The Dorchester Hotel is in a prime position in Blackpool’s North Parade. The owners Mr George and Mrs Dorothy Falmer-Worth are semi-retired. The day-to-day running of the hotel is the responsibility of Mr Angus Merryweather. Blackpool in the 1950s, in the summer season, in particular, is the epitome of the British seaside town. The image of the town may be set to go downhill in many ways; but, that is in the future. At this time Blackpool is full of families at leisure. Britain is still suffering the effects of WW2. Much of the urban landscape has been scarred and in some cases, destroyed, (although Blackpool itself, escaped from most of the bombing raids). Life is, for many, in Britain, a struggle. Neighbourhoods have been cleared and sections of the population displaced. Much of the rationing system is still firmly in place. It is small wonder then, that for many families, a week in Blackpool represents ease and leisure. There is a firmly working-class feel to the town with many factories and “works” still closing for a week. That is the opportunity for workers and their families to travel to the coast. It is not unknown for relatives and friends to decamp to the sea-side at the same time. Threats to this pattern of leisure are mainly still over the horizon, though there has been a surge of interest in the new holiday camps. They do not appeal to everyone. Some people find the whole idea rather alien and even a little regimented for their tastes. Only 2% of the population go abroad for their holidays at this time. Entertainment is the key to Blackpool’s success as a holiday town. Many acts such as Morecambe and Wise and “Cheerful Charlie Chester have honed their skills in the popular variety shows. The Dorchester Hotel aims to attract the more genteel, indeed the more comfortably-off end of the market. Episode 1. (an April morning) The well-dressed couple entered through the heavy rotating door, letting a pale shaft of sunlight into the wood -panelled reception area. As Jack Whitehurst booked in, his wife Elaine looked around at her soothing, luxurious surroundings. She wished she felt a bit more in the mood for this holiday but her mind was troubled. She could hardly believe that they were back in Blackpool after all these years. “Now, we can afford the best,” Jack had smiled at her as he told her his plan for their silver wedding. Their honeymoon had been so different – a happy time, but money had been scarce. So, they had had a few days in a Baiston Street boarding house with the traditional fierce landlady.
Elaine noticed that an older, more sophisticated receptionist was keeping a close eye on what was going on at the desk. No doubt, she was the woman in charge. The porter came to take their cases and Elaine felt a lift in her spirits as she and Jack followed him to the solid lift with the heavy, clanging doors. They were going to Room 186 – a superior room with a sea-view. Carers’ Notes The Dorchester is a 4 - Star Hotel. The guests will therefore be the better-off visitors to Blackpool. Jack and Elaine have been married 25 years – it is their silver wedding. 25 years ago, they stayed in a more modest boarding house – in Baiston Street which was full of more affordable places to stay. Points for discussion: - Think about a special holiday you had at the seaside – what do you remember? - What memories have you of a special silver wedding anniversary?
Episode 2 Elaine Whitehurst smiled at her husband Jack and looked around. The vase of spring flowers on the dressing table…the canopy on the four-poster looked even more special in the early morning light. “Did you sleep well my dear?” Jack asked “Not too bad,” she replied. That wasn’t quite true. She had lain awake for hours. She had listened to the noises of the hotel, though thankfully the Dorchester was peaceful. Any noises there may have been, were muffled by thick carpets and soft furnishing. “Look, Elaine. Here in the paper. Would you believe Mr Reginald Dixon is still performing at the Tower Ballroom?” All Elaine’s troubles were forgotten for a moment. She remembered the evenings she and Jack had spent in the Ballroom all those years ago. She saw, in her mind’s eye, her midnight blue silk dress; a copy from one of the Madam shops, that she had made herself, with just a little help from her
mother. She had felt beautiful and she had felt grown up: an adult; a married woman, in fact. Suddenly, she couldn’t stop the tears. Jack put his arm around her shoulder. “Don’t upset yourself, Elaine. Carers Notes’ Mr Reginald Dixon played his Wurlitzer in the Tower Ballroom from 1930 to 1970 (apart from a short break when he joined the RAF during the war). He also broadcast for the BBC and became very popular. Points for discussion: - What is your favourite musical instrument - What tunes and songs mean the most to you and why If possible, take this point forward, getting a copy of the songs/tunes or asking the residents to sing or play them.
Episode 3 Heather and Rose Greenwood were both on reception duty, this morning. “I didn’t think that lady, Mrs Whitehurst looked very happy.” Heather said. She waited for a put-down from Miss Greenwood. She honestly didn’t know why she bothered trying so hard. She supposed it was because she had always hated an atmosphere. What’s more, she needed to get along with Miss Greenwood and she needed this job. Now, Rose frowned. “We shouldn’t gossip about the guests, Heather”. Goodness me, thought Heather. Rose was being even more disapproving than usual this morning. Unfortunately, Rose had not been out of earshot, when Clive, the bellboy had been up to his usual nonsense this morning. “So, how was heaven when you left it?” he’d said to Heather. It had been such an obvious daft remark that she had just laughed and told him to get on with his work.
“You should know better, Heather than to encourage that rascal. It isn’t fitting to be joking with the bell-boy. You are meant to be a receptionist, the first impression people get of the hotel. What would guests think?” “There aren’t any guests about, Miss Greenwood,” Heather said, her tone miserable. “Not the point, Heather, not the point.” Then the Whitehursts had come along and Heather had tried to change the subject. “And gossiping about the guests is another thing you should avoid, Heather.” A glance through the glass of the revolving door told Heather that the sun had now really come out in Blackpool. She hoped it was a good omen. Carers’ Notes There was quite a distinction in the 1950s between job roles. For many young women, working as a receptionist would have been a desirable job. The junior receptionist would be expected to treat her more senior colleague with respect – even deference. Points for discussion: -Tell us about your first job? - How were you treated?
Episode 4 Jack was trying his best to get a smile out of Elaine “She did look a bit of a sergeant-major, that senior receptionist person,” he said. Elaine had refused the full English breakfast. He noticed she was only really playing with the toast and marmalade. “I wouldn’t say, sergeant-major, exactly, Jack. She is an attractive woman and perfectly groomed. I’ll grant you that the younger girl is a friendlier sort but no doubt it is up to the senior woman to keep the boat straight. She must make sure all at the Dorchester is as it should be. “Keep up appearances, you mean?” Elaine had looked sharply at Jack. She couldn’t see bitterness in his face. But, maybe she could hear it in his voice. She picked up her tea-cup and had to struggle to keep her hand from shaking.
“Sometimes appearances are important, Jack. Sometimes they are all we have. They took a walk after breakfast. The air had the tang of the sea and Elaine could taste salt on her lips. Seagulls shrieked. Suddenly, in spite of herself, her spirits lifted. Carers’ notes Times have changed. Though society became more relaxed, as a result of the war, keeping up appearances still mattered. Your residents may have firm views about how standards have changed. Points for discussion: - Society has changed a lot since the 1950s – what are the main changes? - What are your views on these changes?
Episode 5 Heather was reaching the end of her tether The senior receptionist, Rose had been giving her views, again. “I don’t even know what a spiv is.” Heather said. Rose Greenwood looked surprised. Heather didn’t stand up for herself very often. “You must have heard the word, Heather,” Rose Greenwood sighed. She knew she was hard on this girl, sometimes. Sometimes she almost forgot how naïve Heather was. That was one strong reason to keep her away from the likes of Clive Pointon. “Well, in the war, there were always those who made what the Yanks called “a quick buck.” “The rolling stone that gathers no moss.” Not the kind of man you need, Heather”. A shaft of light from the stained glass window gave Rose’s face a sudden warm glow.
Heather wondered about her past and about how bitter she had sounded when she talked about Clive. But, this morning, Heather had decided to think of herself, to have some fun. If Clive asked her again, she would go out with him. She loved the pictures, the magic of the silver screen. Even better, maybe she and Clive would sit on the back row. A shiver of excitement ran through her body. Carers’ notes The cinema was important in the 1950s – for the films and the glamour of Hollywood and also because it was a popular place for courting couples to go. Points for discussion: What are your memories of the cinema? What types of film did you like best? Name some of the big stars of the silver screen. (Perhaps it may be possible to get some old film posters to pass around amongst the residents.)
