Friday, 23 January 2009

1962: IIUIIIILY & IAIIILPS Superior Reading Biscuits - Get 'Em At The Corner Shop!

It's 1962, and Martha Longhurst (Lynne Carol), Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) and Florrie Lindley (Betty Alberge) are horrified to see Christine Hardman (Christine Hargreaves) up on the raincoat factory roof, contemplating suicide.

In their angst, nobody seems to have noticed that Mrs Lindley is selling "IIUIIIILY & IAIIILPS [how on earth did you pronounce it?!!] Superior Reading Biscuits" at the Corner Shop.

Brand names were a problem for the Coronation Street production team for years, as it was assumed that the merest glimpse of a known brand name would be unpaid advertising - and send we viewers scrurrying out in our thousands to buy the product. So, the names would be heavily disguised (did IUIIIILY & IAIIILPS start out as Huntley and Palmer's, I wonder?) and you could end up with pure gobbledygook. It was better to stick a "Starmark", "Key" or "Fantasy" label over the offending trade name, as was often the case later.

However, there could be slip-ups. In Mrs Lindley's window can also be seen the highly distinctive Kellogg's brand name, looking slightly blurred but still recognisable!

Dependable Maggie Clegg (Irene Sutcliffe) appears to have scratched most of the Kellogg's name off of this box of Rice Krispies in the 1970s! "Really, Mrs Clegg, one feels one must protest at the dire state of your merchandise! If the box is in that state, what on earth must the contents be like?!"

HV Kershaw, Corrie writer and producer, recalled in his fascinating 1981 memoir, The Street Where I Live, that one incumbent at the Corner Shop caused the production team a severe headache. A recognisable tinned brand name was tucked away behind some dummy "Key" brand tins on the Corner Shop shelf. Unfortunately, the shop owner accidentally fumbled behind the dummy tins and produced one of the recognisable brand variety, telling her customer that she knew it wasn't as good as her usual brand, but it was all she had in stock at the moment! The manufacturer was quick to pick up the phone and dial Granada!

Mind you, that wouldn't go down too well in the current day and age!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

1982: A Shock For Hilda Ogden

I recall working as a care assistant in a Social Services home for the elderly in the 1980s, and being told by one female resident: "You young people think you invented sex - well, you didn't!" She delighted in telling staff about her wartime exploits. Or perhaps I mean sexploits!

Nevertheless, although lots went on, society only slowly relaxed its view that sex outside marriage was wrong - until the arrival of the 1960s, when, with National Service gone and the Pill available, things altered dramatically. Call it Peace. Call it Love. What it often boiled down to was promiscuous nookie, with no "hang ups" about it.

Not everybody was glad of this loosening of morals, and even in the 1980s, the likes of Hilda Ogden could be found being shocked by the likes of Mike Baldwin.

Daily Star, July 28, 1982:

Nosey gossip Hilda Ogden gets a shock when she arrives to clean Mike Baldwin's flat in CORONATION STREET (ITV, 7.30).

The breakfast table is set for two - and Maggie Dunlop (Jill Kerman) appears from the bedroom wearing a dressing gown.

"Just to put you in the picture, she's moved in," says Mike (Johnny Briggs) to an astonished Hilda (Jean Alexander).

Flaunting it in the 1980s - Mike and Maggie traumatised a boggle-eyed Hilda. Maggie was the owner of Maggie's Flowers, the shop where Eddie Yeats' (Geoffrey Hughes) CB romance partner Marion Willis (Veronica Doran) worked.

Awful '82 - Hilda would undoubtedly have been shocked by Erika Roe "streaking" at Twickenham. Perhaps deelyboppers (below) were more her scene?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A Screen Capture Request

Dorry has written to say she liked the recent screen cap of Len and Rita at the Kabin in 1976. How about another, she asks, this time showing Rita's face?

With pleasure, Dorry. Len had invited Rita to the Lake District with him. Rita turned him down, saying that whenever she went to the Lakes it always rained and it wasn't fair on the other folk who were there.

