The hard-working teenager who got a job in a Sunderland hotel and met a top US band leader

The Seaburn Hotel.
The Seaburn Hotel.
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Your memories of the Seaburn Hotel have been wonderful and varied.

In yet another look back in time, June Viner recalled the time when she was an 18-year-old Sunderland office girl in the 1960s.

Inside the cocktail bar.

Inside the cocktail bar.

She wanted to spread her wings by going off to the Channel Island of Jersey to work but she had no hotel or catering experience, so she wrote to the Seaburn Hotel offering to work for free.

The Seaburn is now the four star Marriott Sunderland and June, now 71, is the latest entrant in our Marriott and Sunderland Echo appeal for memories of the hotel’s earlier days,

June was invited to work in the hotel bar and be paid for her trouble - the only post available at the time.

She had “a bit of a job persuading my recently widowed mother to let me do it” but mum agreed and June spent six months in the public bar and the cocktail bar.

In those days they still had pumps so I had to learn the knack of pouring the draught beer to get a good head on it and waste as little as possible but also to fill the glass up. Customers soon complained if the glass wasn’t full to the brim but, on the whole they were good natured and enjoyed winding me up so it was usually good fun

June Viner

June loved it and said: “I received excellent tuition from the resident barmaid who was then in her 60s and, having been a barmaid all her life, was very experienced. She was lovely, looked after me and taught me well.

“Her training stood me in good stead and, later on in life if I was short of money, I often got an evening job in a bar.”

She remembered many of the finer details of the hotel.

“In those days they still had pumps so I had to learn the knack of pouring the draught beer to get a good head on it and waste as little as possible but also to fill the glass up. Customers soon complained if the glass wasn’t full to the brim but, on the whole they were good natured and enjoyed winding me up so it was usually good fun.”

She learned how to add up the bill “long before the days when tills did this for you so it was good exercise for my mental arithmetic.”

And then there was the fun of the festive season. June said: “Customers were often six deep all shouting to be served which meant the bar staff were running around all evening trying to keep things under control and we really enjoyed it.

“I had one disaster while working on my own when a cocktail bar customer asked for a pink gin. I hadn’t a clue what it was so when he told me it was gin and Angosturas bitters I proceeded to produce a very pink concoction which drew gasps of horror from the customer.

“He hadn’t told me you only include two to three drops of Angosturas bitters as opposed to the half teaspoonful administered by me. Lesson learned!”

June did so well, she got references to take with her to Jersey, including one from Alex M. Dickson, the shipyard manager at Doxfords.

“Unfortunately I don’t recall visits from Lowry but I do recall Duke Ellington staying there and spoke to him in reception.”

Finally, when June left, she was called in by the manager who had seen potential in her and offered a job as trainee hotel manager,

But June was determined to go to Jersey, although she admitted: “I’ve sometimes wondered whether I’d missed a good opportunity and thought how different my life would have been.

“But it wasn’t necessarily the case as I spent a lot of my life travelling and ended up with a very interesting career in the law but I still look back with very fond memories of my time at the Seaburn Hotel. It was great fun.”

Marriott Sunderland Multi Property General Manager Eamonn Thompson said June’s contribution had been a delight to read and a real insight into life behind the hotel bar in the 1960s.

Thanks to June for her letter. The winner of the best contribution will win a special lunch or dinner together with five other family members or special guests.

So don’t delay. Take a wander down your own Memory Lane. Email your story, telephone number and any pictures to Nigel@Media-Consult.co.uk.

Letters marked Seaburn Memories - including your telephone number - can also be posted to Liz Codling at The Marriott, Queens Parade, Sunderland SR6 8DB but only send copies of pictures or those which don’t have to be returned.