Episode 6 Heather jumped when Clive spoke to her, softly. “When are you off duty next?” he asked. The hotel foyer was deserted, for once. There was only the two of them. Heather hesitated. What the heck, she thought. “Thursday,” she said. Clive Pointon smiled at her. His teeth were almost as white as the Yanks’ gnashers, thought Heather. You didn’t see many Blackpool lads as well-fed and handsome looking. Her heart sang and she didn’t care a jot what old Rose thought. At the end of their first day, Elaine and Jack Whitehurst sat in the Anchor, the hotel bar. Duncan Sutherland, the bar manager watched them, without staring.
There was some serious talk going on there, right enough. He noticed people, did Duncan. He may be a long way from Inveraray, but he had all the countryman’s interest in others. Though it was April, the log fire was lit in the bar and Heather studied the purple and orange flames. “Our daughter pregnant,” she said. “Pregnant and no husband, what will the neighbours say?” Duncan polished glasses and watched the couple. He saw the woman take a handkerchief out. Her husband patted her hand. Then Duncan’s attention was distracted by the door opening. Making as much noise as usual, Major Jenkins came in and settled on his stool by the bar. Carer’s Notes: A hotel bar is and was an interesting place to work. You get the guests who come and go and then the regulars, like the Major. The Major may seem like a stereotype, the sort of man that is recognisable to many. Some residents will have their own memories of former soldiers and how they settled – or didn’t settle after the war. Points for discussion: What “characters” do you remember from your youth? Where were the places you went to socialise?
Episode 7 The Major removed his hat, and addressed the bar manager. “Touch of spring in the air, tonight, what, Duncan?” Major Jenkins always started his evening with a comment on the weather. Nice old buffer, thought Duncan as he poured the pint of Double Diamond slowly. It was the same every night. Two pints and a Glenfiddich night-cap. Major Jenkins nodded at the couple in the corner.
“Good evening,” he said. But the response was brief. The couple were engaged in some serious strategic planning by the looks of it. Elaine’s voice was low and serious. “I know you think it’s wrong of me, Jack, to be so concerned about the neighbours. But, I can’t help it. Jack frowned. He did think it was wrong of her but he understood the reasons. Elaine’s father had been a drinker. Not a roaring drunk, but the respectable kind that did it in the quiet, at home. Elaine’s mother, the whole family, had suffered agonies of embarrassment and shame. Her father had been a dentist and it was a whispered joke around the town – how steady were old Tom Heath’s hands. It’s no wonder, Jack thought, that appearances are everything to poor Elaine. And despite the war, people were still small-minded about a girl who got herself in trouble. Carer’s Notes Attitudes to a pregnant, unmarried woman were often harsh and judgemental at this time. But, some families would have defied the neighbours’ opinions and helped to rear the baby (in some cases, even bringing the baby up as their own). Points for discussion: In what ways have attitudes towards pregnancy and marriage changed since the 1950s? What do you think of these changes?
Episode 8 There were times when Heather wished she didn’t live in the staff accommodation. But, as her parents farmed their small acreage in the Lancashire countryside thirty miles from Blackpool, she didn’t have much choice. Most of the time it was all right. She was friendly enough with most of the chambermaids, though Miss Greenwood didn’t encourage this. “They are young simple girls, Heather. You are in a different position a receptionist. It doesn’t do to become too chummy with them. Heather sighed. She must stop worrying about Rose. At least the senior receptionist lived out, so Heather wasn’t likely to bump into her as she left to meet Clive. They had agreed to meet in front of the cinema. They were
going to see a comedy film. Heather applied some more of her new Coty lipstick and took her coat from the small wardrobe. She gave a twirl in front of the swing mirror. She was glad she had saved up for the black and white swing back coat with the Dolman sleeves. She thought, well she hoped that she looked glamorous. This was her first ever date and suddenly Clive seemed like a stranger. Her heart raced with a mixture of excitement and nerves. Carers Notes Clothing and fashion was very important at this time. After the privations of war, the “New Look” introduced in the late 1940s set the trend for flowing clothes that used plenty fabric. Young women on holiday in Blackpool would have worn frocks with full skirts. Points for discussion: What was your favourite “look” from the 1950s? Describe your favourite outfit
Episode 9 Elaine was sitting in front of the dressing table mirror in Room 168. “It’s a big thing to ask, to bring up a grand-child, start all over again…” Elaine looked better, despite her worries. She released the lid of her Arden powder compact and began applying the scented powder to her face. “She hasn’t asked us, though,” Jack said. Both their minds flew to their daughter Irene’s pinched frightened face as a fortnight before she had told them her news. “I thought you were a good girl!” Elaine had burst out after the first shock had passed. “He said we’d get married,” Irene whispered; her face full of misery. Jack had said little. The three of them had seemed frozen in time, in their sitting room. Elaine had glanced at the new television set. They had been the first family in the road to own such a thing. Neighbours had come in to see it…how little all of that mattered now – in the face of their daughter’s news. “You’ll have to go to your Auntie Peggy’s,” Elaine said. “Have the baby, put it up for adoption. Come back here, go back to secretarial college and get on with your life.”
Carers Notes: Television sets were still rare at this stage. The coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 was televised and this marked a surge in popularity of television sets with more people aspiring to own their own set. Discussion point: What do you remember about getting your first television set? What were the most popular television programmes in the 1950s?
Episode 10 Jack and Elaine Whitehurst ate Coronation chicken, followed by apple pie and cream. “We should take a walk after all this food, Elaine. I’m sure we aren’t used to eating like royalty”. Elaine smiled. It had been a matter of pride to her that her little family had eaten as well as possible, even with rationing. That was slow to end, too. There had been all that talk about “after the war,” but apart from a lot of upheaval and trying to repair the damage, so much had stayed the same. “We’re here. We survived and we got through it all, Elaine”. Jack’s words had echoed Elaine’s thoughts and she saw how true that was. So many people had not got through the war so lightly. “There’s that girl, Jack; that little receptionist,” Elaine exclaimed. Elaine had lowered her voice. Jack took a discreet look at the couple stopped on the prom. But, they were far too wrapped up in each other to notice anyone else. Elaine felt a stab of worry for the girl. She had seen that young man before and she had certainly seen his type before. Carers’ Notes:
The menu in British hotels and restaurants was very different from the much more cosmopolitan and varied range of food, common today. Discussion Points: What do you remember about eating outside of the home, in the 1950s? What was your favourite dish? What do you remember about war-time food and rationing?
Dorchester Days 2 Episode 11 Elaine Whitehurst felt better. It may have been the sea air, the exercise or the good food. When Jack suggested a night-cap, she agreed and they went into the hotel bar, The Anchor. The Major was in his corner, his pint in his tankard on the counter in front of him. Duncan was serving a handsome-looking man who was ordering a complicated round of drinks for his three companions who were seated near the fire. Elaine took a sip from her Babycham, smiling as the bubbles went up her nose. She twirled the cocktail stick with the speared bright red cherry. “You’re looking a lot happier,” Jack said. “I am”, she answered. “Maybe, it isn’t the be-all and end-all, what the neighbours think.” She saw Jack’s whole body become very still. “It would be nice to have a grand-child, we could help rear…” Now that she had begun to accept the idea, Elaine could even feel a glimmer of excitement. She couldn’t explain why she had changed her mind.
Maybe it was something about seeing that vulnerable young receptionist and that young man. Maybe it was the Blackpool air, maybe it was even the magic of The Dorchester. It didn’t matter. For the first time in the last two weeks, Elaine Whitehurst felt at peace. Carers’ notes Helping to bring their grandchild up in these circumstances would be quite difficult for Jack and Elaine. In a smaller community, in particular, they would have faced gossip and maybe some criticism from the neighbours. Though, no doubt some people would have admired them. Points for discussion: What were your neighbours like when you were a child? Do you have some happy stories about good neighbours?
