Crossroads (ITV 1964-88) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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hazeladair

This week saw the announcement of the death of one of the pioneering women of British television.  Hazel Adair, who passed away on November 22nd aged 95 began her script writing career working on the BBC Radio serial “Mrs Dale’s Diary”, moved into commercial television and devised the first five days a week  British soap opera on the recently launched ITV- “Sixpenny Corner” (1956-7).  She also scripted the 1964 episode of Hospital Drama “Emergency Ward 10” which featured an inter-racial kiss (some years before Captain Kirk and Uhura on “Star Trek”).  This lip-locking occurred between Jamaican born actress Joan Hooley and John White.  The episode was screened without a single viewer complaint, but the press got hold of the story and blew it out of proportion.  On a recent Channel 4 documentary “It Was Alright In The 60’s” Hooley said as a result of the press-induced fuss, her character, who was prominent up to that point, was quietly written out.

After scripting a number of films Adair moved back to the BBC where teamed with Peter Ling, they devised Compact (1962-5) a serial based around a magazine.

In 1964 Adair and Ling pitched to ATV an idea they had about a continuing drama based upon a motel set just outside of Birmingham, run by a recently widowed woman.  That idea became “Crossroads” and it is for this that Adair is best known.  This four (sometimes five)  times a week soap ran in a teatime/early evening slot for thirty four years.  (For now, I’m ignoring the two years of the “revived” Crossroads, which did its best, during its run, to destroy every viewer’s happy memories of the original).  Although I am a big “Coronation Street” fan (coming up to its 55th anniversary ), when I was growing up, and this is a real guilty secret being revealed- but hey ho, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly a year now and can trust you with such revelations I was, for quite some years, totally obsessed with Crossroads.  This meant rushing home from school (in the London region it was shown for a number of years at around 4.30 – in later times, probably scheduling in with my move to secondary school it moved to 6.30 where it was an after-tea treat), often “acting it out” afterwards with my same-age next door neighbour and other friends, buying any Crossroads related merchandise (Okay – I still own a few magazines, novels and autobiographies,  a set of knitting patterns(!), a jigsaw and a Cook Book), learning the names of any new characters and who played them from the TV Times cast lists and generally believing Meg Richardson was a distant aunt and Miss Diane would be the woman that I would want to marry!

crossroadsjigsaw

My Crossroads jigsaw!

With Crossroads I could also see into the future!  The London region at one time stopped showing the programme and a campaign to see it reinstated was launched with Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s wife Mary as one of the spearheads.  It was shown again after six months, at the point where it left off.  This meant that until probably the mid to late 70’s London viewers were six months behind the rest of the country.  The lady across the road who used to babysit me from time to time had a television which could pick up, with poor reception, in fuzzy-vision Southern television, who used to schedule it after the London transmission.  We used to watch it through squinted eyes on her TV, and it was just like seeing into the future, the ghostliness of the whole experience adding to it greatly.  And what do I do for a living now?  I have a guest-house of my own on the Isle Of Wight.  Thanks Meg, Jill, Sandy and the rest for that………….You sowed the seeds.  It may not have a cafeteria (which was never seen), we may not have characters going out to get a spanner and not returning for months (Benny), we may not replace popular characters with others that did not in the slightest resemble the original and who personality-wise were chalk and cheese (Coronation Street’s Sue Nicholls played Marilyn in the early years , a blowsy, blonde Brummie waitress who the nation took to her hearts who married, against type the local vicar and when she returned from her honeymoon was played by Nadine Hanwell, a mousey, quiet brunette who was the stereotypical vicar’s wife which was bizarre even to this pre-teen) and our walls might not wobble but I like to think that in some way Hazel Adair shaped my future career.

crossroads

The uniqueness of this soap, was that as it was set in a motel, the guests had to be featured (at least occasionally) this meant coming up with short stories as well as continuing plots for the staff and village members, all this for a gruelling 4-5 night a week schedule and a very low budget and hardly any re-takes, which so many of us adored.

