Frank Clarke’s memories of Sidney Bernstein

The secret I think was, everybody set out to please Sidney Bernstein. He, I’ll give you one incident he did, in mid ’56 it was.

He was known for going out of his office during the day. Just saying to his office, “I’m going for a walk” – even she didn’t know where he was going. Now one day he went to the Accounts Department. Now this was in the old Granada House and Accounts were on the third floor. Management offices were second floor of this building. He went into Accounts, walking around. This clerk was writing away at his desk. He saw a hand take the handle of his drawer, so the clerk picked his ruler up and he were just about to strike and Sidney’s voice said, “You don’t mind, do you? After all, it is my property.” I mean when he told me this, the clerk, he was roaring with laughter and then Sidney just walked off. And he’d do that with all different departments just to see everything was happening but we felt it was also if anybody weren’t very happy, they could always have a little word with him. I mean that it was known if you weren’t very happy with what your departmental head said, ask to see Sidney. Something would get resolved and so it went on in all that time…..

When we, when we’d on air six months, Sidney arranged with Associated Rediffusion to do all our transmissions on this particular Friday night. He threw a party for the staff and partners and that section of the Café was all we’d got in those days but we went into Studio 2. He’d laid on a pop group and other dancing, if you want. You all mixed. Anything with Sidney. Nobody could sit with a friend or someone that was useful. You had to draw lots where you sat at anything. And we were going round, Norma was in front of me, and there’s Sidney carving turkey up in his suit with the chefs. And I saw one of the Café chefs at the side. I said, “What’s he doing?” He said “he came in and he said the chefs can’t cope with this lot, I’m going to help them.” He was. He was sawing turkey up. Cutting it. And when me wife got to the plate to be served, somebody, I don’t know who it was, said to me wife “you’ve already been round once” and Sidney looked up and he said “no, she hasn’t. I can remember faces.” And then, of course he saw me behind her you see. “Is that your wife?” I said “yes”.   But he was, he would go anywhere, nothing was too much trouble but no favouritism.

Was he a hugely respected character?

Oh yeah, yeah. He was God really to most people there and I mean Roy and I got to know him, we’d seen him everyday. We got to know him so well. I mean one night, and this was about ’58 I think, there was a Labour Party, like the political broadcasts that are on at the seaside, and the Labour Party were at Blackpool.

We got, we used to see Sidney at four o’clock every day as I’ve said. I got a phone call from his secretary at two o’clock. “Mr Sidney has asked me to tell you he’s gone to the Labour Party Conference but he doesn’t want you to go home until he’s seen you today.” Well neither of us were on the phone at home, we’re on public transport to get home. We were thinking well our tea’s going to get cold and our wives wondering what’s happening. He came back at twenty past six, Sidney. Immediately she rang. “Mr Sidney’s just returned. Can you come straight over? “We went in and for the first time ever he said to us “sit down boys.” And I thought, “What’s happening?” “Now we’ll not bother about yesterday’s costs – we’ll take those as read. How are you liking it here?” We both obviously said “terrific for us. We’re enjoying it immensely.” “Is there any way we can improve things that we do for you?” We said “Well, no because Jack Martin is helping us out on this job.” “If there’s anything you need?” So I thought this is the time, so I mentioned to him “I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but when we first started this job, we were called B and K. I said eventually we became called the Bailiffs” and information started to flow. And do you know, he smiled and then he said, “Well if I refer to you two to people, I always call you ‘my boys’.” Two twenty plus men, married with children.

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