Episode 12 It was an important day for Rose Greenwood, senior receptionist at The Dorchester. She had been summoned to a meeting with Mr. Merryweather, the revered manager of the hotel. The staff didn’t exactly curtsey when he appeared, but they certainly all suddenly became very busy. The formidable head of housekeeping, Miss Hannon certainly expected all her chambermaids and kitchen maids to stay out of the sight when the great man was about. However, he had requested a meeting with Rose, in his office. Though she racked her brains, she couldn’t think that she had neglected her duties in any way, but her appetite had fled this morning and her hand had shook as she pinned back her hair in its usual chignon. She looked at herself in the mirror; neatly- groomed; the perfectly presented receptionist. Oh, please, she thought. I have made this job my whole life please don’t let anything be wrong with my work. Rose was preoccupied as she handed over to Heather. Despite Heather’s own mind being awhirl, she couldn’t help wondering why Rose looked so tense.
Carer’s notes The relationship between Rose and her manager is very formal as would have been normal at this time. Her first thought is that she has done something wrong and that her job might be at stake. Points for discussion: Do you remember a difficult or a wonderful boss? Tell us about this person and how he or she affected your life
Episode 13 Mr Merryweather, the manager of the Dorchester had all the dignity you would expect of a man in his position. He was in his late forties now, with greying hair brushed back, not one strand of it out of place. He wore a dark suit in summer and had several interchangeable tweed versions for the winter months. It was rumoured that he was seen once with his suit jacket removed, but few believed it. It was difficult to believe that even Mrs Merryweather had ever seen the great man anything less than impeccably groomed and presented. He and Rose Greenwood, senior receptionist had a cordial but very formal relationship. It worked well; they both knew where they stood. Rose knew that wasn’t all there was, to Mr Merryweather. She knew of one or two incidents where he had been extremely kind to members of staff in times of trouble. However, he usually presented a stern and dignified front to the world. “Sit down, Miss Greenwood,” he invited, indicating the green leather chair that was set at an angle to his large, polished mahogany desk. He smiled: a slight wintry smile. “I have a proposition for you,” he said. Carer’s notes Men’s fashion in the 1950s had not changed drastically from the pre-war years. Later in the decade some of the American fashions influenced, particularly, younger men. But men in a position like Mr Merryweather’s were expected to dress in a formal manner. Points for discussion: How did your father and uncles dress?
Name as many men’s grooming items as you can, from the 1950s, (e.g. hair oil).
Episode 14 Rose Greenwood sat in the Dorchester’s manager’s office. After Mr Merryweather said that he had a proposition for her, she honestly had no idea what he was going to say next. “Mr and Mrs Falmer-Worth want me to go to London, to the Festival of Britain, to accompany them in fact. They are keen to see it, to ensure, if you like, that we here at the Dorchester do not become too…well…too provincial”. Rose nodded. She had heard about the Festival of Britain. Of course she had. The newspapers had been full of it and she had heard the subject being hotly debated between guests, on occasion. Opinion was sharply divided. Some thought it was just the tonic the country needed after six years of war. Others thought it a shameful waste of money. “Mr and Mrs Falmer-Worth and I are all agreed on something, Miss Greenwood. You are the perfect person to…er…step into my shoes, as it were, when I am away”. “Me?” Rose was embarrassed – her voice had come out as a squeak. But, she couldn’t believe it. Her heart raced and she knew that her hand would shake if she picked up the china cup. The housekeeper, herself, Mrs Doris Hannon had brought the tray to the office. “Are you sure?” Rose asked. Carer’s Notes The Festival of Britain was held in London in 1951. It was opened by King George V1 on May 3rd. It was to commemorate the centenary of the Great Exhibition, held in 1851 and to celebrate Britain’s contribution to civilisation, to art, science, technology and design. Points for discussion: What do you remember about the Festival of Britain? What are your memories about your town, village or street in the years after the war?
Episode 15 Rose had often read in her women’s magazines about daft girls who “walked on air” when they fell in love. She had no truck with such silly nonsense, herself. Her own distant and painful experience of the opposite sex had left her with no illusions at all. But, this morning, as she walked to her little domain, the reception desk, she really did feel a lightness in her step, that wasn’t entirely due to the Axminster carpet. “Go for your coffee, Heather,” she said. “Take a little bit longer, why don’t you. I have left you here on your own for too long. Heather didn’t need to be told a second time, but Rose could see that her junior colleague was surprised. Rose wanted to savour this moment. She would go for a walk on the promenade during her time off this afternoon. She would savour the seabreeze on her hair and for once not worry about the effects on her appearance. She would stop and stare at the glittering, sparkling sea and gaze out across the sea at the horizon. She couldn’t remember ever feeling quite so excited before in her life. “Dear Miss Greenwood,” said a querulous elderly voice, bringing Rose sharply back to her duties. Carers’ Notes Women’s magazines in this period were popular and featured recipes, knitting patterns and stories of a romantic nature. Many women looked on their weekly magazine as a friend, a treat to be savoured with a cup of tea and a sit-down. Points for discussion: What were your favourite women’s magazines? What else did you like to read in your younger days? Did you visit your library on a regular basis – what are your memories of it?
Episode 16 The Dorchester was an old-fashioned Blackpool hotel. It was oldfashioned enough to have two permanent residents. There was Miss Dunwoody, a tall, angular reserved woman whose straight posture belied her years. Then, there was Miss Fortescue, nervous and twittering, always losing her spectacles, mislaying her book and forgetting her shawl. Both ladies were old friends of the Falmer-Woods family which meant that each felt she had a special place at The Dorchester. Most of the staff viewed the two permanent guests with a mixture of affection and exasperation. One of the most annoying things about the pair was that they didn’t get on. This could make everyone’s life difficult at times as attempts were made by each to gain advantage over the other. Experience had taught Rose that it paid to treat both Miss Dunwoody and Miss Fortescue with politeness and care and to never get drawn into their feuds. “My dear Miss Greenwood, it’s the radiator in my room. It’s either stone cold or burns my hand when I touch it. Perhaps you could get one of your men to have a look?” Rose suppressed a smile. She was sure Miss Fortescue thought Rose had a ready supply of maintenance men at her beck and call morning and night. Carer’s notes It was not unheard of for an elderly person who was well-off, but was without close family of friends to become a permanent resident in a hotel, at this time. The elderly person would have company and have many of her needs met. Points for discussion: Many women remained unmarried because of WW1. Some of these women went on to join the professions paving the way for generations of women in the future. Discuss any significant single women in the younger lives of the residents.
Episode 17 Rose assured Miss Fortescue that she would see to the radiator. Still the elderly lady hovered at reception, reluctant to go. This was her usual time to go into the Promenade lounge at the front of the hotel to have her morning coffee and Bath Oliver biscuit. This was the routine; come downstairs at 10.45 am, pick up her paper and take it to read while she had her coffee. Rose had noticed that the element of battle had entered this too. There seemed to be an unspoken struggle for supremacy between the two resident ladies, over the prime seat in the lounge, the one with quite the best view of the front and the sea beyond. This glass-fronted lounge was one of the Dorchester’s best assets. But, this morning, Miss Fortescue seemed to have other things on her mind. She sighed heavily and shook her head. “He doesn’t look at all well, the poor man,” she said. “I’m sure he works far too hard, and then there was all that worry of the war. Rose suppressed a smile. She didn’t need to ask who Miss Fortescue was so concerned about, It was the king. Miss Fortescue followed the royal family as avidly as if they were her own relatives. Carer’s notes The King died at a relatively early age in 1952. This was followed by the coronation of the present queen. The royal couple had gained popularity during the war. Points for discussion: What are your memories of King George V1 and Elizabeth (the Queen Mother)? What do you remember about the royal family in the war years?
