Remember the days when wrestling was on the television every Saturday afternoon, and Billy Smart’s Circus was the place to go to with the kids?
Well, I’m hoping these two wonderful old photos spark a lot of memories for ‘grapple’ fans and circus visitors alike.
Who could forget watching the likes of Jackie Pallo, with his golden hair, or ‘bad boy’ Mick Mcmanus as they flung themselves and their opponents about the wrestling ring?
What about the masked Ghoul, who recalls seeing him, as he and his fellow wrestlers went round the country, putting on shows in halls and clubs packed full of people (hand-bag-waving grannies included!) Did you see any of them here in South Tyneside?
Perhaps you were a fan of Big Daddy (Shirley Crabtree) or Giant Haystacks. It would be great to hear from anyone who actually met one of these colourful and charismatic stars. And we can’t mention wrestling on ITV without talking about commentator Kent Walton – he was indeed the voice of the sport.
Our picture, taken in August 1966, was taken in the Club Latino, South Shields, and features masked heavyweight wrestler Dr No, who was taking on Scotland’s Rob Roy.
According to the picture caption, this was the very first time in Great Britain that a nightclub had hosted all-in wrestling as part of its cabaret. Do you remember seeing the show?
From the kings of crash, bang, wallop, to the stars of slapstick, and the baggy-trousered circus clowns who were a big part of every circus that toured the land, with their trailers full of wild and exotic animals.
Our other main picture shows Mr J Stanforth, Editor in Chief, Northern Press Ltd, with Coco the clown junior, of Billy Smarts Circus.
They seem to be discussing a stack of photos and postcards, piled high on Mr Stanforth’s desk.
I’m assuming the meeting came about when the circus was in town, which was a big thing in days gone by.
Not only did people flock to the big top to see the clowns, acrobats and other performers, they also paid to look around the menagerie, where they could gaze upon the likes of lions and tigers, and even polar bears.
Thankfully, the keeping of wild animals in circus cages is now a thing of the past. But what can you tell me about visiting the circuses of old?
Also, who remembers spending every Boxing Day glued to the telly watching Billy Smart’s Circus? I don’t know about you, but I was always fascinated by the white-faced clown, who never seemed to get involved in the water-throwing, silly carrying-on being staged by the other clowns?
What were your favourite circus acts – the clowns, the jugglers, the high-wire trapeze artistes or perhaps the horses that used to perform intricate displays, usually under the guidance of a pretty young woman?
I’ve made mention of Billy Smart, but which other circuses do remember coming to South Shields?
Watch out for an upcoming story about Shields and circus people.
Meanwhile, reader Olive Brown (nee Liddle) got in touch to say she recognised the young woman pictured working on the multi-cell battery production line at Burndept Ltd in 1964 (Wednesday, June 8).
Mrs Brown, who lives in South Shields, said the woman pictured is Evelyn Young, whose maiden name was Slesser.
“I used to work with her at Burndepts,” she explains.
“We used to solder the wires on to the batteries. It was very smoky.”
Mrs Brown said she started at Burndept when she was 18-years-old, working there for about four years before moving to Reyrolle’s.
During her time making batteries, Mrs Brown, who met her husband John at the factory, worked alongside a lot of people, some of whom she names below.
“I can remember quite a few people,” she adds.
“There was Peter Cohen, the MD; Geoff Mason, production manager; Maurice Humphries, time and management; Duncan Wright, foreman; Derek Clough, foreman; John Brown, foreman; Peggy Brown, supervisor; Jimmy Holmes, packer, Joe Vassello, supervisor, along with Ella Tasker; Margaret Marshall; Dorothy White and Laurie Vickers, who worked in the office.
What are your memories of Burndept?