Thursday, 12 March 2020

What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? Part Six

Well, chuck, we've reached the final part of our little series comparing Coronation Street to its rough-template-real-life-counterpart Archie Street, which once stood in the Ordsall district of Salford. And as we stand outside Maurice Jones's posh 1989 Coronation Street development, what was on that side of Archie Street? More terraced houses, of a slightly different design, and a brick wall is the answer.

When Archie Street faced the bulldozers in 1971, Granada Television issued a press statement entitled THE BULLDOZERS FOR ENA? and Bernard Youens and Jean Alexander, our wonderful Stan and Hilda Ogden, visited the derelict street for a photo session.

The Ogdens survey the non-template side of Archie Street in 1971. Note the bay windows there had brick surrounds.

For years, it was put about - and Granada participated in this - that Archie Street had been replaced by high rise blocks, but it hadn't - simply by modern housing. St Clement's Church remained as a convenient orientation point when tracing the site. Just to confuse those not-in-the-know there's now another Archie Street in the district!

Coronation Street differs from Archie Street in that it is not real, and when I said a little while back that we should embrace some of the oddities thrown up by its architecture and changing environs over the years, I meant it. Since the Street was born almost sixty years ago, TV production has altered a very great deal. Hurriedly assembling sets back in the day led to occasional brow-creasers like Emily Bishop's back door leading into Albert Tatlock's yard on at least one occasion in the 1970s, and the cramped nature of the studio meant the frontages had to be tiny in the 1960s. So, Albert had to put up with having the Rovers loos in his house.

When the Street moved outside, a lack of chimneys and glimpses of interior scaffolding and interior grey sky were inevitable. But think about the improvement from the old studio set! It didn't solve Albert's problem though.

The old days - far too small, no chimneys and the Rovers loos are in Albert's house. "Funny old boozer this, in't it, Mrs Walker?!"

In 1982, we got to see Rosamund Street in a different light - no church opposite the street corner, as in the studio days, or high wall with gates in it - but the building which became the Graffiti Club. Once again, highly odd when viewed as reality but a major leap forward for the Street - as were chimney pots and a properly covered terraced.

Not to mention the size upgrade. Real size? No, as Jean Alexander said at the time, 'more real size.'

The 1980s.

And, in 1989, came the modern development on the community centre and factory site - bringing us the likes of '80s kids Des and Steph Barnes in February 1990.

The only thing I've ever really disliked is the strange Rosamund Street arch, which appeared at the turn of the 21st century. I've never seen anything like it in real life, but I can  imagine the production team were eager to block out the view of the Granada Studios - and having the Rosamund Street view beyond the arch was inspired.

With the latest set, we have another size upgrade and Rosamund Street is no longer a straight road. The Street's production team in 1960, unaware that the show would run and run, set an impossible task for the future: how on earth could you feature a busy main road? So, Rosamund Street became less busy, and with the opportunity to slot in more shops and a more realistic look for the latest set, I can imagine the temptation to alter the course of the road was irresistible.

Number 1 and number 3 Coronation Street. There's now room for hanging baskets outside - and the width of the halls can realistically accommodate stairs and the living room doorway inside.

I think the new Street looks a little too big in some ways - the houses more cottagey than Victorian/Edwardian urban terrace. The bay windows look positively palatial, but they make more logical sense. Again, in real life, I've never seen a street with neighbouring bay windows bolted together quite the way they are in Coronation Street. But that was born of necessity from lack of studio space back in 1960 and now the windows are at least large enough to have a properly sized room behind them.

The back of the Rovers could have been sorted out a bit better, and would there really be so many businesses in Victoria Street? I always imagined the Street nestling amongst other grotty, grey back streets off a main road, not in a funky area like that.

Two upstairs windows for the Rovers frontage instead of one makes perfect sense as the pub exterior was never big enough to accommodate the interior. The back, however, is rubbish.

But the pressure continues to produce more episodes and the new set reflects that. More stories and different settings are needed. The programme eats them up at a rapid rate.

It's all a far cry from the little girls playing outside the Corner Shop on the old studio exterior set at the start of episode one, and the days when the inspiration for the architecture became known as Coronarchie Street.

Roll end credits...

Sunday, 8 March 2020

The Down-Side Of The Bill Podmore Era: The Barlow Twins Retcon, A Plastic Toy Boy And Elsie Tanner's New Grandson...

