Radio Wave’s Scott Gallagher takes a trip down memory lane with Frank Lucas, whose passengers have included some of the world’s top entertainers and politicians.
You had to be cool, calm and collected to be a chauffeur during Blackpool’s heyday of the 1950s. One day you'd be taking Winston Churchill to his private jet, the next whisking Frank Sinatra away from the back door of the Opera House. You might even find yourself having breakfast with a famous actress.
Winston Churchill was Frank's passenger for the first time in 1950. He was staying at the Majestic Hotel in St Anne’s, and it was Frank’s job to drive him back and forth to a conference at the Winter Gardens.
But his favourite recollection of chauffeuring the Prime Minister was in 1953 when he flew into the resort to give a speech, landing at Squire’s Gate.
Frank recalled: “I pulled by the aeroplane, picked him up and came down the promenade with a police escort, two outriders and a motorcar. We screamed down that promenade, and it was busy in Blackpool at the time.”
On the return journey, Frank described a special moment after he opened the limousine door and saluted the Prime Minister: “He said thank you for driving me and shook my hand - Winston Churchill!”
After he and his deputy Antony Eden departed, Frank looked in back of the the limo where he kept two ashtrays and two cigar lighters. He was delighted to see they had been put to good use: “There were two great big half-smoked Criollos, about six inches long - twelve inches they were to start with I believe.”
Frank’s limo, a Buick, was always met with approval: “It was a marvellous car, very impressive, everybody liked it.”
Those years also brought some Rat Pack glitz into Frank's limo. He explained: “The artists in America, their careers were all just going down slightly, and Frank Sinatra's was going down the same, so they came to play the Palladium. Every American artist wanted to play the Palladium. That was their “in thing” - and then where do you go after the Palladium? Blackpool! Opera House Blackpool.
"Frank stayed at the Clifton Hotel, you’ll see the picture of Frank Sinatra in the Evening Gazette, and you’ll see me trying to get in the front door to drive off. And they (the fans) were bouncing on the bumpers and banging on the windows. He said: “Oh they love me this town, don’t they?” I said: “Yes they do.” He said: “I could become Mayor, couldn’t I?” I said: “Yes you could Sir!”
Next time Frank arranged to pick his namesake up at the back of the Opera House to escape the mobs. As Sinatra came out he noticed a young lady standing outside too: “He said: “Are you waiting for me honey?” She said: “No I’m waiting for the driver.” So when he got in the car he said: “Who was that?” I said: “That’s my Mrs!” She was a bonny girl.”
One of Frank’s favourite passengers was also the nation’s sweetheart at that time - actress Anna Neagle. Tasked with taking her back to London from Blackpool one night, the trip took around eight hours, and the glamorous star insisted on cooking Frank breakfast before he made the return journey home.
Despite only being in his mid-20s, far from being star-struck, the young Mr Lucas took it all in his stride, for this was part of family life. Frank was the 3rd generation to chauffer VIPs, with the first using a horse and cart.
“To me it was just a job. Obviously, it sounds silly I know to say but I was young, it was a job. My Dad said go and pick so and so up at this place that place, I’d go and pick the person up. All I wanted to do was get home, get me tea and go to the pictures.”