Wednesday, 31 December 2008

"Stan Get Your Dinner!"

Mr Adam Ant and Mr Stanley Ogden - happy days!

I've just been down to my local shop for some, er, lemonade to see the New Year in and playing on the shop's radio was Adam And The Ants' 1981 hit Stand and Deliver. Instantly, memory's floodgates opened wide. I was suddenly back in my final year at school, twiddling a Rubik's Cube, and an ardent fan of The Ants (and Madness and Toyah).

Me and my school mates used to love to mangle the lyrics of current pop songs back then. Well, we didn't have a lot else to do - there were no mobile phones, the ZX Spectrum didn't arrive until '82 and the World Wide Web, which opened up the weird and wonderful world of the Internet to us, wouldn't even be invented until 1989 - and wasn't in motion until the 1990s!

It was a different world.

Much as we loved Adam and his Ants and their Stand And Deliver, we couldn't resist a spot of mangling. "Stan Get Your Dinner!" we'd shrill in glorious Hilda tones whenever we heard it. We thought it was so funny. "Cor, wot a larf!" we said.

Bunch of pillocks, weren't we?

Happy New Year And Coming Soon!

Happy New Year when it comes - here's hoping you won't be spending the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 like Hilda in our picture! Whatever you're doing (even if it's just watching the telly), have fun!

Coming soon... here's a very big-haired Liz McDonald - except it isn't. This is Beverley Callard in her first soap role - as Angie Richards, chip shop cashier of Emmerdale Farm in 1983. Angie has just had a wonderful (!) evening out with Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) in The Woolpack.

Beverley debuted in Coronation Street in 1989, and in those days Liz was very much an '80s fashion victim - just as Angie was in '83!

For years in the 1990s, lovely Liz's fashion sense strayed towards the 1980s, but these days her style is far more eclectic - bearing traces of the '60s, 70s and '80s, and often being positively indescribable! If it's bad taste, Liz will wear it!

In 1983, Angie Richards was into pixie boots, smart jackets with noticeable shoulders and skin tight, colourful trousers. We'll be taking a look at Beverley's early '80s soap debut in 2009. Angie liked Jackie, but the trouble was there nothing to do and nowhere to be alone together. The relationship was not to last...

We have the details - please stay tuned!

Monday, 29 December 2008

In Search Of Mr Papagopolous...

Just who was Mr Papagopolous, the owner of the Gamma Garments chain of haberdashery shops in the Coronation Street serial in the 1960s?

When Miss Emily Nugent merged her baby linen business with Mr Leonard Swindley's haberdashery emporium in Rosamund Street, Weatherfield, way back in 1961, both were hoping that the venture would be successful.

There was no reason why not: Miss N and Mr S were of like mind, already knowing each other well from their work at the Mission Of Glad Tidings in Coronation Street and, in Mr Swindley's case, haberdashery was well and truly in the blood. However, the two were soon facing the harsh reality that their business was heading for bankruptcy.

There was only one thing to do - Swindley's became part of a chain of shops called Gamma Garments. Mr Swindley was manager and Miss Nugent his assistant in the new regime, so things hadn't really changed very much. Or had they? The very mention of Gamma's owner, Mr Papagopolous, was enough to send Miss Nugent and Mr Swindley into a panic. This Greek businessman was not to be trifled with - and he was certainly not in the business for the love of it.

The Greek tycoon suddenly had a couple of English wallies in his employ. "Oh, Mr Swindley! Somehow I always saw you as more of a Batchelor of Arts..."

Mr S and Miss N were no longer their own bosses, simply struggling to stay afloat financially, and answerable to nobody else. They now had a boss. And, to all intents and purposes, a pretty terrifying one at that!

So, what did this fearsome Street character look like? And who played him? The answer to Question One is we don't really know, and the answer to Question Two is nobody. Despite Mr P's talent at sending Miss Nugent and Mr Swindley into a spin, the closest we ever came to encountering him was in "No, Mr Papagopolous.... yes, Mr Papagopolous.... but of course, Mr Papagoplous..." style telephone conversations with Mr Swindley and Miss Nugent. And, of course, we never actually heard what Mr P was saying first hand and never heard his voice - his missives were always relayed by Mr S or Miss N!

Forever off-screen but often referred to, Mr Papagopolous was rather like Arthur Daley's "'Er indoors" in the 1980s - a mysterious, unseen presence.

