From the Dover Mercury, 19 September 2002.
FOUR DECADES ON THE PULL
(That's pulling pints, dear, reader!)
IT is difficult to talk about the life of Jackie Bowles without
mentioning the Louis Armstrong pub once or twice, so entwined are the
After celebrating 40 years as landlady, Jackie invited ARWEN TURNER into
her home to share her memories.
POSTERS and instruments clutter the walls of the Louis Armstrong which
has been a renowned live music venue for many years.
Landlady Jackie Bowles is sitting upstairs in her front room, surrounded
by more personal mementos - photos of her family and bits of her past.
In reality though, the Louis Armstrong is Jackie's past, her present and
probably her future.
Born just outside Oxford in November 1939, Jackie arrived in the world
two months after the war started.
She lived with her parents in Finchley for nine years before they moved
Her father ran a shirt factory in Folkestone Road, supplying shirts to
Bond Street shops and the aristocracy.
"He used to sell to high class shops and all the lords and ladies who
still had money to spend despite the war."
Jackie attended St Ursula's convent, leaving at 16 after becoming head
From there she went to board at St Mary's convent in Folkestone to study
for her A Levels. Teacher training at a college in London followed and
she found a job in Cavendish Square.
In August 1962 Jackie married Bod Bowles and set up home in the flat
next door to the pub that would come to dominate her life.
"Bod's mum ran the post office next door so we lived in the flat
"Bod was working at the engineering works and I got a job teaching maths
at my old school St Mary's and we were settling into married life when
Bod dropped his
Jackie came home from the school one night in September to find the pub,
then called The Grapes, dark and deserted.
The previous tenants had gone bankrupt and Bod had decided that he and
Jackie could do a much better job.
"When he suggested it I was gobsmacked.
"I'd only been married for a
month, just started a new job and had no idea how to even pull a pint,
let alone run a whole pub."
But take over they did.
"At that time they only gave tenancies to married couples so I had to be
interviewed by the brewery as well, I had to go on a Saturday because I
was working and they said it was fine and then told us we should open on
the following Monday."
The first hurdle completed Jackie and Bod now had to get the pub up and
The building was almost derelict when they moved in and Jackie had to
finish her first term at the school, and then she found out she was
pregnant with her first child.
"There was no central heating, not much stock, and I was working and
"To say it was difficult is probably an understatement!"
By the late 1960s the couple were firmly ensconced in the pub.
Daughter Jane was born in May 1963 was joined by Sarah in March 1965
and the pub had become famous the live music venue for Dover. Despite
the hard times Jackie has more fond memories of the pub than she can
recall in one afternoon.
One that is forever in her mind however is the night they changed the
pub to its current name.
"We changed it in 1971 the year after Louis Armstrong died. There was
another pub in Dover called The Grapes and jazz was such an important
part of what we were about we thought Louis would be much more fitting.
We had a great party for our re-opening night - lots of jazz musicians
came and played well into the night." In 1980 Jackie and Bod bought the
pub from Charringtons and it became a free house.
Being the outright owners also meant they could knock the two bars into
one open space and create a raised stage for the musicians who now
occupied the pub almost every night of the week.
"Tuesday was about the only day we didn't have music.
"We had folk during the week, rock on Friday nights and on Sundays we
had the jazz groups to remind us of where it all started." Jackie has
also become involved with local licensing groups and was an active
campaigner against bootlegging.
Away from the pub, not that she gets much time away, Jackie loves
gardening and has a passion for Thames barges and boats. "I try
to have one night a week off but I don't always succeed. If I do I
always go out, otherwise you just get called upon anyway.
"I go to the theatre occasionally and I love eating out."
In October 2000 Bod died after a long illness. It was hard when he was
"Running a pub is a two person business really, and I was trying to do
it on my own and look after him as well."
Luckily Jackie has the help of her two daughters and more recently
grandson Luke to keep the pub going.
Music still echoes round the pub several nights a week and the customers
Jackie though may be coming to the end of an era. "It's in the back of
my mind to sell, but I don't know if I can face the wrench.
"This pub is my life and leaving all that behind is a scary