Items you could buy in Woolworth and other high street stores…

ATV Licencing was always on the lookout for a deal for programmes made by ATV Network, and over the years Crossroads wasn’t immune to the department greenlighting several merchandise ventures. Some of the products produced made sense and were incredibly popular, others were a little more baffling.

Here we take a look at the kind of thing Woolworth stores stocked, and some even proudly promoted in displays, for Crossroads viewers in the sixties, seventies and eighties to rush out and buy.


COLAG TABLEWARE ROASTING DISH

In 1966 the first major Crossroads item released was the stainless steel roasting and carving dish. You might have expected the ATV Licensing executives to release something revolving around the main characters of Meg Richardson and Kitty Jarvis, like a miniature dolls house version of the motel or toy newsagents. But no – instead of such delights we have the motel kitchen that is the focus of this item.

There isn’t actually a lot of Crossroads to do with the item itself, its just a standard Colag oven-to-table roasting and carving dish of the era. The only part of the purchase that has anything to do with the serial is the bit most people throw away – the packaging. Its cardboard box has a drawing of Carlos on the front in a pose far happier than he ever appeared in the series.


MEG’S SITTING ROOM PAINTING

In October 1975 the readers of Woman’s Weekly were treated to an offer, it seems, they just couldn’t refuse. For years ATV had been asked about the floral painting in the set of the motel sitting room, and where a copy could be obtained.

Cashing-in on the recent success of Crossroads in the ratings and the wide-spread coverage of the ‘wedding of the year’ when the character of Meg married Hugh Mortimer, ATV licensing decided it was time to give the public what they wanted from the motel set.

“For only 98p you can own the identical painting (unframed) that hangs in my lounge at the Crossroads Motel,” Meg Mortimer told Woman’s Weekly. The magazine goes on to say “By special arrangement with ATV this is your chance to own this superbly beautiful painting seen and envied by millions of TV viewers every week… …We’ve had this picture printed lithographically to a generous size of 22″x18″. Hurry! Owing to the millions who regularly see this painting in Crossroads, we expect this painting to be in great demand.”

The original oil painting, on canvas, was by ‘E Van-Guelt’ and had been picked up in a second-hand shop by the set dresser in 1964. Noele Gordon told Woman’s Weekly of the demand for the item, “I know by the number of letters I have received just how popular this picture has been with the viewers of our show.”

It appears to have been a sell-out. Of the 1,000 made 500 were sent by viewers of TV series Collector’s Lot to fan club manager Peter Kingsman after he spoke on the Channel 4 show of how the painting was the only item he hadn’t managed to get a copy of. There was at least one other painting of a vase of flowers by Van Guelt but little is known about the artist.


BOARD GAME

In 1977 along with many other populist ATV series of the decade, such as Celebrity Squares and New Faces, Crossroads was packaged as a board game. It was released just in time for Christmas.

Crossroads Motel is supposed to be about motel management, which is a rather dull game format. Add the fact it’s not exactly easy to figure out it makes you wonder who at Delta Pastimes Limited devised it and thought it would be in any way interesting! The front of the box boasts that the game is a “skilful and exciting game of motel management for up to four players” So let’s read on. The duration of the game is said to be two to three hours.

The objective of the game as follows: Each player picks their character from the series, either Meg Mortimer, Sandy Richardson, Jill Harvey or David Hunter. Each character is represented on the board by a different coloured Management piece. They also have three smaller staff pieces. They all start in the motel office (each player has their own section of the board, coloured the same as their piece.)

To win the game you have to get your staff pieces around the board and correctly located in each zone. For example, the board is laid out with motel rooms. For the Blue Piece to win they would have to get themselves around the board once first, then each staff member, before finally ending up with one staff member in the Red area’s kitchen, another in the green area’s restaurant and the final staff piece in the Yellow area’s chalet.

There are also cards, the reception cards are full of either positive or negative actions, such as be given £100 for a check-out or lose £50 in a fine and so forth. There are also Room Cards, these give challenges to the management piece as it moves around the ‘motels’ and ‘rooms’.

