When Pat Stewart and her friend Wendy posed on the railings of the Blackpool pier on a windy day in 1951, neither of them knew that the picture would become famous.
The photo, which Bert Hardy took for the magazine Picture Post, has become a very famous and loved image. It shows a carefree world after World War II that no longer exists.
Pat had almost forgotten about the picture for most of her life, though. Then, in 2006, a woman named Norma Edmondson came forward after her friends showed her the picture.
Mrs. Edmondson remembered going to Blackpool, saw the dress, and thought that the girl in the picture was her. She even went on BBC’s “The One Show” to talk about how she ended up in one of the most famous pictures of the 20th century. But she couldn’t remember the exact time when the picture was taken.
After Mrs. Edmondson showed up, the story took a different turn when Pat said that she was really the girl in the picture. She remembered the day Bert took the photo in Blackpool like it was yesterday, and she had the original contact sheet to prove it. Mrs. Edmondson said she had made a mistake by accident, so Pat was asked to go on The One Show and take the glory.
The story got a lot of attention from the media, which led Pat to write her autobiography. “I realized that my grandchildren didn’t know anything about this story, and I wanted them to know about this part of my life.”
The Girl in the Spotty Dress, which she wrote with author Veronica Clark, tells her story from her humble beginnings in Yorkshire to her memories of show business in the 1950s and that famous picture.
Pat was born in Featherstone to a family that worked hard but was poor. “My father was a miner, and he did bare-fist fighting at a fairground to make money during the General Strike,” she said.
When she was a child, her parents saved and cut back so that she could take dance classes. She said, “Money was tight, so my mom pulled peas to help pay for my classes.” “When I was little, my dad took me to my first dance class. It was at a studio in the Crescent Cinema on Ropergate in Pontefract, which was where we lived at the time.”
At age 12, Lilyman’s Dance School in Leeds, which was known as one of the best dance schools in Yorkshire, hired her. Pat said, “I used to take the bus from Featherstone to Leeds. It took about an hour, and I’d sit there and eat my peas.”
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