Alton 50's Day.
‘Marilyn Monroe’ brought a touch of glamour to the Market Square in Alton, Hampshire on Saturday, May 5th as the town rocked to the sound of the 1950s. Music was the key as the town turned back the clock to recreate the energy and colour of those heady rock ‘n’ roll years, supported by the roar of vehicles congregating in the High Street for an American Car Show. It was a time for nostalgia with the Market Square vibrating to the songs from Matthew Mitchell of The Schmooze Bros with his tribute to the ‘Rat Rack’ music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior. Music by Paladin kept the entertainment moving throughout the day with records of the era, while jive dance demonstrations by the Swing Dance Company added to the atmosphere. Cars, vans and motorcycles from the 1950s were parked around the Square and a ‘cruise’ of motorcycles roared into town at about 12.30 pm. Meanwhile, a more transatlantic feel was created in the High Street with American cars from the 1930s through to the 1980s lining the road. There was a children’s carousel, candy floss, popcorn and hot dogs. Leading ‘Marilyn Monroe’ look-alike and international star, Suzy Kennedy, made an appearance and sang 3 songs to make up for the B17s not showing. The event was organised by Alton Town Initiatives manager Vernon Pearce who said: “I think the Fifties was a great era. It signalled the start of modern pop music – I’m sure there are many Altonians who grew up listening to rock ‘n’ roll and the sound of the big crooners. “Let’s face it, many of today’s pop stars like Robbie Williams and Ray Quinn on X-Factor last year are still emulating the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davies Jr. “This event will bring the memories flooding back for many people and I’m hoping they will come dressed in teddy-boy suits and skirts with can-can petticoats.” The event started at 10am and continued until 3pm supported elsewhere in the town by outlets eager to join the fun. Taking a lead was Claire Burry of ‘Interiors by Elizabeth Claire’ – located in the restored barn in Weyside Walk, off the High Street, behind Costa Coffee. Claire Burry is celebrating three years in business in the town by holding her own event themed on the 1950s and has sponsored ‘Marilyn Monroe’ look- alike Suzy Kennedy to enhance the whole Alton in the whole experience. “Suzy has starred in many TV films and documentaries as Marilyn Monroe, as well as many TV adverts. “It’s not often we get international stars appearing in Alton and Suzy will really add to the atmosphere of the day!” said Ms Burry. Local young jazz group ‘ Groovin’ was playing in the courtyard of ‘Interiors by Elizabeth Claire’ during the day and the shop had lots of birthday bargains. Costa Coffee also helped to sponsor the town event and staff in the coffee shop were dressed in 1950s costumes.
Arrived in Alton town centre having never been there before, parked up, and followed a crowd of shoppers down a small alleyway to what I thought was the High Street. To my suprise a photo shoot was just taking place of a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like sitting in a 1934 Nash Coupe. With this I quickly started taking photographs myself, from then on I had a feeling this was going to be a great day. The highstreet had been closed off to allow an exhibition of American and classic cars along with hot dog stalls, roast hog, childrens’ roundabout, sweet stalls & even an RAC lady, dressed in 50s fashion. A photographer was compiling a dvd of stills of the day’s event that could be purchased. From the High Street I walked up the narrow road with more classic cars parked to the market square.
I thought I might have come across Janie and Dave Postie so I gave them a call, (good old mobile phones). They were on their way. On their arrival I took a picture of their consul weaving it’s way through the square. By this time things had began to hot up with couples bopping and jiving to the music, that was not only in the square but also loud speakers the length of the High Street. All around the perimeter of the square there were more classic cars and bikes parked. At about this time the arrival of more classic bikes rode through the square leading them, a panther combo, rider wearing the classic pudding basin helmet along with the passenger wearing a leather flying helmet. These parked up and the rock'n'roll continued with lots of people either dancing or just watching, dressed in period clothing. The time came for presentation of trophies by the Mayor and Marilyn Monroe for best classic. This went to a burgundy coloured Nash Coupe. Second prize went to a green Ford V8 Pilot. About this time the rock band B17's were supposed to take stage and perform -no sign of these meant the Monroe look-a-like gave us a few tunes with a thoroughly good act playing to the crowd. Janie and myself were non-stop taking photo's. We quite possibly have doubled up on some but this was just all part of the excitement. It was time for me to leave having had a very enjoyable day. Good company, good crowd. Will do this one again next year.
P.S. Marilyn Monroe sure did make a few old men very happy this day, myself included.