There are motel money notes and also improvement markers which… well you can see why we nicknamed it a ‘bored game’.


JIGSAW PUZZLES

A year later and maybe ATV realised that fans of Crossroads wanted something to play that wasn’t going to take three hours to complete and leave its players bewildered. For Christmas 1978 they opted for the good old tried and tested jigsaw puzzle.

Released by Hestair Puzzles, the company produced two versions of the Crossroads Motel 240 piece jigzaw. The first was a 1977 cast photo (complete with several characters who had long left by 1978) with the second a montage of motel moments, including photos of L-R top: Jill Harvey, Benny Hawkins and his father, Meg Mortimer, David Hunter and Diane Parker.

L-R middle: Ed Lawton, Meg and David, Crossroads Motel sign, Jane Smith, David, Meg and Sandy. L-R bottom: Sam Carne, Meg and Sandy, Jim Banes and Shughie McFee with Meg. Yes, that’s a lot of Meg!  These items were given pride of place in Woolworth’s toy department at the time.

To be completist the puzzles were 264 x 384 mm in size.


CROSSROADS MONTHLY MAGAZINES

In 1976 a magazine was unleashed by Felix Dennis – the boss of the Dennis Publishing empire. For seven months from March to September 1976, Crossroads Monthly provided viewers with regular features including cast interviews, a review of previous storylines, character profiles, readers questions and comments in a letters page and short stories.

The opening magazine’s introduction is as follows: “Welcome to the very first edition of CRossroads Monthly, the official magazine of Britain’s favourite television series! Each month Crossroads Monthly will be bringing you the very best in Crossroads facts, photographs and fiction – in short everything you ever wanted to know about the longest-running programme [episode numbers] in British television history.”

Features in the March edition included the life and times of leading actress Noele Gordon, a Crossroads photo album, a star interview with John Bentley and Ann George talks of how she’s found real-life happiness with her new husband.

The 8th edition of Crossroads Monthly had been planned for October 1976 however the magazine was pulled at the last minute. Dennis Publishing had no record of why the magazine was suddenly dropped, however, Felix Dennis told us that he had a contract for six months and had issued the seventh edition while negotiations with ATV Licencing were ongoing. They during this time also had begun production on the eighth offering, including an interview with actor John Bentley, however, in the end, Dennis Publishing lost out to a higher bidder for the magazine deal.

The eighth edition of Crossroads Monthly was pulled when Cockatoo Publications based in Wolverhampton put in a better offer. The Crossroads Monthly magazine was replaced with The Crossroads Poster Magazine – which aimed to boost sales with what had proved to be the most popular in the previous magazine – the photographs.


CROSSROADS CARTOON – LADY PENELOPE MAGAZINE

In 1968 for the ‘Lady Penelope Magazine‘, itself a spin-off publication from hit ATV series Thunderbirds, a Crossroads Motel cartoon strip was created.

The first episode of the Cartoon Crossroads made its debut on January 6th, with further instalments appearing weekly until May 18th 1968. Storylines included Diane Lawton being kidnapped while modelling a dress made of rare fabric! The motel is threatened with closure for a motorway expansion, Sandy (at the time a reporter) runs a story in the local paper revealing that a couple of councillors were trying to make underhand money out of the proposals. The motel is a victim of sabotage when rats are unleashed in the kitchens – all in a bid to have the place closed down.

Stock car driver Sid Wheelan, leader of the Hellbats team, makes trouble for chef Pepi Costa and tries to run the motel worker down after both try to woo Diane Lawton. Also a fake Heiress Tania Tilson tries to con Meg Mortimer out of a fortune. Each story was spread over two pages.

In the early 1970s, Crossroads would again be recreated as a cartoon series…


CROSSROADS STRIP – TV TIMES MAGAZINE

In 1973 Crossroads made another first, as the TV Times at the time explained:

“Meet the man with the magic pen. His name is Alfred Mazure and his cartoons have appeared around the world. Now he turns his talents to television and, from this week, TV Times will be presenting Mazure’s cartoon-strip interpretation of Crossroads.

