The Washington Suite at the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool oozed with immaculate patrons with faultlessly fitting clothes and shoes of flawless polish. Each member of Emblem Lodge No 6727, for it was the lodge’s annual ladies evening, was further adorned by an ideally proportioned flower in his buttonhole, perfectly complementing the brilliant white of his starched collar and razor-edged creases of his trousers. Chirpiness shone on their closely shaven faces and reflected in the glamourous dresses of the ladies that accompanied them.
It was a special occasion; the foremost event in the lodge’s crammed social calendar. Members, colleagues, wives and partners, family and friends numbered over 200 in total as they assembled for preparatory refreshers, all with but one goal in mind, that of having fun. Chatting wildly while their thoughts were busy on the vision of a sumptuous dinner, warm smiles of welcome played over their faces as they sipped their chosen stimulants.
Resplendent in his native kilt, master of the lodge Paul Easton and his principal guest, his wife Elaine, had pulled out all the stops to ensure a dazzling evening. The Washington Suite of the hotel reverberated with glamour and sophistication. Architectural table centres and glistening silverware adorned the dining tables, redolent of a set for the premier of a Hollywood blockbuster. The atmosphere in the room was also equal to any such occasion.
Having escorted Elaine to her rightful place on the top table, Paul welcomed his guests with the warmth and camaraderie befitting of the mood, and drawing on the vast talent within the lodge, invited junior warden Nick Harrison to open the proceedings with one of the songs from his vast repertoire. The mood had now been well and truly established. It was to be a night of glamour, superb entertainment and a whole lot of fun.
Guiding the proceedings with his customary skill was director of ceremonies Gordon Smith, genial and relaxed yet totally in control. He would accept nothing less than enjoyment from all quarters. The enjoyment that was to be the primary ingredient of the evening was evinced by the constant chattering and laughter that arose from the tales while piercing each carrot or potato of the generous fare.
All the traditions of a well-choreographed ladies evening were included in the programme; countless quality raffle prizes, ladies’ gifts, table prizes and the ladies’ song, (again courtesy of Nick Harrison), customary speeches, excellent entertainment and oodles of dancing and social interaction.
Principal lady Elaine, at that point that many principal guests dread – the response to the toast to the ladies, displayed no inkling of nervous agitation. Well-practised and confident, Elaine entertained her audience with a delightful speech which, by tradition highlighted the plight of a Mason’s wife, and her Masonic husband’s incessant delving into a little blue book of rituals. Masons and their families who were present fully identified and sympathised with the sentiments therein – although it was suspected that some of the members even had their ritual books on their persons at the time!
Although generally following traditional lines, the programme did deviate for a short intermission however. At the conclusion of her speech, Elaine and 12 of her friends retired from the carousing for a short time while tables were relocated to open up the dance floor, only to return in a change of dress and the addition of tap-shoes. With the spirit and razzmatazz of a 1950’s MGM musical, the troupe, billing themselves as the ‘Chardonnays’, burst forth with a rousing tap-dance arrangement of Glenn Miller’s Chattanooga Choo Choo.
In the early stages of organising the ladies evening, Elaine had discussed with her friends the possibility of introducing a fun item into the evening’s agenda and seven months before the event, they decided that a tap dance would provide the solution. Accordingly, they secured the services of Sheila Norbury of the Whittakers Dance School to nurture them and choreograph a suitable dance routine. Sunday mornings became tap-dance rehearsal time and with zeal and determination, the 13 ladies perfected their act. The enthusiastic applause that the turn generated on the night confirmed that the effort had been well worth it – the show was a major hit with the proletariat. Busby Berkeley would have had his cheque book at the ready to sign them up!
The Chardonnays’ performance proved to be a perfect prelude to the entertainment that was to follow. Combining ‘good old fashion’ swing with modern dance music, Zeta and Lee had the revellers up on the dance floor immediately they began their routine and the talented duo interacted with the party-goers to reinforce the atmosphere that had prevailed throughout the evening. Legs were kicked in the air, torsos thrusted, arms flailed around and vocal chords were pushed to their limits as the revellers danced and sang their way into the early hours.
Did Paul and Elaine, along with the members of Emblem Lodge, provide a fun night? You bet they did! One is only left with the thought of the carousers’ state of health the following morning. One suspects that many would be wearing pallor masks and conducting a series of difficult and exhaustive tests to ascertain whether or not they were still alive. Such had been the quality of the night before.