Our Century

Gaumont Beatlemania

The Fab Four looking suitably sultry on their visit to Wolverhampton

Later they would play to an audience of 200,000 at the Shea Stadium in the USA. In the early months of 1963 it was the Plaza Ballroom, Old Hill, which saw the first stirrings of Beatlemania.

By the end of that year they had conquered Britain - although not yet the States - and there were unparalleled scenes at concerts in Birmingham, Stoke-on Trent and at the Gaumont in Wolverhampton.

Mass hysteria greeted the arrival in the town of the Fab Four who had embarked on their short but sweet trail to change the face of popular music.

One girl feigned suicide to get into the theatre while a a number of screaming girls rushed the stage during the performance in which salvos of jelly babies were fired throughout.

Hundreds of teenagers wept uncontrollably as they left the building having screamed themselves hoarse during the performance.

The date was November 19 1963 - just three days before the assassination of President Kennedy.

Frances Cartwright, now of Penn, Wolverhampton, vividly recalls that night nearly 40 years on.

"It was absolutely wonderful and the sight of them up there on stage will stay with me forever," she said.

Aftewards she rushed outside to try to get a glimpse of her idols as they left the town but they had already gone "as if spirited away"

"I have never seen anything like it other than when Wolves brought home the FA Cup a few years earlier,"she said.

John Smith, now of Trysull, and a survivor of the Plaza Ballroom concert at Old Hill, was less impressed.

"I didn't think they would ever make it and I said so at the time. I'm just glad I didn't put any money on it."

Big chill brings the region to a standstill: On the international front it was the height of the cold war.

Here in the West Midlands it was the height of the war against the cold front as the big chill brought the region to a standstill.

There was no need for threats of being sent to Siberia. It was already here - only a little colder.

Blizzards, ice and gales blocked off villages, closed down firms and factories and led to numerous road closures in the worst freeze-up since 1947.

Glazed frost then piled on the agony as the price of food jumped and farmers battled to maintain water supplies to their livestock.

It led to the longest football season in living memory with some local fixtures not being completed until June.

Idle summer as strike hit motor industry: Thousands of car workers across the West Midlands were idle during the summer months in the first of a series of strikes in the motor trade which was to dog the decade and carry on well into the 1970s.

It was a national dispute but had huge local repercussions.

Car workers in Birmingham were out as part of an unofficial dispute which had a knock-on effect on car component firms in the Black Country and Staffordshire.

The chic look of Christmas 1963 courtesy of the Wolverhampton branch of C&A. Then, as now, it helped if you were tall and pencil thin!

Beating bus strikes: Christmas was just around the corner and as well as the usual hassle and heartaches of the festive season shoppers in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton were hit by a series of Saturday bus strikes during December.

The Freedom BusThe disputes in the two areas were over bonus claims but help was at hand. In West Bromwich an organisation called the Freedom Group, run by Edward Martell, put on services to get people to the shops.

A similar venture was organised in Wolverhampton by the Market Traders Federation who showed the way for future park and ride schemes by ferrying people in from the outskirts of the town centre.

Bill Barnsby
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