“This is the first time TV Times has illustrated a television show by a cartoon strip. The stories are self-contained. In his native Holland Alfred Mazure has the distinction of having some of his work retained in the national archives. He was the creator of cartoon detective Dick Bos, altogether, 6,000,000 books on Dick’s exploits have been sold.”

The TV Times series of MAZ Crossroads stories concerned Amy Turtle losing weight, Meg Richardson setting up an exercise class for motel staff, Diane Parker worrying that hubby Vince doesn’t fancy her anymore so undergoes a transformation, David Hunter being overworked and causing chaos at the motel when he muddles orders and Meg being painted in oil by a motel guest only to end up as a “modern art abstract” result.

In the early 1990s, an EastEnders cartoon strip appeared in children’s magazine, Fast Forward.


OFFICIAL BOOKS

There have been three authorised books about Crossroads.

The first, My Life at Crossroads, in 1974, was a personal account of the programme by Noele Gordon released by Star Books. The second, The Crossroads Years, was released in 1988 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson and was written by Jane Rossington.

The third by Geoff Tibballs, The Crossroads Story, was published in 2001 by Carlton Books. The latter publication also contains a section on the then newly launched spin-off series set in the Crossroads Hotel.


FICTION BOOKS

The first fiction book was released in 1974 by Everest books, a further three by the author Malcolm Hulke would follow between 1975 and 1976. Another fiction story by Keith Miles was added to the collection in 1980.

The first book, ‘Crossroads – A New Beginning’ is based on the first two years of the television storylines. Malcolm Hulke’s introduction explains however it isn’t totally to what aired in episodes between 1964 and 1966: “The novel presents some of the events in the life of Meg Richardson and her family differently from how these events were portrayed on television. These changes result from the different structural demands of a novel compared with the shape of a daily serial… …What I have tried to do, with my capabilities, is to be faithful to the underlying spirit of Crossroads. That, as faithful viewers well know, is based on three cardinal values – friendship, family bonds and love.”

The publicity adds: “Malcolm Hulke, a brilliant writer who was script editor of Crossroads for four years, captures the real spirit of the serial as he rekindles the never to be forgotten stories of the characters who started it all ten years ago.

“Remember the love affair of Meg’s brother, Andy Frazer and the widow Ruth Bailey? Remember how Sandy leaves school at 15 to make tea at the local newspaper – and grows up overnight when the campaign to save the old coach house suddenly fails? Remember Jill Richardson’s affair with Philip Winter, the Army sergeant who escapes from the glasshouse after being charged with theft? These and many other stories that have helped make Crossroads a top rating serial are woven brilliantly into a compelling novel which will bring back memories for the millions of Crossroads addicts.”

The second novel was released in 1975, ‘Crossroads – A Warm Breeze’. It carries on the stories of Kings Oak as seen in the TV series in 1967 and 1968. “Love, laughter and human drama, this is the winning recipe which makes Crossroads a television hit and bestselling series of novels.”

The 1976 third release, now boasting on the front that its a ‘best selling series’, is ‘Crossroads – Something Old, Something New’. The story once more looks at the events in Kings Oak as originally seen in the television version. This time we continue on from 1968 into 1970.

Highlights include “Meg Richardson is offered a small fortune for the Crossroads Motel, enough money for her to retire to the Bahamas. Peter Hope wants to marry Marilyn Gates, she says no. Then his old flame, Constance Dory, arrives on the scene. Sandy Richardson investigates a gambling club – and gets into very deep water. Geoff Thompson falls in love with Angela Forster. She is very beautiful and blind. Edge Sharp gets a gun and checks in to the motel.”

In the back of Something Old, Something New there is a poster offer. “Relive those wonderful moments from the books and the TV series by buying a full-colour pictorial record of Crossroads in the latest edition of the Crossroads Poster Magazine… …The Poster Magazine contains behind-the-scenes photographs and articles on Crossroads plus a gigantic full-colour poster of the cast. It will make a marvellous gift.” They note that the replacement for the Crossroads Monthly magazine (which wouldn’t be monthly but every few months) could be obtained in all good newsagents as well as by writing to publisher Cockatoo Publishing.