So, what do we actually know about Mr P? Well, we know he was Greek, we know he owned a chain of stores called Gamma Garments, we know he was a tough, even ruthless boss - and we know that his staff (well, at least Mr Swindley and Miss Nugent at the Rosamund Street branch!) were greatly in awe of him.

So, is there any further information to be gleaned?

For a strong mental image of the man I recommend HV Kershaw's 1977 novel Elsie Tanner Fights Back. Mr Kershaw was involved with The Street since its inception and fulfilled several roles over the years - script editor, producer, executive producer, script writer and novelist. He wrote the three Coronation Street novels, Early Days, Trouble At The Rovers and Elsie Tanner Fights Back from 1976-1977. Each novel covered stories from an early 1960s year of The Street's existence.

In Elsie Tanner Fights Back, which was set in 1963, Mr Kershaw decided to have some fun and write Mr Papagopolous into a scene with Mr Swindley. As Mr Kershaw was heavily involved in The Street during the Papagopolous era, his vision of the character is obviously important.

Miss Nugent was facing the sack from the shop - because profits were down. Mr Swindley embarked on a bus ride to Manchester, to Gamma's head office at Sunlight House, to plead Miss Nugent's case with Mr Papagopolous.

Mr Kershaw spelt the surname "Papagopolos" - minus the 'u'.

The first thing we discover in Mr Kershaw's Gamma chapter is that Mr P's first name is Spiros and his initials S.N.

Mr Papagopolous weighed seventeen stones, four pounds; he was olive skinned and his head was fringed with jet black, greasy hair; his eyes were dark and lifeless; his mouth full-lipped and crowned by twin pencil lines of moustache.

His manner was cold, and business-like ("How are you?" asked Mr Swindley. "I'm waiting, Swindley, that's how I am! Waiting for you to tell me what you want!" said Mr Papagopolous).

When Mr Swindley advanced his case for keeping Miss Nugent on at the Rosamund Street branch of Gamma Garments, he went so far as to describe her as his "right hand".

"In Piraeus we have a saying," said Mr Papagopolous. "If your right hand interferes with business, cut it off!"

Mr P was very canny. He decided that Mr Swindley's obvious devotion to Miss Nugent could be used to his advantage - driving Swindley to put more effort into improving business at Gamma Garments. Mr Swindley offered a twenty per cent increase. Mr P agreed that Miss Nugent could stay on, but warned him:

"You'll have to tell her that if business doesn't improve, somebody would have to go! And this time it could be you!"

"But of course!" said Swindley, wondering what kind of a trap he'd walked into.

"Twenty per cent, you say! I'll give you three weeks! Okay?"

"What can I say?" asked Swindley.

"Say 'good-bye!' said Papagopolos.

The character of Spiros Papagopolous was also mentioned in the 1985 publication Coronation Street - 25 Years, but in 1992, the epic saga of Corrie history, Weatherfield Life, by Daran Little and Bill Hill, referred to him as Niklos!

So, what became of Mr Papagopolous and Gamma Garments? Well, Mr P went bankrupt in the summer of 1968, the year after the transformation of Gamma into a trendy boutique.

Arthur Lowe (Mr Swindley) left the show in 1965, taking Mr Swindley into a comedy spin-off series called Pardon The Expression and then into the short-lived Turn Off The Lights, another sitcom, this time featuring Mr Swindley as a ghost hunter. After his encounters with Mr Papagopolous, Mr S must have developed nerves of steel!

In 1968, Arthur Lowe became better known as Captain Mainwaring in Dad's Army.

Eileen Derbyshire (Emily Nugent) remains with Corrie to this day, although for Emily, with all she has endured over the years, Gamma Garments and Mr Papagoplous are now probably very dim and distant memories indeed!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Said In The '70s: Annie, Bet And Ena Discuss The Savage '70s

Introducing a new series of quotes from Corrie - direct from the decade of Disco, klackers and Punk!

In his 1981 book, The Street Where I Live, Coronation Street producer and writer HV Kershaw referred to the "swinging '60s and savage '70s". What did he mean? Let Annie, Bet and Ena shed some light on the subject...