Episode 18 Heather thought that something seemed to have lit Rose Greenwood up from the inside. The older woman had a glow of happiness and smiled at the guests in a way that wasn’t just the usual business politeness. In fact, Heather couldn’t help noticing that Miss Greenwood had the prettiest of smiles. However, there was only so much time Heather gave to noticing either her colleagues or the guests at the moment. She spent most of her waking hours thinking about Clive Pointon. Their night out had been everything and more that Heather had dreamed about. Clive had listened to her, asked her lots about her job and about her childhood. “Do you always see yourself doing this job, Heather?” He’d asked. They were sitting in a chip shop near the North pier. It was an ordinary thing really, eating chips and drinking tea, in a fug of steaming cups and cigarette smoke, the smell of vinegar catching the back of Heather’s throat, her appetite responding to the smells and the sizzle of the fryer. But, it felt magical. And, Clive was talking to her, properly talking and listening too, as if he was interested. Heather had only been drunk once in her life. This feeling was a bit like that, except it was just as nice when you woke up in the morning and relived it all again. Carer’s Notes Courting rituals for working couples in this era often involved going to the pictures or to a dance. The concept of a separate “youth culture” was still more of an American idea, though change was to come towards the end of the decade. Points for discussion: Where did you go to socialise in your teens and early 20s? Tell us about a memorable date.
Episode 19 Rose Greenwood’s good mood lasted for days. She was sorely tempted to tell someone about her forthcoming promotion, but she managed to resist. Anyway, it wasn’t strictly accurate to call it a promotion. Mr Merryweather was only going to be away from his post as general manager for a week. But, Rose knew how much of an honour it was to step into his shoes. It was an honour and an opportunity too. It was unusual for a woman to be given a chance like this. Rose determined to do the best possible job of running the Dorchester. In the meantime, as the season got underway, the hotel was becoming busier. “Excuse me, Miss Greenwood.” The voice was peremptory, almost stern. Rose pinned an attentive concerned look on her face and smiled at Miss Irene Dunwoody, the Dorchester’s second permanent guest. Miss Dunwoody was dressed in greys and blacks, a touch of cream in her blouse only emphasising the severity of the whole. “I wish to make a complaint, Miss Greenwood; about your young colleague, Heather. Rose frowned; a complaint about Heather? She could scarcely believe it. Heather was one of the best reception staff the Dorchester had ever had. Carer’s notes A complaint about a member of staff would be taken seriously at this time and there would be little opportunity for redress. The employer had most of the power. However, it was also the case that getting work was easier for many at this time. It would be very important for a potential employee to have a good reference. Points for discussion: Discuss some of the changes in the workplace that have happened since the 1950s. Tell us about something amusing that happened to you at work
Episode 20 Rose faced the frosty-looking Miss Dunwoody across the reception desk. She was adept at handling such situations. But, she had still been taken by surprise. Of all the staff in the hotel, she could not imagine Heather failing in her duty in any way. She must be careful here. “I’m very sorry to hear that you’re upset, Miss Dunwoody. I’m surprised that you have any complaint about Heather though…” “Yes, well,” Miss Dunwoody did have the grace to look a little sheepish. “I always find her a pleasant and efficient young woman too. But her mind has not been on her job of late. I asked her especially to book an early luncheon as my cousin Stephen was calling on me. The kitchen staff knew nothing about it. Then, I find that quite an important telephone message was not passed on. Really Miss Greenwood, it is not good enough”. Rose did her best to soothe the permanent guest. Whatever was Heather thinking about? Miss Dunwoody had the ear of Mrs. Falmer-Worth. Rose would have to put thoughts of her own ambitions to one side and deal with this unwelcome problem. Carers’ notes: A complaint against a member of staff would probably go to the manager of the hotel. Rose Greenwood must manage this situation in the best way possible for Heather and for the guest – as well as the reputation of the hotel. Points for discussion: If you were in Rose’s position, how would you deal with this situation? Tell us about time you had poor service in a shop, hotel or restaurant.
How did you deal with this?
Episode 21 Rose asked to see Heather in her office, the small, modest room located behind the reception desk. This was an aspect of the job, Rose did not like. She didn’t mind maintaining standards and even managing people on a day-to-day basis, but she didn’t like dealing with serious issues, matters of discipline, in particular. She asked Heather to sit down and took a deep breath to calm herself. It was no good feeling like this. If she was going to step into Mr Merryweather’s shoes – even temporarily – this was the sort of thing she was just going to have to get used to. There was no point in pussy-footing around, so she plunged straight in. “I’m afraid there has been a complaint about you, Heather, from one of the residents. It seems you haven’t been paying attention to the job, forgetting messages”. Whatever Rose had been expecting…perhaps denial or a defence, she hadn’t expected Heather to burst into tears. “I’m sorry,” she said, taking a handkerchief from her cardigan pocket. Rose gave her a moment to compose herself and looked away.
Carers’ notes A career in hotel work would have provided fairly secure employment in this post-war period when austerity was beginning to ease and people were beginning to think about holidays. At this time, it was quite difficult to step out of one’s class when it came to education and work. Points for discussion: Can you remember your feelings about leaving school and going out to work? What did you spend your wages on?
Episode 22 Rose and Heather spent twenty minutes ensconced in the back office. Rose managed to suppress her irritation as Heather eventually admitted her heartbreak. Clive Pointon, it seemed was playing fast and loose with her emotions. “I thought he really liked me. We had such a great time when we went out. He asked me out again, this time to a dance in the Tower Ballroom,” Heather lifted tear-filled eyes to look at Rose. “The next time he was on duty he hardly spoke to me. I don’t know where I stand”. Rose managed not to say, “I told you so…” This was exactly what she would have expected form a game-player like Clive Pointon. “Am I going to get the sack?” Rose sighed. That was the last thing the girl needed. “I don’t think so. I’ll do my best to placate the guest, try and keep this away from Mr Merryweather’s ears. But, look on this as a warning, Heather. You must put your personal life to one side while you are at work. Look, go back to work now. Go and wash your face and have a cup of tea, first. Can’t have you looking like a wet weekend in Blackpool, eh?” Heather managed a shaky smile as she left the room and gave a quick look of gratitude at her senior colleague.
Carer’s notes Rose is in charge of Heather at work. This gives her quite a lot of power over her junior colleague’s life. We see that though she is quite a stern boss, she does have a good heart and doesn’t really want to get Heather in trouble. Points for discussion: Tell us about a mistake you made at work. How were mistakes dealt with and what happened to you?
Episode 23 It was a couple of mornings after Rose’s talk with Heather and both receptionists were busy. Rose was going through the bookings for the past month and trying to develop a reception staff roster for the week she was going to be doing Mr Merryweather’s job. Heather had been quietly getting on with her job, since their talk. She was paler than usual and more subdued but she was doing her work well. Rose noticed an occasion when Clive Pointon seemed to be at a loose end and hanging about in the foyer. Heather’s whole body was on edge and Rose saw her face light up when Clive had a few quick words in passing. So, he was still keeping her dangling on a string then. “Mr and Mrs Harvey, welcome to The Dorchester,” Heather said. Rose looked up from her file and looked again. This was a different type of couple to be booking into Blackpool’s premiere hotel. She didn’t let it show on her face, but Rose was astonished. The woman wore a multicoloured short coat, topped by what looked like a lampshade on her head. Her companion’s loud suit clashed violently with her ensemble. He was smiling broadly and she looked as nervous as a kitten. Carers’ notes This was an era where people were still expected to “know their place.” Some of the richer guests of The Dorchester would have felt uneasy, even uncomfortable with people who they would not consider “of their class.” Points for discussion: In what ways have the distinctions between the classes changed in the last 60 years?
Discuss some of the bad and some of the good changes since the 1950s
Episode 24 The new guests stood, a little awkwardly at reception. “No ye’re all right, me duck. I’ll take the cases myself.” Rose raised her eyebrows, but didn’t comment. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the woman nudge her husband in the ribs. “No, George, you’re not supposed to do it. Let the boy take the cases,” his wife whispered. “Eh, what? Oh, all right then”. The man chuckled and then coughed – the cough of a heavy smoker. Heather handled it beautifully, Rose thought. Probably better, in fact, than she would have done herself. Even her best friend couldn’t have denied that Rose Greenwood could be a bit of a snob. “Don’t know what The Dorchester is coming to,” she couldn’t resist saying to Heather. “They seemed very nice,” said Heather. Rose thought again, how sweet and innocent Heather was. What a pity she and Clive Pointon had ever set eyes on each other. In room 290, George Harvey took Mavis in his strong arms and whirled her round the room. “Didn’t I always tell you our boat would come in one day,” he said. Carers’ notes There were class distinctions too in the workplace. Complaints procedures and disciplinary procedures were not supported by the law
as they are now. The professions were still very male-dominated, though this was beginning to change, especially since the contribution many women made to the war effort. Discussion points: In WW2 many women took up jobs previously only carried out by men. Women worked the land, drove ambulances and even flew planes – did you know any women who performed “men’s jobs”? What changed for many of these young women, when the men came back home from the forces?