The final Hulke book, released at the end of 1976 in time for the sound of festive tills ringing, was ‘Crossroads – A Time For Living’ and looked at the TV storylines from the early 1970s. The introduction now boasts the success of the novels:

“The tremendous success story of the Crossroads television series has been repeated in paperback. More than 250,000 copies have been sold of Malcolm Hulke’s heartwarming novels based on the TV programme. All the popular characters are here – dependable Meg Richardson, roguish Archie Gibbs, Amy Turtle the local gossip, glamorous Tish Hope – plus the magic Crossroads formula which keeps millions of viewers watching: drama, romance and humour.”

Malcolm Hulke had run a Lakeside guest house, worked in a box-making factory and run an advertising agency. From 1958 to 1979 he wrote a number of television and radio plays and dramas. He became a best selling novelist with his Doctor Who and Crossroads releases. His other fiction titles include Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters, Doctor Who and the Green Death and The Dead Don’t Cry. Factual books included Writing for Television, The Making of Doctor Who and Cassell’s Parliamentary Directory.

Hulke died in 1979 aged 55.

In 1980 the final motel fiction book hit the shelves, Crossroads – A Family Affair. It was released as a taster for a new spin-off series set in Kings Oak to be called ‘A Family Affair’ – revolving around the Hunters. However, when new ATV Drama boss Margaret Matheson arrived, the idea was shelved for the wartime saga Shine On Harvey Moon.

A Family Affair starts with the 1978 storylines surrounding Chris Hunter, son of motel co-owner David, and his involvement with the death of Meg’s husband Hugh. The book promises a follow-up, but this never materialised.

This final novel was written by Keith Miles who had a track record of writing popular works of fiction for television, radio and the theatre. For five years he was a scriptwriter on BBC radio soap The Archers and has worked on TV series such as Space 1999, Z Cars and Freewheelers. He also wrote for Crossroads.


TV TIMES SPECIALS

The first TV Times Crossroads Special dates from May 1971 and celebrates Crossroads’ 1500th episode which was due to air on the 15th of that month. The magazine cost 15p and contained features looking at the cast, the characters and the storylines of the past six years. The magazine also looked at how Lew Grade commissioned the show and presenter and writer Godfrey Winn defends the programme against the critic’s comments. There is also a report on how the cast spent their 1500th celebration – in Jersey.

Next is a TV Times Extra from 1975 to mark the wedding and cathedral blessing of Meg Richardson and Hugh Mortimer.

The magazine captures, in photographs outside Birmingham Cathedral, that over 3,000 fans had filled the surrounding streets just to get a peek at the couple. The special features interviews with Noele Gordon (Meg) and Hugh (John Bentley) as well as a look at other Kings Oak weddings in previous storylines and profiles the regular cast and characters. There is also a look at the other big events – happy and sad – which have taken place at Crossroads since 1964.

In 1979 TV Times Extra once again revisited Crossroads. Features included a guide to the villagers of Kings Oak by Meg Mortimer, tragic moments including the motel bomb blast, Meg being poisoned, Meg going to jail for dangerous driving, Sandy’s car crash and Benny being accused of murder. There was also a look to happier times such as the 1975 wedding of Meg and Hugh and the holidays at Tunisia and Spain.

There is also an interview with Noele Gordon on her pride in Crossroads’ success, Paul Henry discusses his character of Benny Hawkins, Roger Tonge discusses the groundbreaking storyline of Sandy being confined to a wheelchair, Ronald Allen chats about his role as David Hunter and Sally Adcock discusses her character of Jane Smith. There is also a look at the famous faces who have checked-in at the motel since 1964 and the royal visits to the set. The TV Times also visit the home of Sue Hanson and, singer husband, Carl Wayne.

The final major TV Times special was released in October 1983 to mark the wedding of Jill Harvey, daughter of Meg, to businessman Adam Chance. The magazine takes a look at previous Crossroads weddings and shows the return of Noele Gordon as Meg when she makes a re-appearance on the honeymoon episodes in Venice. There is also a look at the current main characters and some of the storylines the show has featured.

