Remember these retro stars of the British seaside?

Remember these retro stars of the British seaside?

The 1950s were a wonderful era for seaside entertainment. Author Pam Weaver takes a walk down (a sandy) memory lane...

Not so long ago, a feature of a holiday at the seaside was the show at the end of the pier. For most performers that was as far as it went but others went on to make it big on radio and television. 

Dickie Henderson

Although born in London, Dickie spent his childhood in Hollywood. His career as a child actor was cut short when his family returned to this country. After war time service in the army, Dickie appeared in revues, the occasional film and pantomime. His television career began in 1953 with Face the Music but he is best remembered for being a long running compare of Sunday Night at the London Palladium. A keen golfer, and a leading Water Rat, Dickie was awarded the OBE for his charitable work. A dapper little man, he appeared in no less than eight Royal Command Performances. He died in 1985.  

Jack Train

Jack stared in the popular war time radio programme ITMA (It’s That Man Again) which ran for more than 300 episodes. The catch phrases he created became the stuff of legions. The German spy ‘This is Funf speaking’ became popular on the telephone and ‘After you, Claude –no after you Cecil,’ was used by RAF pilots as they queued to attack. Perhaps his most endearing character was Colonel Chinstrap, a rather boozy retired army officer. With his, ‘I don’t mind if I do, sir,’ the colonel was based on a real person. The irony was, that person never realised, but did once remark, ‘Wonderful chap. I knew silly buggers like that in India.’ Jack passed away in 1966.

Jill Day

Brighton girl Jill Day, found fame in 1950s. Petite and glamorous, the shapely blonde with a fiery temper, began her singing career with the Harry Roy band. After a spell as a chorus girl in His Majesty’s Theatre, London, Jill joined a singing and dance troop which brought her back to Brighton. She sang with various bands including Syd Dean and Geraldo. By 1957 she had her own TV show, The Jill Day Show. She married and had two children, one of whom died of leukaemia. After that her singing career went into decline. A shrewd business woman, Jill dabbled in racehorses, a children’s clothing company and a gymnasium. She died in 1990 aged 60. 

Ken Platt

‘Daft as a brush.’ We’ve all said it but it began as a catch phrase of comedian Ken Platt. Born in 1921, Ken had a flare for comedy from a boy. What began in Sunday school concerts took him into the Combined Services Entertainment Unit (CSE) for the duration of the war. After demob, Educating Archie, Saturday Bandbox and eventually The Good Old Days followed. Dressed in a flat cap and speaking in a broad Lancashire accent, he always began his performance with, ‘I won’t take me coat off. I’m not stoppin’.’ A stroke forced his retirement in 1990. Ken died in 1998.

Ted Ray

Although an accomplished violinist, Ted Ray (1905-1977) made his name in music halls playing the instrument very badly as Nedio the gypsy violinist. Ted is best remembered now for his radio show, Ray’s A Laugh, a domestic comedy which was centred around the Cannon Enquiry Agency. The show ran from 1949-1961 during which time several well-known comedians had their debut, including Peter Sellers and Kenneth Connor. Ted stared in the film Carry on Teacher, the radio panel game Does The Team Think?, and he read stories on the children’s TV programme Jackanory.

  • Always in My Heart by Pam Weaver is published on 15th June by Pan Macmillan (£6.99 in paperback)
  • For more nostalgia, pick up the latest copy of Yours Retro