Recent Programme Acquisitions – 1950 to 1962
Liz Burton writes:
Most of you probably know that the Friends maintain a record of all theatre programmes that are given to us, and I’m always happy to update the spreadsheet, which gives me the excuse to escape these troubled times for a while and step back in time.
The most recent bequest of programmes includes a grand haul of 173 from ‘the second Golden Age’ 1950 to 1962.
These later programmes are brief and basic, combining a cast list and synopsis of scenes with pages of advertisements for local businesses. I’ve been studying these adverts to see what they tell us about life in Streatham in the 50s and very early 60s.
Programme 1: International Ballet, November 1951
The Ballet was directed by Mona Inglesby, and on the night of Wednesday November 21st, they performed For Love or Money by Algeranoff, who despite his name was a British ballet master and choreographer who had partnered Anna Pavlova.
Many of the advertisements from the early 50s clearly reflected the everyday peacetime preoccupations of theatregoers.
Estate agents: Russell and Co. Estate Agent of Leigham Hall Parade on the High Road; the Clerkenwell Building Society;
Home improvements: Paull Brothers Ironmongers of Streatham Hill, Parker’s Wholesale Builders’ Merchants of Brixton Hill, Sanitary Specialists; Trembath and Co. Frigidaire service, also of Streatham Hill.
Personal grooming: Alfred C. King, the hairdresser. also of Leigham Hall Parade, who had been there since the 1930s; Collins Bros. (Men’s Wear) Ltd. of Electric Avenue Brixton and Julian Sloman of Streatham Hill (High Class Ladies’ and Gents’ Tailor).
For those with a keen interest in the new technology, there was Television House, on Streatham Hill and Sternhold Avenue and Fotographia, for all your photographic needs, next to the Regal Cinema (later the ABC, before it closed in 2000).
However, theatregoers still allowed themselves to have fun occasionally. The Palm Beach, almost adjoining the theatre? Your obvious choice for a meal either before or after the theatre offered Continental Cuisine and Wholesome Food. They managed to open seven days a week too, in spite of ongoing food rationing. George Wine House, nearly opposite this theatre, was available for a range of spirituous liquors, and finally, the jewel in Streatham’s crown, the Stork Club, opened by Charles Chaperlin in 1948, boasted 10,000 members by 1957. The Stork advertised Cocktail Lounge with TELEVISION (sic) and Friday Gala Nights with Cabaret.
Programme 2: Patience, August 1955
This was not the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, but a comedy starring Geraldine McEwan, whom many will remember as playing Miss Marple on television, from 2004 to 2008. I remember her around the same time, the proud possessor of a Fulham season ticket, taking her grandchildren to Craven Cottage!
By the mid-50s, although some of the original firms were still going strong, new trends were coming to the fore, including car repair. CarMart Ltd. of Streatham, next to where Tesco Extra is now, claimed to use only GENUINE AUSTIN PARTS, while John A. Sparks & Co. of Ardwell Road, next to the theatre, specialised in Morris ‘quality first’ service. Lucas of Brixton Hill, on the other hand, specialised in re-cellulosing, which I believe involved spraying the car to give a shiny finish.
More restaurants had opened, probably due to the end of food rationing in 1954. Howards Restaurant, the theatregoers’ rendezvous for the DISCRIMINATING, at 29, The High and The Apollo Restaurant, with the Exclusive West End Cuisine, three course dinner 5/-, joined the Palm Beach, which was under the new management of Mr. Charles Anthony.
Presumably, the rise of eating out led to an interest in slimming. If the all new SLIMSWIFT bath treatment (approved by doctors, no rigorous dieting, no wearisome exercises) somehow failed to slim you down, you could always fall back on the tried and tested Slimfit Corset Co., of Leigham Court Parade, Corset Makers since 1880!
Fotographia were still in business, now offering the latest G. B. Bell and Howell cine camera. But perhaps the stand-out advertisement of 1955 was this from A.G. Wireless and Electrical Co. of Norbury.
The audiences of August 1955 were only a month away from Grace Archer’s death in a stable fire and the birth of Independent Television, the eventual death knell for provincial theatre.
Programme 3: Honour Bright, July 1958
This play included what must have been an early appearance by Richard O’Sullivan, a huge star in the 1970s.
More restaurants had now appeared. The Plantation Grill, near where Westbury’s chemist is now, offered a mix of French and Oriental cuisine, and Le Leon Blanc Grill Room was a feature of the White Lion.
Meanwhile, the Camberwell Building Society had been subsumed by the South London Building Society.
Collins Bros. were offering the latest STRADS trousers with self belts, rubberised shirt grips and zip fronts for 89/6 (£9.48), in competition with Gaydon’s (When it comes to clothes, come to Gaydon’s) and G.S. Evangeli the Tailors (buy yourself a really good handmade suit). While all these stores catered mainly for men, Ava Sports, the sportswear specialists, billed itself as the Skirt Shop.
A.G. Wireless and Electricals were now offering 17 inch televisions for 67 guineas (£70.35 in new money!), while Fotographia proposed the camera of your dreams – the Kodak Bantam Coloursnap Camera for £10.15s.1d, or £10.75 (why the odd penny I wonder?)
Programme 4: The Rehearsal, June 1962
This was the very last production performed at the theatre before it became a Mecca bingo hall. It featured Judy Parfitt, still stealing every scene as Sister Monica Joan in Call the Midwife. Strangely, there is absolutely no indication in the programme that this was the end of an era. This makes me wonder if the theatre was forced to close very quickly. Perhaps others can shed light on this.
Streathamites of the early 1960s obviously appreciated Asian food. Howards Restaurant, the theatregoers’ rendezvous for the DISCRIMINATING, at 29, The High and The Apollo Restaurant, with the Exclusive West End Cuisine, three course dinner 5/- become the Blue Orchid and Yang Chow Chinese restaurants respectively.
Alfred C. King, the hairdresser, seems to have morphed into Robert, who brought Hairstyling in the Mayfair manner to the High Parade, as well as Croydon, Purley, and other south London locations.
In 1962, for those who wanted to stray beyond Streatham however, an Atlantic cruise was on offer. Six days of luxury aboard the liner Hanseatic, air-conditioned throughout and most cabins with private facilities, all for £82 half round trip!
And finally, the prize for the longest running advertisement goes to….
Fotographia, now offering a Kodak Brownie Movie 8 camera and projector, and Cosy Cars, a long-standing taxi firm which closed only recently.