To celebrate the life and achievement of Hazel Adair I have this week dug out some old episodes of “Crossroads” to see if the magic was still there.  (There’s quite a few part-episodes on “You Tube” and Network/Granada have issued a number of DVD compilations over the years).  The experience was variable, I watched one from Xmas 1975 which was largely a church-set Carol Service, showing the back of cast members’ heads (not brilliant television) and I watched Rosemary Hunter shoot ex-husband David in a scene so protracted that it features some of the greatest on-screen lip pouting this side of Victoria Beckham (great television), I watched the wonder that was Amy Turtle thinking she’d been poisoned by rat poison, I watched someone coming into the motel kitchen and claiming to plant a bomb without it being mentioned for the rest of the episode and best of all I watched the anarchic Christmas show of 1979 when that fourth wall came tumbling down and Meg and the cast sang direct to camera (and Noele Gordon was perhaps the most showbizzy person ever to appear on television) accompanied by a pianist who just happened to be in Meg’s sitting room.  It’s a scene that manages to be embarrassing, radical and entertaining in equal measures so perhaps best sums up “Crossroads” appeal.

I have selected for your viewing pleasure, a scene from New Year’s Eve 1974, featuring chefs Mr Booth and  Shughie McFee ,  Amy Turtle and Sandy Richardson and Mr Lucas from “Are You Being Served”   I apologise to any vegetarians for the opening scene, which wouldn’t be out of place in a Zombie movie.  The scenes following include Noele Gordon, and the other woman who rivalled Miss Diane in my affections, Zeph Gladstone who played barge-living hairdresser Vera.

Hazel Adair – many thanks for creating the original “Crossroads”.  There will never be television like it again.

fivestars for the memories

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4 thoughts on “Crossroads (ITV 1964-88) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

  1. Oh Phil. This brought back so many memories. My mum and my nan (she was staying with us at the time following a long spell in hospital) were avid viewers. We had to be quiet when this was on. My nan was a distant relation of Amy Turtle, my great aunt Emma was always fond of telling us, we used to laugh at the way the sets moved and Amy Turtle had trouble remembering her lines. I liked Sandy and was sad when he was away from the show for long periods. I didn’t like Jill very much, no particular reason, I just didnt. Always thought Rosemary Hunter had a screw loose. Thank you for settling an argument about Sue Nicholls, I was right all the time, Wayne insisted she wasn’t in Crossroads. Benny bless him. Miss Dianne, what happened to the actress who played her. What became of Vince Parker(wasn’t he a postie)? My friends husband always reminds me of Jill’s husband Stan. Not a Corrie fan I’m afraid, was force fed this as a youngster. We don’t watch any of the soaps any more preferring the sports channel if cricket or tennis is on and the radio if theyre not. Do you remember any of the westerns? High Chaparral, Lancer, The Virginian? Thank you for this, I love the clip and I’m going to watch it again before I go to Sainsburys. xx

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  2. Always a pleasure to bring about a blast of nostalgia, Kay. I’m thrilled you were distantly related to Amy Turtle – I’ll see you in a new light now. Neither the actress who played Diane for so many years (Sue Hanson) nor postie Vince Parker (Peter Brookes) did a lot of acting after Crossroads, but Sue did do a couple of episodes of “Coronation Street” a couple of years ago. It was much reported in the press and I hoped she was going to be a regular character but it was all rather fleeting (she played a woman duped by cad Nigel Havers and did a number of her scenes with Sue Nicholls, which must have been turning back the clock). Sue Hanson is now 72 (!) so perhaps she didn’t want the commitment of being back working in a soap.
    The western series were on a bit late in the evening for me, I think. I always wanted to watch “High Chapparal” but it was on BBC2 which we didn’t have for years – probably because we had an ancient television which couldn’t be retuned! I didn’t really get into the western thing until “Alias Smith And Jones”……………Now, that was a series!
    Thanks for indulging my secret Crossroads fetish!

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    • Ben Murphy and Pete Deuel. The original was the best, didn’t take to the guy who replaced Deuel. I decided when I was about five that I wanted to be a coiwboy when I grew up only to have my dream ripped away from me when my mother told me not to be silly, girls could not be cowboys. Life was never the same after that. I didn’t know Nigel Havers was in Coronation Street. Didn’t think that was his line. I’ve been called a snob for not watching the soaps but I really can’t any more. I read or do my craft work or just cuddle the cat. ( Alias Smith and Jones is sometimes on one of the Sky channels and I try to remember to find the channel.)xx

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      • Didn’t know that, must look out for it. Did anyone like the guy who replaced Pete Duel? Sorry your cowboy dreams were snatched away from you…. How different life might have been!!

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