The final special is a Crossroads pull-out as part of the regular TV Times released in April 1988 – which also contains a front cover starring cast Jane Rossington, Tony Adams and Jeremy Nicholas. The pull-out is a year-by-year guide to the plots complete with many photographs.


KNITTING BOOK

The cast of a television soap posing in knit-wear. Amusing, certainly. However not exclusive to Crossroads, only a few years later the cast of BBC One’s EastEnders would also be putting on lovely wool jumpers in the name of Wendy Shetland Knitting Books too.

The 1984 publication in association with Central Television sees the actors of the motel serial posing around the Holiday Inn Hotel (next door to the ATV Centre studios in Birmingham) in tastefully knitted garments – which if you follow the instructions contained within you too could soon be wearing.

Crossroads performers doing their best C&A model poses are Tony Adams, Jane Rossington, Sue Lloyd, Ronald Allen, Sandor Ellés, Susan Hanson, Kathy Staff, Pamela Vazey, Stan Stennett, Carl Andrews, Lynette McMorrough, Arthur White, David Moran, Claire Faulconbridge and Angela Webb.


COOKBOOK

“Come behind the scenes into the kitchen of the famous Crossroads Motel and share the mouth-watering secrets of its success. At last everyone can try out the delicious recipes created to complement the seasons by Meg and her experienced team of chefs.

“Capture the real flavour of one of TV’s most popular series in your own home. Enjoy Meg’s and the other residents of Kings Oak favourite dishes. Take an invaluable tip or two from the experts and even pick up scraps of gossip from the kitchen staff at the same time…” says the publicity for this Star Book publication in association with ATV Network.

The introduction to the book is as follows: “Welcome to the kitchens of the Crossroads Motel. At the last count nearly twenty million people, in Great Britain alone, switched on their television sets four times-a-week to watch Crossroads. And you’d be surprised how many of these millions take the time and trouble to write in and tell us what they like about the programme – and what they don’t like!

“Some eager young ladies even write in to apply for jobs as waitresses or washers-up at the motel – recently we seem to have had staffing problems in the motel offices and a lot of girls have offered to come in and take over as secretary to Meg and David. But even more, people write in to tell us how much they wish they could take a holiday and stay at Crossroads as guests – to chat to the staff and all their other old TV friends, and to eat in the motel restaurant or cafeteria and sample dishes expertly prepared in the motel kitchens.

“The Crossroads Restaurant menus are changed weekly throughout the year, here are the menus for the full year – taking you right from spring to the following winter.”

Dishes include Grapefruit with Prawns, Crown Roast of Lamb, Strawberry Shortcake, Bortsch, Duck Terrine and Chocolate Rum Cake to name only a few. At the back, there are also handy tips such as “When boiling potatoes, if they overcook and become ‘mashy’, sprinkle some crisp fried onion over the top. It adds to the appearance and taste.”

As for gossip, they do note that Sam Carne the elderly night watchman thought that 40-something sour-faced kitchen assistant Rita Witton was after a bunk-up when she started baking him Cider Cakes!


GOODBYE MEG

With the shock axing of Noele Gordon from the ATV saga in 1981, a tribute magazine by Sunday Publications was released in the November of the year to coincide with Meg’s last on-screen episode.

This special written by Noele was a thank you to her millions of fans. Noele’s departure as Meg Mortimer is one of the most publically reported in British soap history. She had more coverage in the press than the Pope being shot in the same year!

The magazine looks at Noele’s early years before fame as well as her film, West End theatre and television career. The main section is of course about her role as Meg in Crossroads. Noele also looks to her future plans including her comeback in musical theatre with Gypsy.


CLASSIC CROSSROADS VHS

In 1988 to mark the end of the original series Central Television’s commercial business arm ‘Central Enterprises’ joined forces with Pickwick Video to release a commemorative VHS. It was issued under the Central Video banner.

The result was the best Crossroads fans would officially get until the 2005 DVD releases began. For almost twenty years anyone wanting to relive the glory days of the Midland motel had a choice of three episodes providing nostalgic highlights from two of the biggest storylines in the shows on-screen history.