Mavis, who was tidying up the cafe at the back of the shop and overheard the entire chat-up and put-down, told Rita she was daft not to go. But independent Rita was convinced she would have been daft if she had agreed to go!

Monday, 12 January 2009

1983: Beverley Callard Down On Emmerdale Farm

I've just published this article on The Beckindale Bugle, one of my other blogs, but I believe it is also of interest here!

Beverley Callard (then Beverley Sowden) made her soap debut in Emmerdale Farm in 1983. She played Angie Richards, a chip shop cashier, who was briefly Jackie Merrick's girlfriend. She had big hair. She wore pixie boots... and she was a little too modern for Beckindale.

The relationship was doomed to failure, the couple had nowhere to be alone together, and soon Angie was calling the whole thing off. This led to an altercation at the local disco: as True by Spandau Ballet played in the background, jealous Jackie almost came to blows with Angie's new boyfriend.

Jackie cooled it, and Angie disappeared from his life.

In 1984 Beverley Callard made her Corrie debut as June Dewhurst.

In 1989, Beverley became Liz McDonald, wife of big Jim, and mother of Steve and Andy - and more permanent soap stardom was hers.

Friday, 9 January 2009

1976: Rita Finds Fame...

Len Fairclough chats up Rita Littlewood. Neither seem to have noticed the fact that Rita is appearing on the cover of the TV Times. Had her performances at the Gatsby led to an appearance on Sunday Night At The London Palladium?

Watching Coronation Street way back in 1976, I recall boggling at the sight of a copy of a TV Times magazine featuring Barbara Mullaney (now Knox) on the cover in the Kabin's magazine rack. It appeared there in several scenes, and kind of freaked me out!

Did the good people of Weatherfield watch Coronation Street on the telly like the rest of us, I wondered?

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The 1960s: Those Were The Days!

Annie Walker feels sorry for Elsie Tanner, whose son, Dennis, is just out of prison in 1960: "Ooh, some mother's do 'ave 'em!" she tells young Kenneth Barlow.

Personally, I love the 1960s Coronation Street era best of all. This was the decade which saw the show make its screen debut, shoot to the top of the ratings, and introduced us to legends like Ena Sharples, Elsie Tanner, Annie Walker, Len Fairclough and Albert Tatlock.

It was a decade of frantic change - with the hippie-trippy "flower power" era of the second half of the decade looking somewhat incongruous beside the first half - which contained, amongst many other goodies, the Beatles and their pudding basin haircuts.

The decade brought us the Magic Roundabout, trim phones, the lava lamp, mini skirts, maxi skirts, afghan coats, the start of the Women's Lib movement, the first moon landing, space hoppers, Monty Python, Dr Who, the Stylophone and flared trousers.

And, of course, Coronation Street, which made its screen debut on 9 December 1960 - in glorious black and white.

There are some people who claim The Street "lost something" with the advent of colour on ITV in 1969 - some of its gritty realism. I agree - perhaps that was best portrayed in black and white.

For many of us, however, black and white Corrie continued for years beyond 1969! My family had a black and white telly until 1978, then rented a colour set. But we couldn't afford the rental payments, so back it went after only a few weeks - and it was 1983 before colour was seen in our house again!

But, colour or not, The Street was definitely at its grittiest in the 1960s.

And, in my humble opinion, at its most consistently excellent.

The Street in the early-to-mid 1970s took a tumble in the ratings. There were, I believe, some wonderful high points in that era, but my most vivid memories of it are of lots of moaning, Ken Barlow romancing the headmaster's daughter in a retro cravat, and liberal lashings of social comment and disaster. The Street's sense of humour was reduced tremendously.

Then came Bill Podmore, who took over as producer in 1976, and another golden era began - social comment, yes, unemployed youngsters robbing Baldwin's factory was one of them, but also brilliant humour - who could forget the Ogden's "muriel"?

The early 1980s - with Eddie's CB radio craze and "Vince St Clair" were also brilliant. But The Street suffered terribly from the disappearance of old faithfuls like Ena Sharples, Albert Tatlock, Stan Ogden and Annie Walker. In Ena's case, the character last appeared in 1980, and it took a year or two for her loss to be felt as she had been absent for lengthy periods several times during the 1970s. When she disappeared in 1980, it was hoped that her absence would again be temporary.

