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NEW PAGE FEBRUARY 2021
David St John presents:
CALL UP THE GROUPS 19
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As with every new webpage, I shall be adding more information as it trickles in, so please come on back to check it again in the near future. I also add other stuff to previous web-pages to slot in with existing profiles but often find it difficult to keep track due to the volume of material sent in from all over the world! If anyone has sent me info but not yet published, then let me know or resend.
Thanks to so many who have contributed to my Hampshire-based Groups pages, as I plough through old emails-some of which have been overlooked. This latest page is yet another mix of rare personal photos with memories of much loved family members- some of whom are sadly no longer with us.
November 2020 Fifties memories:
I received a great email from Val Gradige, whose late husband Stan was a well-known fixture as a former chairman of Fords Sports & Social Club on Wide Lane Southampton, just off the M27 motorway. The factory was world famous for producing the top-rate Ford Transit vans across many years, with this excellent club next door - one of our popular 60s group venues. The only drawback being the lack of a decent loading are for our gear, having to park on the busy main road and pavement, then carting the equipment along the path then up the stairs before traipsing across the dance floor to set up in the stage. Always worth it, as the audiences were always very responsive with a great atmosphere. Stan worked on maintenance for fourteen years, with over eight years spent as chairman of the club. Val spent forty years at Fords, starting in the sewing room where they turned out car seats - a wonderful happy time of her life alongside great pals who enjoyed the well known working conditions.
Stan was a natural outgoing man who acted as host and M.C. all over the area, including big shows at the Guildhall where the likes of Billy Tennant and the Squadronaires and other top dance bands performed at various firms' annual dances. When pop group manager Reg Calvert moved down to Southampton from Yorkshire in the mid Fifties, he always got in touch with Stan and Val to help out with his shows around the county, mainly the three nights over each weekend. The couple went down to Reg's house in Portland Terrace near the city centre, as the group cars, vans and the large Calvert Austin Princess were loaded with the equipment before setting off with a couple of bouncers to keep an eye on it all. Val recalls a large house rabbit at the premises as they picked up cases of soft drinks to be sold in the interval, catering for the thirsty jivers! She also collected the door money on these memorable nights out. Other times- mostly on a Saturday they would meet up with Reg at the notorious 'German Edie's Restaurant where the outrageous hostess held court. If any unsuspecting man was wearing a tie on the way in, she would immediately whip out a pair of scissors then cut it off to place on the wall alongside hundreds more 'trophies'.
Before retiring, Stan's final entertainment stint was as a Bingo Caller at the Atherley Cinema in Shirley, but Val was able to send me this superb collection of photos taken at various party nights in the late Fifties, featuring the popular Kenny Clarke Dance Band- a regular slot at the club and one can only imagine the fun had by all on this and other nights when the customers dressed up for an evening of laughs, drinking and dancing the night away. A lovely taste of happy times in days gone by-never to be repeated. This first photo taken at a Tramps' Ball 1958/59? with Stan at the mike with the Kenny Clarke Band - plus well known pianist Monty Worlock who led his own dance and jazz bands across many years.
TRAMPS BALL - KENNY CLARKE BAND - STAN GRADIDGE
Ford Manager Ike Brindley presenting trophy to staff member Cyril Tyrrell
HALLOWEEN PARTY NIGHT - coffin and gallows made by Ford maintenance carpenters!
NEW YEAR EVE 55/56?
These last two photos may not be entirely relevant but the Ford factory was a major employer in the area with the bonus of its very successful staff club that saw many of our top local bands play there. I am grateful to Val who kindly got in touch in order to share these nostalgic images as well as paying tribute to her late husband who is fondly remembered with affection by those who knew all those years ago
Ivy Watkins (Val Gradidge's friend) on her Retirement presentation.
She can recall a few names of the ladies (L-R) Doreen, ? a Mrs Finch, Val, Ivy, Sybil - with Edie behind Val.
The tall man is deputy manager Tony Slade with Ken on his knees at the front - he sadly passed away not long after this farewell party.
Not forgetting that the classic Ford Transit was a much sought-after van for thousands of pop groups ever since it first rolled off the line in 1965. Few could afford a new model but able to buy second hand within a couple of years, adding to their prestige as well as being very reliable. In 1987 Mr Ken Whipple- CEO of the Ford Motor Company paid a visit across from his USA base in Detroit, being very impressed with the workforce and great success of the Transit which has sold over 8 million in recent times.
This is Groups 19 - just the first section with more to be added in the very near future so please check back now and then. I have more nostalgia on the way..
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