A local tale of Beatle Days
By Glen Vollmecke  (nee Swann)


The following story is true.   It’s based on memories of my teen years on Merseyside where I was born.

I won a two  year art scholarship at the age of fifteen, and at first stubbornly resisted association with the 
art students, due mainly to their wild reputations and my own innate shyness.   Eventually, I began what 
proved to be some of the most memorable years of my young life.

A friend from art school raced alongside me one morning yelling excitedly that she had a date with Paul 
McCartney, one of  the Beatles playing at the Tower ballroom, I wasn’t impressed.

Perched on a hill surrounded by fairground exhibits, and resembling a huge medieval castle, was the Tower 
building.  Originally standing 544 feet high and built in 1896 it resembled the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and 
peered bleakly over the River Mersey, and was adjacent to the Liver building on the other side, which was 
Liverpool, a few miles away from my home town of Wallasey.

My art school’s annual ‘Rag Day’ involved engineering colleges, and art schools from within a fifty mile 
radius.  John Lennon studied at our ‘sister school’ in Liverpool.  He was an eager costumed participant.

Parades of over forty floats, which resembled a Halloween holocaust, provided wild, un-subdued 
entertainment for all who watched. One wild evening as floats coasted inch by inch down the main street 
in all  their coloured splendor, a ‘gang’ from John’s college ‘captured’ me.  I was thrown onto over stuffed
 pillows in the Egyptian float, until I snatched a huge oar  from their display and started swinging, needless 
to say I was released amid profuse apologies!  Surrounding the hysteria of the moment, my focus of 
fascination was the sight of John’s friends in their soccer outfits, while at the same time wearing ballerina 
tutus.   I’m almost positive he was one of them.

On one occasion our ‘life model’ Mary Antoinette Birtwhistle, who posed at our school in the buff, 
decided to abandon her raincoat in sub zero temperatures. Being completely naked underneath the coat, 
and without the benefit of warm clothing, the students in John’s crowd gleefully pelted her with rotten eggs. 
This caused a great deal of friction from ‘our side’ and after a heated exchange, we dutifully gathered up 
Mary, grabbed her raincoat, and shoved her on the next train home.

Another of our students, a pianist called Samuel and a talented musician was engrossed in banging out jazz 
on an old Salvation Army piano whilst our float moved slowly down the cobbled streets of Liverpool. 
Suddenly several pounds of flour and rotten eggs descended upon him from an abandoned building, 
absolutely ruining his loaned piano, not to mention his bronchial tubes!

Needless to say, these wild and reckless rag days were coming to an abrupt and hasty conclusion.

The inevitable decision to terminate future rag days was made, much to the regret of all involved.

John Lennon lived with his in-laws during this time. The “Powells” lived across the road from my brother’s 
home in Hoylake. My brother was newly married, and also resided with his in-laws who were named 
“Powell.” Therefore it wasn’t surprising that confusion within the postal system constantly occurred.  
My brother’s first  born son Mark, was often the recipient of many of John’s fan mail, especially when 
Julian Lennon was born.  The cards and gifts were inadvertently sent to my family's home by mistake.

 Art schools first year offered freedom and challenges.  My friend Diane and I often skipped classes on 
many a rainy afternoon for a frolic in Liverpool. I was dating a disc jockey “Clem” of the Iron Door Club, 
which was located near to the Cavern. This was where we met one grey rainy day, for coffee.   Alone, 
we envisioned a peaceful and romantic interlude in the tiny, empty ballroom. However within five minutes 
we were rudely interrupted by four belligerent lads, complete with sets of drums, wires and microphones 
they set up their ‘gear’ amid exaggerated noise and laughter.  Clem loudly shouted as we departed, 
“give them a job and they get big headed!”  The Beatles were unfazed.

Another incident at the club, involved a loud pounding at the door one evening, Clem as night manager 
excused himself, in order to investigate.  Upon returning, he explained that a lad named Ringo was 
frantically trying to gain entry in order to join his ‘band,’ but obviously was in the wrong club.  He raced  
to the Cavern, albeit late for his ‘gig!’  Clem just shook his head in disbelief.  No doubt poor Ringo was his 
usual disoriented self that night.  Smiling, I understood.

