Dates with the stars

AS I watched one of my favourite musicals, Hello Dolly, on television one wintry afternoon, I recalled that I had the souvenir programme of the stage production in a drawer somewhere in Peggotty’s Hut, but a search after the final credits had rolled failed to find it.

It must have been an enforced victim of our “Bin it!” policy in 1988 when we down-sized.

Many folk still have inconsequential items like programmes and ticket stubs as keep-sakes to remind them of happy yesteryears.

Only last week I reported here that I would still proudly possess a mint-condition complete set of marked-up Yarmouth Speedway programmes for home matches at the Caister Road Stadium for the first three seasons (1948-50) but for the over-enthusiastic parental clear-out of my old bedroom years after I had flown the nest.

Regular correspondent Mike King, a Yarmouthian long resident in Lowestoft, managed to keep his souvenirs intact, for he has sent me four programmes for Great Yarmouth entertainment from long ago: a Sunday concert at the Wellington Pier Pavilion by the celebrated Jack Hylton and his Orchestra 84 years ago in 1927, visits by ex-Ted Heath and his Music singer Dickie Valentine and by Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group (with Des O’Connor in support) in weekly variety at the ABC in 1957, and comedian Arthur Haynes’ summer show at the same venue in 1961.

The Jack Hylton programme revealed a few little gems – plus some local advertisements for businesses long gone but perhaps still remembered.

Leighton Lucas was credited as composer and arranger, the first time I had come across him since the 1940s when he was credited weekly on BBC radio for writing the jaunty theme music for the adaptation of Richmal Crompton’s Just William stories that were among my boyhood favourites.

Most Read

Hylton’s personnel included Edward Pogson – presumably the famous E O “Poggy” Pogson who played saxophone and clarinet with leading big bands when they flourished postwar.

The 1927 advertisements included tea and coffee specialist Lambert and Son in Broad Row, United Saloon buses running to London and back daily for as little as ten shillings (50p) single each way; Hunts table waters, ginger ale and Huntsman lettered rock – the firm operated in Howard Street; Caister Holiday Camp where founder John Fletcher Dodd was offering inclusive holidays for two guineas (�2.10) a week; the Yarmouth Independent (“the largest local paper”, incorporating the Gorleston Times and Flegg Journal), absorbed by the Mercury in 1932; the Victoria Hotel (renamed the Carlton in 1954) on Marine Parade opposite the Wellington Pier; Ralph Keymer in Marine and Central Arcades, Yarmouth, and Gorleston High Street, selling drapery and millinery; and Coopers’ bazaar on the Market Place.

There were Yarmouth Stores on South Quay (oilskins, waterproofs, tailoring, outfitting), Camplings Laundry in Southtown and optician E Hayden (King Street), all still in business today. So, more or less, is Arnolds department store in the town centre (later renamed Debenhams) although it shut in 1985 but reopened in Market Gates in recent years).

Also advertising was family butcher H E Chittleburgh and Sons, of St Peter’s Road, emphasising that “only English meat” was sold.

Mike King says his mother’s family, the Webbs from Cobholm, were related by marriage to the Chittleburghs, and he wonders if there are any Chittleburghs in Yarmouth today – “the last one I heard of used to be service receptionist at Pertwee and Back’s garage on South Quay probably 30 or more years ago.

“They were noted in Yarmouth not just for their meat but for the fact that they were members of the Salvation Army”.

No Chittleburgh is in the current telephone directory.

I think it was a family member, Albert, whom I knew in the mid-1950s when he was manager of a Lowestoft cinema.

Because he knew my fiancee who worked next door, he would let us in free if there were spare seats.

Vaguely I recall him talking about Yarmouth Operatic and Dramatic Society of which he was once a member.

Both Mike King’s weekly variety programmes include advertisements for Palmers town centre department store, happily still trading in 2011, and he adds: “No doubt you will remember the Kenya Coffee Bar mentioned in the adverts – it was the regular haunt of Grammar School lads and High School lasses and, as I recall, was accessed either via Palmers or Purdy’s cake shop above which it was situated.”

He also asks if I recall the name of the harmonica player who handed miniature harmonica-keyrings to the audience at the Regal/ABC, and suggests it was either Tommy Reilly or Ronald Chesney (“my sister-in-law was an usherette there at the time and remembers handing out the little harmonicas but she cannot recall his name either.”)

Sorry, pass! Perhaps it was Morton Fraser’s Harmonica Gang or the Three Monarchs, both regular performers in the resort.

Mr King recalls a five-manual Compton organ being installed in the Palace bingo hall in Gorleston in the early 1970s after modifications by Terry Hepworth, of Lowestoft, its range show-cased by nationally-known exponents at Sunday concerts. “I was there in July 1976 when the late great Reginald (Mr Blackpool) Dixon gave an amazing concert – and he was getting on a bit then.”

Later the instrument was moved to the Bygone Village at Fleggburgh.

Adds Mike King: “Of course, back in its heyday as a cinema, the Palace never actually had a cinema organ of its own. This privilege was extended to only one cinema in the borough – the Regal. The organ was dismantled and taken away on the back of a lorry.

“Its eventual fate was never discovered, as far as I know.”

I can recall the Regal organ rising from the floor, all changing coloured lights, and also the time its electrics in the basement were damaged by melting ice, the result of a fault causing a rink, on stage for a skating show, to thaw.

Finally, he passes on a recollection from 1960 when comic Tommy Trinder topped the summer bill at the Windmill.

When Mike cycled from Yarmouth to fish at Acle Dyke, he always chuckled at a poster advertising the show stuck to a dilapidated concrete cattle shed on the Straight just outside Yarmouth.

The building had “a huge crack in it.”

The large poster read, aptly: “I’ve split my sides laughing at Tommy Trinder at the Windmill!”