Coronation Street sexpot brought Shields to standstill

SEX SYMBOL ... Coronation Street's Elsie Tanner - actress Pat Phoenix - brought South Shields to a standstill.
SEX SYMBOL ... Coronation Street's Elsie Tanner - actress Pat Phoenix - brought South Shields to a standstill.

SCREAMS of “Elsie! Elsie!” echoed up and down King Street in South Shields.

Pat Phoenix, Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street, was a huge star in 1964.

No modern-day soap star could claim to enjoy the same level of fame.

The Stockport-born actress, 40 at the time, was almost as well known as a movie icon or sports superstar.

As the feisty Elsie, she appeared in the long-running soap from its launch in 1960 to 1973, then again from 1976 to 1984.

Even though she was not far off 40 when she first appeared in the show, Phoenix quickly gained a reputation as one of Britain’s top sex symbols.

However, towards the end of her time on Corrie, that status was treated with incredulity by none other than movie legend Dustin Hoffman while visiting the show’s set to promote his cross-dressing film Tootsie.

On this day 49 years ago, Phoenix, born Patricia Manfield, was in Shields to officially open the new Tops clothing store.

Thousands thronged Russell Street and King Street, and police had to hold back the crowd as it surged forward when Miss Phoenix arrived.

After she had cut a red tape stretched across the doorway, a bouquet was presented by 10-year-old Susan Peel, daughter of the store manager.

Elsewhere, rats were terrifying residents in High Shields.

A pied piper was being sought to lead them out of Byethorne Street, Walpole Street, Corbridge Street and HS Edwards Street.

The troublesome rodents were found in people’s beds and seen jumping out of drawers. The situation had become so serious that 90 residents signed a petition asking for urgent action.

“It really is terrible,” said Mrs M Wall, one of the petition’s organisers, adding: “Now they are getting into our houses. Something must be done.”

In the sporting world, Sunderland football fans were feeling unloved.

After the departure of Alan Brown, to Sheffield Wednesday, three potential replacements had turned down their manager’s job.

Gazette sports correspondent Frank Johnson was incredulous, writing: “Sunderland, whose eyes were set on the European Cup before the season started, are not offering chicken feed.

“The new manager, whenever he lands, will be on a five-year, £4,000-plus-a-term contract.”

Albert Finney was hot property in 1964, after appearances in the Oscar-winning period romp Tom Jones and the gritty northern drama, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

The Salford-born actor, now 77, was starring in Night Must Fall, showing at the ABC in South Shields 49 years ago.

A remake of the 1937 film of the same name, based on a 1935 play by Emlyn Williams, it was directed by Karel Reisz and scripted by Clive Exton.

The cast also included Sheila Hancock, Mona Washbourne and Susan Hampshire.

The opening of Tops was big news.

It was the first clothing supermarket in South Shields and operated a help-yourself service.

The store was a subsidiary of Leeds-based firm PS and J Ellis.