Dancer Frankie could still do the splits at 79
PUBLISHED: 15:06 29 April 2009 | UPDATED: 23:27 15 June 2010
TODAY 82-year-old Seaton woman Frankie Dixon has spinal injuries caused by falls and uses crutches to walk. But, in her hay-day, she was a high-kicking dancer who entertained the forces during World War II.
TODAY 82-year-old Seaton woman Frankie Dixon has spinal injuries caused by falls and uses crutches to walk.But, in her hay-day, she was a high-kicking dancer who entertained the forces during World War II. She travelled world-wide, dodged bullets and bombs, and performed with the stars of her time.Frankie, of Beer Road, said of her once glamorous life-style that she had no regrets - other than she gave up dancing too soon because of the demands of married life.She started dancing at four years of age and became professional by 14. She earned £3.10 a week and with that money she had to pay for her accommodation, leg and face make up - which she called 'grease paint'.She said: "I left school and went straight into show business and performed everywhere. We used to work very hard in those days and I worked with quite a few stars. "It was a wonderful life and I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Stage life was in my blood. I've been to every city and town in the British Isles and visited lots of places in Europe, Canada, North Africa, United States, New Zealand and Australia."The theatre digs were sometimes very good, but sometimes they wouldn't give rooms to chorus girls. I don't why, because we used to behave ourselves. We couldn't afford not to - and landladies didn't allow boyfriends then."At 17, Frankie met her first love, a 21-year-old pilot, Stanley Phillipson, with the Lancaster bombers. Sadly, only six weeks after their engagement, he was killed as he was flying over Berlin."It was terrible," she said. I never forgot about him. I still think about him on and off today."She toured with ENSA (Entertainment National Service Association) from 1941 to 1945 and entertained the army, RAF and navy - facing numerous bomb scares along the way. She described one trip when they were returning from a show in the Salisbury area in an army lorry, when they were shot at by a 'straggler' - a lone plane. The lorry was bullet-ridden, but fortunately nobody was hurt. She said: "The tyres were hit and we saw bullets along the bottom - but not one person was hit. We just laughed - you react in funny ways to these things. It's not like in the films where everybody starts screaming. We just took it in our stride."And in true war-time spirit, they carried on regardless."When there were bomb scares we went into the shelters and hoped for the best," she said. "There wasn't enough room to dance but we would sing. The show must go on - wherever."At 19, Frankie met her husband-to-be Bill, who was five years her senior. They stayed together for 51 years until his death at 74.At 28, she stopped dancing full time and would teach for the next five years. But in post-war Britain it was common for women to give up their dreams once married.She said: "I regret giving it up but my husband, Bill, said it was enough during the war-time that the men were away, without his wife being here, there and everywhere! I could understand it. And my mother told me I wasn't a teenager anymore and had to settle down. But I have never forgotten any of my shows. At times, life was hair-raising, but it was wonderful. We didn't know if, or when, we would be hit and it was a case of 'let's make hay while the sun shines'."Frankie still remains active but can no longer the acrobatics of her youth. She said: "Up until three years ago I could still do the splits. I did them at a friend's party - but couldn't get up! You have to see the funny side of things.