This week marks a very important anniversary in the history of Blackpool. An Honorary Mayor of the resort, and probably one of its more famous sons, he stands out as being someone who surprisingly has had little to say, but we still love him.
Yes, Sooty is 70 years old.
A quick walk along North Pier, Sooty’s original home, gives us the opportunity to read up on this icon of showbiz. As you set foot on the pier, you are met with a blue plaque that informs us that Harry Corbett bought Sooty near the spot this week in 1948.
Further along the pier there’s a history of how exactly the little bear came to be so famous. The secret, it would seem is in his black ears. These were the days of black and white television, and so Mr Corbett coloured Sooty’s ears and nose black, for no other good reason that it made him stand out better on the small screen. The rest, as they say, is puppetry.
Fast forward 50 years and the little bear, having gone through a few on screen companions since Mr Corbett, was bestowed with the honour of being Blackpool’s Honorary Mayor. This was 1998 and the real Mayor of Blackpool was the larger than life former councillor, now alderman, Henry Mitchell.
Sooty, it seems, made a very good job of upstaging the Mayor on a few occasions as he appeared around town to mark his first half century. There’s a smashing photo of the pair of them, Henry in his Mayoral chain, with Sooty on his shoulder resplendent in his own mini chain and robes (pictured).
This week then, Sooty reaches 70 years old, and Alderman Henry is still going at 87!
The little bear continues to be a fine ambassador for Blackpool, his home town. His companion Richard has ensured Sooty is part of the new digital generation ready to entertain 21st century kids on hi definition colour television.
Alderman Henry has now retired from public life but I’m told is still in contact with Sooty. I understand though he turned down the bear’s latest suggestion.
“What’s that Sooty? You want to paint my ears black so I’ll stand out better?”
Happy Birthday Sooty!