It has happened three times this week, which is by no means exceptional.
I suppose the fact that I spend a fair few hours each week wandering around with the dog and engaging in casual conversations tends to bring it on. At times, I’m wearing my Rhyl FC jacket, or what my mum used to call a ‘windcheater’ (I’ve not heard that word spoken in many a long year).
Anyway, whenever the name of Rhyl is mentioned, invariably the person I’m talking to recounts heart-felt reminiscences of happy times spent in the old home town. The memories often go back several decades, in some cases to before I was born, and the narrator cannot stifle a smile whilst recounting them.
Inevitably the memories include the beach and the fairs, the focus of family holidays, day trips or august Sunday School visits.
This week I came across an aged couple who were originally from Birmingham on an unseasonably warm February walk across the local orchard and golf course with Iolo. They spotted Rhyl FC on my jacket and it triggered a flow of memories of summer train rides from Handsworth. They recounted their first view of the sea, or rather the Dee Estuary near Mostyn, the hurried eating of the picnic sandwiches so that they would not have to carry them, or to waste time eating them once in Rhyl.
After Birmingham, they said one of the greatest delights was to smell the salty, fresh sea air when getting off the train. The sun was always shining and that meant that the sea was always blue and the sand golden. Nothing seemed to blight their memories. They were just as the posters at their local railway station advertised. They were never disappointed, or at least not with sixty years of rosy memories to fall back on. They also went from Birmingham by train to Weston Super Mare, but was glad to hear that Rhyl was always their favourite because it was more brash and exotic, being in a foreign country!
The second person to accost me this week was in an old people’s home in the Forest of Dean. That I was Welsh came out first , followed by my precise location of origin. This lady, in her nineties also recounted fond memories of staying with an elderly relative in Rhyl just after the war, when rationing and hard times put paid to most pleasures, but that the seaside holiday remained as sparkling as ever in those grey times.
She remembered going to three different cinemas in the town in one week, The Plaza, Odeon and the Regal, eating candy floss along the Promenade and the twinkle of fairy lights from the dainty illuminations on the East Parade. Later she said she had gone dancing in the Queens on a fantastic sprung dance floor, and I was able to tell her that the dance floor still existed, for now!
The third person I met was younger than me and had visited Rhyl in the eighties. He too reckoned he had seen Rhyl in a golden age. I suppose for each of these people the golden age was not a specific time, but when they were young and everything was exciting. He spoke of the Sun Centre and the Pavilion Theatre, blissfully unaware of the older domed building.
It is quite a tribute to our old town that so many have so such great memories of the town that our parents created. You don’t get that sort of spontaneous and lasting affection for inland towns. No-one, I imagine, waxs so lyrical about the seasonal merits of Tamworth or Tewkesbury or Tonbridge. Burnley, Batley or Basingstoke were never such golden repositories of memories.
How lucky we have been to be a part of this kaleidoscope of memories..