April 1965, and Coronation Street's newest arrivals, Peter and Susan Barlow, grace the cover of the TV Times. But in 1978 they were apparently born in 1964. Or perhaps even 1963.

Regular readers of my little blog (bless you both, I adore you!) know that I love the Bill Podmore era of Coronation Street. In the main. I found the show stodgy, miserable fare in the early-to-mid 1970s, but when Bill took the reins in 1976, the Street suddenly seemed to rediscover its lost youth and became so enjoyable I was glued to it.

Shake Up In The Street - there's going to be a lot more fun! proclaimed one tabloid headline. And there was. Bill Podmore's reign totally rejuvenated the Street. I have doubts the show would have lasted without him.

But even the most glittering reign has a few fake gems, and Mr Podmore's was no exception.

When was the Street's first retcon? Its first twisting of established fact to fit in with a modern storyline? I'm not talking continuity errors here - I'm talking planned, purposeful twisting of Street history to cynically shoehorn in a storyline?

1978 is the answer.

It all began when Peter Barlow came to see his father and wanted to join the Navy when he left school. Now, Peter Barlow, like me, was born in 1965, but in those episodes he was older (one stated he'd be turning fifteen in April 1979, others made him seem perhaps even older). My mother immediately noticed: 'I was pregnant with you when Val had the twins. This is a botch-up!' Matters went thoroughly public when the tabloid press got hold of the story and a friend of my mother's, another dedicated Street follower, wrote to the archivist, Eric Rosser, about it. She showed us the letter, and I remember she had ended it with the words: What would Ena say?

Mr Rosser wrote back, on a manual typewriter. Mum's friend showed us the letter and it was perhaps indicative of Mr Rosser's feelings on the subject that the middle of several o's was missing - minute holes in the paper. Was it just the quality of the paper, or had he punched the typewriter keys extra hard in his vexation, we wondered? He made it very plain that he had voted against the retcon (although we didn't call them that then).

Valerie and Ken Barlow with their twins, Peter and Susan. It all seemed so simple back in the 1960s. But in the 1970s their age would become subject to sudden inexplicable change...

This was a rare instance of the Bill Podmore era beginning trends which were unwelcome to some fans - trends which are common nowadays. The whole point of investing in a long-running saga, it seemed to me back then (and today), is that you get to know the characters and their histories. And you have contemporaries born within the span of the show as it goes on - like me and Peter and Susan Barlow, all born in 1965. If you start twisting the facts, then why bother having an archivist? The Peter Barlow storyline would have been fine a couple of years later anyway. Why spoil continuity to shoehorn it into 1978?

The age of the Barlow twins remained vague but corrupted for a few years. Susan taking Mike Baldwin up on an offer to get work in a licensed bar in 1981 is indicative of this - the plot reality should have been that she was only sixteen-years-old.

All this gave me the uneasy feeling that watching the show was a bit pointless. Would a plot I was currently enjoying be tweaked into nonsense in the future, I wondered way back in 1978?

But in 1986 sanity was restored with the Barlow twins celebrating their twenty-first birthday.

Coronation Street producer Bill Podmore with Eric Rosser, the show's archivist, in the 1980s.

In 1980, the Podmore administration did it again: showing a complete disregard for the show's history, it introduced a new grandson for Elsie Tanner called Martin Cheveski. Elsie's grandson, Paul, had been born in 1961, but we'd never heard of Martin, who was apparently a few years younger. He certainly hadn't been with his parents, Linda and Ivan, when they'd visited the Street in the late 1960s, although Paul had.

Martin didn't stay that long, and the demographic he represented, not long out of school and unemployed, was topical - although in the Street, of course, he soon found work with Len Fairclough. But it was all very strange - although not, I thought, as bad as the Barlow twins debacle.

As far as I'm aware, 1978, 1979 (Ivy Tilsley's family - but, as she was up to then a peripheral character, perhaps forgivable) and 1980 apart, the Podmore administration didn't tweak characters' ages, or create new relations for them out of thin air again.

But, in 1978, for me, the Street had committed another sin - one that was indicative of future trends, and which unashamedly went for increasing the male totty pin-up ratio, not character depth or acting skills.

This was the introduction of young Brian John Tilsley. He met Gail Potter at a party at No 11, and soon they were an 'item'. Now, of course, Ivy had once stated she hadn't been able to have children, but with the Tilsleys being introduced as Street residents in 1979, moving into No 5, this was all altered.

But doing a few retcons as a peripheral character moves to centre stage is not such a sin.

