The Bard of Bilston's memories of Dame Vera Lynn
Reg Summerfield says he had never seen his father cry – at least not until Vera Lynn reduced him to tears during a concert in Wolverhampton.
Reg, was still cutting his teeth in the entertainment business when he was asked to help organise a show starring the forces' sweetheart at Wolves Social Club half a century ago.
"There was a full, 16-piece orchestra, the show was a total sell-out, there were 2,000 people in the room," recalls Reg, who lives in Bilston.
"I was there with my mum and dad, and after the show, we were able to spend a bit of time with her. She was so friendly, she was talking to us for about 20 minutes.
"There were grown men crying, many of them ex-soldiers. I had never seen my dad, Joe, shed a tear before, but he did that night. My dad didn't serve in the war, he was in the Home Guard, he said it reminded him of the war."
Over the 50 years that followed, Reg, now 81, worked with some of the biggest names in showbusiness, including Ken Dodd, Bob Monkhouse and Acker Bilk. But it was that night in April, 1970, which stuck with him.
"That lady was something special," he says. Indeed so touched was he by the experience, that he wrote a poem about the singer which he sent to her in 2017. Much to his surprise, she sent him a letter back thanking him for it.
She wrote: “Thank you so much for your wonderful poem which has touched me deeply.
“You have such a special gift and my family and I will treasure this tribute.
“I have been so very fortunate to have worked with such wonderful artists over the years and look back on my career with great affection. I send you my very best wishes, Vera Lynn.”
Reg has remained in correspondence since, receiving two further letters. The singer, who was made a Dame in 1975, also sent Reg a signed photograph.
Dame Vera, best known for her wartime hits We'll Meet Again, White Cliffs of Dover and There'll Always Be An England, is now 103, and last performed in public in at the 50th anniversary of VE Day in 1995.
In September, 2009, at the age of 92, she became the oldest singer of all time to top the UK album chart with the compilation We'll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn.
Reg, known as the Bard of Bilston for his poetry, has also written rhymes about his childhood during the war years.
Reg's poem to Vera Lynn begins:
During those war torn years of 1935-1945
A wonderful lady helped Great Britain to survive
Vera Lynn was born in East Ham, London Town
Upon whom the gods of music did not frown
She was endowed with wonderful
To entertain British Troops became her choice
She travelled the world to troubled zones
Comforting fighting men with her vibrant tones.
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