The Wedding of Meg and Hugh

The episode which brought Birmingham city centre to a halt and saw Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon) finally, after a decade, marry businessman Hugh Mortimer (John Bentley) in 1975. While it was a landmark episode, showing the popularity of  Crossroads – with the gathered crowds clearly seen in the programme – it wasn’t the most exciting. The problem with any ‘best of’ release is ATV’s wiping policy across the sixties and seventies as many of the actual   ‘best’ episodes long wiped.

For example, Ruth Bailey’s (Pamela Greenall) hit-and-run and subsequent miscarriage would be more dramatic? Or Marilyn Gates (Sue Nicholls), full of dread, taking a lift up to the top floor of a tower block where she contemplates suicide after being falsely accused of running down and seriously injuring an old gent is another of high drama or Amy Turtle (Ann George), usually, the comedy character, puts in an emotional performance following the death of her son, a shoplifting charge and ending up homeless leaving the pensioner to wander the late-night streets of  Birmingham. These episodes long erased.

The Crossroads Motel Fire

Acknowledging the Meg and Hugh wedding isn’t exactly gripping Central and Pickwick next opted for one of the best-known editions, the 1981 motel inferno.

The blaze saw the end of Meg Mortimer as a director of the motel, and everyone at the time thought the departing motel owner had perished in the flames. After a long-running bitter feud with David Hunter (Ronald Allen). The last viewers had seen of their series matriarch was snoozing in her bedroom having told David ‘he’d won’, she was ‘quitting’ and then under a tranquillizer induced mind had a strange conversation with Adam Chance (Tony Adams). This storyline would see the series never quite the same again and as producer Jack Barton had intended to bump off Meg in the blaze – but due to public demand had to save her – some of the script and plot is a terrible quick, lazy, effortless re-write.

Sailing on the QE2

The final episode on the VHS is the follow-up to the motel standing in ashes when a week later viewers were to discover that Meg is alive and well.

Again a dreadfully quick cobbled together plot, making little sense, almost like it was too much of an effort to give Meg a decent thought-out goodbye. The loosely cobbled ‘storyline’ had seen Meg blissfully unaware of the fire over the week since visiting friends and family – none who had been contacted by Jill to say she thought her mother had been fried alive. Meg also clearly avoiding any TV news or newspapers never did discover her business had gone up in smoke, nor was she questioned by the police about the assumed arson.

The first viewers know Meg has risen from the ashes is when daughter Jill (Jane Rossington) is telephoned by her mother, leading her – to a backing track of 1940s library music – rush to Southampton docks to discover her un-scorched mother sitting in the same outfit as the Friday previous, informing her shes leaving Kings Oak ‘forever’ to start a new life in New York.

Yes, cue the sad theme as Jill is told Meg has turned her back on the motel, her life there and this terrible script is finished. The last impression of Crossroads on VHS is Meg waving to everyone at the dockside from the back of the Queen Elizabeth II, while Jill cries uncontrollably, leaving her mascara covered cheeks looking like an oil slick has collided with her face.

If Meg’s departure storyline and script were appallingly lazy, the reissue of the three episodes six years later proved executives taking the easy option hadn’t changed. To mark the 30th anniversary of Crossroads in 1995  Central Enterprises and NTV Home Entertainment rather than bring a new selection of classic editions to VHS just bunged the same three out again – with a different sleeve.

There were some minor changes to the reissue, however. First, the 1988 offering had an introduction by Jane Rossington before the first episode, despite being promised in 1995 too she was nowhere to be seen. Secondly, the QE2 episode had been edited to feature the Tony Hatch closing theme music rather than the original broadcast brass band version of Rod Stewart’s Sailing (as performed at the Southampton dockside in 1981). The 1995 VHS saw Sailing restored.

NTV Home Entertainment gained a lot of press coverage for the release, promising if it sold well there would be more episodes released for sale. The problem however for fans was the 30th anniversary VHS was just a re-release of a video they already owned so it didn’t fly off the shelves.

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