Shining a light on Latino

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The recent articles about nightclubs in South Shields certainly seem to have struck a chord with readers, if the number of letters, emails and telephone calls I have been receiving is anything to go by.

Take Norman Glasham, of South Shields, for example. He wrote to me recently about the Latino nighspot, and a wonderful anecdote regarding its construction.

This is his letter: “Regarding your interesting features on the old Latino Nitespot, I worked on that club as an electrician during the building of the club in the mid sixties.

“I was 25 years old, and another chap, also an electrician, named Jimmy Thompson, worked with me (he was a lot older than me).

“The building firm we worked for was George Daniels Builders, of South Shields.

“One interesting job involved the big flower-shaped lights, mounted around the outside of the building.

“Jimmy and I had to work at night, putting first one type of flower fitting and then another type, and then putting them in the lighting so that Stan Henry, the Latino owner, who had driven up to Cleadon, could see the flowers lit up, and could choose which particular fittings he would have to enhance the building.

“Cleadon being high up was the exact place to view the lights, but the only way he could contact us was by waiting for a call from a nearby phone box, so it was up and doon the scaffold quite a few times – bits those lights were quite unique in those times.”

Wonderful memories, thank you Norman.

Meanwhile, 77-year-old former policeman Ron Callaghan rang me up after recognising himself and so many others in the recent spread of photos taken in La Strada.

He says the attached photographs feature the following people. From top picture, left to right: Frankie Kane, Maureen, Beris Redpath and her husband Derek, Ron’s wife Audrey (who had two hairdressing salons, called Ronald) Ron and Bill Johnson, who was a ship’s emngineer).

“We spent almost every night in La Strada,” reveals Ron, “at least six days a week, including Sunday lunchtimes.

“It was a great meeting place, and everyone got dressed up to go there. It had a great atmosphere.

“With it being the first nightclub in the North East it was quite novel, and attracted all the big-name acts.”

Ron remembers talking to Val Doonican in the gents. He asked Ron what jokes the people of Shields liked.

“I said the clientele don’t like their jokes too blue.” And Val duly obliged, said the former detective and special branch officer.

Other acts that Ron recalls were Anita Harris and Engelbert Humperdinck.

“They were briiliant nights,” adds Ron, who recalls queuing from 5pm to get into the club over New Year.