However, introducing her son as a blond-haired, unblemished body builder WAS, in my humble opinion. Back in the late 1970s, gym workouts were not the norm for working class guys. I'm sorry, but they weren't. This really came about in the 'fit for business, fit for life' mid-to-late 1980s and the narcissistic 1990s.

Vera: 'She couldn't 'ave kids yer know, well, only their Brian - and she don't like to mention 'im. I mean, can yer blame 'er?'

But actor Chris Quinten, who played Brian, was a gymnast and Brian, who didn't attend a gym and didn't even have some dumb bells at home, wasn't - and nor did he have a physically-demanding job. He was a garage mechanic. When Terry Duckworth arrived in 1983, not only was he heavier on character but his job at the abattoir would have given him the bit of muscle he had.

The Street had always had its male and female heart-throbs. Think Terry, Ray Langton and Suzie Birchall, for instance. But these characters were not OTT attractive and seemed like natural backstreet denizens.

For me, Brian did not. He seemed an obvious and rather cynical attempt to up the female/gay 'PHWOAR!' factor and I found him wholly unconvincing as a character.

Wow - fashion! Our Brian in the 1980s. He was killed off in 1989.

I don't mean to sound too 'down' on Chris Quinten, as time went on I think his acting ability improved, but he was never a Street natural.

As for the future of the Street, retcons went out of fashion in the 1980s, but returned in the 1990s. Then, a storyline I'd followed in 1983 - in which Maggie Dunlop had a son by Mike Baldwin, was retconned back a couple of years so Mike's son, Mark Redman, could attend the school Ken Barlow taught at a couple of years too early.

His own children had suffered similar age revisions, but Ken, caught up in the production team's web, was blissfully unaware of anything amiss.

Meanwhile, give or take an occasional Tyrone Dobbs, muscle hunks are all the rage when it comes to young male Street characters. But then workouts are so much more a part of everyday life now.

Oh well...

Despite my moans here, Bill Podmore's era was an absolute godsend for the Street. I hold his memory in high esteem. Nothing is ever perfect.

Shortly after Brian arrived, Steve Fisher, a lad who, as Betty Turpin said, any mother would be proud of, was dispatched to work at Mike Baldwin's London factory - and never mentioned again. A sensitive, interesting character (a bit soft though - putty in Suzie's hands), exchanging Steve for Brian seemed rather sad.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? Part Five

As we cross Coronation Street to the 1989 development, let's pause for a minute and think about the inhabitants of Archie Street and Coronation Street. Any similarities? Well, sadly, the residents of Archie Street did not appear onscreen to entertain the nation twice weekly for decades, so it's hard to tell. But Manchester United football player Eddie Colman, one of Busby's babes tragically killed in the Munich Air Disaster in 1958, lived in Archie Street. David Barlow, Ken's younger brother, also had a brief professional football career.

Eddie Colman, the sporting celebrity from Archie Street, died at the age of 21.

Frank Allaun, the MP for East Salford, was sometimes regarded as Coronation Street's MP, he was tireless in his praise for the show - and Archie Street was dubbed by some 'Coronarchie Street'!

Coronation Street creator Tony Warren with Frank Allaun on a visit to Archie Street in 1961.

Anyway, back to our walk round, and standing on the side of Coronation Street redeveloped by Maurice Jones in 1989, we take a trip back in time to 1960 to look at the situation then.

In those days, this side of the street was dominated by Elliston's Raincoat Factory and a woman with a mission - Mrs Ena Sharples of the Glad Tidings Mission Hall, next door to the factory, to be precise.

Detail from a Coronation Street Christmas card produced by Granada for cast members to send to fans in 1961. This particular card was from Doreen Keogh (Concepta Riley/Hewitt). The Street has single bays, the 'tin pot' structure of the Glad Tidings Mission Hall can be seen, and part of the raincoat factory.

The Mission Hall backed on to the Street and Ena's vestry entrance was there. The raincoat factory, which switched to funky PVC in the mid-1960s, was apparently a gloomy old Victorian building - but never wholly seen. We did get the odd glimpse, but the exterior's starring moment came when Christine Hardman climbed up onto the roof in a suicide attempt in 1962. We still didn't see much of the building, but a certain small area of the roof is now faithfully recorded.

The interior, of course, saw more action - including the introduction of one Miss Elizabeth Theresa Lynch in 1966.

