Publicity can sometimes go horribly wrong!
THERE’S no such thing as bad publicity, it has been claimed. But 50 years ago three entertainers spending their summer in Great Yarmouth must have wondered if there was any truth in that adage, for they made headlines for the wrong reasons.
Two were wealthy household names starring in the summer show at the Windmill Theatre, while the third risked his life twice a day as a high-diver in an aqua show.
That professional risk taker was Perry Blake, a favourite in George Baines’s Aqua Follies in the long-gone open-air swimming pool on the Golden Mile. He struck his head on the bottom of the basin in his first practice dive of the season, plunging from a 70ft tower into only 8ft 6in of water while rehearsing for the show’s dramatic climax.
Fellow performers hauled him unconscious from the water. The 17-stone diver, in his third season here, was taken to hospital but released in time for the opening performance three days later. Producer George Baines claimed: “It could have been much worse: Perry could have broken his neck.”
Another to escape serious injury was pop star Karl Denver, from the Windmill. His new two-seater Lotus sports car struck a kerb and left the road on North Drive, crashing into a lamp-post as he was ferrying a 16-year-old girl holidaymaker home at 3am.
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His lower jaw was fractured, a shoulder injured, and he suffered mild concussion. I assume a broken jaw ruled him out of the show. According to the 32-year-old singer’s unhappy wife, Alma McKenzie, his young passenger received a cut lip and broken finger.
Top of the Windmill bill was Billy Fury whose luxury top-of-the-range �2000 100mph Humber Supersnipe – a recent birthday present from his manager, Larry Parnes – was badly damaged when a thief stole it from Jellicoe Road in Yarmouth but skidded and crashed near the First and Last public house in Ormesby.
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Improving our holiday industry to attract more visitors was a dominant theme a half-century ago. Although the resort was enjoying a boom,
it acknowledged that tourism was vulnerable, not only to the economic climate but also to changing demands as cheap package holidays by air to guaranteed hot-spots abroad were providing stern competition.
Mercury headlines encapsulated the dominance of continuing to make progress as a leader in the cut-throat market.
One initiative was the re-emergence of a scheme dormant for 14 years, described as “Yarmouth’s biggest holiday industry development since the war.” It comprised a yacht marina, motel, restaurant, dance floor and other attractions being provided “on land where cabbages now grow.”
The site was allotment land between Caister Road and the River Bure, a location that horrified the Yarmouth and Gorleston Allotment Association, for no fewer than 140 plots were in jeopardy if the plan progressed. The association wanted the land to remain as allotments, and it was pointed out that it would take at least two years for the plot holders to be given notice and found alternative ones elsewhere.
Fifty years on, it is hard to tell how the ambitious scheme progressed, if at all, but I can but assume that a scaled-down development was eventually agreed near the old Bure Hotel and the present pitch-and-putt course.
Gorleston learned that the town hall had allocated �95,000 in a three-year capital expenditure plan for the modernisation of the sea-front. A special committee was to be set up to examine the requirements of Gorleston’s holiday trade. Percy Field, Gorleston Ratepayers Association’s representative on Yarmouth Borough Council, demanded “top priority” for schemes to give its sea-front “a gay new look”.
Gorleston shopkeepers and restaurateurs on Quay Road were angry about a potentially harmful eyesore, protesting about the dumping of hundreds of tons of old timbers on Brush Quay in front of their premises.
The rotting centuries-old timber had been removed from the South Pier to prepare it for its steel and concrete successor. One trader declared: “It is an ugly, smelly, rat-infested eyesore!”
There was a difference of opinion about North Drive in Yarmouth. Some borough councillors thought it ripe for expansion, envisaging another Golden Mile that side of the Britannia Pier, in contrast to another faction anxious to keep it quiet and uncommercialised, with sea views uninterrupted by stalls and other developments.
Mayor-elect John Birchinall argued that the north end was a place for people anxious to get away from the smell of food and not to be consistently “stuffing and gorging.” There were enough “gastronomic obscenities” at the other end of the sea-front.
The protectionists prevailed, but North Drive was extended by 1000 yards and an adjoining ten acres of land made available for holiday caravans.
Yarmouth Hotels and Guest Houses Association formally objected to a council plan to introduce sea-front parking meters, arguing that this would reduce the number of spaces available. In Gorleston there was opposition to schemes to make Bells Road and High Street one-way.
A 10-year-old boy holidaymaker became the centre of a desperate rescue mission when he dug a deep hole on Yarmouth each, only for the sides to cave in on him.
Five men managed to shovel away the sand with their bare hands until the lad could be extricated. He was unhurt but shaken, and able to continue his holiday.
Sheffield holidaymaker Valerie Mason released a gas-filled balloon as part of a Battle of Britain Week fund-raiser. It was found by a Pole in mountains near the Czechoslovakian border, 905 miles away. Her prize was a �5 Premium Bond and the chance of a week’s holiday in a caravan at Newport.
Forged �5 notes began circulating in Yarmouth, and Scotland Yard warned residents and holidaymakers to keep a sharp lookout for the counterfeits which all bore the same number – Z19874627. A cashier at a Hall Quay bank branch spotted one. It was thought that a gang was spending them, passing them off as genuine.
Leading supermarket Fine Fare, already established on Regent Road in Yarmouth, announced plans to open in Gorleston High Street on the site of the former Boshier’s Garage and Liberal and Social Club, thus scotching rumours that the Palace Cinema would be demolished for the development.