When rocker Bill Haley turned up at Newcastle Railway Station in 1957 Neville Goodwin was there waving his trusty autograph book. Neville, who was 78 when he told me this little story a couple of years ago, had drawn a picture of his favourite star and was keen to show Bill.
According to Neville, Mr Haley was quite impressed. “He looked at my drawing of him in the book and said, ‘Hey kid. Did you do this?’ He suggested that if I went with the group to the Great Northern Hotel he’d get the others to sign, so I picked up his cardboard suitcase and accompanied them across King Street to the lobby. Four pages later I had the remainder of the Comets, Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, the Platters and La Verne Baker. Years later I noticed that the signature of the entrepreneur, Lee Gordon, was also there.”
Neville’s autograph book contains some good stories. Like the scan of what he insists is the actual first paying ticket to the Skyline Drive-in at New Lambton, apparently in October 1956.
“We turned up at 3pm and waited for the gates to open because we wanted to be first in. I have no idea who managed to get ticket number one,” he said. Nor can Neville recall what movie was playing. The signatures of his mates appear on the page, near the drawing of the car. The car was a 1935 Chevrolet nicknamed “Herc” – co-owned by John Sarkov and Noel Fernance – which Neville recalled as a tired, underpowered beast with bad brakes.
Some time in the 1950s the Bill Haley-inspired movie, Rock Around the Clock, played at the Skyline, and Don Fraser kindly loaned me a couple of photos of some promotional activity in Newcastle surrounding the film.