bottom so you could put your head and shoulders through into the pitch blackness. I recall a dare was to climb right inside but I don't remember anyone being brave/foolish enough to do it.
Snowy Added - 22/05/10
Hi Chris Well done - fascinating stuff The Quirky Oak Leaf Story! Can it really be 50 years ago, it all seems another life time away now.
Kind Regards Keith (Rocky) Rockcliffe 22/ 05/10
Brian Page is pictured, with Dick Marchant and David (Twinkle) Tucknott with girlfriend Jackie - They all seem a little pensive! maybe they have just been informed The Oak Leaf / Dungeon is about to close : ( Brian appears to be praying it won,t however he looks very proud of his trendy winkle picker shoes!! Twinkle has no intention of letting Jackie go :) Dick looks deep in thought! Snowy,s splendid prison bars and stone like walls complete the scene. (Twinkle sadly died November 2009) Chris W
The Author aged 18 is pictured posing in front of The Oak Leaf circa 1961. Look just in jfront of the Lyons Maid sign and you will spot a large ornamental stone Hare this was one of a pair - If you then look closely at the top picture in The Oak Leaf Story you will see the other one laying down underneath the Hovis sign - believe it or not the two Hares are still with us! sitting in a certain front garden here in Saltdean :) Of much more importance the motorcycle was a 1959/60 BSA DBD32 350cc Goldstar - nicknamed The Cafe Racer. This splendid machine was owned by Graham Carrington who took the photo, Graham is another Oakleafer who is sadly no longer with us. Chris W
Before Cool was Cool in June 1960 exactly 50 years ago Cool was born!
The birth was on Saltdean`s end beach :)
With the complements of Bob, Marguerite`s "legs", The late "Ginger" Daglish, Anna, Jeanette, Jeff, Mick, Brian, Pat, Pauline and "Seth"
Added by Pat & Brian Page 28-06-10
This fascinating addition to The Oak Leaf Story has been sent in by Geoff Cann "From down under"
Geoff`s family had the fruit and veg shop in Longridge Ave from 1958-1961 and he well remembers the coffee bar with juke box opening in 1959 :) As you can see He was convict No. 81 when The Oak Leaf, was renamed "The Dungeon" The card was signed by Pam Martin on the 10-11-1961. Geoff has many fond memories of The Oak Leaf and living in Saltdean in the early 1960s. A vivid memory was of Mr Martins gleaming white Mk 2 Ford Consul convertible with the bright red seats etc. The car could always be seen parked on summer days in the short driveway in front of the cafe. "Great Days". The names Geoff - remembers most are - Hedley Revett, Tony Compton, Duncan Macleen, Doug d`Enno, Kenny Creswell, Steve Ripley, Barry Graves and Mick Cornwall. Geoff left England in 1966 and has resided in South Australia since then, neither he or his wife have ever been back to the UK However, he looks forward to attending the next reunion whenever that is?
Apologies for the condition of the card, as Geoff says its a bit worse for wear but it is 49 years old! "how frightening is that" Added 14-07-2010 Chris W
Herewith a newspaper cutting from The Argus - circa 1963 / 64 sent in by Hilary Noble (nee Broadhead). This is indeed a very lucky find, as I know there were few photos taken of the Saltdean 18-30 club.
Sadly it is not dated and is of poor quality. However, it shows just what the youth of Saltdean got up to on Saturday nights in the early 1960s "No ASBOs needed in those days" We really did make our own entertainment :) Names from Left to Right - Glen, Jackie, Caroline, Anne, Lesley, John Clark, John Branch, Colin, Hilary and Snowy, Chris is laying down. Added 03-08-2010 Chris W
This 1936 / 37 photo of Saltdean Seafront, was taken a good few years before any Oakleafer was born? Occupying centre stage, is the future Oak Leaf building, in those days used as two private residents. Not many customers outside the Whitecliffs cafe! maybe it was a chilly day? They all would be inside enjoying a nice cup of tea :) The newly built art deco style luxury flats - Curzon house and Teynham house, look resplendent. Whilst the old coast guard cottages dating from 1834 are yet to be demolished - the curious circumstances surrounding these cottages is explained - with more detail elsewhere in the history section of this site. The photo also shows the Ocean Hotel yet to be constructed. The lido swimming pool site is out of camera shot, probably uncompleted. Both these projects when built in 1938; briefly opened for business. However, they would not initially fulfill their intended purpose. Sadly at that time; War clouds were gathering over Europe; in 1939 hostilities commenced; The dark years of World War 2 would surely follow. It is well documented that the Ocean Hotel and The Lido site assisted in the war effort. Happily the Ocean hotel reopened in 1953; as a Butlins holiday hotel, The Oak Leaf coffee bar opened its doors, later on in that decade :) It was`nt until 1964 The Lido reopened. For Saltdean residents and holiday makers alike, it was well worth waiting for. I`m sure everyone will agree in 2010 "The Lido and its swimming pool is indeed well worth fighting for" added 16-08-2010 Chris W
A picture paints a thousand words ! "This charming Oak Leaf Maid" Brightens up a rather drab and unkept looking Oak Leaf frontage. The rare colour photo was taken during the summer of 1962, just a few short months before the Coffee Bar closed its doors forever; The lovely young lady is of course Pauline Lawson (nee Bedford) :)
Added 16/ 09/ 2010 Chris W
You may well ask 'What has a Red Indian in full regalia and a bunch of Cub Scouts got to do with a story about a coffee bar?'.