The late 1960s saw the Mission Hall and the factory demolished and a row of horribly modernistic maisonettes built in their place. Gosh, weren't they ugly! And somehow they never quite keyed into the street and few residents were seen. Effie Spicer, an old acquaintance of Jack Walker, lived there briefly, as did Ena and the Barlow family.

But, in 1971, after Valerie Barlow electrocuted herself with a hairdryer and caused a fire at the maisonettes, they were demolished.

They were replaced by a community centre and a warehouse. The Glad Tidings Mission had dabbled in community work in its latter years, so the new community centre on the site was rather like 'out with the new, in with the old' - particularly when Ena became live-in caretaker there. It was a peculiar building, looking rather like a shed with gothic windows. And why did Ken Barlow and Karen Barnes, a young woman he assisted with her reading, emerge from Ena's flat when Ken saw her off the premises in 1979? Goodness alone knows. I'm sure Ena would not have been keen on them traipsing their way through. Then, in 1980, the front of the centre was rebuilt due to problems with the foundations, and looked rather more real.

The Street with its groovy, space age '60s maisonettes.

The warehouse suffered a disastrous fire in 1975, and was bought by Mike Baldwin the following year. It was a grim building, fit for purpose only. As Connie Clayton said in 1985: 'The view of that factory don't grow on me.' The factory, of course, boasted a sewing room, several offices, and a packing department which we never saw. Did it need a dedicated packing department - after all, it wasn't that big a concern? Search me, luvvie. Of course, in the 1980s, Acorn Antiques also had a packing department.

Coronation Street, circa 1985 - just before Alf Roberts had the Corner Shop modernised.

The 1980s, of course, were a time of change. The decade was hugely controversial - heaven or hell, darling? With all the shouting going on (which still goes on when the 1980s are discussed to this day) it's hard to tell. Maybe it was both, but it certainly left its mark on Coronation Street.

1989: A glimpse of what would become a charity shop, then the hairdressing salon. 

When Maurice Jones demolished the factory and community centre to make way for a spanking new development of houses, shops and industrial units, the 'dark side' of the Street finally moved into the modern day and the cheap-but-stylish development was a revolution.

You know, luvvie, from certain vantage points the development looked a bit like toy town. I mean, I wouldn't have fancied living there - although, like the old terrace, the area's strange magic worked to make the interiors bigger than the exteriors.

Now all that's solved (well, just about) with the move to the new exterior set.

Well, love, in't final part I'll give my final opinion on the Street's architectural oddities past and present. Tarah for now, cock. I'm poppin' round Ida's for a brew. With a bit of luck I might get a gipsy cream with it - but I won't hold me breath.

Flamin' Nora! They're well past their sell-by!

Monday, 2 March 2020

Coronation Street: Feminism, The Gay Creator, Misandry And Rita Fairclough The Liar...

The scriptwriter of a Coronation Street episode in the early 1990s had no qualms in rewriting history to make our Street favourite Rita Fairclough out to be a victim of an insensitive husband, while actually making Rita seem like a downright liar, touting for sympathy, to those of us who knew the plot.

Back in 1981, Rita suddenly discovered a strong maternal instinct. True, she had looked after Harry Bates's kids some years before, but streetwise Rita had always seemed quite happy without kids of her own, telling Mavis there would be no patter of tiny feet at No 9 after she married Len.

In 1980, when Rita walked out on Len, her concerns were for a 'decent' house and a dishwasher - not kids.

But in 1981 Rita babysat Nicky Tilsley, and suddenly went all broody. She told Len she wanted to adopt, and Len, at first stunned and incredulous, very quickly agreed. Then the couple found out they were too old, and fostered instead.

But in the early 1990s, Rita told Sally Webster that by the time Len had agreed on adoption, they were too old.

A huge difference.

Corrie making victimised heroines out of its female characters is farcical. The women are at their best when being strong, human and frequently awful, seeing the faults of their spouses and partners, not their own. Audrey telling Alma she'd married a 'big baby' in the 1990s was a classic example of this. Our beautiful Aud had been selfish, childish (locking herself in the loo in a sulk after she and Alf had been forced to move into the Corner Shop flat when the chain on the house they were hoping to buy collapsed) and generally a lazy shopaholic for years. And we loved her for it. The fact she could see none of her own faults made us love her more.

I have to say that many of Coronation Street's women are at their best when following the template laid down by the show's creator, Tony Warren, himself a gay man and not averse to a bit of camp.

