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Chapter closes on Preston's Empire Theatre, potato thefts on the increase in Lancashire, and Puff the Magic Dragon's mysterious arrival

David Essex fans queue for tickets outside Preston's Guild Hall in September 1976
David Essex fans queue for tickets outside Preston's Guild Hall in September 1976
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Here's a look at stories and pictures of yesteryear - 1976

A chapter of Preston's entertainment history closes for good

The very last act has been played out at Preston’s old Empire theatre.

The place where thousands of townsfolk were entertained for 50 years has been reduced to a pile of bricks.

Walls which once rang to applause and laughter echoed to the noise of a diesel engine as a huge crane stood in the auditorium where theatregoers once paid just a shilling to sit.

The heavy iron ball swung from its jib into the last feature of the 65-year-old building which distinguished it from any other - a giant proscenium arch which framed its stage.

Tons of steel and concrete crashed into the basement rooms where George Formby, Sir John Martin Harvey, Mrs Patrick Campbell, Gladys Cooper, W C Fields, Lillie Langtry, Charles Hawtrey, Jose Collins, Marie Tempest, Ivor Novello, Cicely Courtneidge and Jack Hulbert - to name only a few - had once dressed and put on their greasepaint.

The dust settled and a chapter in the history of entertainment in Preston closed for good.

Lancashire police handle a hot potato issue

Spud buchers versus peelers is the hot potato Lancashire police will be handling this winter as they try to stop organised gangs making midnight raids on priceless potato crops.

Hardest hit are likely to be the hundreds of acres of potatoes west of Leyland and Chorley in the Mawdesley, Ormskirk and Skelmersdale districts and the farming areas towards Merseyside.

“Lifting crops of potatoes is a regular occurrence but with prices likely to rocket way out of sight this year the problem is going to be that much worse,” said a farming expert.

“For some reason the Fylde escapes the worst of crop stealing. You don’t hear much of it happening there.”

A senior detective said: “At one time you used to get thieves breaking into clubs and bars for cigarettes. Now they find it more profitable to steal spuds and sell them to hotels and restaurants.”

Puff the Magic Dragon appears in Preston

Puff the magic dragon is putting fire in his belly on... diet of whipped eggs.

And Puff is still alive and well and kicking at it's temporary Preston home despite the fact it should be fed on mice and birds.

Already Puff has had one customer running out of an office equipment store in Tag Lane, Preston.

Other anxious customers have hardly been able to believe their eyes as they have seen the two-foot long lizard thrashing about in Mr Brian Reid’s office.

Puff mysteriously arrived on the scene after he was found lying on a wall outside the office. An astonished passer-by told Mr Reid the green reptile with yellow spots, four-inch blue tongue was taking a snooze on the wall.