Curtain falls on the hub of memories...
PUBLISHED: 09:36 16 June 2011
Derek James looks back at the history of a building which has entertained generations in Norwich.
It has been at the forefront of the entertainment scene in Norwich for almost 80 years. But now the lights at the dear old Carlton have gone out... and may not come on again.
What has been Mecca Bingo on All Saints Green since the 1970s has a warm place in so many hearts.
Over the years many boys met girls at the old Carlton turned Gaumont and love affairs which lasted a lifetime started in the stalls.
And back in 1957 rock ‘n’ roll arrived in Norwich when Billy Haley & His Comets sent the teenagers crazy and there was jiving on the Green.
They really were rocking round the clock a few years later when the bad boys of pop The Rolling Stones arrived on stage but few could hear their music – just the screams!
Thanks for all your memories of this former picture palace which was the city’s first cinema designed for the talkies and another Victor Harrison project. Victor was one of the picture house pioneers in the city and county.
Seating 900 people it opened with Politics starring Marie Dressler in a show which included live performances. A year later Lou Morris bought it and it was almost rebuilt.
The old Carlton later became the Gaumont – not to be confused with the old Gaumont which stood where Topshop is today.
“It is a place which holds so many magical memories,” said Norfolk’s King of Comedy Peachy Mead.
“My first memories are of working there as a usher at the Saturday morning picture shows when I was still at school,” he said.
And in those days those shows were almost as noisy as a Stones gig with the children shouting at their top of their voices at their screen heroes.
“For me the highlight of the old place was when Billy Haley arrived. He gave two shows and my mate and I queued all night to get tickets. He got two for the first show and I got two for the second so we went to both shows,” said Peachy,
“The real show was outside. I have never seen so many people dancing and singing until the early hours,” he added.
Peachy remembers another act which didn’t go down that well.
When Al Martino, the American singer who had Britain’s first number one in the charts back in 1952 with Here In My Heart, arrived the show was so poorly supported those in the theatre were asked to sit down at the front. Probably so Al could see who he was singing to!
Others who played to packed houses were the likes of Eddie Calvert, a big star in those days, and a pair of great characters Mike and Bernie Winters who once ran a stall on Norwich market.
Do you remember them? They were great characters and they made a lot of friends in Norwich.
And then there was a young, up and coming radio star by the name of Ken Dodd. I wonder what happened to him?
As Peachy says the stage was a platform for local entertainers. He took his music hall show there many times, always with local stars – the likes of Sparkie Flint and Johnny Cleveland. Talented showmen.
When the place was finally turned into a bingo hall in the 1970s, Top Rank in those days, Peachy was offered the job of becoming the star bingo caller.
“I couldn’t because of my work in the holiday parks so I offered the job to my greatest mate – Marshal Pete Wood.”
Tomorrow I’ll be remembering the singing cowboy and the fastest gun in the east – the one and only Marshal Pete.
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