During one of Clem’s work nights at the Tower ballroom where he was a disc jockey, we spotted the Beatles 
arriving for their ‘gig.’  Four little black headed figures in black leather jackets were coming to the stage to 
‘set up.’ They owed Clem money, three pounds to be exact, approximately five dollars.  The conversation 
became heated, so out of curiosity I joined them.  My boyfriend demanded repayment, and did all the talking 
as they humbly bowed their heads, barely saying a word. Paul suddenly pulled out the lining of his pockets 
and said “ sorry we don’t have it mate.  Honest!

The Cavern became a Mecca for the local students.  It was a small underground cellar of an old warehouse, 
in a dark dismal alley.  At night it became a sea of faces and neon lights.  Our front, folding metal seats often 
vibrated with the pounding music. Groups from London often played the Cavern and seemed more 
prestigious than our local lads, at this time.  The floor literally shook as we sat dangerously close.  It 
seemed that Ringo and his drums would bounce from this tiny stage, and land in our laps at any given 

Ringo’s musical talents were impressive, although his silly vacant expression was hilarious.  He spent many 
an evening ‘making eyes’ and pursing his huge lips in my direction as my friend and I danced the twist!   
My sister Jean admonished, “if you ever bring HIM home, your mother will choke you!”

As an art student, I worked part time at the Tower ballroom café as a cashier.  The lads often brought their 
trays laden with cellophane packaged goodies through the check out.  Ringo’s attempts at flirtation were 
more amusing than annoying! Remembering my sister’s warning, I remained aloof.

Manning the Tower spotlight one evening was John, the manager’s son.  He fell for every girl who showed 
him attention, and was smitten with me for around two weeks.  On this particular night, he ‘spotlighted’ 
myself and a friend several minutes at a time while we danced, leaving the “Fab Four” in total darkness.  
The language and yelling, which emanated from the dark and gloomy stage was unprintable!

Paul especially, reacted angrily when the swooning teenage girls excitedly grabbed his ankles, in an almost 
successful attempt to extricate him from the stage. He became ‘heated’ quickly, and his language was crude 
leaving no doubt as to his intentions.  John was more patient but prone to being quick tempered and very 
sarcastic.   Ringo the ‘clown’ was dopey, adorable, and silly.  George was painfully shy and kept quietly to 
himself, barely raising his head to ‘view’ his surroundings.

 I was a sensitive sixteen year old. My best friend Diane and I enjoyed a rum and blackcurrant in the Tower 
bar one evening. We were seated in the almost empty room next to the Beatles. Shortly an ex boyfriend 
entered.  He was a bouncer for the Tower, we were not on speaking terms, so he loudly stated that at sixteen
I was underage and had to leave.  The group of four at the next table snickered, giggled and nudged each 
other as I made a hasty albeit humiliated retreat, glass in hand.

Suddenly Brian Epstein, their new London connection and manager entered our lives.  We sensed a 
‘quickening’ an acceleration as though we were losing something, we’d taken for granted.  He hovered 
around the ballroom which quickly emptied of its’ revelers, as one noisy Saturday evening concluded.

I paused to hear the conversation of this imposing and confident foreigner, whom I sensed was in complete, 
and irreversible control of our ‘lads.’  “Passing ships in the sea” was all I heard, as he gazed at the last few 
teens rushing to catch the late bus home.

Soon afterwards, the lads left for Germany. My mother returned to live in her native island of Jersey near 
France. At seventeen I was alone.  For several months I worked in Jersey then decided to try my luck in 
London’s West End.  I found a job in a fashionable store in Oxford Street, as a window dresser/designer.

As I proudly related my experiences in animated detail to my friends and co-workers, I was thrilled to see 
the ‘lads’ in a postage stamp sized photo in a variety magazine, Rolling Stone. Excitedly I passed the page 
around, but these people were unimpressed.

Several weeks later, the lads returned from Germany and took London by storm. The world would know the 
Beatles. My co-worker said, “
Glen, let me see that tiny clipping of your Liverpool lads again!”


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