It's early 1979, James Callaghan is Prime Minister, and times are hard. If, in retrospect, the most noteworthy thing about the 1960s is that decade's free loving liberal nature, it would seem that the '70s' claim to fame is a sudden rise in cynicism and savageness.

In this scene, Annie Walker is in full flight at The Rovers...

"Where's all the kindness gone? All the gentleness? All the consideration?"

Bet Lynch: "What consideration? It's never been owt different, it's always been dog eat dog!"

Annie: "Rubbish, Bet! You cannot pretend that the world has always been as horrible and violent as it is today. Did people bomb dance halls when you were a girl? Were innocent men and women afraid to walk the streets for fear of being mugged? Did young people jeer at the police and call them 'pigs'?"

Ena Sharples: "Harry Toft, 'im from't butcher's, won't let that lad of his go to the football match on his own any more. They broke his arm two or three weeks ago - just because he was wearing his team's scarf."

Bet: "Well, there's nowt for it, we'll all have to learn karate - a touch of the old kung fu's and not a yobbo'll come near us."

Annie: "It's no joking matter, Bet!"

Bet: "I know. But if you don't laugh you just might cry..."

Friday, 26 December 2008

1979: Coronation Street Goes Mad!

MAD Magazine did a great skit on Coronation Street in December 1979. The idea was that Prince Charles, attending a swanky function, made a speech to his audience, telling them of how he had taken his idea for a "thundering good TV yarn" to the BBC. He called his idea Coronation Street, although the two BBC chappies he tried to sell his idea to preferred "Contraception Street" or "Confrontation Street" - "more in with the times".

But Charles was adamant that it should be Coronation Street - because he believed that Royalty didn't have enough TV coverage!

A nasty old battle axe called Cleena Marbles, lots of pinched faces and boring gossip, and definitely no trees... Prince Charles began to explain his idea. At the end of it, the BBC bods were not impressed.

"A show about a load of ugly people in a pub? About an 80 year old hero and a heroine in a hairnet? A show with no sex or violence? Full of inane conversation and with no action whatsoever? To run for at least twenty years on only ten lines of plot? Forget it - if it lasted for a week, I'd be surprised!" said one of the bods.

The other advised Charles to stick to "parachuting, scuba diving, opening factories, making controversial speeches..."

"After that I might have been downhearted except for one little thing," Charles told his audience. "It appears that nineteen years ago Dad had exactly the same idea! He took it round to the Commercial Channel lot who, unlike the BBC, know a dull idea when they see one. The consequence is they're still using the same script!"

1979: The Horrors Of Jogging...

In the 1970s, Ken Barlow (William Roache), in his role of Community Development Officer at the Coronation Street Community Centre, spent a great deal of time doing his utmost for the good of the local community. He worried about the increasing levels of juvenile delinquency, and the plight of the "latch key children". He nagged local councillors like Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosley) for more funding (not forthcoming) and was generally a great person to have around.

In 1979, Ken latched on to what was a tremendous craze of the late 1970s and early 1980s - jogging. He arranged a group jogging session with several of the Rovers regulars. But, sadly, Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) was the only person who turned up. The others sought exercise by supporting the Rovers bar - as per usual!

Pursued by two interested youths on bikes, Ken and Mavis set off...

... Mavis chattered away happily as they jogged along, thoroughly enjoying the experience...

... but they had only reached Weatherfield gas works when Ken began to flag...

... and had to stop.

Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth) lambasted the Rovers regulars who had promised to join the jogging session for letting Ken down. And Ken faced the sobering fact that he was unfit. Very unfit.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Kevin Webster - The Glories Of 1980s Fashion

Here's our Kev (Michael Le Vell) displaying a few popular 1980s fashions. Glorious decade, this one. Flared trousers, so cool and cutting edge in the late 1960s, had stagnated in the 1970s. In the late 1970s a 1950s drainpipe trouser revival began, and in the 1980s some jeans and trouser legs became so narrow, you could hardly get your feet through! Kev adored tight jeans.

Hair was a crowning glory or another story in the 1980s. The emergence of hair gel and mousse led men and women to play evil games with their hair. Kev went for the meringue "New Romantic" look, then the infamous '80s bouffant mullet.

The 1960s saw men becoming hairier with beards and big 'taches as the hippie years swung. The '70s and '80s gradually reversed the trend. Our Kev, like many '80s men, was proud of his 'tache - leading, of course to comparisons with Hall & Oates. Steph Barnes finally shaved it off in the early 1990s!

