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An act of kindness and a memory to last a lifetime


Remembering the 1950s when 10 shillings could buy tickets for the Hippodrome panto with the great Beryl Reid and - maybe - an ice cream as well

Happy days - Birmingham Hippodrome in the 1950s I must have been seven and my brother was 12 when our father dropped us off at the Birmingham Hippodrome with a ten shilling note. Ten shillings!

Well, it was the 1950s. As well as paying for two seats I'd half hoped there might be enough change for an ice cream.

We were so excited because we were going to see a pantomime - and I absolutely loved pantomime.

But when we reached the box office the lady behind the counter said: "Sorry, all the five shilling seats have gone - we only have the 15 shilling ones left in the dress circle."

We turned away. I could feel my bottom lip wobbling as we sadly made our way to the exit. Then, just before we reached the door, a voice said: "Hold on a minute."

We turned, and a man in a suit, who must have been the manager, instructed the woman in the booth to: "Just let them in."

We couldn't believe our luck. We went up into the best seats to see Beryl Reid as the Dame and the show was absolutely wonderful. I learned in later years that my future husband had also seen the same pantomime.

Neither of us can remember which one it was.

But 63 years on, I still remember every word of the silly song we were all invited to sing:

"Fish and chips, covered in golden batter.

Oh what the love of it,

Oh what the joy of it, on a summer's day.

You can smell them miles away on a flipping lovely day.

Fish...and chips."

Jackie's future husband, elementarywhatson writer CHRIS ARNOT (below) was at the same panto. He remembers the occasion well, and not just because it was a great show...

Although Jackie and I didn’t know each other at the time, I also remember being at the Hippodrome when Beryl Reid appeared. Dad’s sister, Auntie Lily, took me to a lot of afternoon delights while my parents were at work. That day she also took me into a pub, aged eight. It was just across the road from the theatre and she knew the landlady who ushered me through the bar into her private quarters. I remember a glimpse of pints being pulled, the sound of glasses clinking and the smell of smoke. It was the first pub that I’d ever visited. It wouldn’t be the last. As for Beryl, I’ll never forget her coming on stage with two enormous earrings modelled on Belisha beacons. They flashed furiously while she slipped into her routine as Marlene, the Brummie character that she had immortalised in Educating Archie and Ray’s a Laugh on the BBC Light Programme. As she told Michael Parkinson years later, she had first encountered that distinctive nasal tone while staying at a theatrical boarding house in the city not too long after the war.

When the landlady asked her what she’s like in the way of refreshment, she’d replied: “I wouldn’t mind a Pernod.” The response was: “Would you loike me to peel it for ya.”

Pictured top: Beryl Reid as her fans knew her and inset, Jackie Arnotraises a glass of bubbly to a happy memory.

Winner!