ONE thing leads to another, they say, and this column is no exception - which explains why I sometimes devote it to readers' reactions and feed-back. This week I am, in danger of getting stuck in the groove, figuratively speaking, just like the needles tended to do in the wind-up gramophones on which my generation played 78rpm records by artistes who have been mentioned in this feature recently.
ONE thing leads to another, they say, and this column is no exception - which explains why I sometimes devote it to readers' reactions and feed-back.
This week I am, in danger of getting stuck in the groove, figuratively speaking, just like the needles tended to do in the wind-up gramophones on which my generation played 78rpm records by artistes who have been mentioned in this feature recently.
Remember those needles? Some had to be changed for every record, others every ten or - if red with a shiny top - could play 50 although it was easy to lose track. You peered at the top and, if it was no longer sharp, you discarded it if you did not want to spoil your discs.
Then came electric players, sometimes part of radiograms, with a diamond-tipped stylus. No longer did the next record mean winding and also replacing a needle. Joy!
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Recording artistes from the postwar decade who starred in Great Yarmouth have been recalled here recently - for example, Ted Heath and his Music and vocalists including the late Lita Roza, plus other big bands, Ronnie Ronalde, Eve Boswell - and brought back memories of buying their 78s. Mine always came from Carr & Carr in Regent Street, although others preferred the Arnolds/Debenhams basement across the road, or Wolsey & Wolsey in King Street.
A mature lady named Mrs Sayers manned the Carr & Carr counter and in addition to her knowledge of current hits and releases, also kept us cocky teenagers in check.
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The manager, seldom seen, was Lionel Wilkin, a leading member of the Shrublands Drama Group.
My first two records, bought with birthday money the day my parents acquired a gramophone, were Phil Harris's The Darktown Poker Club and Pee Wee Hunt's 12th Street Rag, costing 3s 7½d (18p) each. My mother was aghast...
Within weeks I had added Russ Morgan's So Tired (heard for the first time wafting from a Pops' Meadow fair as I was cycling up Cliff Hill in Gorleston), Bill Snyder's Bewitched, several Danny Kaye and Al Jolson, then Ted Heath... It all meant having to scrounge money for Gorleston Rollerdrome and Yarmouth Speedway!
Mention Carr & Carr (Radio House) to anyone of my age and their reply is invariably: “That was the shop with the funny window.” True: it was unusual.
It was a wide window with concave plate glass so, even if you leant against the knee-high brickwork running along the pavement, you could barely reach the glass. And it was not concave in the conventional sense of being part of a huge glass globe, but curved inwards top to bottom on a longitudinal line, a bit like a wide roll of paper, with a waist-high wooden bar lengthwise along the middle.
In front of the glass it was open to the weather. Behind it were displayed the shop's wares: Carr & Carr did not sell only gramophone records, but radios, record players, radiograms and, later, the first cumbersome black-and-white television sets, as did Wolsey & Wolsey.
I have never seen a similar window although I am assured there was another in Yarmouth. Nowadays it would be a target for vandals and litter louts.
Down the decades photographers have, thankfully, recorded for posterity many parts of the borough that have disappeared forever but so far I have found no picture of the oddity, the Carr & Carr window. More's the pity - a photograph would have given an instant idea of it, unlike my inadequate description.
Carr & Carr ceased trading perhaps in the early Sixties. The premises, with a conventional window, is today occupied by insurers Swinton.
Recording stars? Recently when I wrote about that magnificent era in the Fifties and Sixties when the cream of Britain's entertainers starred in summer shows in Yarmouth, I said although I remembered vocalist Eve Boswell appearing in weekly variety at the Regal, I could not recall her spending a whole season here.
Wrong! For reader Michael Whurr, of Sussex Road, Gorleston, says she was here for the summer of 1964, featuring her twin hits Pickin' a Chicken and Sugarbush in a Britannia Pier bill that also featured singer David Whitfield (Cara Mia) and the enduring Des O'Connor.
And from records and variety to cinema and the theatre, with the indefatigible Cecilia Ebbage, of Lovewell Road, Gorleston, returning to two themes she raised in these columns, firstly the possibility that acclaimed film director Alfred Hitchcock shot part of his final silent film, The Manxman, in Gorleston in the 1920s.
She wonders if his decision to use Gorleston as a location - if indeed he did - was linked with prominent local businessman Ernest Valentine Barr.
Mr Barr had interests in several enterprises in Yarmouth and Gorleston, including the Gem (now Windmill), Empire, Hippodrome and Coliseum, plus the Palace over in Lowestoft. The electricians Bowers and Barr still carries his name today.
Mrs Ebbage believes he was a great friend of the legendary showman C B Cochran, West End producer and one-time barker outside the Gem trying to entice crowds into the cinema. Mr Barr used a small office in the building where she worked as a 16-year-old, and his men travelled to London each week to arrange for the top feature films to come to Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
“Mr Barr was certainly known from the early film days and quite possibly he knew Alfred Hitchcock as a young up-and-coming director and could well have suggested that he came to Gorleston to make a film.”
Also, she enjoyed the off-season regular treat of railway excursions from Yarmouth to London at three-weekly intervals for visits to West End theatres. She termed the innovation “a marvellous idea,” and she regularly was a passenger on the steam trains that left on a Saturday afternoon and went non-stop to Liverpool Street, arriving in time for a meal before the theatre or cinema and returning in the late evening, reaching Yarmouth at after midnight.
The fare was £4.
Her cousin always met her and, if they decided not to go to the theatre, they would treat themselves to a cup of tea or full meal at Lyons Corner House in the Strand, a building with several floors on each of which live music was playing, ranging from a piano to a full band or gypsy orchestra.
Two West End shows she recalls seeing this way starred tenor Richard Tauber - Lilac Time and Land of Smiles.
On the theatre trains, many of the passengers were regulars, some of whom dressed up for the occasion, the men wearing dinner jackets with black tie - “we had the same feeling that those going to Glyndebourne have today.
“The station master always came on to the platform to see the train off from Yarmouth, a bit as though we were on the Orient Express.”
At the end of the trip, buses were waiting at Southtown Station to ferry the theatregoers home. Like so many pleasures, war breaking out in 1939 curtailed the practice.