All in all, our Kev dealt with the 1980s pretty well. He avoided the Miami Vice look (pastel coloured shoulder-padded linen jackets with pushed up sleeves and blonde streaked hair), deeley boppers and shell suits, and was declared highly fancieable by my cousin Sue.

Mind you, my cousin Sue also fancied Jon Bon Jovi back then and positively drooled over the Page 7 fellas in The Sun...

Page 7 glories of 1985!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

We Wish You A Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year!

A very festive looking invitation card to Coronation Street's 25th anniversary party: "Denis Foreman and David Plowright invite ................ TO DRINK A TOAST TO CORONATION STREET - Friday 6 December, Stage One, 5.30pm to 730pm. Fireworks 7.15pm".

Back On The Street would like to wish everybody a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2009.

Have fun, but try not to over-indulge during the Festive Season. And if you do happen to over-indulge, I hope you don't have to put up with a boss like Mrs Annie Walker, one-time landlady of The Rovers Return Inn, Coronation Street, whilst you're suffering the after effects...

After all the Christmas and New Year revelries which saw an end to the not-exactly-golden year of 1976, Hilda woke up to the start of 1977 feeling distinctly delicate. She had attended Bet Lynch's party at No. 5 the previous night, and had rather over-indulged herself on the alcohol. But of course she didn't confess to her booziness - she blamed Bet's "dinky pies" for her throbbing head, unsettled tum and general lethargy.

Stan was not convinced. Hilda dispatched him to The Rovers to inform Annie Walker that she was ill and would not be at work that day.

Stan relayed Hilda's message - "She can't come for 'ealth reasons," and Bet pounced on it...

"What do yer mean, 'for 'ealth reasons'?! She got smashed last night, she's got 'angover!"

Bet became irate: "Well, for your information she's not alone! I've got 'angover, everybody's got 'angover!"

Mrs Walker smiled smugly: "Not everyone, dear!"

In all fairness, Annie did participate in helping with the morning chores in Hilda's absence: whilst Bet did Hilda's cleaning on top of her own work, Annie took her beloved Rover 2000 out for an airing!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

1982: Kabin Consternation

It wasn't unknown for people to read out of date magazines and newspapers in Coronation Street back in the '60s, '70s and '80s (it probably still happens nowadays). When you remember the time lapse between the recording and screening of each episode, it was inevitable that if you glimpsed the headline on a newspaper being read by a character, or a magazine cover, it was going to be a few week's old.

But in 1982 an eagle eyed viewer spotted dastardly doings at The Kabin:

From the Daily Star, letters page, Wednesday, July 28, 1982:

I wonder whether anybody else noticed how out-dated Rita Fairclough's magazines are in Coronation Street. Last Wednesday (July 21) Mavis held one dated February 27.

M.C. Daventry, Northants.

The Star got on to Granada who replied:

"Daily Star readers are certainly sharp-eyed to spot our mistake. With a million and one details to attend to in the programme, this one escaped our notice."

"Ooh, Rita, do you really think it's right selling out of date magazines?"

"Shurrup, Mavis, Len's got a deal wi't wholesalers, gets 'em for next to nowt and folk round 'ere are that puddled they'll never notice!"

Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas Past And Christmas Now

December 1987 - a fond farewell to Hilda Ogden!

An e-mail from Sara:

I'm very glad to have found your blog, reflecting as it does on the good old days of the Street.

I was sickened to discover that Jed Stone is to be murdered - strangled - by Tony Gordon, serial killer, in this year's Christmas Eve edition. Do the show's producers imagine that we, the audience, are baying for blood? Doesn't this type of thing de-sensitise people to real life acts of violence? Fair enough, the Street has always featured violent happenings and endings for certain characters, but nowadays it's relentless. What sort of people are we, the audience? And for this to happen at Christmas too - a holy time!

And Jed Stone is one of the Street's 1960's legends.

On a different subject, will you be including more material on Hilda Ogden, played by the wonderful Jean Alexander, from 1964-1987?


All the best for Christmas and the New Year x

I reply:

Hi, Sara! Christmas greetings to you too!

I'm not sure of the background to the Jed Stone murder story line - perhaps Kenneth Cope simply wanted a short stay in the show? I too feel that it's a shame the character is to be murdered.