Episode 25 In Room 290, spectacles perched on his nose, George Harvey was reading intently. “I have a brochure here, Mavis. Arthur Askey is in town How do you fancy that eh, girl? Can’t beat a bit of a laugh I always say. In his younger days, George himself had fancied himself as a performer, able to belt out such old standards as “Happy Days Are Here Again” with the best of them. He noticed the look of worry on Mavis’s face. “What’s the matter, duck? Aren’t you happy? Isn’t this place the business, the bees’ knees?” Mavis rushed in to reassure him. She waved a hand around to take in the room, the heavy brocade curtains, the polished mahogany bedroom furniture.” “George, it’s beautiful. It’s just…” She hesitated. Then she rushed on, “It’s just that I’m worried whether we’ll fit in. You know what snobs some people can be?” George looked at her, sorrowfully. “Don’t talk like that, Mavis. We’re as good as any of them. And our money is as good as theirs. Mavis sighed. The trouble with George is that he thought everyone else was as goodhearted as himself. Carers’ notes A big attraction to Blackpool was the performers, the singers, musicians and, perhaps particularly, the comedians Discussion points
Tell us about your favourite comedians and performers from this era. What were the popular dances of the time?
Episode 26 It was late in the evening of George and Mavis’s arrival at The Dorchester. They sat taking their ease in the Anchor, the Dorchester’s hotel bar. Mavis was relishing her port and lemon and George took a last satisfying swallow from his pint of half-and-half. “Another one of them, duck?” Jack asked. Mavis sighed happily and agreed. She was tired in that lovely way that makes, even the effort of going to bed, almost too much trouble. My, they had worn out some shoe leather today. They must have walked for miles, enjoyed the prom, the pier, the pleasure beach, stopping in the middle of the day for fish and chips. She heard one of those loud, posh voices address George at the counter. “Just dropped in for a night-cap, old boy, then off back to the boarding house and the landlady with the curlers and the rolling-pin, eh? Haw, haw”. Mavis flinched – just what she had feared. “No, young man, my lady-wife; that is my lady-wife and I are stopping here. Mind you, I’m not sure the class of customer here in the hotel bar is quite what I was expecting. With that, George turned on his heels and returned to their table. Carers’ notes The pleasures of a holiday in Blackpool were many. It was not only the sea air that attracted holiday-makers. There was the enjoyment of people-watching and the sounds and sights of a seaside town. Then, of course, there was the night-life. This has changed a lot in Blackpool in the decades since the 1950s. Discussion points: What are the sights, sounds and smells you think about when you think of the seaside? Who do you remember when you think of days by the sea?
Episode 27 In the Anchor bar, Duncan, the bar manager gave a silent cheer as he saw the old boy put that boor in his place. Duncan, as bar manager, had to keep his opinions to himself. But, he had been here long enough now to know that the definition of gentleman and lady were not as simple and straightforward as you might think. The majority of the hotel’s customers were polite and treated the staff with respect, but you got the odd one that was just plain arrogant and that seriously raised his Celtic ire. He had never had any time for those who thought themselves above others. Well, you could never say that about the Major. At this moment he was drawing himself closer to the counter and Duncan could tell that he wanted a chat. He would have put money on what he was going to talk about, too. “Is the good lady on duty this week?” He asked now, almost speaking out of the side of his mouth, and casting a glance all around the bar area before speaking. Duncan, of course, knew straight away who the major meant. He had known for a while now, that for some strange reason, known only to himself, the major had fallen heavily for the charms, of Doris Hannon the housekeeper at The Dorchester. Carers’ notes The major likes Mrs Hannon and we are lead to believe that they would make an unlikely couple, although we don’t know too much about Mrs Hannon yet. Discussion point: Think about some of the unlikely couples you have known in your lifetime and tell us about them.
Episode 28 Mrs Doris Hannon, widowed now for 10 years had worked her way up to head housekeeper at The Dorchester. “I came up the hard way, you girls; you wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in the days of Miss Browne. This was the name of the previous head housekeeper, apparently an even harder task-master than Doris Hannon, herself. That was difficult for the chambermaids to believe because Miss Hannon, in a certain mood was terrifying. “What is the first thing a guest notices when he goes into the room?” Miss Hannon had often asked the girls. One day, a new girl had answered her with a grin. “How comfortable the bed is,” she’d said and giggled. The others had waited for the explosion. “You cheeky madam; the first thing any guest notices is the cleanliness of the room and how tidy and well-presented it is. Everything else comes after that. It isn’t for nothing that The Dorchester is called Blackpool’s most select hotel. If any of you girls aren’t prepared to put in the elbow grease and the effort, let me tell you now, your feet won’t touch the floor on your way out to the labour exchange”. The girls nodded and mumbled in agreement, including the one who had quipped about the bed. Carers’ notes Housework, particularly in a large establishment like a hotel was still laborious work. Though this was an era where labour-saving devices such as vacuum cleaners were becoming more popular, housework was still labour intensive. There were no automatic washing machines and refrigerators for the masses was still more a feature of American, rather than British life. Discussion points: What are your memories of wash-day? How was the washing done and what was used to get the clothes cleaned and dried?
Episode 29 Heather couldn’t believe it when Miss Greenwood asked to see her once again, “for a private word.” Surely, she wasn’t in trouble again? But what else could it be. Heather had made herself pay 100% attention to the job for the past week or so. Even thoughts about Clive weren’t allowed to distract her. Anyway, Clive was being attentive again, so she was happy. Heather was the only person in The Dorchester who knew how important this job was to her. She didn’t yet know anyone well enough to tell them about her past. Anyway, she preferred to forget all that now. “Is everything all right, Miss Greenwood?” Heather asked. “What, yes, of course. Oh, sorry, I didn’t think. I’m glad to say, Heather that you are back to your usual efficient self, which is why I am asking you to take on my job role as senior receptionist, while I deputise for Mr. Merryweather. Rose Greenwood saw Heather’s eyes widen and her lovely complexion change from pink to white and back to pink again. “Oh, Miss Greenwood. Thank you ever so much. I would love to do that,” Heather eventually managed to say. Carers’ notes For Heather, this temporary promotion to head receptionist is a wonderful surprise, particularly as she has recently been in trouble for not paying proper attention to her job. This opportunity proves that Miss Greenwood really has overlooked her temporary lapse. Points for discussion: Tell us about a time when you (or your husband/wife) were given more responsibility at work. How did this make you feel? Were you worried or excited?
Episode 30 George and Mavis Harvey had one more night left in The Dorchester and planned to make the best of today. “All that money, we’re spending” Mavis sighed this morning as they got ready to go down to breakfast. “Is it very irresponsible of us, George to blow such a big chunk of your pools winnings on treating ourselves like this? We could have gone for something more modest”. George Harvey widened his arms to take in their surroundings, then gestured at the window and the view beyond. “All our lives, Mavis, it has been about making do. No, the best is what I want for you, for this once”. Mavis smiled. Her husband had a heart as big as the ocean. She would enjoy this and stop thinking of the expense. “Right, George,” she said. “While you’re off this morning for your constitutional and all that sea air I think I’ll take myself down to the lounge for morning coffee. If you’re not careful, I’ll be getting used to this life.” Carer’s notes Many people in Britain were weary of austerity and rationing. They were impatient for better times. But, many were still living in poor conditions after the damage of the war. This was still an unsettled time. Points for discussion: What do you remember about the end of rationing and the blackout? What do you know about children being evacuated during the war and then returning home?