Senior Oakleafer Steve Ripley has sent in this really nice, clear photo taken, we think, from the Evening Argus or Brighton & Hove Herald circa 1950.
Steve wrote: 'I believe this to be the earliest photo of The Oak Leaf you will come across (unless someone knows differently); there is very little of the interior to be seen. However, it was taken at a time when The Oak Leaf was known as The Maple Leaf restaurant. That name reflects the fact that the building was used by the Canadian military during and just after WW2. Maybe this gives us a clue as to the presence of the Red Indian gent in the photo? Skipper Taylor, who was the local 42nd Brighton Cub & Scout leader, arranged for a group of us Cubs to attend.
Names are, from left to right: myself next to the Indian, then Barry Graves, Les Edwards, Peter Tucknott and the late Ray Cannon; other names that have been mentioned are John Taylor, Michael Baggot, Michael Law and the Chemist's son, Richard Shimmin.'Most of the lads in the photo, of course, later on became Oakleafers. If anyone can put any names to any faces please contact Chris Wrapson via 'The Oak Leaf Story' page. (Steve has many amusing tales to tell about the derelict Lido swimming pool in the 1950s also his run-ins with old adversary PC Charlie Beer) Perhaps, best left to come from the horses mouth at the next reunion: Chris W
Added by Steve Ripley 21/09/2010
A great attraction of The Oak Leaf coffee bar was of course the Juke Box!
The proprietor Mr Martin installed a machine just like the one shown above, with a capacity of playing up to a hundred 45rpm records - you just popped your sixpence in and made your choice - The coolest being Rock & Roll records sung by Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, or Elvis :) I recall it most uncool to play anything by Perry Como, Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra. (Thats the stuff your Parents would listen to :(
The years between 1958 / 1962 were, by co-incidence (The Oak Leaf years) Purists claim that this was the dark age of Rock & Roll - Elvis Presley had joined the Army, Chuck Berry had gone off the rails! Buddy Holy, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were tragically killed in a plane crash, then in April 1960 Eddie Cochran died as a result of a road traffic accident, while touring the UK; His posthumous UK number 1 hit "Three Steps To Heaven" A fitting tribute. This was also a time of great change in popular music. Impresarios on both sides of the Atlantic preferred to promote the clean-cut image of (Bubble Gum Rock) "So called Teen Idols" polite, well-dressed, romantic singers like Paul Anka, Bobby Vee, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin, Johnny Tillotson, Jerry Keller, Bobby Rydell, Neil Sedaka, Pat Boon, Bobby Vinton, Frankie Avalon, Rick Nelson, Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard, Billy Fury and Adam Faith. The Girls were well represented by Connie Francis, Brenda Lee, Lesley Gore, Helen Shapiro, Suzan Maughan and Carol King, to name just a few. However, in 1963 Beatles mania took the World by storm! Rock & Roll as we knew it then, would never be the same again? "That as they say is another Story".
