Passports and planes: South Florida and the Beatles in 1964

Story written for the Stuart/Port St. Lucie News (on Florida’s “Treasure Coast”) in February, 2004, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America.

I had asked readers with any connection to that momentous event, however tenuous, to call me and share their memories.

These were the responses I got. The big surprise came a day or two after this story was published … I’ve included it at the very end.

 

Stuart resident George Lowe isn’t a Beatles fan, and never was, but during his tenure as a vice counsel at the American embassy in Paris in January 1964, he got closer to them than many fans ever would.

Just before their trip to New York and the Ed Sullivan shows, the Beatles were playing a two-week stand at Paris’ Olympia Theatre. Manager Brian Epstein arranged for the quartet to get their H1-H2 visas, which would allow them to work in America.

“Normally they would’ve had to go back to their hometown in Liverpool to get their work visa,” says the 75-year-old Lowe, a resident of Stuart. “But their manager didn’t want them to go back to England; they’d lose money. It was just time and a problem.

“I think they asked somebody in the embassy, probably our boss, for a waiver for the Beatles. They were give the exception and didn’t have to go back to Liverpool.”

As a visa agent, it fell to George Lowe to interview the Beatles before giving them clearance to work abroad.

“They came all together with their agent, and they joked around in the outer lobby,” Lowe says. People were laughing because they had to wait. They put their names in, and they went through the same system as everybody else. We got little cards on them, and the cards said ‘Don’t ask them any hard questions, they’re OK.’ In other words, they’re pre-approved by somebody.”

There were two agents in the office, and the four Beatles were split between them.

“I don’t remember which two I had,” says Lowe. “They were young and they were very pleasant. They had those haircuts and those Cockney accents.”

The brief questions asked were routine – were they returning to England? Did they have permanent places of residence?

“They said yeah, they were coming back,” Lowe says with a chuckle. “And I remember them saying they hoped they’d make money.”

One of the original jet pilots for Pan Am, Dean Postlewaite often took the big birds from London to New York.

On Feb. 7, 1964, Postlewaite – who has spent the last 20 winters on Hutchinson Island with his wife Betty – flew into history. He had the Beatles on his plane, on their way to America for the very first time.

“He didn’t even know who they were, although they had told him in London,” says Betty Postlewaite (at her husband’s request, she told his story for this article). “They told him these characters were getting on the plane, but it didn’t mean anything to him. He didn’t know who the Beatles were.”

The pilot had no interaction with his passengers, and didn’t think much about it – until the end of the flight.

“When they got to the airport in New York, there was this big mob there,” Betty Postlewaite explains. More than 3,000 teenagers were there to greet the plane. “He came home and told us and, of course, our three kids got all excited.”

Dean, now 87, retired in 1976.

“When I think of all the others that he’s done – he had John F. Kennedy on his plane once – everybody seems to think the Beatles were the most historic,” says Betty.

“He doesn’t like to talk about it – he’s pretty quiet – but it was his claim to fame. We’ve always joked about it.”

For Lovedy Lytle of Port St. Lucie, talking about the Beatles brings back bittersweet memories.

Lytle’s late husband, Hub, was a saxophone, clarinet and flute player for Ed Sullivan’s orchestra in New York City. IN 1964, not long after the couple had retired to Florida, Hub got an offer to do “pickup” work as part of he studio band for the Beatles’ second Sullivan appearance, which was to be broadcast, live, from the Beauville Hotel on Miami Beach.

“He was hired for the gig because they knew he was down here,” Lytle says.

“When he got this call about them, he said ‘Who the hell are the Beatles?’” Lytle says with a laugh. “He was far from a teenager.”

Still, he got the job, and during rehearsal on the morning of Feb. 16, he came out through the hotel lobby and handed his wife three tickets.

“So my daughter and her boyfriend were privileged to see the Beatles at the Deauville,” Lytle says. “And in their age group, of course, that was a big thing.”

For her part, Lovedy Lytle was a jazz fan and none too impressed. “Well, the kids enjoyed it,” she says.

Hub spent the next six years as a member of Jackie Gleason’s Miami-based TV orchestra. He died in 1992.

Stuart resident Pamela Hurst Bachmann was at the Deauville that cold Sunday in 1964. She was 15 years old and living with her parents in Hollywood when a man for whom she baby-sat offered her four tickets to the Ed Sullivan broadcast; he couldn’t go. She was already a huge Beatles fan and couldn’t believe her good fortune.

Along with her boyfriend and her parents, Bachmann waited for hours in the Deauville lobby to get inside the ballroom. Her father wanted to go because singing starlet Mitzi Gaynor was also on the show that day.

“We had pretty decent seats,” Bachmann recalls. “But when the Beatles came on there was so much screaming and noise, because it was not a large place, with a low ceiling.”

It was hard, she says, to discern which songs the group was performing, because of the screams around her. “And I was actually doing my fair share.”

Published in the Stuart News Feb. 7, 2004.

And then there was this …

Paul Cole, of the Barefoot Bay community (near Vero Beach) respondent to my request just after the above story had been published. I told him it was too late, but I wanted to hear his Beatles story anyway.

It blew me way.

Shortly after I published Mr. Cole’s incredible tale, I was contacted by several British newspapers, asking how to get in touch with him. They didn’t get it from me, but they soon found him, and made him very briefly famous.

@2004 Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers

You want to talk about being in the right place at the right time?

Paul Cole, a retired salesman on Florida’s Treasure Coast, is in one of the most beloved, most reproduced and most iconic photographs of the past 35 years.

Get out your copy of Abbey Road, the final Beatles album, and still the best-selling record of their illustrious career. You’ll see the four Beatles walking single-file on the crosswalk in front of their recording studio, which just happened to be on Abbey Road in north London.

In the background, just behind John Lennon, is Paul Cole.

The picture was taken on the morning of Aug. 8, 1969. Photographer Iain McMillan brought the four Beatles outside, had them walk back and forth a few times, shot for 15 minutes and called it a day.

The picture everybody liked found the Beatles stepping symmetrically.

At that very moment, Cole – on vacation from Deerfield Beach – had opted out of entering a museum on Abbey Road with his wife.

“I told her ‘I’ve seen enough museums. You go on in, take your time and look around and so on, and I’ll just stay out here and see what’s going on outside,'” says the 93–year-old Cole, who was in his 50s at the time.

Parked just outside was a black police vehicle.

“I like to just start talking with people,” Cole says. “I walked out, and that cop was sitting there in that police car. I just started carrying on a conversation with him. I was asking him about all kinds of things, about the city of London and the traffic control, things like that. Passing the time of day.

“I don’t know why he was sitting there for so long; maybe he knew that was coming, I don’t know. But he showed no evidence of it at all.”

Cole and the police van are visible in several of McMillan’s available alternate shots, all taken from the same spot (atop a stepladder in the middle of the street).

“I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks,” he recalls. “A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn’t walk around in London barefoot.”

About a year later, Cole first noticed the Abbey Road album on top of the family record player (with Paul McCartney sans shoes). He did a double-take when he eyeballed McMillan’s photo.

“I had a new sportcoat on, and I had just gotten new shell–rimmed glasses before I left,” he says. “I had to convince the kids that that was me for a while. I told them ‘Get the magnifying glass out, kids, and you’ll see it’s me.

“And they saw it, and they went ‘Oh, boy!’ We had a laugh about it.”

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