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BY THE D AR T INTER VIE W


JOHN CHASE


DARTMOUTH RESIDENT FOR 70 YEARS


John Chase has been the face of the Dart Marina Hotel for nearly 15 years, welcoming in guests from around the world with his dicky bow tie and his charming yet unassuming manner. But the home grown Dartmouth boy hasn’t always been in the leisure industry; he left school at 16 taking a job in a local butchers, he then turned his hand to motor bike mechanics, before becoming a refuse collector - thoroughly enjoying driving his bin lorry around the South Hams for 30 years. Steph Woolvin found out more...


John says he had a very humble upbringing watch- ing his dad grow carrots and potatoes on his allotment up on the hills above the Dart on the Kingswear side of the river. He says he enjoyed catching a glimpse of boats on the water: “The land has been turned into a car park now, I believe,” he says sadly. “My dad was a private in the army, he was demobbed in 1946 just a year after I was born. We lived on Townstal Road in a semi detached house just a few doors up from my grandparents. Back then of course Townstal was a lot smaller than it is today, the end of our road was the end of the estate, after that it was just grass.” John has lived in Dart- mouth for 70 years and in that time he’s seen a great deal of changes, with houses being built up around him and many businesses and people coming and going.


In the 1950s he started primary school in the town.


“My mother would lift me over the fence at the bottom of the garden and I’d run down Rodney Close to get the bus down to the seafront. I thought school was magic! We had 44 in my class and I really enjoyed being around so many other children. These were the days of maypole and country dancing - proper wholesome fun.” John admits he was quite good at lessons; he passed his 11+, but didn’t go to a grammar, instead his parents sent him to


Homelands Technical High School in Torquay as they thought he may become an engineer. It was quite a trek for him to get there: “I had to wake up very early so I could catch a ferry to Kingswear, then the steam train to Paignton where I would walk to Hyde Park Road and catch the 30 bus to Torquay! I didn’t think anything of it back then, it was part of the fun.”


He says he had five good years


“Back then of course Townstal was a lot smaller than it is today, the end of our road was the end of the estate, after that it was just grass.”


at big school and believes he probably enjoyed it a bit too much. It was here that he acquired the nickname ‘Sunshine’. “All the boys called me that, I still have a beer mug with it on. I probably could have concentrated a little harder, I think I missed a golden opportu- nity really as I didn’t take my GCEs.” John left at 16 and started working for a butcher’s shop here in Dart-


mouth, at the end of Smith Street. But after a short time he told his mum he wasn’t enjoying it. “She said: ‘What do you want to do then boy?’ I said I wanted to be a motorbike mechanic so she took me to Kingsbridge to a workshop on the quay and they agreed to take me on as an apprentice. I did a City and Guilds in motor vehicle repairs at South Devon Tech travelling about on my own motorcycle, a James 225.”


It was during this time that he had a memorable trip to pick up a second hand


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