Let's hear Mr Warren on the subject: 'I'd known all these queens [gay men with a penchant for camp] in the village. Some of their dialogue was too good not to use. I remember giving Elsie lines that they would say. When you think of some of the things she came out with, how many straight women have you heard say that?'

The original template - women talking like camp men. The genius - the late Mr Tony Warren.

The original scripts, with their apparently ordinary but slightly tweaked dialogue (witness Ena in the Corner Shop in 1960!), were very much this man's tribute to northern English femininity. But far more evocative of a witty evening in a gay pub with a number of camp men present than ordinary female conversation. The world was really not ready for a soap about gay men!

Coronation Street has become self consciously feminist - and as that ideology is now being questioned far and wide (men oppressed women - oh, really?!) is straying far from its roots and has been growing progressively worse since the 1970s (the Susi Hush era). Ideologies are not facts.

The Street went from being a lovely matriarchy (as many such streets are) to being the misandry mile. A great difference, relying on warped Feminist dogma to score points and create female victimhood.

So, Rita, love, don't tell lies, eh, chuck? Don't forget your marriage was under the microscope on our TV screens - we were there too - so it really doesn't wash.

For years, Feminism was not questioned. But now it is. Chivalry should not allow riding rough shod over facts and demonising an entire gender, and the facts about the vote - suffragettes bombing and harming working class, vote-less men with acid, the SCUM Manifesto, the Duluth Model and the horrors experienced by Erin Pizzey in the 1970s are being examined at long last. As are the true facts about the gender pay gap and the workplace death gap.

About time too.

So, pack it in, eh, Corrie?

The misandrist nonsense (often created by 'white knight' chivalrous men) still goes on and was one of the things which drove me away from the show many years ago.

Remember your roots.

Questioning Feminism? Heresy, eh? Misogynistic or not? Not. Read what Karen Straughan has to say on the subject and just how this hate ideology has infested every nook and cranny of our lives:

Thursday, 13 February 2020

What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? Part Four

Well, luvs, we've covered a lot of ground, and now we find ourselves in the back ginnel running between Coronation Street and Mawdsley Street.

The back yards are tiny, poky affairs, with outside lavvies (once the only lavs in each household). Of course, they're not lavs anymore. But the Ogdens' at No 13 was operating as a second lav in 1980 (and probably well beyond). We're not sure about the rest.

The kitchens jut out into the yards and... well... back in the day they shared the Street magic of being much bigger on the inside than on the outside.

The kitchen windows were low-set (are they on the 21st century exterior set?), but indoors had kitchen sinks beneath them. From outside, they were pantry-sized cubby holes.

No 9, with its lean-to glass extension, was the only house to differ.

The Corrie back ginnel as it was on the 1982 to early 21st Century set.

Ken and Deirdre Barlow at Number 1 had a posh kitchen extension in the mid-1980s. This was downright peculiar at first.

The kitchen having expanded, exterior shots showed that the old back room window was now no longer. But it remained inside for ages - before the design team twigged and it was turned into an interior window, giving 'borrowed light' from the kitchen.

Deirdre, Ken and Tracy, embroiled in their late 1980s saga of brillo perms, shoulder pads, Wendy Crozier, and listening to Bros cassettes upstairs, noticed nothing odd of course.

Come on, Tracy luv, join in: 'You're a slave to fashion and your life is full of passion...'

The backyard dividing walls could be odd. Sometimes they moved. Elsie Tanner's yard might be quite large one week, with the yard wall by the Ogdens' back window, but another week the Ogdens' yard might be larger, with the wall by Elsie's back window. And so on down the terrace.

The real back ginnel between Archie Street and Clement Street was featured in the Coronation Street titles for a while back in the 1960s. The Corrie ginnel is cobbled. The Archie Street ginnel was flagged.

Coronation Street backs on to Mawdsley Street - once home to Len Fairclough and Martha Longhurst - and home to Len Fairclough's builder's yard for many years (although it wandered off briefly in a 1976 map of Weatherfield featured in the TV Times). It was in Mawdsley Street, at the congregational chapel, that Emily Nugent married Ernest Bishop in 1972.

Archie Street backed onto Clement Street, named after St Clement's Church, a longer street which ran across the junction from the side of the church.

Len's yard popped over to Balaclava Terrace in 1976 in an officially sanctioned map. And then popped back to Mawdsley Street. It made a nice break.