But in 1983, we really began to feel the cold winds of change. Pat Phoenix announced she was leaving, Geoffrey Hughes left, Doris Speed became ill and never appeared in the show again, Peter Adamson was sacked and Peter Dudley died - as did Violet Carson. It was only at this point that I realised Ena was gone forever. Vi had been hoping to make further appearances in The Street, and I recall an article in a tabloid newspaper some time before her death, entitled: I'LL BE BACK.

But in December 1983 Ena was no more.

Even with the Duckworths taking up residence at Number 9 that year, the loss of so many of the "old school" cast in such a short space of time adversely affected the atmosphere within the show.

And 1984 brought fresh blows as Jack Howarth and Bernard Youens died, and Fred Feast left the show. It took some years for Corrie to fully recover, although it continued to rate well.

But there were no such problems in the '60s - with Elsie and Len either making eyes at each other or having flamin' great rows, Elsie and Ena almost coming to blows, Mr Swindley prattling away to Miss Nugent at Gamma Garments, Annie keeping poor Jack in his place at the Rovers, and the Ogdens arriving at Number 13.

Yep, the 1960s shine brightest of all The Street decades for me.

Gritty, dramatic, funny, fiery and raw - in a nutshell, The Street in those days was pure black and white magic!

"Your bottom's getting bigger," Linda Cheveski tells her mother. Poor Elsie, struggling to get the fire to light, was not best pleased.
"There's some very funny people in this street!" Ena Sharples told Florrie Lindley, the new owner of the Corner Shop in 1960. Not that Ena included herself in that category!

A scene used in the end credits of some of the early episodes. It's easy to believe that Ena Sharples, Elsie Tanner and Albert Tatlock were real and actual, living their lives somewhere below those smoking chimneys and wet rooftops! In the distance is St Clement's Church, Ordsall, which stood opposite the corner of Archie Street, the street which provided the original inspiration for the exterior architecture of Corrie's terraced houses.

St Clement's Church in 1928, the year it celebrated its Golden Jubilee. The church still stands today, but Archie Street has long gone. The local council started moving residents out in 1968 and the street was demolished in 1971.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

What Happened To Deirdre's Hair In The 1980s?

Barbara writes:

What on earth happened to Deirdre Barlow's hair in the 1980s?

What happened to a lot of people's hair in the 1980s, Barbara? Gel, mousse, curling tongs - we had them all! And we misused them gleefully.

I was never without hair gel from the early '80s onwards and when I first saw mousse on shop shelves ("St. St. St. Studio, Studio, Studio Line...") I started using that as well.

The style Deirdre sported around 1987 was, I believe, known as a "shaggy perm" - one of the decade's "triumphs", but a little later she had what I can only describe as a brillo pad/bird's nest perm. The consistency was all wrong for a bubble and it was too short to be a shaggy! This style saw her into the 1990s.

The thing is, we didn't think those styles at all strange or unsightly back in the '80s/early '90s.

But it's so easy to spot fashion atrocities in retrospect!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Helen Worth Remembers Pat Phoenix

Helen Worth, whose character Gail Potter lodged with Elsie Tanner from 1976 to 1979, fondly recalled her time working with the Street legend in a 1990s interview:

"The enthusiasm was extraordinary. She never lost the love of acting, she was always excited about a new scene or a new story line. She really did love it!

"Pat, at the best of times, would wander off from the script - because she used to enjoy it so much that she decided if she thought of something better to say, she'd say it! And it was up to us to follow her. Her cue for 'drying' [forgetting her lines] was always: 'If I bang on the table, come in with something!' And so that was really the way we worked!"

Pat as Elsie in 1976, in conversation with Annie Walker: "I'll tell you something, if I had the chance of a fella who'd give me safety and security, another chance of a fella who'd give me sleepless nights because I never knew what he was up to... I'd take the sleepless nights!"

Annie, who knew Elsie of old, replied: "I have no doubt!"

