WHEN Salvation Army girl Olive Covell was seen emerging from a dance at Guisborough's Quoits Club, she was spotted by fellow Salvationists who assumed she had been dancing. In fact, she had merely been passing a message to a girlfriend who was at the dance, but her explanation was not accepted.
"I had regularly played the organ at the Army which forbade its members to go to dances, so I left," says Olive, now a 76-year old and smiling at the episode. Yet it would be a mistake to assume that the Salvation Army was totally to blame for Olive staying away from its Fountain Street hall. "I was looking for an excuse to leave," explains Olive, whose parents, grandparents and great parents were Salvationists.
Life was hard for the young woman who worked at Guisborough Shirt Company's factory, but expected to join in all the local corps' activities and had little time of her own, not least for joining girlfriends at Guisborough's Priory Hall for regular hops. And it was at one such dance that she was pushed in front of the dance band leader Brian Bowes who was told: "She can sing, Brian." Not only did it mark the start of Olive becoming the band's resident singer, but led to romance, marriage and a working partnership.
In those early years, Olive accompanied the Brian Bowes Band wherever it played, particularly at its regular dates at the Saltburn Spa. Olive -who spotted a photograph of her ex-husband's band in the last issue of Remember When - clearly remembers the line-up of Bill Walker, Kevin Tierney, Tommy Simpson, Len Robson, Don Smith, Ray Parry and bandleader Brian Bowes, who was also an accomplished pianist.
In those days, Brian drove a large Dodge car to convey his musicians to the various gigs, which included standing in at the Coatham Hotel for the Charles Amer Orchestra when it was playing elsewhere.
Soon after their marriage, Olive and Brian took over a general dealer's shop at Grove Street in Stockton. "It was lock-up shop and we travelled from Middlesbrough every day to open it up; we only left when legislation came in which meant changing the washing facilities," she recalls.
Even presiding over the shop was a far cry from her life as the eldest of five children who lived with their parents on Guisborough's West Gate. The Covell household of five children moved several times in Olive's childhood, finally moving into their own home at 97 Park Lane, a house built by Ormesby Bank builder `Conky' Richardson and sold for just £500.
She had special memories of the large Swales family from Lime Road and of Mr Buckworth, a coal merchant, who doubled as the town crier. The Covell family had long links with Guisborough Shirt Factory, her father serving as a mechanic at the firm owned by Fishburn family. When the firm opened the St Hilda's area of Middlesbrough, Olive moved too. She reckons that a single conveyor at the Guisborough factory would produce 800 shirts a day, with a daily tally of around 5,000. Her marriage to Brian Bowes introduced her to a different kind of work - that of life in the motor trade.
After leaving their Stockton shop, Brian had a succession of jobs and was working as a salesman for Remah Motors on the Trunk Road when he heard of a new garage being opened by the Cohen brothers – Harry and Walter.
“Harry was a developer; his brother Walter had a place down Newport Road selling fireplaces and baths and that sort of thing," says Olive, adding that 'O What Comfort' was the firm's catchphrase. Brian successfully applied for the job of manager and he and Olive moved into a bungalow adjacent to what became known as the Blue Bell Garage.
It was 1959, petrol was just 4s.lld a gallon and the Blue Bell Garage had been appointed agents for Triumph cars. “We also sold less popular cars such as Heinkels, Fiats, Skodas, Messerschmidts and Goggomobiles," says Olive.
With George Liddle serving as the back garage manager and Brian in charge of car sales, the garage prospered, but only by hard work. Olive recalls the occasions when the Blue Bell garage was appointed Vauxhall agents, the garage staff travelling to Luton Autorama to collect new cars for sale in the garage showrooms. "Brian and I often travelled down to London overnight to pick up second-hand cars for sale up here," she says.
She smiles at the memory of the garage's regular customers including the Rev Bernard Kersh, rabbi of the Hebrew community. "He used to complain about cars not being tall enough inside. Brian used to tell him to take his black hat off!"
When their marriage broke up, Brian left the Blue Bell garage and Olive stayed on, with John Snaith and Frank Crouch taking over the management of it. A sad ending to a happy partnership, but Olive was to start a new life with the late Mr Bill Bean, a chief planner with Middlesbrough Corporation whom she had met as a regular customer at the garage. As for Brian Bowes, he met and married another partner - Jane Lazarus - but he and Olive reforged a friendship after his second wife's death and just a few months before Brian's death in December 1995.
Today, Olive's reminder of their happy years working together both at the garage and in the band are in her memory and in his prolific collection of band music which she has to this day.