After 50 years Beatlemania still echoes

WHEN The Beatles came to Australia 50 years ago Heather Tuck was a young teacher in Warrnambool, John McMillan a new arrival from Glasgow and Baylee Rogers a public servant in Melbourne.

Paddy Sell, 5, models the Beatles-style jacket his grandmother Heather Tuck (back) made as a teenage schoolteacher at Warrnambool Technical School in 1964.

Paddy Sell, 5, models the Beatles-style jacket his grandmother Heather Tuck (back) made as a teenage schoolteacher at Warrnambool Technical School in 1964.

All were from vastly different backgrounds, but had one thing in common — each was caught up in Beatlemania, the hysteria generated among fans by the British pop group.

Today they look back on those heady days with fond memories.

Heather had barely finished school when she was thrust into the role of a secondary class teacher as an 18-year-old where one of the year 7 students was John McMillan, complete with a thick Glasgow accent and Beatles-style boots.

John was persuaded to join three other boys in a group performing Beatles songs at school social events.

Heather and her mother used their sewing skills to make four jackets for the boys, copying the 1964 style that defined the Beatles’ clean-cut image.

One of them still exists among John’s lifetime memorabilia — in snappy pale grey with a collarless neck and black edging.

The group, also comprising Phillip McKay, Ross Meade and Robert Lewis, with Kevin Beames as “manager”, proved a hit with classmates and was in demand at the Warrnambool Technical School annexe for many years.

“I got talked into it, but it was a lot of fun and a great bonding,” John said.

Heather also experienced the hysteria when the Beatles were mobbed by thousands of fans in the Melbourne CBD.

A friend had booked a room in the former Southern Cross Hotel and Heather took the opportunity to try and catch a glimpse of the pop stars.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t see them, but we saw the absolute masses of people on Bourke Street — it was the same viewing angle as shown on the ABC documentary this week,” she told The Standard.

“We were unable to get concert tickets.”

Meanwhile, Baylee Rogers, who was working in Melbourne at the time, was fortunate to snare tickets with his girlfriend to the first Beatles concert in Festival Hall.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have the foresight to keep the tickets or program as memorabilia, but he does have an early Beatles vinyl record.

“We had good seats close to the stage,” he recalled.

“It was a great concert, but with all the girls squealing you could barely hear the singing.

“People were hanging from the rafters — it was packed.

“Spotlights were shone around the audience and when a particular section was hit all the girls would erupt.”

Baylee described himself as a keen rocker in an era when Bill Haley, Little Richards, Roy Orbison and Johnny O’Keefe were popular.

“To me the Beatles just tagged along, but they had a unique sound,” he said.

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