A FORMER Beales employee, whose work on window displays and Christmas parades delighted thousands, returned to the store more than 60 years later.

Dennis Parratt, now 92, was deputy display manager at the Bournemouth department store in the days when crowds gathered to look at its seasonal windows.

Working there from 1951-60, he also laboured for months on the Christmas parades that brought the town to a standstill.

Mr Parratt, who now lives in Gloucestershire, was welcomed back to see how things had changed.

He was in a team of 12, headed by display manager Douglas Rolland, producing window displays which often featured moving objects like cars, trains and puppets.

“The display could set the standard for the store,” he said.

Large crowds would often pack Christchurch Road to see the Beales window displays at Christmas – often blocking the route.

“You had to have a master switch. When the police told us to switch it off, we had to, because the crowds were all across the road,” he said.

One spectacular display commemorated the Russian launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957.

“Nobody had an idea what Sputnik looked like but we had seen pictures of the American one, which was a sphere. We got this sphere and had fireworks in it and had two spotlights just flashing on that from outside,” said Dennis.

Many displays featured in the trade press and earned Dennis invitations to international events.

Much of the year was spent working on the Christmas parades, with their extravagant costumes and models.

“We started in July after work. We would go into the studio and after work and work right until November, working virtually every evening on it. It was a lot of work,” he said.

The parades delighted the town’s youngsters – not least Dennis’s own children, Susan and Les.

Susan said: “We were very proud on the day of the procession. I can hear myself saying, ‘That’s my Daddy!’”

Dennis lived in Bournemouth between the ages of six and 35, living with his family in Kinson when he was at Beales.

Before coming to Beales, he had worked at Butler’s of Boscombe and Smith Bradbeers in Hampshire, as well as serving in India during the war. After Beales, he worked for a succession of big London department stores.

“I loved my time at Beales,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say they paid great wages although once Frank Beale came to me and said ‘We’ve decided if you were run over by a bus, this is what we’d have to pay to replace you’, and they gave me quite a raise.”