The Rocket Pub, Longbenton

There was always something going on at the Rocket.

I remember when the Rocket was a proper family pub. It was the first pub on the estate, opened in 1963 and a real meeting place. There were always big groups of friends meeting there, maybe twelve or fourteen people ‘in the company’ and there was never any trouble. It had shorter opening hours to what we’re used to now, 11am – 3.00pm and 6.00pm – 10.00pm and even shorter on Sundays. When it first opened, women weren’t allowed in the bar but had to sit in the lounge. This had to change when the visiting darts and domino teams said they wouldn’t come if their wives couldn’t sit in the bar to watch them play.

I worked behind the bar at weekends in the early 1970s. My main job was at Vickers, but a bar job was pocket money for me, especially when we were on ‘bare pay’, the standard 40 hours. It was amazing how you got to know people. I could go down to the shops and meet ten or twenty people that I knew from the pub. It also helped your mental maths, working out the drinks bill for a big company. I could tot up the bill in my head as I was getting the drinks ready.

At Christmas there was a big raffle. There were beetle and whist drives and domino cards. Sunday was always busy and Sunday lunchtime was the best time of the week. We raised a lot of money through raffles and domino cards and a good deal went to charity. We raised the money for the first electric wheelchair for a child at Percy Hedley School and paid for buses to take children from the estate to Flamingo Park. In Jubilee year, 1977, we had a party in the car park. We supported a junior football team and also local jazz bands. There was always something going on at the Rocket.

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