Harry Sanders (1899-1987)
HARRY Sanders was neither born in Grantham, nor promoted the town on the world stage, but for his sheer enthusiasm and his power to entertain the townspeople through some of the darkest days his contribution was outstanding.
He came to Grantham in 1937 as manager of the State cinema, St Peter’s Hill which later became the Granada, retiring in 1963.
It is hard to overstate the quality of entertainers he brought to the town.
In the rock ‘n’ roll years, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Bob Monkhouse, Lonnie Donegan, Frankie Howard and Cliff Richard were all at the peaks of their careers where they appeared on his stage.
In today’s terms, that’s like Robbie Williams and Britney Spears topping the bill with Madonna.
He also encouraged local youngsters to create their own music and gave them a Sunday night spot at the cinema.
Two of them, Vince Eager and Brian Locking, have already appeared in this series.
Yet perhaps he is best remembered as ‘Uncle Harry’ at his Saturday morning Granadiers Club.
Always immaculate in evening dress, he was stern and strict, and being a Granadier meant self-discipline – he would not tolerate bad behavior.
But he was well respected by the children.
Even when he was well into his retirement, he was still addressed as ‘Uncle Harry’ by his proteges.
He was destined to make a career in the cinema. As an 11-year-old, he ran a makeshift children’s cinema at Penrhyndeudraeth town hall, in the Swowdonian foothills.
There was no electricity, so the projector was cranked by handle.
After leaving school, went down the pit at Maesteg by day and helped in the projection room of the local cinema at night.Inevitably, he became a cinema manager and moved to Grantham from Bristol.
As well as providing top films and live entertainment, Uncle Harry was a great publicist.
Perhaps his greatest was to have a herd of elephants parading through town for circus film The Greatest Show on Earth.
He died in 1987 a year before his former cinema was demolished.
By then it was a Bingo Hall, but the owners allowed local groups to hold a memorial concert.
It was packed. Half-a-century after his retirement, he is remembered with affection and respect.