John Ernest Brown and Gladys Edith Brown
John Ernest Brown and Gladys Edith Brown

Packed Sussex autograph book opens window into the world of music hall and film in the 1930s

An autograph book featuring many signatures from the world of music hall and film in the 1930s has opened up a window into the past. Gareth Brown came across the book recently and says it is filled with signatures his mother Gladys collected while she was working as an usherette at the Elite Cinema and at the Regal Theatre in St Leonards in 1936 and 1937. He said: “There are some interesting signatures from the world of music hall, music and film of the time. One I recognise is of Billy Cotton. I would love to know who all the other performers were. “My mother would have been 20 years old in 1936. My grandfather worked as a doorman there and it was he that introduced her to my father, John, who was in the Royal Sussex Regiment.”

By Elaine Hammond
Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 12:16 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 2:35 pm

The Elite, in Warrior Square, was bombed twice in the war and its fate was sealed on Monday, June 23, 1947, when it caught fire. Before she worked at the Elite, Gladys worked in The Creamery at 23 Robertson Street, now Waterfalls, as a teenager. She also worked in the old shack on the corner of the seafront and High Street, selling ice creams and rock. Gareth’s parents, John Ernest Brown and Gladys Edith Brown, were married at Emmanuel Church on September 10, 1939, and soon after, his father was sent as part of the British Expeditionary Force into France, eventually being evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk. Gareth said: “He was wounded and my mother received the dreaded telegram telling her my father was ‘Missing Presumed Dead’. Thankfully, he was recovering in hospital and returned home safely. However, it was not to last, as he was sent to El Alamein in 1942.” Gareth has lived in Bognor Regis for three years, having been born in Hastings and lived there most of my life.

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