Eric Rosser - Coronation Street's Original Archivist

From the Daily Mirror, June 18, 1983:

Two souvenir brass plates on the wall of Eric Rosser's office were used on the coffins in the TV funerals of Ernie Bishop and Cyril Turpin, late of Coronation Street.

Not that Eric needs any reminders. He knows everything about everyone in the Street. Eric, 58, is Mr Memory, the programme's official archivist.

Off the cuff, he can recite births, marriages and deaths or the name of an actress who had a two-episode part in 1963. His encyclopaedic knowledge is at his finger tips in his files, card index and bound story volumes.

Mr Rosser saw the first episode of the Street during a lengthy stay in hospital in 1960. "I was hooked," he said.

In 1970, he wrote a Coronation Street script.

Harry Kershaw, then executive producer, was amazed by Eric's knowledge. He put him under contract as a consultant.

Every week Eric sits in on the final rehearsals and the recordings of two episodes. He still watches every Monday and Wednesday night.

Once, while Eric was on holiday, the studio props man provided an egg-and-bacon breakfast for Stan Ogden.

Regular viewers knew, of course, Stan is allergic to eggs.

Eric said: "I felt myself go hot in my chair. I knew we'd get lots of letters."

He still shudders over the script in which Annie Walker complained that her grandchildren were noisy. She has none.

Now Eric helps vet scripts and regularly meets the writing team. He reminds them of anniversaries and bits of Street history.

Storyline writer Esther Rose said: "He knows more about the Street than anyone else. He's a gold mine of information. Absolutely invaluable."

Bill Podmore with Eric Rosser in the 1980s.

Personally, I always appreciated the tremendous attention to detail in the Coronation Street saga. The fact that the events we were watching would be catalogued and could influence events years into the future added tremendously to the reality of the show, as did the details Mr Rosser kept on file concerning the characters - their backgrounds, likes and dislikes, birthdays, etc.

The archivist was very much behind the scenes, the press clipping featured here is a great rarity. But Mr Rosser's contribution to the sense of reality in the show was absolutely massive.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

1976: Bill Podmore Makes A Cameo Appearance?

Did Bill Podmore, Corrie producer/executive producer from 1976-1988, make a cameo appearance in the show in 1976? I was preparing some publicity for Back On The Street, a picture to represent each decade, when I discovered that the shot I had selected for the 1970s, a 1976 scene from a bank holiday street party, appeared to feature Bill Podmore, as well as Renee, Elsie and Gail!

I've been back to re-examine the episode and the guy in the suit certainly looks like Mr Podmore! Can anyone shed more light on the matter?

1982: The New Exterior Set

The original exterior set of Coronation Street was dubbed by some of the cast and crew "the street where the sun never shines". Overshadowed by surrounding buildings, it was often a bitingly cold place to work. Regular visits by local vandals added to its bleak and inhospitable atmosphere.

In his 1990 book Coronation Street - The Inside Story, Bill Podmore, producer/executive producer of the show from 1976-1988 wrote:

The set had to be made a mite more comfortable, and one improvement I engineered was to erect a six-foot wall a few feet behind each front door, and have it roofed over. In effect, a tiny hallway was created, complete with staircase in case the camera glimpsed inside. Most important, portable heaters could be installed in the worst weather, to give some warmth.

The Coronation Street exterior set, which was established in the late 1960s, was much smaller than life size, had no chimneys, and the cobblestones ran in a different direction to the house frontages!

But never mind. Until 1968, the production team had made do with a studio-built exterior set and the open air was vastly preferable, adding greatly to the reality of the programme, despite the drawbacks of what was known as the Grape Street lot.

To begin with, back in 1968, the wood and lath studio exterior set was brought outside but, according to HV Kershaw in his excellent 1981 book The Street Where I Live, a severe English winter wreaked havoc with it and so the decision was made, and the money found, to build the exterior in brick in 1969.

Original designer Denis Parkin oversaw the operation, employing a couple of bricklayers to do the main work and joiners to transfer the original studio set windows onto the bricks. Half a roof was built and filming could begin.