Episode 31 Mavis Harvey walked a little hesitantly into the coffee lounge. She had given George a wave as he set off for a walk on the promenade. To tell the truth it was nice to a have a little break from each other. Much as she loved him, she was used to her own time in the house, when he was off at work. A waitress took her order for coffee and biscuits and she looked around at the few other residents. It always fascinated Mavis to do a little peoplewatching. Maybe she would have a look at the daily paper too. She had noticed some copies lying on a little table by the pillar. She had no sooner picked up the newspaper than a piercing voice made her jolt up and drop the paper as if it was scorching. “Excuse me. That’s my paper, my personal newspaper delivered to The Dorchester for me, each day”. Mavis looked round, up at the straight angular figure with the long scornful face and narrow nose. The woman was dressed in drab colourless clothing that did nothing at all for her, in Mavis’s opinion. Carers’ notes Though Mavis enjoyed spending time with her husband on holiday it felt a little strange to be together all the time. In the 1950s the roles of men and women were, perhaps more separate. Points for discussion: How were the chores shared in your own home? Do you think it was important that a woman had her own money?
Episode 32 Mavis Harvey felt herself blush, something she should have outgrown years ago. The rush of embarrassment that swept through her almost made her feel tearful. She and George should never have come to a stuck-up place like this. A nice small hotel or a boarding house would have been much friendlier. “I’m sorry, I’m sure,” she said. The tall miserable looking old trout didn’t even bother to reply, but Mavis saw her cast a glance at another older lady, who was sitting alongside the table. The look was meaningful, as though she were saying…look what this hotel is coming to; just look at the riff-raff they are letting in. But, when Mavis thought she couldn’t feel more miserable, the other lady got to her feet and proffered her own newspaper to her. “Here my dear, have a look through my paper. There’s a lovely piece in her about Princess Elizabeth and the little boy. The tall, unfriendly woman had an expression on her face that almost made Mavis chuckle. She looked like she couldn’t believe what had just happened. Carers’ notes If the other older lady hadn’t stepped in, Mavis would have been left feeling unhappy and insulted. Points for discussion: Were people able to get away to being rude to others they considered their “inferiors” in those days? How do you think this has changed?
Episode 33 Mavis Harvey left the hotel feeling a lot happier. She had arranged to meet George outside St John’s church, that famous Blackpool landmark. They were going to have a look at the church and then take a tram ride. Mavis though there must be something going on amongst the staff. There seemed to be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing around the reception desk and she caught sight of some of the staff that usually did their work in the background; like the chambermaids and bar staff. What on earth was afoot, she wondered. She had had a lovely chat with Miss Fortescue. Imagine living your life like that, in a hotel. Mavis knew plenty of older people who struggled to meet their bills who would envy Miss Fortescue’s lot. But, Mavis didn’t – not really. She thought there was something quite lonely about living in a hotel in your old age. Apparently, the one who had made the fuss about the newspaper was a permanent resident too. Gosh, thought Mavis. I have such a lot to tell George. Carers’ notes Holiday-makers and day-trippers did certain things at the seaside – part of what made their visit special and memorable. In Blackpool this may have meant taking a tram ride or seeing a show. Discussion points: Tell us about the most special trip you ever took? Tell us about the holiday destination you would never want to revisit and why not?
Episode 34 Indeed, the atmosphere in The Dorchester was buzzing. Mr Merryweather had made it his business to speak to the head of all the different departments, reception, serving kitchens, housekeeping and maintenance to inform them of an important meeting to be held on the forthcoming Friday at 4.pm. All senior staff were to ensure that as many members of their staff as possible should attend. Those who were off-duty were to come in and would be paid an extra hour. If needs be, temporary or part-time members of staff could be brought in to cover. “Any idea what this is all about, Rose?” asked, Duncan quietly. He was one of the very few people who seemed to get away with calling her by her first name and he only did it when no guests or junior member of staff were around. “I haven’t a clue, Duncan.” Mrs Hannon who must be the most longserving member of staff says the last-time she remembers such a thing was during the war, to talk about emergency procedures”. “Away with ye, Rose; I hope we’re not going to need tin helmets on Friday.” Carers’ notes Gossip is part and parcel of the majority of workplaces. It is often what helps workers get through the day. The staff in this situation would possibly be worried about their own jobs but would also be naturally curious about what was going to happen at the meeting. Points for discussion: Where was the most interesting place you ever worked? Tell us what made it so interesting.
Episode 35 Many of the staff members at The Dorchester dealt with the uncertainty caused by the imminent meeting by joking. “Back to Milano,” for me, said the junior, but rising sous chef, Enzo”. What are you on about, daft lad. You’ve never been further than St. Ann’s. Milano, my eye”, Jeff, the senior chef, shot back. Enzo grinned. It was true. His father had left Italy in 1932 and somehow the family had never visited his homeland. They heard about it
though, and Enzo had reason to be glad of his Italian heritage. His dark looks had the local girls flocking. He had developed his passion for cooking from both his parents, his mother, a Yorkshire woman made the best Sunday roast ever. On the whole Enzo and Jeff rubbed along well but Jeff was firmly in charge. “He’s a good bloke, but mama mia, you don’t want to see him when his temper is up,” Enzo had reported to his parents on one of his first weekend home after he had started working at The Dorchester. “That’s OK,” his father had said. “That’s his passion…for the food…you sure he’s no Italian? Carer’s notes Enzo the part-Italian chef may still be a bit of a novelty at this time, particularly to the girls. But immigration, for instance, from Poland and other parts of Europe resulted from the war. Discussion points: Tell us about anyone you knew who was displaced as a result of the war. Tell us about the first time you experienced foreign food.
Episode 36 The Dorchester was having a busy few days as the season seemed to be getting off to an early start. Rose Greenwood thought this was probably just as well as she was beginning to get a little tired of the incessant gossip and speculation amongst the staff. Rose knew that she had a reputation for being a little frosty as times. That didn’t bother her. In fact there were times when it was quite useful. She knew that this constant tittle-tattle brought out the worst in her. She had almost had a run-in with Mrs Doris Hannon the other morning. She had just seen yet another huddle of chambermaids. It couldn’t surely be time for their morning break. “I think you might need to have a word with some of your girls, Miss Hannon,” Rose said. “There is a bit too much talking and not enough working, to my way of thinking. Afterwards Rose told herself she really should have known better than to adopt that tone with Mrs Hannon, who had been here even longer than Mr and Mrs Falmer-Worth. Carers’ notes This was a golden era for British hotels and sea-side resorts. Certain factors such as the new welfare stare and the NHS gave some
security – and also meant jobs for many. The building trade was booming as new houses were built to re-house people who had suffered from the bombings. Discussion points: What are your memories of the beginning of the NHS? What do you remember about health care before the NHS?
Episode 37 Rose Greenwood, senior receptionist, at The Dorchester knew in her heart of hearts that Doris Hannon, head housekeeper was not the woman to tangle with. Rose, though she had a reputation of being strict was a diplomat and usually knew who and who not to confront. It was just this morning she had been feeling particularly tired and especially tired of the huddles of people in corners gossiping when they should be working. However, she knew as soon as she spoke those words to Mrs Hannon that she had made a mistake. Doris drew herself up to her full 5’3” and crossed her arms beneath her substantial bosom. “I’ll thank you, Miss Greenwood to look after your reception staff and leave the domestic side of The Dorchester to me.” She had gone a deep brick-red colour and apart from anything else, Rose feared for the woman’s blood pressure. “And if you do have any complaints about the state of cleanliness of the bedrooms or anywhere else then I will go and see Mr Merryweather personally, myself and talk to him about it”. Rose needed every one of her diplomatic skills to extricate herself from that encounter. Carer’s notes Doris Hannon is a strong-minded woman who is not going to be intimidated by a receptionist; or indeed anyone else. She needs to be strong as she has a lot of responsibility for the success of the hotel and she is well aware of this. Discussion points: Discuss some of the strong women you have known.
What do you think the duties of a head housekeeper in a premier hotel would be?