Added 30/10/ 2010 Chris W
Hi Chris, I used to go to the Oak Leaf c1960. From memory, I first attended the youth club in St Nicholas Church Hall? – if that was its name, then moved to the Oak Leaf. I was born in 1946 so I think that I was probably one of the younger groovers! However, I do have some memories of those days. On your website, you have an entry from ‘Snowy’. I wonder if he was the one who lived in Chichester Drive and owned a very smart cycle with fancy engraving on the crossbars? What I do remember, however, was netting newts in the smaller of the lido pools. As I recall, there was a raft in the pool which we used to climb on to catch our game. When you think of it - stupidly dangerous – but we were young.. I also remember being chased off on a number of occasions by a policeman – whose name I had completely forgotten – until I read about the Oak Leaf – PC Beer. I may be mistaken, but it does ring a bell. I also remember, on a number of occasions, going round the boiler room. Scary!! So many of us did the same thing. Seeing those huge boilers! My most vivid memories were of the sea end of the underpass – south of the lido. A group of us used to regularly meet there, on our bikes, listening to music – how? Presumably someone had a radio or some other high-tech device! The songs which have stuck in my mind ever since are Living Doll, Tell Laura I love Her and Travelling Light. I guess that pinpoints the date pretty accurately. Names I possibly remember from the mists to time? Well, Ian Radford, Hilary Broadhead, Keith-Rocky-Rockcliffe, Eddie Middleton, Roger Havel, Ruth Sylvester, Richard Burton – and I’m sure, many more. The memory just needs a little help. A difference of just a few years earlier, but does anyone remember the gorse? Between the lido and The Mount? So much fun there – hunting rabbits – unsuccessfully – making camps. Then the fire in 1953, when the centre was burned out. It was the day I came out of hospital – tonsils – and I sat at home overlooking the gorse and watched the fire. Some other memories which I had better not recall!! So sorry, I will not be able to make the 20th. However, for the next one, could we try for lunchtime, summer? Driving dark nights and the breathalyser!! Your website has recalled dormant memories
Neil Ansell Added 16 / 11 / 2010 Chris W
You are doing a great job reviving memories of those times.
The beach photo has me in the middle with Mick Little standing behind with guitar. We were in a Skiffle group called The Wanderers along with Les Edwards on Base which was a Tea Chest with broom pole and string. I remember we used to hang out on the Saltdean beach, sun bake on the promenade and beat the waves when the tide came in. Amazing how we never caught anything from swimming in the sea only 100 meters or so from the raw sewage discharge pipe. Also remember riding in Les’s 250cc 3 wheeler Bond.
I have lived in Melbourne Australia since 1963. Currently I drive a small tour bus. (photo attached). Happy to put up anyone from that era who happens to be in Melbourne.
Would have loved to have been at reunion, but my brother Roger will be there.
Fond memories of those days
Remember me to everyone
Have a great night
Geoff (Geoff Havell)
Thanks Geoff, Great addition to The Oak Leaf Story page: Added 16 / 11 / 2010 Chris W
OAK LEAF REUNION 2010
An evening to remember – Fantastic - Great night - So glad we made it - Loved your singers -Was that really ELVIS?? - Thanks for a Brilliant evening - Jolly good fish & chips - What a great quiz - Haven’t seen you since Oak Leaf days - Just loved those great early 1960s songs - Well done to all concerned - Thanks for all your hard work -Looking forward to the next time.
Many thanks for all the kind comments and messages received so far, re The 2010 Oak Leaf reunion. It was priceless to see the expressions and reactions on some Oakleafers faces meeting each other again after 50 odd years, It was like peeling back the layers and once you established the name there was that same familiar youthful chap, standing in front of you that you knew so well all those years ago, Of course it goes without saying that all the lovely Oak Leaf Chicks are instantly recognizable - looking exactly the same in 2010 as they did in 1960 J
On a more personal note. The highlight of my evening, apart from catching up with many long lost friends, was meeting Ray Cannons daughter Julie. As we all know Ray passed away some years ago, Sadly over the years he never spoke much to Julie about his childhood days growing up in Saltdean other than he was an evacuee from London and was placed with Foster parents living in Longridge ave. Ray never returned to London after WW2 - He gave Julie the impression that this was an unhappy time in his life? However, whilst researching her Fathers past, Julie discovered the Cub / Indian pic on the Oak Leaf Story website showing her dear old Dad as a smiling 10 year old cub / scout, also in the pic is Steve Ripley, Barry Graves, Peter Tucknott, Dave Huxley and others. I know Julie had reservations about attending the reunion so it was great to see her. Thanks also to all the Oakleafers who spoke to Julie on the night in particular Barry Graves who brought a tear to my eye when he told me he had assured Julie that her Father, together with the rest of us had a great time growing up here in “Sunny Saltdean” Well done Julie and good luck with your ongoing research – please stay in touch.
Grateful thanks to everyone who helped out on the night in particular my lovely wife Lesley , Glenda, Sandra, Joan and Doug d`Enno “photographer extraordinare” Thanks also to my very smooth son in law Ray Gabbard who brilliantly sang for his supper. Last but by no means least a Huge thank you to my good old friend the inimitable Brian Page “Who says Elvis is dead”
------------- Oak Leaf Reunion 2011 Maybe ?? “Any Suggestions Welcomed” ------------ Added 01/12 /2010 Chris W