He related the tale in the book The Coronation Street Story, by Daran Little (1995):

"I think it was probably about eighteen months later that Harry Kershaw found some more money and I built the backs in the back yard."

The Street itself was a total sham - but the massive viaduct looming over it was impressively real.

A small viewing hatch was cut into the site entrance gates so that fans could take a peep at the Street, but there were no formal arrangements for fan visits to the site. Apart from Granada staff, various associates and visiting dignitaries, the only people that got beyond the gates were the vandals and a few lucky viewers.

Roger Nightingale was pretty darned miffed to discover that his wife Wendy was committing adultery with Ken Barlow in 1976. He bopped Ken on the jaw and dragged Wendy out of No 11 and into his car. In their angst, the Nightingales failed to notice the glimpse of cold grey sky and what appeared to be scaffolding and a plank walkway in the Ogden's house. Just take a look at the glass panel above the door.

The Daily Mirror, November 13, 1981, brought news of work commencing which would mean big change for the Street's exterior:

Drop In At The Rover

The Rovers Return, television's most famous pub, may open for real business.

The pub and the rest of the Coronation Street site are to be rebuilt on a three-and-a-half acre site in Manchester.

Yesterday actress Doris Speed, who plays the pub's landlady Annie Walker, cut the first turf on the site.

Granada said it hopes to allow the public to see the set when it is not being used.

Visitors may be able to call at the Rovers Return for refreshments.

This is Doris Speed apparently laying the "foundation stone" for the new outdoor lot. Is it that single brick laid on top?

Daily Mirror, 22/2/1982 - Hilda (Jean Alexander) takes a look at Number 13 as work on the new exterior set progresses.

The old exterior set was demolished in 1982 when work on its replacement was completed. The new one even has fibre glass chimneys!

On 5 May 1982, Coronation Street's new exterior set was visited by the Queen and Prince Phillip. Here's how the Sun, May 6, 1982, reported the event:

Prince Phillip popped into the Rovers Return with the Queen yesterday... and was chatted up by saucy barmaid Bet Lynch.

Bet - actress Julie Goodyear - welcomed the royal couple to Coronation Street and told Prince Phillip: "I would pull a pint for you any time."

Television's most famous street was decked out from end to end with red, white and blue bunting.

And Bet boasted proudly that she was wearing red knickers, with white suspender belt and blue bra.

She also sported three-inch earrings with pictures of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

When Prince Phillip asked: "Is it opening time?" she told him: "I'd even open the pub up specially."

The visit to the newly-built Coronation Street set near Granada TV's Manchester studios was a welcome break for the Queen.

She is being kept informed of events in the South Atlantic where her son, Prince Andrew, is serving on HMS Invincible.

Actor Peter Adamson, who plays Len Fairclough, passed on a message of sympathy.

He told her, quietly: "It must be a very worrying time for you and your family. Our hearts are with you."

The Queen smiled and said: "Thank you."

The Queen, who is said to be a big fan of the TV series, was greeted by Coronation Street's own version of royalty, Doris Speed. She plays "Queen" Annie Walker, landlady of the Rovers.

Then the royal couple walked the length of the street, built in a former railway yard to replace the old set which was not considered authentic enough.

At Number 16 [actually it was Number 13 - Andy's note], Hilda Ogden - actress Jean Alexander - had removed her hair curlers for the occasion.

The Queen made a few discreet inquiries about her relationship with lodger Eddie Yeats, played by heavy-weight actor Geoffrey Hughes.

Cheeky Stan Ogden, played by Bernard Youens, asked the Queen: "Can I have the contract to clean the Palace windows?"

But she told him: "I think it would take too long."

A surprise visitor at Number 5 was Brian Tilsley, actor Chris Quinten, who according to the scriptwriters is working in Saudi Arabia.

Chris said: "The Queen asked me what Saudi was like and I told her I had flown back specially to see her."

A few doors along, at Number 11. firebrand Elsie Tanner, alias Pat Phoenix, chatted with the Queen about their favourite subject... pet dogs.

The Queen went on to meet the rest of the cast, including Albert Tatlock - veteran actor Jack Howarth.