Episode 38 As the Friday meeting loomed, the gossip intensified and Rose Greenwood was thoroughly fed-up of the whole business. Though she would not admit it, she was also slightly peeved that she had not been given any more detail than anyone else. After all, she had been hand-picked to stand in for Mr Merryweather when he went on his jaunt to London, so one would imagine that if anything major was happening to the hotel she would have been informed before the rest of the staff. Heather was quietly worrying away about the forthcoming meeting. When anything like this happened, anything that threatened her security, Heather couldnâ€™t help worrying. She had been with Clive to the pictures. She was getting in deeper and deeper there and in the midst of her happiness and excitement, there was a little seed of unease. Twice lately, Clive had forgotten his wallet and also he was pressing her to go further with him than she felt comfortable about. Alarm bells were ringing but at the same time, she really liked him, probably more than liked him, if she were completely honest. Carersâ€™ notes There is something in Heatherâ€™s background that makes her vulnerable. She may seem like easy prey to someone like Clive Pointon. She is also very fearful of losing her job. Discussion points: Why do you think some women felt happier with live-in work, either in a hotel or in a private house? What do you think might be the disadvantages of live-in work? Tell us about someone you know who had a live-in job.
Episode 39 The ballroom of the Dorchester had been chose for the big meeting and the noise was gaining and gaining in pitch and momentum until Mr Merryweather entered and made his way to the front of the room. He didn’t need to say anything to restore order; his presence was enough – that and the curiosity of those present. “Thank you all for coming today, especially those of you who should be off-duty. First of all, let me assure you that all your jobs are secure and that there is going to be no change in leadership or management of The Dorchester”. A low murmur of voices could be heard then and Mr Merryweather raised his hand slightly to quell them “However, Mr and Mrs Falmer-Worth follow all changes closely; all changes that could have an effect on the hotel trade, in particular. I know we here at The Dorchester pride ourselves at being at the top of the tree. But, that does not mean that we can ignore changes that can have an impact on us. The Dorchester has always hosted the best weddings. We have never gone in for the dinner dance side of hospitality. But, that is set to change. This will mean challenges for us all.” Carers’ notes This was the start of a period of great change in the patterns of employment. Many factors contributed to this. Returning soldiers were not going to settle for what had happened to many, after WW1. The role of women had changed also during the war. The country was entering a period of low unemployment. The trade unions were becoming stronger. Discussion points: Tell us about any trade unions you were involved in. Do you remember any strikes in the 1960s and 1970s? If so, tell us about them.
Episode 40 Mr Merryweather’s speech had a mixed reaction from his audience. Most of them couldn’t wait to get away and discuss the implication with their work colleagues. “I don’t like it,” Rose murmured to Heather in a rare moment of indiscretion. “It lowers the tone.”
“That will mean an awful lot more work in the kitchen,” said Jeff, the head chef, looking at Enzo. “And I can tell you now, that my days of working into the early hours of the morning are well past. Enzo’s heart leapt – this could be his golden opportunity. Duncan looked at the bulk of Miss Doris Hannon. Should he? Did he dare? Och, he had enough of all this serious talk and nonsense. It was time to lift the mood. He’d choose his place though. His father used to always tell him to have his escape route planned when he was dealing with the bull at home. Duncan found it was advice that had served him very well. “Mrs Hannnon,” he said. “there’s a regular that comes in here, to the hotel bar and he has the most almighty crush on you”. He held his breath. A big smile spread across Doris Hannon’s face. Carers’ notes The owners and management of the Dorchester realised that some changes have to be accepted in order for the hotel to thrive. Dinner dances were popular at this time. Therefore the hotel would now start organising these. Discussion points: Tell us about any dinner dances you attended. Did your place of work organise any other trips or entertainments? If so, tell us about these.
Episode 41 Rose Greenwood sat in the tiny sitting-room of her flat and stared at the piece of paper. She felt foolish actually making a list prior to her meeting with Mr Merryweather, tomorrow, but she was terrified of not remembering her questions. She kept thinking of more and she also kept worrying; there was just so much that could go wrong. Just because she was now confident in her own area of expertise – reception… running the whole hotel was a different proposition; quite terrifying, in fact.
She looked around at her flat; her refuge from the world. She had decorated it herself and in a modest way, had been influenced by the tasteful interiors of The Dorchester. It was difficult not to be affected by such a beautiful and orderly world as the hotel, especially when you spent a lot of your time there. Rose knew that she also spent most of the rest of her time thinking about it. She knew that some people; the girls she had grown up with, for instance, that would think she was wasting her life. Well, she thought differently about that. She had no wish to be beholden to any man or to be up to her knees in nappies. The Dorchester was everything she wanted. Carers’ notes In the 1950s many women had a stark choice between being a housewife and having a career. Because of men returning from the war, there was additional pressure for women to stop working outside the home. This attitude would significantly change – but not yet. Discussion point: What pressure was on young women in the 1950s to leave the workplace? Tell us about any “career women” you knew at this time.
Episode 42 Rose was amazed to walk into Mr Merryweather’s office, at his bidding and see Mr and Mrs Falmer-Worth there. She had not been expecting this and it just emphasised the responsibility she was being handed for the coming week. Mrs Falmer-Worth was still beautiful in middle-age. Her thick greyblond hair was beautifully styled and her fine-boned face was ageing well. Her husband was everything you would expect of a former high-ranking officer in the first war. He was upstanding and impeccable. If you could believe the gossip and even Rose was not completely immune to it, Mrs Falmer-Worth’s parents had slightly looked down their aristocratic noses at him. But then, his war record and his charm had won then round. How the staff knew all this was beyond Rose, but perhaps the story was true – it was certainly romantic; not that Rose had much time for romance. “We’re delighted to have a steady hand on the tiller, while Frank is away”. Rose had to think for a minute before remembering that Mr Merryweather’s name was Frank.
“We won’t stay, my dear, said Mrs Falmer-Worth, we know Frank needs to go through things with you. She smiled at Rose. Carers’ notes Rose would be understandably proud and excited at the opportunity to run the hotel – even if it is just for a short time. Discussion point: Tell us about a time you were given extra responsibility either at school or at work. Tell us how you coped with this.
Episode 43 Rose sat upright in the leather chair in Mr Merryweather’s office paying full attention to him as he showed her important things, such as keys, safes, and files. He went through any likely emergencies and showed her a list of important telephone numbers, such as the lift engineers. Rose found his master-plan of the staff roster so impressive and was not surprised that Mr Falmer-Worth had had a hand in it. Bet he brought his military planning skills to that, Rose thought. Then a tiny part of her mind wandered. Mr and Mrs Falmer-Worth had been there for a reason. Just before they had left, she had turned to Rose. “We wanted a word, my dear. Frank tells us he has every confidence in your abilities and we trust his judgement. Apart from that, we have friends who tell us how well you run things at reception. We are hoping that with some of the changes we are proposing that you may play a part. Rose nodded. Her mind was whirring. It seemed that her star really was rising at The Dorchester. Carers’ notes Rose is being entrusted with the keys and the responsibility of running the hotel in Mr Merryweather’s absence. Though this is only for a week, Rose has the feeling that she might be considered for more responsibility on a permanent basis, in the near future. Discussion points: Tell us about any women you knew who had positions of power. This may have been a head mistress, or a matron, for example. What qualities did this person possess?
Episode 44 Alice Walker, fairly new receptionist at The Dorchester, looked at Heather in dismay. “I’m sorry, Heather. I didn’t do that last booking properly. Look.” She held out the large, heavy reception book. “I’ve asked the lady to sign in the wrong space…the wrong room. I’m ever so sorry, Heather. I can’t have been looking closely enough.” Heather put a hand on the younger girls’ arm, “Don’t worry about it, Alice. We’ve all done it. If you knew the number of mistakes I made when I first started…” She tried to make Alice feel better, but actually it hadn’t been a bit funny at the time. Heather had spent her first six months at The Dorchester, dreading losing her job, each and every day. She was not quite so bad now, but she still had her moments of insecurity. “I will get the lady to sign on the correct line, rectify it…was it that very glamorous lady?” Alice sighed and a faraway look came into her eyes. “Yes, wasn’t she lovely? I’m sure that was a Dior coat. She was like a film star.” “I thought she looked a bit sad, though,” Alice added. Carers’ notes: It would have been quite unusual for a lady to holiday alone. She is quite a glamorous woman, too, so she is likely to cause some speculation amongst the staff and fellow-guests. Discussion points: Did you ever go on a holiday, or day trip on your own? Tell us about it? Apart from your husband or wife, did you ever go on holiday with a relative or friend? What do you remember about it?
