Published on April 6th, 2021 | by Andy Green0
George Green (1915-1989)
Always smiling – bus driver, laughing policeman and Santa Claus.
Two words spring to mind when I think of my grandfather George Green – laughing and driving. Laughing because he did an awful lot of it as Warrington’s premier ‘laughing policeman’ act and driving because that’s what he did for a living. Lorries, buses, tractors, cars, spaceships: you name it, George drove it. And yes, you read the last bit right, one of the things he drove was a spaceship! But more on that later.
Born in Flintshire in 1915, George’s parents Thomas and Annie were farm workers and it was through them he got his first taste of transportation, driving tractors and trucks on the Padgate farm they moved to in the 1920s. George, who was the youngest of six children, took to his job at Tidal Lane Farm like a duck to water, so much so that on leaving his farmhand job in the 1930s, he continued to work in the haulage trade driving lorries all around the country.
In the early 1950s however long distance lorry driving began to lose its appeal for newly-married George and he opted instead for a new career as a Crosville bus driver.
As a bus driver, George often had to take people to places he and they didn’t want to go including hospitals, doctors surgeries and magistrate courts. But like many Crosville bus drivers he had a novel way of surviving such trips – he was very selective about which stops he stopped at! If there was a large queue at one of them he would simply accelerate away and leave the picking up to one of the red Corporation buses following in his wake. Generally this was fine and dandy unless of course it was a wet and windy day, the bus was running late and the person at the front of the queue he drove past (and splashed with a puddle of rainwater as he did so) was his wife Bessie.
“What were you playing at? You could see it was me. You drenched me to the bone.”
“Sorry love, the bus was full and I didn’t see you.”
“Rubbish, the bus was empty and you did it on purpose. My trousers are ruined.”
“Honestly Bessie, I didn’t. I never saw you,”
“Of course you saw me. The lady next to me said she saw you smiling as you drove past.”
With a potential evening of ear-bashing on the horizon, George did what most men of his era did – he kissed his kids goodnight, grabbed his jacket and headed into town.
Another great passion of George’s life was entertaining people and he had plenty of opportunities to feed his passion in a town laden with social clubs, bingo halls and pubs. Although a quietly-spoken unassuming man, George had a fantastic sense of humour and his impromptu renditions of ‘The Laughing Policeman’, ‘Albert and the Lion’ and his acapella version of the Seeker’s song ‘I Know I’ll Never Find Another You’ were legendary all around Warrington. He wasn’t a professional entertainer by any means – sometimes he had to be cajoled into getting on stage – but once he was in full flow, he had the audience rolling in the aisles.
As a family, most of us only saw my grandfather perform his songs on Boxing Day. It was a tradition all of us enjoyed and Christmases were never the same after he passed away in November 1989. You can imagine our surprise therefore when, a few years later, who should appear unannounced on a yuletide edition of the TV show ‘You’ve Been Framed’ but George…
“I nearly spat my turkey out when I saw it,” said son Michael. “There he was, larger than life, and you could hear the audience’s laughter. His stumble into the drum kit at the end of his performance was the icing on the cake.”
George’s daughter Elizabeth was actually at the event in question although she didn’t realise it was being recorded. “Someone he worked with had asked him to sing at a family function,” recalled Liz. “He was very nervous because he didn’t really know the man’s family so he invited me along for support. What the video doesn’t show is his false teeth falling out half way through his act. A young boy from the audience had to pick them up and hand them back to him. I think the reason he fell over was down to him having one too many whiskies to calm his nerves.”
The fact George’s 15 seconds of fame were broadcast on a TV programme that went out at Christmas is appropriate as it was a time of year he loved. Indeed, for many years after his retirement, he was the resident Santa Claus at Warrington’s Golden Square shopping mall. It was a job he took very seriously and from the first of December onwards he was rarely seen without Tippex on his eyebrows.
On one memorable occasion he even managed to get himself stuck in Father Christmas’s grotto. Luckily he was able to find a telephone:-
“Hello, is anyone there?”
“Yes, this is the security office, can I help you?”
“Hello, it’s Father Christmas, can someone let me out of the grotto please, someone’s locked me in.”
“Oh dear St Nick, we can’t have that. I’ll send someone over straight away.”
“Ok, but can you hurry please or I’ll be late for my spaceship.”
Ah yes, the spaceship, I said I’d tell you more.
Unless you’re an ancestor of Buzz Lightyear, Neil Armstrong or Flash Gordon, there’s not many people who can say their grandfather has driven a spaceship. There’s even less who can say their grandfather has driven a spaceship in a nightclub whilst wearing a santa claus outfit. But I can.
Back in the 1980s, ‘Mr Smiths’ nightclub at Bridgefoot, Warrington, was famous for its multi-million pound lighting show. At a number of junctures throughout the evening the club would run a special 10 minute sequence of special lighting effects, the climax of which would be a spaceship descending from the ceiling. And who should step out of the spaceship throughout the month of December to a round of cheers, hugs and kisses from scores of drunken revellers? You guessed it – my grandfather George Green.
George was a character of old Warrington if ever there was one. All of the family miss him immensely.