An old mystery from the back of the Street is the Rovers stairs, running up the back of the premises from 1960-1986. After the infamous fire of 1986, they changed direction during the rebuild. That's because the original route of the stairs was a bit impossible. They would have run straight past the back parlour window.

Also, the part of the Rovers building that juts out to join the strange viaduct... well, it's an amazingly narrow jut-out. In fact, to me, it looks like a wall with a door and an upper window in it. Bet Lynch would never have got down it, even if she'd pulled her chest right in. And as for Fred Gee and Betty Turpin! What possible use is it?

Even in the super-spacious Street of the 21st century, there's still no room at the inn in the Rovers extremity.

Now we've reached Rosamund Street, site of the modern (and frankly bizarre) viaduct arch. In the Archie Street universe, we've reached Cavendish Street. Across the road is St Clement's Church. Coronation Street once had a church opposite it - back in the days of the indoor exterior set. It was called St Mary's, but - from 1968 onwards - that was a thing of the past, replaced by an occasional glimpse of a wall with gates set in it, and, from 1982, by a building which quickly became the Graffiti Club, wine bar and disco.

Echoes of reality: The church opposite the corner of Coronation Street on the 1960s set. Martha, Albert and Ena queue up to get their hair done at Valerie's in the foreground.

Rosamund Street in those days, was, of course, a long, straight road - apparently one of Weatherfield's main arteries (though it never seemed very busy). From the show's earliest days we'd tended to hare off down Rosamund Street at times. A Rosamund Street shop was part of the Street's action for decades. From the days of Swindley's haberdashery and Gamma Garments to the days of Len Fairclough's shop, the Kabin, Rosamund Street was a must-see.

Rita Littlewood, of course, was at first employed as manageress at the Kabin, but later married Len thus becoming part owner, and, upon his death, owner. The Kabin gave us years of wonderful, cherished scenes of Rita and her assistant Mavis Riley.

'I'm telling you now, Rita, that pineapple thingie's giving me the creeps! I can feel its eyes on me!'
'Get a grip, Mavis! There's a lot stranger things round 'ere...'

Next door, of course, baker Joe Dawson opened up a genteel little tea shop in 1978, causing the Kabin's café to close, and, in 1980, this genteel little emporium was bought by one Jim Sedgewick, who turned it into a rough and ready transport café.

In 1990, Rita sold the old Kabin and moved to a brand new one in Coronation Street. But Jim's Café continued to be featured. And here comes another mystery...

After a while, the old Kabin simply disappeared.

The doors to the Kabin and Jim's faced each other across a small, covered lobby.

The Kabin door remained for a while after Rita had decamped, seen from the interior of Jim's whenever somebody opened the door to enter or exit. But then, suddenly, without explanation, the old Kabin door disappeared, and was replaced by an advertising or community notice board. Jim's Café was suddenly at the end of a terrace of shops - and there was no sign of a covered lobby - or a shop next door where the old Kabin should have been - and no sign that part of the terrace had been demolished either.

Never mind, cock.

What a difference a decade makes! In 1984, it was Mavis, Rita and the pineapple thingie. In 1994, the old Kabin had vanished.

Next time I'll be takin' a look at the other side of the streets - Coronation and Archie - to delve more into't past and some of its oddities.

Anyway, I'm off to bingo and that new Pizza Hut in Esmerelda Street with Ida Clough tonight - so I'd better be makin' tracks. Should be a great night. You know worra laugh she is.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

1984-1985: The Fruity Thingie At The Kabin...

September 1984, and Mavis Riley and Derek Wilton are planning their wedding (that wasn't), unaware they are being upstaged.

We'll have quite a lot to say about the old Kabin in Rosamund Street in the next instalment of our What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? series, but, in the meantime, can anybody solve a little mid-1980s mystery?

Times change of course, and some of us who were kids back in the old days can recall having toys which, although deemed 'cute' at the time, were actually a bit on the ugly side by modern day standards.

The Kabin, of course, sold (and sells) a few toys, and in late 1984 a strange little fruity thing (Orange? Pineapple?) flitted around the shelves for a few months, into early 1985.

The thingie with Rita Fairclough.

What on earth was it? A child's cuddly? Some kind of activity toy (in certain lights it seemed to have a handle on the side). WHAT? It was certainly a character, arresting my attention in many scenes, and seemingly quite a performer in its own right.

As Mavis tells Reet where to get off, Ken Barlow is getting the eye from the fruity thingie.

Did any readers own a toy like this? Has anybody spotted one in an old mail order catalogue from those days? If so, can we have the details, please? We're dead curious!

