LAUREL and HARDY - Aerial Antics in Northampton
by A.J Marriot

Peter Douglas has found himself in many strange places and in many predicaments during his seventy-six year life. For instance, not long after America had dropped the first atom bomb, he was in Hiroshima, photographing the devastation. But even this was not as surreal as the situation he found himself in, in his native town of Northampton.

In October 1953, Peter was given the job of painting the lamp poles along Bridge Street. To reach the topmost part of the lamps he had to stand atop a rickety, telescopic wooden tower. The tower was made even less stable by being screwed to a platform mounted on the back of an old milk float. Whilst working outside the Plough Hotel, Peter was really struggling to paint the topmost part of the aluminium lamp pole, as it extended as high as the second floor. The only way he could reach was to put one leg on the safety rail of the scaffold tower, and the other on the electric light-fitting. As it was a slender aluminium pole, his weight caused it to sway, and it was all Peter could do to prevent himself doing the splits whilst holding a pot of paint, a brush, and trying to paint the light fixture.

As if his position weren't precarious enough, what happened next could quite easily have shocked him into letting go, and plummeting to the ground. A man opened the window and said to Paul: "What are you trying to do, recreate one of our films?" The hotel guest then shouted through the open window to the occupant of the next room: "Hey, come and look. There's a stuntman here, doing a scene from one of our films." [Probably a reference to the scene in the Laurel & Hardy film HOG WILD, where Hardy climbs a ladder, mounted precariously on the back of a car. See below!] The other man quickly appeared at the next window, and the two of them had a good laugh at Peter's expense. Why the shock? Well the two men were none other than Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

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LAUREL and HARDY IN NORTHAMPTON

"Peter's Predicament."
Here is the very pole that Peter Douglas found himself balancing
on top of, whilst comic legends Laurel and Hardy looked on in
amusement from the safety of their rooms in the Plough Hotel.

LAUREL and HARDY IN NORTHAMPTON

The Plough Hotel as it is now.
The lamppole is still there, if you wish to go and try it out. Stan and Babe's
rooms were the white-faced ones, with the black crossbeams, above the hotel's
swinging sign.

Peter will never forget the day that Laurel and Hardy were merely the audience, and he was the star comedian, in a scene that could have been lifted direct from Laurel and Hardy's "Aerial Antics."

LAUREL and HARDY HOG WILD

[B.S. "Aerial Antics" is the working title of the Laurel and Hardy film "Hog Wild"]

[Story as told by Peter Douglas to A.J Marriot]

(Article Copyright A.J Marriot. First printed in The Laurel & Hardy Magazine - 2003)

For a second story concerning Laurel & Hardy's stay in Northampton go to "LOLLIPOP MAN".

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