WELL, was it destiny or what?! How strange it is that places can help shape the course of your life.
We’re staying with the nightclub La Strada here. I mentioned the other day chatting to founder Sandford Goudie, whose association with that distinctive old building at the junction of Station Road and Commercial Road goes back further than may have been thought.
He has never forgotten being a given a picture by his father, of himself at just under a year old and seated with his dad, which he was told had been taken at a photographer’s studio which occupied the premises that later became – yes, the La Strada
He has never forgotten being a given a picture by his father, of himself at just under a year old and seated with his dad, which he was told had been taken at a photographer’s studio which occupied the premises that later became – yes, the La Strada.
And I’ve got a feeling that we’re looking at it here.
This view of the location dates from before the last war, when the bottom of Commercial Road was being realigned. You can see the work going on over on the right.
The property that later housed the La Strada was, at this time, occupied by the upholstery works of Smith’s furnishers who were well known in the town for their shop in Mile End Road.
But look, too, at the word ‘Rapide.’ I’m wondering if that’s Rapide Photographers.
We’ve come across Rapide before. They were a national chain that specialised in ‘pictures while you wait’ and earlier had a branch near the old Majestic ballroom at the Pier Head.
It was founded by Samuel Brooke, who lived in Sunderland Road in Shields, and who died in 1947.
I don’t think he was from Shields originally but had visited the town and taken a liking to it, seeing a demand, possibly, for quick snaps for visitors to the seaside.
He became a prominent member of the Jewish community here.
The building you see here had an interesting history, though I’ve never got to the bottom of what it was originally built as.
There was a music hall on or near the site in the late 19th century, but by the early 1930s it housed an amusement arcade where Harry Rennie, the famous “Fasting Man,” publicly starved himself in a coffin-like case, sustained by little more than cigarettes.
When he finally emerged, his toe nails had dropped out!