November 1984, and the fruity thingie is still on the shelf - a different shelf this time, having scuttled up on to the top one. Tony Cunliffe is blissfully oblivious that the thingie is leering down at him.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? Part Three

So, having clattered up the Coronation Street and Archie Street terraces, we find ourselves at the side of the buildings. Next to us is Coronation Street's Viaduct Street. Of course, the viaduct looms. In the Archie Street universe we're on Taylorson Street, standing by the front door to the off-licence living accommodation. The Corrie Corner Shop has a side door, too. It provides access to the flat above the shop. But until 1985, when Alf Roberts modernised the shop, access could also be gained via stairs in the shop's back room, the course of which would have caused them to meet the other stairs in the middle. Very odd.

No viaduct ever loomed over Archie Street. It was a bit loomed over by St Clement's Church at the other end of the road from the off-licence, and certain perspectives allowed the Ordsall Board School (local education board, not boarding) to loom a bit too. Must have been pleasant for the local kiddies out playing. Nice reminder of the joys awaiting them.

The viaduct has seen a lot of changes, of course. I don't recall the days of the Viaduct Sporting Club, but it was once there, and of course a train came off it in 1967 and a tram years later, and Deirdre Langton was 'molested' there and Tommy Deakin and his donkey hung out there and two robbers, out to loot the corner shop off-licence, watched till the coast clear was there and Ena Sharples and Lucille Hewitt sang a duet there... oooh, all sorts.

But it was definitely subject to change. In the early 1960s a low wall ran across the street, dividing it from the viaduct, and in 1968 the whole thing looked rather different - definitely seedier, and in 1982 the whole thing looked rather different again (and better kept). It also sprouted a high wall and a fancy tower behind it.

Eee, luv, didn't it all look lovely in't 1980s? Real upwardly mobile.

I had suspicions in the 1980s that the viaduct had been snipped at both ends. Several views from the backyards revealed the structure suddenly ended, distinctly unsafe for trains, and when the new development was built in 1989, the fact that the other end was similarly snipped became painfully evident. Fortunately, since then, CGI has come to the rescue, allowing the viaduct to deposit a tram in the corner shop.

1989: in the stress of being interviewed by the local pigs while he's on the job, Alan Bradley can be forgiven for not noticing the snipped viaduct.

Residents of Archie Street might have found their surroundings faintly potty if they'd lived in Coronation Street, but our old pals in Weatherfield carried on regardless.

Another snipped viaduct arch now straddles Rosamund Street, of course. It arrived out of nowhere sometime around the turn of the century, and is almost bolted onto the side of the Rovers Return. Now, it's no use fans arguing that Maggie Clegg mentioned it in 1972 or some-such and that it's always been there. Because it ain't. Numerous views along the side of the Rovers over the years have revealed the lack, as have officially sanctioned artists' representations of Weatherfield. Up until a few years ago, Rosamund Street was revealed, stretching away into the distance, through the arch. But suddenly that changed and Rosamund Street is no longer a long straight road running through the town, as it was for over fifty years.

Don't fight the weirdness, luvvies - embrace it.

Like the course of true love, the course of Rosamund Street doesn't run smooth. Like the course of true love, it's subject to sudden, inexplicable change.

Well, luvs, time I were off. More coming soon, when we'll 'ave a poke round in the backyards. Boy George's opening the new extension at the Co-op today and Ida Clough's gone to get her picture took, so I'm right mithered. Mr Baldwin's been screaming blue murder.

Look at 'im - flaming disgrace!

Monday, 1 July 2019

What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? Part 2

So, luvs, welcome to Part Two of our little series on the differences between Coronation Street and its long demolished template, Archie Street in the Ordsall district of Salford.

Well, we often noticed the lack of chimneys. In Corrie, not Archie Street. This was obvious in longer shots of the exterior sets after the first set was moved outside in 1968, then recreated in brick in 1969 (backyards were added later). Coronation Street had no chimneys. So, how did Suzie Birchall lob a brick down one in a late 1970s episode? Lord alone knows. We only saw it in close-up, and afterwards it was gone forever. Coal fires were possible in the house interiors though, so I suppose nobody noticed the lack of the necessary up-above.

"Chimneys? Nay, lass, we didn't 'ave chimeys round 'ere in them days. We never noticed the lack
either. We didn't even 'ave whole roofs. AND the cobbles ran the wrong way. We just carried on. We were built of sterner stuff. You young 'uns don't know yer born..."

