Bell asked Mr. Jim Armstrong some questions about
Fun and Games in Ballyclare when he was young in
the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Mr. Jim Armstrong
grew up in Millvale. He played football on the
Ballynure Road because there weren't many cars
about then. The boys used five gallon oil drums as
goal posts. He supported Ballyclare Comrades, the
team everyone supported because in those days he
never heard much about the English teams. Only the
highlights of very important matches, like the F.A.
cup, were shown on T.V. When he was a boy, Jim
played a game called 'Kick the Tin'. He doesn't
know why it was called this because he never
actually kicked the tin. A tin was put in the
middle of the road. One person had to guard it. The
others all hid and then they had to try to come
back to the tin and lift it, without being caught.
The guard was hunting for the boys and at the same
time guarding the tin.
another game with about twenty boys. They were
divided into two teams. One team went as far away
as they could and hid. The others tried to find
them. They could have gone as far as Ballynure and
the game might have taken all day. Sometimes he and
his friends played a trick on someone. They covered
a shoe box with brown paper and tied it up with
string. They put black thread on it and set the box
on the footpath. Then the boys climbed over the
wall and held the long black thread. When someone
went past and looked at the parcel, they tugged on
the thread and the parcel moved.
Jim and his
friends went fishing for spricks in the Sixmile.
Sometimes they put a worm on the end of a long rush
and fished with it. Some boys went swimming in the
Sixmile when they found a spot deep enough. In
winter they slid up and down the Mill Road on the
ice. In the evenings they played Ludo or Draughts
and made models out of bits of wood. Every boy had
a gun and holster and caps if they could afford
them. At school Jim played 'Tig' and 'Two Man
weren't many books when Jim was a boy but he does
remember reading Biggles. Every Christmas he got a
new Annual, either the Beano or the Dandy. He read
comics like Rover, Wizard, Lion, Tiger, Hotspur,
Adventure and Champion. The Dandy came out on a
Monday and cost 2d. The Beano came out on a
Wednesday and cost 2d. He used to swap comics with
his friends. He liked to read the "funnies" out of
the American newspapers which they got from the
soldiers who were still here after the war. These
were cartoons of Tarzan, Roy Rogers and Hopalong
Cassidy. Tarzan was a real hero - he could do
anything. Jim would pretend to be him.
Jim remembers the
Rio Cinema, which used to be where the entrance to
Avondale Drive is now. It was a very big cinema.
The front stalls had wooden seats. On a Saturday,
he and his friends were given 7d to go to 'the
pictures ' The back stalls cost 7d, but they went
to the front stalls which cost 3d. With the 4d
change they bought a chip in "Chippy Smith's" which
was next door. Then the New Rio cinema was built on
the Ballynure Road, where the Police Station is now
and for a while there were two cinemas in the town.
Soon afterwards the old one closed down as no one
wanted to go there any more. The New Rio was also a
big cinema, but it didn't have as big a balcony as
The Rio. At night it cost 7d for the front stalls,
1/6d. for the back stalls and 2/= for the balcony.
He was never on the balcony unless an adult took
him! The first house was at 6pm and the second at
8.30pm. He had to queue for a ticket and it was
always very dark inside. It seemed a very modern
cinema compared with the old one. The height and
width of the screen could be adjusted and there was
continuous showing of films. The film changed four
times a week. Jim said it was a real 'state of the
art' cinema. The New Rio had a stage where they
held Talent Shows, which nobody ever seemed to win!
Tom Raymond was the compere. Best of all, Jim
thought, were the Hypnotist shows, when Edwin Heath
hypnotised local people and it was a great laugh if
you knew someone!
On Boxing night
Jim always went to Belfast to see a Pantomime. He
went to the Regent Cinema in Belfast and remembers
queuing for one and a half hours and then being
turned away because they could take no more people.
Some of the characters he remembers in films are
Johnny McBrown, the good cowboy who never got shot,
Lash Larue, Prince Beerah the motorcycle champion,
The Bowry Boys and old Mother Riley. In the late
'40s the radio or wireless was the main form of
entertainment in the home. Children's Hour was on
at five o'clock each day. There were plays and
serials on it, Toy Town, Larry the Lamb and Mr.
Grouser who was very cross. The McCooeys were on
every Saturday at 6.40pm. He listened to Dick
Barton, Special Agent and he liked Tommy Handley,
the comedian. The first BBC T.V. programme around
1951 was "Muffin the Mule". He didn't have a
television then, so he went to a neighbour's house
to watch it on a 12" black and white set. Her house
was crammed with people watching the first TV
programme. He remembers the Coronation on TV. It
lasted the whole day. It was then shown in the
cinema in colour. He watched the Grove Family,
which was a bit like Coronation Street. He doesn't
think there were many programmes just for
Jim said the
singers in those days sang songs that you could
understand. Bill Haley and the Comets, a rock ''n''
roll band, was one of his favourites. He listened
to Bing Crosby, Vera Lynn, Helen Shapiro, Winifred
Atwell, Ruby Murray, Eddie Calvert on the trumpet,
and Ann Zeagler and Webster Booth, a duo who sang
and played the piano. He belonged to the Church
Lads' Brigade which met in the Church of Ireland.
Later the Boys' Brigade started in the Presbyterian
and some boys moved over to it. They had a vaulting
horse, parallel bars and a football team and they
went to camp in the summer.
There were three
dances on a Saturday. One was held in the Abbey
Hall in Abercorn Drive, where the Linfield Club is
now. There were usually fights at this one. One was
held in the High School but you had to be a pupil
to go to that one. There was one in the Town Hall
and it had a good sprung floor for dancing. A
typical Saturday evening for Jim was to go to the
first house of 'the pictures' in the Rio , come out
of there at 8.30 in time to go to the Town Hall
concert, which got out at 11p.m. Then he and his
friends headed to Bertie Kennedy's chip shop at the
bottom of the town, or perhaps to Stevenson's for a
pork pie. Then they went on to the Abbey Hall where
the people were getting out of the dance and
waiting for their buses. Jim and his friends
watched any fights that took place and then went
home before midnight.
Sunday was a very
quiet day when Jim wasn't allowed to do anything
except go for a walk. After Church, the boys got
their lunch, changed out of their good clothes, and
went for a walk along the Back Walks. Their walk
took about three hours. A big day out every year
was on the first Saturday in June, when the Church
of Ireland Sunday School went on their trip to
Portrush on the train. They bought sweets, went to
the Strand, and if they had enough money, went to
Barry's amusements. Jim went to Islandmagee one
Wednesday in the year. He took the boat from Larne
to get there. He also remembers excursions to
Bundoran and to Warrenpoint, then over to Omeath in
the ferry. These were the main outings as there
were few cars.