Rag Day

 Would you give money to people like this lot? Well you would if you were in Exeter in the late 1950s and valued your life. The St. Trinians films had just been made and were showing in the cinemas, so everyone knew that they were in trouble if they met this group. Despite the nice smiles, the message is loud and clear: "Either give us money for charity or we hit you with these big hockey sticks." The excitement and good humour of the occasion is well captured in this photograph.
Far less clear now is the message conveyed in many of the floats. When they wound their way through the streets, the spectators would understand immediately what the displays meant. They would be referring humorously or critically to something which was happening at the time either locally or nationally. Today I find nearly all of these photographs perplexing. Their meaning is elusive. We seem to lose the ability to decode messages as their frame of reference changes with the passage of time. So all I can do is to leave you to try to work out what was happening all those years ago. Let me know if you succeed and I will try to fill in the details.





I have received news from Diane Ascroft who was one of the team who worked on the Lopes Hall float and says that the theme was taken from the film "Les Girls"which just happened to be showing at the old ABC Savoy cinema which was situated next to Boots in High Street. Diane sent me another photo of the float and I found yet another in the archive. She knew the names of most of the participants. Diane also related two little stories and I include them below as they illustrate so well that you do not need many words to tell a good story:
"I remember getting Asian flu in January 1958 - I was too ill to make the journey to Exeter for the start of the winter term, but tottered back way before I should have, only to find that most of Lopes was down with it. They had isolated the victims on the upper floors - so I was not able to go back to my own room - but those of us who had had it were required to look after and take meals to the sufferers. No lifts in Lopes! I can remember being barely able to get up the stairs, let alone with a loaded tray!"
Recalling one of her friends, Christine, she says, "Christine was always good fun: my main memory of her was going on a cycle ride with her somewhere in the direction of Ide. She had a racing style bike with drop handle bars, mine was a sit-up-and-beg type. We got to the top of Crossmead Hill on our return and set off down it together. Christine was quite a big girl on a light bike; I was a rather light girl on a heavy bike - so Christine arrived at the bottom of the hill about half an hour before me!"
Many thanks to Diane for sharing her memories with us.