Soaps have changed, things move on. We may feel certain changes are not for the best, but if we don't like developments we can always switch off.

You're very welcome here - we're stuck in a time warp where it's never later than 1989!

Rest assured - there will be lots more about Hilda Ogden in the weeks to come.

UPDATE 25/12/2008

According to the synopsis of today's episode on Corrieblog, Sara, Jed may not be dead after all - which is a very pleasing thought!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Things That Made Us Go Hmmm... Part 1

Here's loving mother Deirdre Langton with her little daughter Tracy in 1979. She carefully parks Tracy's pushchair outside The Rovers Return...

... and disappears inside the pub...

... leaving the child outside on her own. Of course Tracy had to be left outside alone - it was all part of the story line as a lorry was about to career out of control and crash into the pub - leaving fears that Tracy was buried under the load of timber, the lorry's cargo, which had devastated the Rovers frontage.

But the notion of leaving a child unattended in this way was, even back in the 1970s, a bizarre one. No matter how we look back through rosy coloured specs, it was not the norm! We were living in the late 20th Century, not the Garden of Eden! Indeed, Coronation Street itself had featured the dangers of such actions in a 1962 story line, when young Christopher Hewitt was snatched from outside Gamma Garments.

In another 1979 episode, Deirdre left Tracy outside The Kabin whilst she went inside for a quick purchase and a good old natter with Rita and Mavis!

I still remember the reaction of my dear old Auntie Gladys to the spectacle of Deirdre's irresponsibility when the first of the lorry crash episodes was originally screened in 1979: "Well I've never seen anything so daft - silly cow - what is she doing?!!"

Auntie Gladys regarded calling somebody a "silly cow" as being highly offensive, so you can tell how rattled she was.

Nowadays not much makes me go "hmmm..." about the actions of soap opera characters. In fact, Tracy has turned out to be a murderer and Deirdre has had a very bizarre time in the 1990s and 2000s. Nobody could accuse either character of having much commonsense. But back in the '60s, '70s and '80s things were different - we expected some commonsense from our pals on screen. We expected them to be closer to real everyday life.

Many jokes were made about Deirdre's motherhood skills in the 1980s as Tracy was transformed from Christabel Finch to Holly Chamarette to Dawn Acton, often not appearing on screen for very long periods of time. Had Deirdre forgotten she had a daughter? the wags chorused.

Judging by her actions in 1979 I wouldn't be at all surprised...

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

1983: Geoffrey Hughes On Eddie Yeats And Coronation Street

A slate loose? Eddie Yeats and Len Fairclough at Len's builder's yard in Mawdsley Street.

Geoffrey Hughes was hugely popular as petty criminal Eddie Yeats. Eddie contained echoes of a previous Street bad lad, Jed Stone (Kenneth Cope). Both characters were Liverpudlians, had a heart of gold, and wore distinctive headgear - Jed a flat cap and Eddie (in his early years) a shapeless woolly hat!

In 1980, Eddie turned over a new leaf - he took up full time employment with the local council's refuse department - becoming a bin man, and moved in as a lodger with his long-term pals Stan and Hilda Ogden at Number 13.

Interviewed in 1983, Geoffrey Hughes commented that his favourite Street story line occurred in 1981 - when the Ogdens' washing ended up at the local tip. Hilda had put the washing in a plastic bin liner, and Eddie, acting in his professional capacity, carried it away.

It was the real-life early 1980s craze for CB radio which led to Eddie finding himself a wife. Citizens' Band Radio had been invented in America way back in the 1940s, but usage had only been known in England (in a very small way) since the 1960s. The film Convoy in the mid-70s increased interest in CB radio and jargon, and in the late 70s illegal usage in England, although still very small, slowly began to rise. In 1980, the number of illegal CB'ers swelled enormously and in November 1981 CB was legalised.

CB radio had been illegally dallied with in England (on a very small scale) since the 1960s. The illegal usage of the equipment increased tremendously in 1980 and 1981 (the newspapers of those two years contain some hilarious stories of CB misuse!) and CB was finally legalised on 2 November '81. Leading to big changes in the life of Mr Edward Yeats in 1982.

In early 1982, Eddie Yeats began using a CB radio in his bin wagon (his handle was "Slim Jim") and made contact with a young lady called Marion Willis (handle "Stardust Lil")(played by Veronica Doran). The two had an "eyeball" and fell in love.

