Chance charity shop find brings back the memories of big American car fads, drives and sweet melodies

Barry Band's American Pontiac, 1968Barry Band's American Pontiac, 1968
Barry Band's American Pontiac, 1968
By Barry Band

Regular readers of my wanderings may recall some discoveries in charity shops. An Alistair Cooke biography still holds the middle spot on my bookshelf.

So hooray for the shop reopenings, if only for limited hours.

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We have the chance of finding Val McDermid, Lee Child and Peter James for a criminal £2 or less!

The album coverThe album cover
The album cover

Some people like a novelty mug for the bathroom shelf. Some wonder if wide ties will make a come-back. Ladies, think twice about that hat. We live on a windy coast. But Jigsaws provide relief from duff TV schedules.

And then there are the romantic CDs with a back story. We all have one or two - or more.

Donating a few books to the new Hospice shop in Ansdell and browsing the shelves, an alert sounded in my head.

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There had obviously been a flood of donations, held back by the lockdown, so the chances of a certain CD being at the front of a display box must have been a 100-1 shot.

It was a compilation of Dionne Warwick hits. Sweet nostalgia - but not for any romantic reason.

No, this was for a car - a 17-ft long Pontiac in metallic turquoise with white vinyl seats and white sidewalls.

It was early 1968 and I’d left a depressed UK to work on a Vancouver newspaper. It rained for weeks until a gorgeous summer began.

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Every morning for the first two weeks of owning the car, Dionne Warwick’s recording of Do You Know the Way to San José was on the playlist of radio station CKLG as I drove to the office.

It was the song with the line “put a hundred down and buy a car.” I’d just done that very thing!

And here in the Ansdell Hospice shop was Dionne Warwick Sings the Bacharach and David Songbook; 22 tracks with San José at number one. Of course I bought it.

The melodies linger on but the big American car fad soon faded.

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On a drive from Vancouver to Seattle and back I found the seats were more like settees and the vinyl got very hot even with a beaded slip-over.

I soon traded the Pontiac in for a Datsun (Nissan) 1600, which had supportive seats and a proper gearbox.

But what of Dionne Warwick? The lady, elegant and silver-haired, is still singing and was to have toured the UK this autumn but it has been postponed for a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.


A paragraph in last Saturday’s Gazette said the Grand Theatre had marked it’s 126th anniversary on July 23 by posting highlights of the 125th on You Tube.

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A quick flip through the filing cabinet produced a souvenir programme cover of a show that caused a sensation at the Grand in 1894 and 95.

A Gaiety Girl has been named by stage historians as the first English musical comedy. It was produced at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre in October, 1893, and after 413 performances it toured to the Grand, playing a week in September, 1894.

It was so popular that the Grand’s owner-manager, Thomas Sergenson, rebooked it for a week in May, 1895, and a further week in July.

A hit in both years!