'Memories of Frankie Vaughan and the pea shooters at Kings Palace Theatre, Preston'

Re: Memories of the Kings Palace, 1946 –1950 (LP Letters, May 18). My visits to the Kings Palace, Preston, began around 1946 when my grandma took me as a special treat.  My father was still in Burma, fighting the Japanese with the Chindits.

Friday, 31st May 2019, 5:48 pm
Updated Friday, 31st May 2019, 6:48 pm
Pictured: The Kings Palace Theatre, which was located on Tithebarn Street. Photo courtesy of Preston Digital Archive

Among my first memories of the Palace was the offer, made from the stage, of a present of nylon stockings for Dunkirk soldiers’ wives, along with a packet of cigarettes for the soldier himself, both being rare commodities at that time.

I seem to remember that ticket prices were 1/3d ( 7p) for my Grandma and 9d (4p) for me, with an ice cream during the interval for 4d (2p).

There would be around seven turns before and after the interval, with a mixture of singers, xylophonists, jugglers and novelty acts.

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I soon noticed that most of them turned up after the interval in different guises.

The shows always finished with the big star of the day who, on one occasion, I remember was a fresh-faced Frankie Vaughan, announced as star of screen and radio (there was no TV in those days).

Other stars included Peter Cavanagh, a famous impressionist, whose repertoire seemed to be only Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Montgomery.

The show always finished with the Pit Orchestra playing the National Anthem, and woe betide anybody who didn’t stand. I remember scuffles when soldiers in uniform would drag people to their feet and stopped people trying to nip out before the Anthem had finished.

Christmas was always looked forward to when the traditional pantomimes were put on with the Dames, Principal Boys and plenty of audience participation.

Our visits seemed to come to an end around 1950 when most shows included a tableau depicting ancient Greece or Rome, with several young ladies naked in various ‘Classical’ poses, but with strict rules issued by the theatre licensing authorities that, on no account, had they to move.

I think my grandma must have decided that this wasn’t suitable for an impressionable lad, especially when there were reports in the papers of ‘Pea Shooters’ being used by men in the front row stalls to target the girls, who had no option to break the rules by leaping about to dodge the hard dried peas.

My grandma changed our weekly outing after this to the Hippodrome where the Salberg Players, the resident repertory company, put on a different play every week.

This was a bit of a disappointment to me after I heard about the ‘Pea Shooter’ incidents.

Frank Schofield

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