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Magic memories of strictly perfect opening night for Bridgnorth ballroom

By Toby Neal | Bridgnorth | Features | Published: | Last Updated:

"I can say that I was there."

The Rose Marie Ballroom in Bridgnorth opened 60 years ago

And Mrs Elizabeth Francis was not only there on that night 60 years ago when a new nightspot opened in Bridgnorth, but was to receive a dancing lesson – with hundreds of others, admittedly – from the famous bandleader Joe Loss into the bargain.

The Rose Marie Ballroom on Hollybush Road held its official opening night on Thursday, September 24, 1959.

And Mrs Francis, from Shatterford, has got in touch to share her memories of the occasion, when she was the 18-year-old Elizabeth Price, and had been going out with her future husband, Gordon Francis, for almost 12 months.

An advert for the opening night

"If I can remember correctly, his sister-in-law saw the advertisement and decided we would go to this ball," she said.

"We went for a meal first of all. It was up in High Town. I can't remember the name of the hotel."

Making up the foursome were Gordon's brother Ivor and Ivor's wife Serena. Only Elizabeth and Serena are left now.

"I liked dancing and loved going to dances. My husband was a good dancer, but you had to keep on at him to get him to go on the floor.

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"I remember going to the dance and having a nice evening. In those days it was mainly waltzes, Quicksteps, the Foxtrot, the St Bernard and things like that.

Cha-cha

"Joe Loss was there with his band. I have a feeling that there were vocalists, but I'm blowed if I can remember, and there's nobody now to ask."

In fact, according to adverts for the opening night, the entertainment comprised Joe Loss and his orchestra with artistes Rose Brennan, Ross McManus, and Larry Gretton., and also the resident band the Flamingo Orchestra with singer Denis Brown.

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Elizabeth recalls: "We were given a lesson during the evening by Joe Loss on how to dance the Cha-cha correctly. I can remember him telling the men to get down one side and women the other, facing each other in two lines. As far as I can remember we took our partners and did the Cha-cha. He gave us the basic steps to start with. It must have been a new dance then.

"I can remember what I had on. I was wearing my bridesmaid's dress I had worn two years before for my cousin's wedding, a pink ballerina-length dress. Serena was wearing a black dress."

Despite having an enjoyable evening, Elizabeth does not recall ever going back to the Rose Marie Ballroom again.

The dancing days are over

"The dances we went to mainly after that were up what used to be called the Nautical William, which is now a care home. All the farmers' dances were held at the Nautical William or Park Attwood at Trimpley, or the Stewponey, which has been demolished, or the Mill which burnt down."

Although Elizabeth was a teenager when she started going out with Gordon, various circumstances meant that despite being together for many years they didn't actually marry until after her mother died in 2000.

She and her brother did have dancing classes.

"I don't know if I would have won Strictly Come Dancing. I don't think I was up to that standard.

"The trouble now when I go to anything and the younger generation have had a wedding or something it's a terrible noise. They play records, but play it so loud. Perhaps it's me just getting old."

Today the dancing days at the Rose Marie Ballroom are long gone – the premises have various uses, including as a Jewson store.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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