Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 115

Tuesday 24th April 1984

Woke up at 8.00 and got up at 8.30. Had some Cornflakes, then got the 9.20 bus to Eaglescliffe station, and got the train to Redcar. First at Redcar I went in Smiths and had a look in the book section, then we went to the sea front and I played on a variety of video games.

There was a laser game called Firefox. When I came out I won 40p on Highlo, then had some Fish and chips on the beach. After another round of video games we went to Norma’s for a boring talk and a look at photographs. Eventually we got the train back, and I rang Doug then went to his house.

We went for a ride to the Cricket club and had a muck on. Came home at 6.10 and at 7.00 me and mam took Pog down Private road. When we got back I watched a question of sport then fell asleep watching Dallas. Went to bed at 9.30

Ooooh, a day trip! 

OK, a 1980s trip to Redcar meant entirely different things to me and my Mum… to her, it was a bracing day by the seaside and the chance to catch up with her older sister Norma, who had lived in this cheeky Teesside resort since time immemorial. For me, it was an opportunity to LOAD UP WITH SUGAR AND CHIPS AND ICE CREAM AND PLAY ON ALL THE LATEST VIDEO GAMES IN THE ARCADES!!!

I distinctly remember the first time I ever played on a proper arcade game. It was in the summer of 1980, when me and my Mum and my Gran went on a daytrip to Scarborough (via the rattly Middlesbrough-based ‘Beeline’ bus service… tartan seats, baking heat and a whip-round for the driver on the way back). Predictably enough, it tanked it down, so we hid in an arcade and I had a crack at this amazing new ‘Space Invaders’ thing to pass the time.

I was instantly hooked, and knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. There was something amazingly decadent and alluring about the seaside arcades… the constant, cheesy jingles of the machines, the clatter of coins and laughter, the surly glares of the ‘change cabin’ operator, piercing through the overpowering whiff of candy floss and ozone and chips.    


So, once in a while, I’d persuade my Mum that it was ‘time to see Auntie Norma’ again, and we’d catch a dark, wobbly train from Eaglescliffe station to Redcar. And when I got back in the evening, I’d lie in bed with the sounds of the arcade machines still ringing around my head. I can reel off those amazing, romantic old names without batting an eyelid… Space Invaders, Galaxians, Pacman, Donkey Kong, Defender, Mr Do, Frogger… legends to a man. And, erm, a frog. And a gorilla. And a weird yellow bitey thing.

(Incidentally, my Dad remained utterly perplexed by the whole phenomenon and, on our return, would grumble that ‘They’re an utter waste of money, those bloody things. They’re not like fruit machines, you can’t win anything back! What’s the bloody point?!?’)  

Were Pacman and Mr Do still out there in Redcar? I had no idea. Worth a visit to find out, though…

So we set off along Redcar’s seafront, which – brilliantly – had not changed AT ALL in the last 25 years. The first arcade we went in boasted nothing but boring old fruit machines and pool tables. But in the second one, tucked into a back room…


It cost me £2 for about 90 seconds worth of play. Useless bugger that I am. Back in 1984, I probably spent about the same amount on Firefox, a state-of-the-art Eighties video game that looked like this…

Highlo, however, was a bit less visually impressive… basically a computerised version of Bruce Forsyth’s Play Your Cards Right, although sadly lacking the legendary Dolly Dealers. No doubt I instantly blammed my 40p winnings on an extra couple of rounds on Galaxian.

And how rude was I? ‘We went to Norma’s for a boring talk’. With the benefit of adult hindsight I can appreciate how nice it must have been for my Mum to catch up with her sister over a cup of tea and a few Viscount biscuits, but naturally I had no interest whatsoever in family gossip, and spent my time there sighing heavily, rolling my eyes and looking at my watch. All the while with the start-up music to Pacman going round and round in my head.

25 years on… sorry, Norma.

Back to Yarm in time to hook up with Doug though, who I hadn’t seen for a few days. And I think this was our first visit to a little refuge in Yarm that would become a regular port of call over the Summer months. Yarm Cricket Club is still there, and still gorgeous, and Doug and I discovered, along the side of the green, a tree that rose up to a wide, woody platform… easily capable of accomodating two eleven-year-old boys who would hide up there to talk about filth while the unsuspecting cricket team cracked leather on willow and knocked gentle boundaries into the baking sunshine.

I went back there today, and got a little misty-eyed…

I’m proud of falling asleep during Dallas, as well. I probably dreamt up at least three seasons of it during this little catnap.


  Chris Orton wrote @

Wow, Redcar! (or “Redkeh” as our lot pronounce it – emphasising the “car” bit is what I always remember the commentators on the horse racing on the telly doing). I’ve not been there for years I have to admit, and it was always very much our secondary seaside day out after Seaton Carew (which, these days, seems quite different from what it was 25 years ago), but I have a hankering to visit again now. I hope that it isn’t all just charity and pound shops…

The best arcade machine by far of course, was the Star Wars one in which you had to go into a blue cabin type affair that contained a sort of car seat. You actually had to sit down to play it! The graphics were supposed to be 3D, but were in reality just a series of coloured lines, that gave the impression that you were flying around space and into the Death Star trench. I seem to remember that the TIE fighters were represented by simple crosses, but blasting them was an addictive pursuit. Magic.

  PJE_UK wrote @

Beeline Bus trips they are a blast from the past !! No summer holiday was complete without a trip to Scarborough, Whitby or Hornsea Pottery. I even remember a jaunt to the Butlins at Filey as a day trip visitor.

If it wasn’t Beeline we were waiting for a Maddren’s Coach outside Billingham Forum, run by the late, great Willie Maddren’s older brother !

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Oooh Aliens again-my favouritist film :O)

Even hearing Hicks saying “Stay Frosty” makes me smile. I’m such a saddo!

  bobfischer wrote @

Redcar looks exactly the same to me as it did 25 years ago… I mean this in a nice way, because I like this sort of thing, but it’s always been a bit ‘low-rent’… 😉

I remember that Star Wars machine though! I had a few goes on it in Redcar before deciding it was far too complicated and reverting to (my all-time favourite) Galaxians.

Beeline buses were great… where did they run from? Presumably somewhere in the town centre? We used to go to Scarborough every single summer, and I remember reading the Doctor Who book ‘The Nightmare Of Eden’ on on the way back from one of them, falling asleep, and waking up with it spread over my face. That was probably the aforementioned Summer 1980, actually.

Still never seen Aliens! Brace yourself for a bit of Robin Of Sherwood action soon, though…

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