Episode 45 In Room 251, Miss Dinah Patterson looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her lipstick could do with a touch-up. She had unpacked most of her things already after that cheeky-looking bell-boy had brought her cases up. He had caught her glance and given her a cocky grin – just the right side of over-stepping the mark. Mmmm, she knew his type. Dinah got her make-up bag and set out her Elizabeth Arden lipstick and powder compact. She had given herself three days away from the suffocating atmosphere of her parents’ home. She thought this time away from all the pressures would help her make some decisions. People always talked about reaching “a crossroads” in their lives and she used to think that was nonsense. Now, she wasn’t so sure. She did know that she had to make changes. “For goodness’ sake, darling, at least tell us where you are going. I can’t understand taking yourself off on your own like this; too Hollywood by far. I’m here; after all, if you’re troubled why can’t you talk to me?” Her mother had said. Dinah had done her best to pacify her. She couldn’t tell her that living at home with her parents was actually part of Dinah’s problem – only a part, though. Carers’ notes Dinah clearly didn’t feel able to confide in her mother about her problems. She also felt too old to be living at home. It was quite normal in the 1950s to live at home with your parents before marriage, so Dinah’s case must have been different. Discussion points: Where did you live in your teens and early twenties? If you got married, tell us about your first married home.
Episode 46 Rose walked up the main staircase to Mr. Merryweather’s office. She held the big, iron key which felt solid and reassuring. Her senses were acute. The carpet felt both firm and soft under her feet. Blue from the stained glass window shone in filtering the light; showing up tiny dust particles in the air. Rose breathed it all in; the scent of furniture polish mingled with the sweet smell of wallflowers from reception. A door opened and she heard a joyful laugh; a cleaner hummed softly. She reached Mr Merrweather’s door and let herself in. Going straight to the sash window, she lifted it. Leaning out, she inhaled the salt-tinged, warm air. There was a soft knock on the door and Rose said “come in”, hoping that she wasn’t going to presented with a problem quite yet. To Rose’s surprise, Doris Hannon, herself, came in, carrying a heavy tray. “I’m just seeing that you get your coffee, Miss Greenwood and hoping that this is right. If you’d prefer it later, or perhaps, tea, just let us know. It’s just that Mr Merryweather always starts his morning like this…” “No, that’s fine; it’s perfect. Thank you very much.” Rose fought to keep the amusement out of her advice. Who had stolen the feisty Mrs Hannon and replaced her with this paragon? Carers’ notes Rose finds that she is already been treated differently because she is standing in for Mr Merryweather and managing the hotel. Even Mrs Hannon, normally quite fierce is treating Rose with deference. Discussion points: Do you think it is likely that all the staff would view Rose differently now because of her change of role? Do you think this would be any different in today’s world of work, and why?
Episode 47 Heather and Clive Pointon sat in the saloon bar of the George. Though it was also a hotel, it bore no resemblance to The Dorchester. Heather looked around her, with interest. The place had a funny feel about it. She couldn’t quite think of the word. It didn’t make her feel all that comfortable. Clive had gone to the bar. She had been quite happy to stick to lemonade but had given in and agreed to have a glass of beer. “Go on, Heather, it’ll relax you. You might even like the taste. Don’t worry about making you drunk. The stuff they serve since the war is all watered-down anyway; it wouldn’t get a nun merry.” He’d laughed, and suddenly Heather had felt a surge of recklessness and high spirits go through her. Why not, she thought. Sometimes, she had enough of always being the sensible one. Just because of what her childhood had been like…she couldn’t go through her whole life being afraid, could she? Actually, the beer had tasted…interesting. It was better than lemonade anyway, went down easier. Carer’s notes We might think that Clive is deliberately trying to get Heather drunk and that this is not going to take much as she is not used to alcohol. Discussion points: What were the attitudes toward women going into public houses when you were growing up? Did you agree with these views?
Episode 48 Dinah Patterson perused the menu in the softly-lit dining-room of The Dorchester. She sat at a corner table, but could still feel the eyes glance at her, then at the empty chair opposite, then at the door. They thought she must be waiting for someone. Obviously – it wouldn’t do at all for a woman to be dining on her own – especially an attractive one. Dinah didn’t bother with any false modesty. The head waiter had looked uncomfortable as he showed her to her table. Actually, thought Dinah. I don’t really care. I have more serious things to decide. It had never been Dinah’s intention to become romantically involved with her boss. He was not only a politician, he was married. But, it had happened and she had experienced the pleasure and the pain of the situation for the past ten years. Now, the unimaginable had happened. Ralph’s wife had died of a serious infection which had not been treated in time with these new antibiotics. She was trying not to be callous, but this changed everything. The trouble, thought, Dinah, is that I just don’t know how I feel about any of it anymore. Carers’ notes Dinah Patterson’s situation would have been unusual but not unheard of, at this time. It would have been very unacceptable for a politician to be divorced. There were still strict rules and protocols about divorce. This was even to cause controversy in Princess Margaret’s life, some years later. Edward VIII had had to abdicate, in 1936 because of his involvement with a divorcee. Points for discussion: Do you remember any conversations in your childhood about the abdication of Edward VIII? Why do you think he had to go in order to marry Mrs Simpson?
Episode 49 Heather giggled. She felt very strange; it was quite a nice strange though. Everything seemed muzzy and happy and she really really wanted Clive’s arms around her. In fact…she probably needed Clive’s arms around her. Her feet and legs felt a little like Annie’s. Annie was the rag-doll her mother had made for her when she had been about three. At the thought of her mother, Heather felt very sad. Maybe she would tell Clive all about her mother. Yes, that would be good. She wished her mam could have met him. That was a shame. “Clive,” she said. “Yeah?” Clive’s arm was around her now and they were walking very slowly along the prom. Suddenly, Heather’s mouth wouldn’t work properly and she couldn’t get the words out about her mother. Then, Clive was kissing her, hard. It was nice; then it wasn’t nice. It was scary. “I know somewhere we can go,” Clive said. “No,” Heather said. She saw a sharp image of her mother in her mind’s eye and knew that she wouldn’t have liked Clive at all. Carers’ notes We get the feeling that Heather is vulnerable to a predator like Clive, that she is craving affection. Discussion points: Why do you think nice girls like Heather get taken in by men like Clive? In what ways do you think the girls of today are better able to deal with the “Clives” of the world, or, are they?
Episode 50 Dinah Patterson put her napkin on the table and picking up her handbag, left the dining-room. She had drunk a half-bottle of wine and eaten steak. She was replete and ready for her room, her book and her bed and perhaps a last cigarette. The pressures of the past months had lifted. She was no longer in the shadow of Ralph, when everything everyone did had to be for the best of his political life. Deep down, she must have wanted this surely? Not that she had wanted Ralph’s wife to die, but she had wished a thousand times that he was free. She had wanted to be the woman by his side when he was photographed, interviewed or out in the constituency. “After a decent time interval,” he’d said, after the funeral. He had been pale, hollow-eyed – he must have loved Maud really, then. Dinah was sure now, that she no longer wanted it – the life, or the man. In the foyer of the hotel she saw the young receptionist – the one who had corrected the error in the signing-in book. She looked terrible – frightened, wild-eyed, mascara running. “Oh dear,” said Dinah, “whatever is the matter? Can I help?” Carer’s notes: Dinah Patterson has made a big decision – a brave decision. She is going to make a fresh start. Discussion points: What reasons might Dinah find it easier to move forward on her own, than Heather? Tell us about some of the big decisions you made in your earlier life.