This strange state of affairs lasted until 1982, when suddenly Corrie had chimneys. And the graffiti littering certain walls, and general run-down appearance of the place, suddenly disappeared. And the house exteriors suddenly got bigger, and there was a building on Rosamund Street we'd never seen before - which became a disco and wine bar. We supposed it was all due to the fact that the 1980s were an expansive and upwardly mobile decade.

Archie Street didn't get bigger. It got demolished. The first families were moved out in 1968 and demolition followed in 1971. But Coronation Street had survived. And was booming.

Even in the new scheme of things, the Corrie exterior was still too small to accommodate what was supposedly inside.

In't '80s, the Street suddenly got chimneys, fully-structured houses, and even the cobbles ran the right way!

Next, we pause at Number 13, home to our beloved Stan and Hilda Ogden. Here lies the strange tale of the straightened wall.

Now, Stan and Hilda didn't ever have much to boast about. They weren't even 'on the phone' (landline, of course - no cell phones back then). Actually, to go off on a tandem, sorry, I mean at a tangent, this made them far more natural back street denizens of that era than most other Corrie residents. It wasn't until the 1980s that 50% of UK households were on the phone, and Coronation Street always seemed a bit too populated with phone subscribers compared to real life humble back street dwellers like me. In my street of twenty houses, only one person had a phone by 1981. Yep, by not having a phone, the Ogdens were being more true to back street life, as I and my true life neighbours were living it, than Elsie Tanner!

But their house was a typically twilight zone Corrie dwelling in other respects.

However, from 1976 onwards, the Ogdens had one thing to boast about.

And I'm not talking about Stan's canteen-sized serving hatch.

Nope. I'm talking about Hilda's murals or 'muriels' (1976-1978 and 1978-1988).

And a wall which flattened itself to accommodate them.

The Oggies had a contoured or stepped wall which miraculously flattened itself when Eddie flogged them the first scenic delight. I think the 'muriel' would have been even funnier with the contoured wall, but there you go. The Oggies' house was obviously very obliging. At times.

'Ee, Stan, I'll 'ave to 'ave a polite word with that wall before Eddie puts me muriel up...'

'Naice' Wendy Nightingale - the first of two wanton Wendys in the life of Ken Barlow - was far too polite to notice the scaffolding, plank, and cold, grey sky in the Oggies' hall in 1976.

Clopping on down to the Corner Shop, we discover several mysteries.

The Corner Shop resembled its Archie Street counterpart (the Daniel Clifton off-licence branch) in exterior appearance more than any other Corrie property. Particularly when it became obvious the Corrie houses had adjoining bay windows (sometimes, early on). The adjoining bays moved the Street away from the template design.

Elsie Tanner and Ena Sharples go hell for leather outside Elsie and Christine Hardman's adjoining bay windows in 1961. By the time of  Ida Barlow's funeral later that year, the windows were having a trial separation. They'd done it before, too.

Mouse-like Florrie Lindley revealed an unexpected brave side when she had the shop frontage drastically altered in the mid-1960s. The shop door was moved from the Viaduct Street corner onto the street itself. This was fine. Logical. Once again, the shop was a little small on the outside to accommodate what was within, but it was when you looked upstairs at the shop flat that the real problems began.

The flat's interior had too many windows and sometimes had its own kitchen and sometimes didn't. Bet didn't seem to have a kitchen and slummed it with Renee and Alf when it came to meals. But the kitchen was very evident at other times - particularly when Kevin and Sally lived there. And the flat was pleasantly lighted - by several windows which didn't exist outside. Where WERE those windows on the exterior set, some of us wondered? In fact, we were surprised when a bathroom window was suddenly revealed in October 1980 to accommodate a story about Tracy Langton getting locked in the lavatory. Where had it been all our lives?

Intrepid Alf Roberts to the rescue - up a ladder to coax the door key from Tracy Langton who had discovered a toilet at the Corner Shop - and locked herself in.

"We've gotta get outta 'ere, luv," - Kevin and Sally Webster are freaked out by the sudden realisation that the Corner Shop flat has too many windows.

In the next exciting episode, we look at a few more mysteries of the terrace, the viaduct, Rosamund Street and the other side of the streets (Archie and Coronation).

Now, I'm off to't pork butcher's before they close. I like to give my family a proper cooked meal every night - none o' yer tinned rubbish. You can ask anybody. Ask Ida Clough.