Woman magazine, July, 1982, had the interesting idea of mixing fact with fiction and reporting the event as though the royal visit had been to the street's residents, rather than the cast and behind the scenes staff of the programme.

Hilda’s eyes shone with joy as she breathed the words. “It was the greatest day of my life. I’ll never wash these gloves now she’s touched ’em. And thank God Stanley behaved himself.”

It was quite some minutes before she was able to contain herself enough to put on her coat and head down to the Rovers Return with Stan for a celebratory port and lemon.

“Stanley did me proud for once,” she beamed, patting his shoulder. “I told him to ask her Royalty about cleaning all them windows at the Palace; we’d give her a special rate of course, and she said that they’d be in touch.”

Annie Walker stepped forward wearing her most gracious manner. “At any rate, I’m sure it was a wonderful opportunity for all of you to be in the presence of true royalty. I did mention to Her Majesty during the course of our conversation that I was delighted the sun had shone on her today. If I do say so myself, she seemed charmed.”

And the sun certainly had shone, doing justice to the Street, which had surpassed itself for spectacle and colour with flags and flowers.

It was the most important day the Street had ever seen. The Queen and Prince Phillip were actually going to pay a visit.

Best clothes were brought out, shoes were shined and sprays of flowers pinned on. Bet stuck red, white and blue flowers in her blonde beehive and donned a large pair of Charles and Di earrings, prompting a look of disapproval from Annie.

Fred Gee, red-faced with exertion after polishing the bar glasses all morning, had struggled into a new shirt and stood smartly to attention on the front step of the Rovers.

Hilda had been busy for weeks. With pride and joy, she pinned up her first new net curtains for fifteen years and then set about scrubbing the house from top to bottom. Stan caught her washing the best china. “What’s all the fuss about, woman, they’ll never come in here,” he grumbled. But Hilda retorted: “You never know, Stanley. Her Graciousness might be thirsty after all that talking, and I’m not having the place looking like a pig-sty if she does decide to drop in…”

The Queen and Prince Phillip stroll the famous cobbles.

It was reported back in 1982 in some quarters that the new exterior set had been built "normal size" but, as Jean Alexander pointed out, it was actually "more normal size". It was still rather a dinky Street, although via the magic of the TV cameras it looked fine.

And the production team decided to try and lay to rest the ongoing mystery of the toilet doors in the Rovers Return, which appeared to lead into Albert Tatlock's house at Number 1. A small entry was inserted between the pub and Albert's bay window, probably not really big enough to accommodate the ladies' and gents' conveniences, but better than nowt!

As for viewers being able to visit the set and have a drink in The Rovers, the Granada Studios Tour was open to the public from 1988-1999 and made many dreams come true. You could stroll down the Street, visit other attractions (anyone for Baker Street?) and a replica of The Rovers was built where real beer could be supped.

The 1980s exterior set is still used today. Big change came in 1989 when Baldwin's factory and the Community Centre were demolished and work began on the new houses, shops and industrial units. Further additions have been made in more recent years.

Thursday, 1 January 2009


Miss Mavis Riley, circa 1980.

Rick writes:

A picture of Mavis please! Don't you agree that Mave was the ultimate Corrie character?

Certainly one of them, Rick - she was a great favourite of mine. I only have one Mavis photo at the moment and it's pretty small, but I hope it's OK!

Cathy writes:

Happy New Year! I love this blog... it's different! What made you start it?

Happy New Year to you, too, Cathy.

To answer your question, The Street helped to see me through some pretty bad times when I was a kid/early teen in the mid-to-late 1970s and I grew very interested in its history way back then. I drifted away from the show in the early 1980s because my life had become rather busy, although I still followed it whenever possible.

Now I'm a happily married and (unhappily) mortgaged forty-something, I often reflect on my youthful fondness for The Street and lots of other things from "back in the day", as the saying goes. So, I thought I might as well share my collected material, knowledge, thoughts, feelings and general ramblings with other interested folk through this and my other blogs.

I'm glad you like Back On The Street so far and hope you continue to visit here.

Thanks for getting in touch.