So ready to get "all aboard"
on this "FIX - IT ON THE BUSES" as described by a local paper?
So we go back to December 1988.
A Christmas Card arrived at our offices and inside was a card and a message.
The card was for "Blakey" Stephen Lewis
and a message asking for an address that a Christmas Present could be sent to.
22 year old Roland Stone and his Mum and Dad from Plymouth, Devon had seen an item on local TV news
about Stephen Lewis being in Mother Goose in Weymouth.
I decided to try to arrange something better than a possible forwarding address.
1/ So had to get Roland and his family to Weymouth.
Contacted my opposite number
at Western National in Plymouth who operated the National Express Service from Plymouth to Weymouth.
They arranged free return travel to/from Weymouth
and would divert coach to pick the family up from outside their house.
2/ Somewhere to stay.
I had contact with lots of Hotels and B&B's through the local Coach Tours to different parts of Dorset.
The Bay View Hotel on the Seafront
agreed to give them somewhere to stay overnight.
3/ Meals while in Weymouth.
The Cork and Bottle as well as The Town Crier Inn provided free meals over the 2 days.
4/ See the Pantomime and meet Blakey.
The Management and staff of
The Pavillion plus of course Stephen with the cast and crew, agreed on free tickets for Roland and his family to see the Pantomime
plus the opportunity for Stephen to meet his idol and hand over a present.
5/ Warm Welcome to Weymouth.
The Mayor and Mayoress of Weymouth and The Town Crier were going to wait at the National Express Coach Stop
to greet the family, I would be a very short distance away with one of our Southern National Coaches to take the family to
the hotel, then to their meal and finally to/from Pavillion and back to hotel.
The next day from Hotel to next meal and then a short walk across the road to Coach Park for their
All went like clockwork and
in return we did publicity photos for Pantomime (plus my picture).
Roland's visit was covered by local TV, local newspapers and a story of the Plymouth end by a
local paper down there.
Roland's present was a
model bus on a plaque with an inscription that read "To Blakey, the best star on TV"
That wasn't all, Stephen helped with launch of
some new Travel Tickets and once more local ITV crew on hand to film his antics , like grabbing a drivers tie through cab
window of a double decker stopped on the sea front bus stop. (Took driver by complete surprise) Stephen then ranted at the
driver as he was pulling away.
Stephen was invited to have tea and biscuits with the Weymouth Manager of Southern National, as he was walking
through the Enquiry Office to go through door leading to the stairs, a lady came in asking about a bus.
Stephen turned around and said in his best "Blakey"
"Bus? Bus? if they saw a bus around here it would scare them to death".
As he went through the door the lady looked towards
the enquiry clerk and said "That Inspector looked just like Blakey" to which the reply came. "That was Blakey"
Her face was a picture.
Not only did Stephen meet the Management he met the
Garage Staff and the Manager of that Department got Stephen to sign the Garage Diary, he also at Stephen's request provided
a brand new Inspectors hat. When you see him with a hat with INSPECTOR in white writing with blue background with or without
the addition of a round badge above it, that was the one from Weymouth Depot of Southern National.
Stephen also took time to sit and talk with drivers
in the canteen and as himself not his alter ego.
The icing on the cake for me was him having a bus ride on one of routes, having fun with the passengers and
on my invitation, got off at the nearest stop to where I lived at that time and had a chat and a cup of coffee in the living
room, he even wrote and signed a Thank You for The Coffee note for my son who had made his drink for him. He also signed that
photo of me with him and a couple of the cast.
New Years Eve, Stephen and some of the cast came to a New Years Eve party at a local club, coach provided
Stephen and some of them went
back to Weymouth Pavillion in time for New Year as he felt he ought to be there.
So that is the tale of what surrounds that photo.
Sadly the newspaper cuttings
are that old now and inspite of best efforts cannot get good enough quality photo's of Roland meeting Stephen to scan.
Although I was a huge fan of
Stephen, Roland took that up a gear and it was a pleasure to help him have what his dad described as "A trip of a lifetime"
in a Thank You Letter sent to and published in local paper.
Couldn't have done it without the help of those mentioned, but everyone rose to the occassion.
I often wondered what Stephen
did with that bus, but will never know now.