In 1983, Geoffrey Hughes announced his desire to leave Coronation Street. To accommodate his departure in the story line, Marion fell pregnant, she and Eddie married, and then Marion's mother fell ill, necessitating a move to Bury. Eddie visited The Street briefly in 1987, but apart from that never darkened those cobblestones again.

Below is an interview with Geoffrey Hughes from the Daily Mirror, June 16, 1983.

There's nothing Eddie Yeats likes better than a greasy fry-up followed by a bucket of beer at the Rovers.

And away from the set Geoff Hughes is just as fond of his food and drink.

"You don't get to be seventeen and a half stone by worrying about what you eat and drink," he says.

"I don't worry about my weight. I'm still very active and I feel fit."

His tastes are a little more refined than Eddie's, however.

"I don't drink as much beer as Eddie, but I love good wine and a few glasses of port."

Coronation Street food is barely edible, Geoff says.

"They cook it in the morning and leave it in a warming oven until we're ready to do the scene. It's nearly always cold and rubbery. So when you see me and Stan tucking into pie and chips with great big smiles on our faces, we're doing a good bit of acting."

The pints of beer Eddie knocks back at Annie Walker's bar are in fact shandy. Once he was ill through drinking in the line of duty.

He says: "We were doing a pram race when we had to stop off in every pub. This kept going wrong and I had to knock back four pints each in one gulp. I went greener and greener and the lads put a bath outside for me to be sick in. I needed it."

Geoff's first part in Coronation Street was in 1965 - not as Eddie but as bricklayer Eric Fairbrother.

He appeared in three episodes - and in one of them he beat up grumpy Albert Tatlock. For this he expected a few abusive letters.

"All I got," he recalls, "were two saying I should have killed him."

It was in 1974, when the show's happy-go-lucky layabout, Jed Stone, had to be replaced, that Eddie Yeats arrived.

Geoff says: "They brought me in for a couple of weeks and then offered me a six months contract. I wasn't sure I wanted to stay, so I took six months off to think about it. Then I came back, did a six-month contract then another one. I've been there ever since."

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Annie Walker - Coated With Class...

1978: Annie discusses Billy's posh job in Jersey with Renee Roberts - although mother and son are both in the hospitality business, Annie feels that Billy, working in a hotel in Jersey, is far better situated than she is:

"It has one great advantage - it has a very good class of trade. Not like working with the rabble..."

Annie Walker, played by Doris Speed, was a Corrie favourite of mine since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Always grand, always pretentious, always being knocked down, Annie brought a great deal of character to The Street and much interest. She appeared to have more of a social life outside of The Street than most of her neighbours and her Lady Victualler friends were the source of several fun story lines. Remember when Nellie Harvey learned to drive? Or the horror of the Bingo Hall carpet in Annie's living room, which was revealed as such just before the Lady Vics were due to pay Annie a visit?

Or what about that dreadful time in 1980 when Mrs Olive Taylor-Brown visited and Fred Gee lost Annie's tickets to a grand local government function, causing Annie the humiliation of herself and Mrs T-B being refused admission? Until Hilda Ogden appeared on the grand staircase, clutching the lost tickets and screeching: "Mrs Walker! Mrs Walker!" Annie's joy at recovering the tickets was, of course, tempered by the horror of her turbaned char squawking up the stairs in front of the local dignitaries.

Annie was, and still is, a Coronation Street legend, and I was thrilled on a visit to the Granada Studios Tour in the 1990s to see one of the coats she wore for many years on display, alongside one of Bet Lynch's old cast-offs. Of course, I had to take a photograph...

... and, as I walked by, I actually touched the garment!! It quite made my day! Although I'm sure I wasn't worthy...

"Now, I hate to sound snobbish and I am not being..."

William Tarmey - Jack Rowe And Jack Duckworth

Dave Barnes and his mate, Jack Rowe, in The Rovers in 1978. Doesn't Mr Rowe look familiar?

William Tarmey appeared in Coronation Street for years before landing a contract as Jack Duckworth in 1983. During the 1970s, he appeared as an extra in The Rovers, The Kabin and on the Street's exterior set many times. He was a temporary barman at The Rovers on one occasion, slammed the bar flap down on pianist Ernest Bishop's fingers (by accident) on another, and, in November 1979, made his first appearance as Jack Duckworth at the wedding of Brian and Gail Tilsley.

