Woolies, Savoy and all that jazz in Luton 65 years ago

Outside Savoy cinema, Luton, in 1949.
Outside Savoy cinema, Luton, in 1949.

Yesteryear readers will probably recognise the location of this Luton town centre photo, but can you guess the year?

The clue is on the back of the cart about to turn left into George Street from George Street West.

As well as urging jazz fans to join a newly formed club in the town, a film about to open at the Savoy cinema, whose entrance was just to the right of the picture, was being advertised.

It was October 1949 and the movie was the musical The Barkleys Of Broadway, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They played a successful but constantly feuding husband and wife musical comedy team in danger of breaking up when the wife entertains an offer to become a serious actress.

The most well-known song from the film is They Can’t Take That Away From Me.

In the background of our picture are jewellers James Walker and a branch of retail giant F. W. Woolworth, which had been at that site since 1933 after moving from another shop in George Street, where it had traded from 1915.

It was one of the first Woolworths stores to be extended after the Second World War to bring a further sales floor into use in July 1949. The company, which also had a branch in Dunstable Road, Bury Park, moved into the new Arndale Centre (now The Mall Luton) in 1973. Woolworths’ presence in Luton ended in March 2008 and the shopping centre unit is now occupied by M&S.

The Savoy, which opened in1938, was later renamed ABC and then Cannon. It continued for two years after Cineworld opened in the Galaxy Centre, finally closing in November 2000 and remaining empty since.