November 1957

Miracle of Nicoll Street

Boradway CinemaNicoll Street is the address of Dundee's Rep. It's next-door neighbour is an auction saleroom. And just four months ago it looked as if the hammer was about to fall on the theatre's independence. Play after play returned a loss, although most were shows that had hit the London jackpot. Throughout it's 18 years of ups and downs the non-profit-making playhouse had built up a modest banking account. But this summer the last withdrawal was made. And when the Rep at Perth volunteered to take its poor neighbour under its wind, there seemed to be no alternative. Except in the mind of the Dundee actor-producer Raymond Westwell. His plea for another chance was supported by three of the  theatre's directors. To their  board they added three local business men with no experience of entertainment administration.

When the new look, still independent theatre in Nicoll Street re-opened its doors it had two facts to bolster its confidence:-
1. The Suez petrol crisis - it had reduced to a trickle the Rep's motoring public - was now a thing of the past.

2. Reports from other parts of the country indicated that "stay-at-homeitis", the disease of the living theatre spread by television, was decidedly on the wane.

But the enterprise of "Westwell's Rep" was largely founded on faith and hope. Faith that the patient, persistent presentation of quality entertainment would slowly coax back Dundonians from their firesides. Hope for a miracle that might make the box-office convalescence period less prolonged and painful. Producer, Westall based the recovery plan on laughter. He prepared an initial programme of comedies - obvious and subtle. The effect? On the business chart in the Westall office there was profit written after every show. And the profits over the first 10 weeks were as great as were the losses in the 10 weeks before.

Despite the flu epidemic, on a number of nights during " Spider's Web" run, part-time , front of house Manager Tony Oakley had to put out the house full sign.

Kerbside buskers who had deserted Nicoll Street theatre for years, returned to sing to the crowds. People with cars sometimes arrive 15 to 20 minutes before the curtain up to make sure of a parking space reasonably close to the Rep.

Operation Christmas!

Next Saturday, "Operation Christmas" starts in Dundee. Then the Post Office's "advance troops" move down to Alexander's garage in Mary Ann Lane, and fit the place up as an outsize delivery office. They will keep at is all through the week-end and by Tuesday some of the sorting and delivery men will be able to move in. Their objective - to ensure that the Christmas mail pops through Dundee's letter-boxes on time. About 700 "extra's" will be employed this year, drawn from the Labour Exchange, students, and housewives. Priority is given to those who have done this job before. Some of the "casuals"  will begin work on the 11th but most will start on December 16, 17 and 18.

Those who are expecting parcels needn't be disappointed if a red van goes right past the door. The present is more likely to arrive in a green van - about 30 will be co-opted from the engineering department or even via single decker bus. Eleven privately owned buses have been chartered for this Christmas, and they go on duty from the 17th. Buses will be manned by an experienced postman and a team of casuals. The usual "post early for Christmas" appeals will be made, and officials are hoping Dundonians will respond well.

Last year the peak day was December 20 - so the Post Office people are happy. 476,159 cards and letters were posted that day, a record for Dundee. Letters and cards in the Christmas mail last year amounted to 2,724,301. These were posted between December 13th 1956 and January 2nd 1957. "We are expecting the mails to be even heavier this year" says an official. "The postage on Christmas cards is still 2d and no one seems to be worrying about the increase charge for parcels".

Future Hilltown!

How'd you like to see the Hilltown with towering, multi-storeyed flats, and trees flourishing in the middle of landscape gardens? It's no pipe dream, for the plans for the first stage are already with the Scottish Secretary for approval.

The part of the Hilltown which has been ear-marked for such a project is bounded by Dudhope Street, Hedge Road, McDonald Street and the Hilltown itself. "This is termed a Comprehensive Development Area" explained Mr R. Dron, city architect, this week. "After being before the Health Department, our plans have been submitted to the Scottish Secretary. With his final approval, we can then go ahead with the compulsory purchase of all the property in the area. It would be demolished and the site cleared for multi-storeyed tenements. Plans include trees, large open spaces planted with grass and landscape gardens."

In the meantime, the corporation have been buying a lot of old property in the area and have already began demolition. Work is also going ahead with the construction of ordinary tenement houses on the south side of   McDonald Street. These will consist of 36 houses - three double blocks, each with two closes. Each close leads off to six houses, four three-apartment dwellings and two four-apartments.

Refused Trial

United hoped to play out-side left Garvie of Perth Celtic against Dunfermline today. The junior club gave permission to play him but the player declined the offer. This came as a surprise and United are not likely to show any further interest in him.

It did not take Tommy Gray long to get another. Former Motherwell goalkeeper, John Johnstone, who was a guest of United at Dumbarton a few weeks ago, tipped Tommy off about a good winger in the Lothians. On Thursday contact was made with club and player and the boy turns out today.

Imagine A City of Villages "I would like to a be able to think of Dundee of the future not as so many thousand houses, but as 16 or 17 villages each with its own shopping centre, school and why not, a public house". So said Mr John Fowlie, chief town planning assistant with Dundee Corporation when giving a talk to Dundee Business and Professional Women's Club.

"If only we could live in a village, is the cry of many townsfolk" said Mr Fowlie. "Yet there's no reason why the townsman shouldn't have the best of both worlds" Mr Fowlie then went on to explain the advantages of life in a 'city of villages'. "Those folk would have the double advantage of a community life plus the excited bustle of a city with its great places of entertainment, academies, civic centre and public parks." When cities started to sprawl indefinitely they lost character.

People still spoke with pride about coming from Lochee, Downfield or Broughty Ferry but of the three Broughty Ferry was the only one in any real sense still a self-supporting community. "That is a great pity" On the question of "Dundee's illogical road pattern" he said a stranger had great difficulty in getting into the centre of the city.

Seeing Stars

More people are visiting Mills Observatory on Balgay Hill, Dundee since the appearance of the Russian satellites. The curator Dr. J. Cesar reports that more clubs and schools have bookings than ever before and the  number of casual visitors has shot up. "The Satellites seem to have increased the interest in astronomy in general" he says "people come up even though they know that neither satellite will be above Dundee. The look at the surface of the moon through the telescope, see interesting stars and ask lots of questions.

There Will Be No All-Night Buses
The all-night bus service proposal has been turned down by the transport committee, The Convener, Mr Harry Dickson and manager Mr W.L. Russell, it was reported, had had a meeting with representatives of the Transport and General Workers Union. The Union were still against extending night work and were of opinion that the number of workers requiring an all night service was so small that such a service would not justify itself. The union also indicated that if forced to accept the principle of working all night they would expect their members to be paid double time. Moving against night buses, treasurer William O'Neill said double time would increase the estimated loss on the service from £3000 to £4500 a  year.

Cat Call Every Day

As meal-times approach at the Tay Ferries, their employees, sitting in their small room, wait for the scratching at the door. It is a grey cat that calls every day for a tasty bit.

New Club Enrols Old Folk Next Week

Enrolment of prospective members of the new King George VI Memorial Club for Old People at Harefield Road, Clement Park which is to be opened by Princess Margaret on December 6th begins this week. Those wishing to join should call on the W.V.S Centre Office at 48m South Tay Street, November 27th or 28th between 10.30am to 12.30pm an 2.30pm to 4.30pm. Quarterly Subscription is 2s.