Jack appeared very briefly, didn't have a great deal to say, and disappeared after a few cross words with Vera at the wedding reception. He was next spotted in 1981. The character of Jack was gradually fleshed out as he made occasional appearances in the story-lines of 1981 and 1982, and in the summer of 1983, just after the glorious Vince St Clair fiasco - bingo - a Street resident he became.

And, at long last, Bill Tarmey was awarded a permanent Street contract!

But does anybody remember the other Jack played by Bill?

In late 1978, Ken Barlow began teaching local girl Karen Barnes how to read and her husband, Dave, didn't like it at all. Highly jealous, he sought out a pal of his, Jack Rowe, who knew what Ken looked like. The two men lay in wait in The Rovers so that Jack could point Ken out to Dave when he came into the bar. Jack Rowe was played by Bill Tarmey.

Dave Barnes warned Ken to stay away from his wife, and ended up terrorising Albert Tatlock - before Ken knocked him cold.

By that time Jack Rowe had disappeared from the scene.

But, for Bill Tarmey, another 'Jack' lay just around the corner!

1978: Coronation Street Reaches Its 18th Birthday, But How Old Were The Barlow Twins?

Party time! Lots of familiar faces gather in The Rovers to cut the birthday cake and toast the programme. Who do you remember?

If Coronation Street had been a person, it would have got the vote in 1978 as it celebrated its 18th birthday on 9 December. It had been another enjoyable year of Street action, although the death of Ernest Bishop (Stephen Hancock), shot in the chest by young wages thieves at Mike Baldwin's denim factory, had been highly controversial.

This was also the year that the programme's production team tweaked the age of the Barlow twins, Susan and Peter, to fit in with a story line about Peter wishing to join the Royal Navy. The twins had been born during The Street's lifetime, in 1965 to be exact, but in 1978 the date was jiggled. Re-watching the relevant episodes, it all seems a little vague, but at times there are indications that Peter Barlow is already fifteen years old, and on at least one occasion it's stated he will be turning fifteen in 1979.

The Street's then archivist, Eric Rosser, was against the tweaking. A friend of my mother, a huge fan of Corrie, wrote to him to complain, stating that she found the continuity of The Street a great pleasure, and informing him that the "Barlow Twins Tweaking" had come as a great shock to her. Was there any point in following stories in the show any longer if they could be subject to rewriting years later, she asked? Mr Rosser sent her a charming letter, written on a manual typewriter, and made it plain that the tweaking had been none of his doing!

Of course it's happened again since then (probably more than once), and modern day fans seem more "sophisticated" (whatever that means) about such things. But the 1978 Barlow twins story line did not go down too well amongst many Street lovers, and in 1986 the situation was rectified as Susan and Peter celebrated their 21st birthday.

This is a very special card - an invitation card to Coronation Street's 18th birthday party - "Granada Television Invites You To A Party On Friday 8 December 1978 To Celebrate The 18th Anniversary Of Coronation Street. Rehearsal Studio 3 From 6.00-9pm. RSVP Bill Podmore Room 532".

Friday, 12 December 2008

Christmas Is Coming... Bouncing Spacehoppers of 1969 and Comic Strip Mavis Rileys of 1979...

Christmas is coming - and here's a little treat - a full-page ad from my local newspaper archive (Cambridge Evening News, 14 November 1969), featuring lots of toys all ready for Christmas 1969 - including the famous spacehopper (from Mettoy). And before "Curious of Croydon" writes in, yes, I know that the BBC and the Toy Retailers sites say that the space hopper arrived in the UK in 1971, but both organisations like to pretend that everything happened in the 70s. The image above is from a real 1969 newspaper. Click on the image for some true nostalgia.

And Christmas ten years on was equally interesting...

The swinging '60s had been left well behind by 1979, but, as little girlies across the land prayed desperately for a Holly Hobby in their Christmas stocking, we Corrie fans had the joy of seeing Mavis Riley, Rita Fairclough and other Street favourites in comic strip form. Above, Mavis dishes the gossip to Rita. In my humble opinion, both the artist and the writer have caught Mavis brilliantly!
What was it all about? Find out more soon...