Nostalgia: Save the last dance for us

The Reggie Harkins Formation Dancers at the Palais de Danse for Come Dancing in 1965. Picture: TSPL
The Reggie Harkins Formation Dancers at the Palais de Danse for Come Dancing in 1965. Picture: TSPL
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THE shabby facade with its faded delusions of Grecian grandeur appears incongruous next to the modern developments which now surround it.

But if walls could talk, what tales would Edinburgh’s Palais de Danse have to tell?

Palais De Danse Miss Lambretta contest, 1958. Picture: TSPL

Palais De Danse Miss Lambretta contest, 1958. Picture: TSPL

Perhaps stories of sambas, slick suited band leaders and slow dances cheek-to-cheek. Fables of fandangos and furious spats over just who was going to ask who to dance and tales of tangos and tears. It’s a building which has seen romances flicker and burn, flicker and die and all to the soundtrack of the latest music from the hit parade.

And then, of course, there was the bingo. If you set foot inside the crumbling old hall on Fountainbridge would you hear the crooners of old, the raucous cheers of those watching a swimsuit parade or the calls of two fat ladies, clickety-click and house?

But not for much longer will these ghostly echoes remain if developers get planning permission to tear the place down to make way for new student housing.

The building opened in 1911 as a cinema and ballroom and became the Palais in 1921, famous for its sprung dancefloor and its hand-cranked revolving stage which allowed two bands to play at the same time, so there was never a break in the music. Unsurprisingly it was a Mecca to Edinburgh’s teenagers and young adults – including a young Sean Connery – and regularly attracted up to 900 people of a Saturday night.

But when it closed for refurbishment in 1967 it never reopened – perhaps the Summer of Love meant dance halls were no longer de rigeur – until it became an actual Mecca. Bingo hall, that is.

Shops vie to be top of food chain

ARE you being served? Perhaps not so much these days, when grocery shopping involves picking your own fruit and veg, wrestling with the self-serve checkout and trying not to shout at the “unexpected item in bagging area” alert.

From the irritation of remembering at the tills that your plastic bags are in the boot of the car, to the endless aisles stuffed with overwhelming varieties of baked beans, modern shopping is nothing like the good old days.

Back then choices were in short supply but at least couples like trolley-dash pair Denise and Graeme Bannister didn’t need a compass and map to find their way around Wm Low’s in Nicolson Street. And the new grocery section at J&R Allan’s in South Bridge looks tame compared to the massive superstores of today.

Even if the fruit choices didn’t stretch to exotic treats from around the globe, shoppers at St Cuthbert’s Co-op in Gilmerton could leave the task of weighing the apples and pears to the efficient shop assistant in crisp white overalls.

This week it emerged that one shop that combines some of that old-fashioned approach to service with an upmarket variety of unusual produce was named the UK’s top supermarket in an annual survey of British shoppers. Waitrose, which has branches at Comely Bank and Morningside, with another planned for Corstorphine, was praised for the “helpfulness and availability” of its staff and its “tidy” stores in the report from consumer group


Of course one thing that’s never changed is we still love a bargain – with shoppers happy to brave the cold and a long wait to get what they are after, as the hundreds who eagerly awaited the opening of the new Aldi store at Gilmerton last week proved.