Crossroads - The Beginning

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At 4.30 on the afternoon of November 2, 1964, a chubby blonde uttered the immortal words:  "Crossroads Motel, can I help you?" and launched a television serial which has become a way of life for millions of Britons. 
Since then more people have seen more episodes, more comedians have poked fun at it, and more critics have panned it than its Northern rival Coronation Street.
Ten thousand actors have gone in front of the cameras, and 30,000 extras have had walk-on parts.  The Midlands motel has been blown up, burned down twice, and been the setting for births, deaths and 24 marriages.
Crossroads, now in its 20th year, has just topped 3790 episodes - not bad for a show that was originally scheduled to run for six weeks.
The Queen Mother and Sir Harold Wilson's wife, Mary, are among its most devoted fans, and many of its followers plan their evenings around its sometimes erratic broadcast times.
Given half a chance, they say, it would knock the Street out of sight in the top ten ratings. 
TV was still in its infancy when Australian producer Reg Watson had the crazy idea of launching a daily serial.  It took him five years to persuade ATV boss Lord Grade.
Noele Gordon was a big name in Midlands television at the time with a chat show called Lunch Box.  Her close friend impresario Val Parnell - the only man she ever really loved, she once said - had been pushing for some time for a new show for her.  Crossroads was it. 
At first, the serial was going to be called Midland Road, but then someone - no-one is sure who - dreamed up the name Crossroads to reflect more accurately the character of its Birmingham setting.
In the early days few of the actors or actresses had any TV experience... and it showed.  There were fluffed lines, and cameras and microphones often loomed into the picture.
It was made worse because Crossroads was recorded on videotape, and in those early days it couldn't be cut or edited.  A show acted as though it was live and, barring a major disaster, it went out that way.
Even today, with a few modern technical refinements, it is recorded the same way.  So everyone connected with the show reckons they should be applauded, not criticised, for the professional way it is produced. 
Who was the girl who spoke those first words?  Crossroads longest-serving employee Jill Harvey, played by Jane Rossington.

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