WHEN our photo was taken on Saturday, May 13, 1961, the man on the right was one of Britain’s most recognisable entertainers.
The man on the left would soon become one Swindon’s greatest business success stories.
They were photographed, along with two Gas Board officials, at the door of a house in Highworth’s Folly Crescent.
It had been packed by the Gas Board with the latest domestic gas appliances, including a gas-powered fridge.
We said: “In scorching sunshine television comedian Charlie Drake was greeted by hundreds of cheering fans when he arrived at Grove Hill, Highworth, to open the gas show house on Saturday.
“With the temperature in the seventies it was a colourful event. Women in summer dresses and men in shirt sleeves surrounded the house as the red-haired entertainer posed for photographs and signed autograph albums.”
Charlie Drake’s comedy programme, The Charlie Drake Show, was one of the most popular on television in an era when there were only two channels.
He had been driven to the house from Swindon in an American car from 1914 called a Krit.
The man at the left of the photograph is estate agent Ramon Greene, who went on to build a huge property empire and become a multi-millionaire with a suite of offices in Mayfair.
Next to him is Gas Board District manager AB Horsfield, and the man next to Charlie Drake is possibly regional manager TL Tallentyre.
We added: “Earlier a luncheon had been held at McIlroys, Swindon, for those involved in the preparation of the house.
“There Mr Tallentyre had spoken of the value of the show house.
“It proved, said Mr Tallentyre, that gas central heating was not only for the large expensive house but was an economic proposition for the smaller house and was within the reach of everyone.”
The house in Highworth which was once a Gas Board showpiece still stands, and is still recognisable as the one outside which the ceremony took place.
The ensuing years brought mixed fortunes to both Drake and Greene.
Later that year, the comedian was left in a coma following an accident during a live recording of his show. The action called for him to be thrown through a bookcase on set and then, pretending to be unconscious, hurled from a window.
For some reason, what should have been a collapsible bookcase was a real one, and the comedian really was unconscious when he was dumped from the window.
His recovery was long, and he never managed to regain the same degree of celebrity. He died in a retirement home in 2006. Ramon Greene’s business was hit by a property crash and other financial issues in 1978, after which he faded from the news.