Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Our Top 50 Crossroads Characters - 28: Joe MacDonald

A signed photo card from the early 1980s.

Joe, played by Carl Andrews, was a mechanic at the Crossroads Garage from 1978 to 1982, then foreman/manager from 1982 to its closure midway through the decade.

Joe was known to his friends and colleagues as "Mac".

A nice, easygoing bloke, and a friend to many, Joe's first big mistake was marrying Trina Jameson. Trina was beautiful, sure. But she was also given to being restless, discontented and slightly neurotic. Of course, Joe knew none of this at the time of the wedding! In 1982, Joe, Trina and their baby son, Ben, moved into the house next door to the Brownlow family.

And ignorant old Arthur, feeling his lifestyle was under threat, didn't like that at all.

Joe stated on one occasion that the difference between himself and Trina was that she saw herself as black, identifying with a perceived black community, and he didn't see himself that way. Joe was an English guy from Moseley who just happened to be black.

Joe wasn't stupid - he was aware that racism existed (indeed, when Adam Chance gave the job of garage foreman to Sid Hooper in 1982, despite the fact it had been promised to Joe, he was all set to contact the Race Relations Board), but Joe saw himself as a part of the wider community, not some insular section of it, dictated by colour.

Arthur, however, saw himself as white and English (Joe, he "reasoned" couldn't be English and black) and the MacDonalds were not part of his vision for a "cosy", all-white neighbourhood.

Joe decided to join Arthur's bowls club, and white middle aged hackles rose all round. Arthur was horrified, particularly as Joe turned out to be pretty good at the game.

Trina, meanwhile, was distressed by the failure of her plan to start a playgroup at the house, and an anonymous letter, and was also making trouble between Kevin and Glenda. The reappearance of an ex-lover of hers further complicated matters, and the situation culminated with Arthur joining a racist residents' group and knuckle dragging yobbos causing a fire at the MacDonalds' house.

Trina left, taking Ben with her. Joe was devastated, and Arthur faced the truth regarding the horrendous folly of his ways.

This story-line was interestingly written, and Joe was left to reflect that the racist element in the neighbourhood was not the only reason for Trina's departure.

He had to sell the house, lodging for a while with the Brownlows, then at Mavis Hooper's boarding house.

He never really recovered from the break-up of his marriage, and although he was attracted to Paul Ross's daughter, Lisa Walters, he never really pursued that.

In 1985, Joe found himself in trouble with Alice Daintry, wife of the awful Veron Daintry, who had a big contract with the garage. Alice accused Joe of coming on to her (the opposite was true) to cover her tracks when her not-so-loving husband became suspicious, and Joe faced a tough time when Vernon insisted Adam Chance sack him.

But Sid Hooper and Adam came to Joe's aid, as did motel cleaner Lorraine Baker, telling Joe to cry "racism!" if Adam attempted to lay him off, and things turned out OK in the end, although the garage soon sailed into financial difficulties and headed down the tubes.

Joe was yet another of those male Crossroads characters you could have enjoyed a pint with in the local boozer.

I missed him when the Crossroads Garage closed and he left the show. 

And, yes, the swanky new leisure centre was more interesting than the old garage - and topical (they were all the rage in the mid-1980s as the yuppie "fit for business, fit for life" ethos took hold) - but I couldn't help wondering how "Mac" was getting on...

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