Thursday, 20 November 2014

1977 Blackpool Photo Album 6 - Pleasure Beach Area

My photo album of Blackpool photos still has a few pages left to show. Today we are down South Shore, towards the Pleasure Beach.

It's a very different skyline to today's, where the blue and red steelwork of The Big One dominates the view. The column of the Space Tower is the tallest structure on this 1977 photo and instead of a row of shops stretching along Ocean Boulevard, there is open space and the pillars of the Monorail holding up the track.

In the distance is the Pleasure Beach loop of the tram network, a good spot for taking photos of trams as there was almost always two or three trams standing there or moving slowly around the tight curves. Only a minority of trams went down all the way to Squires Gate and those terminating at the Pleasure Beach would go round this loop to swap back to the northward track.

On the extreme right is the bridge over to the Open Air Baths. A sign warns vehicles on the car park underneath: "Low Bridge Height 8ft 10" (2.7m). After a bad storm and high seas that could mean the depth of the water that laps at the bridge. It wasn't the safest place to leave your car in winter as the following shot from February 1983 shows!

We'll nip down to the tram loop and see what's there...

This is a bit of a teaser! Not so much because of the photo of the 1934 "Boat" tram, but for the bit of the multi-coloured Brush tram seen at the left of the photo. This was a specially painted tram celebrating the Queen's Silver Jubilee year. Something stopped me taking its photo on this occasion, though I can't recall what it was. Maybe my wife was getting impatient, maybe the baby started to cry (she now has a three-year-old of her own!) or maybe the tram simply moved off before I could get a decent shot. So let me dig...

This is the best photo I have got of it and it's partly obscured by a sign. This is a crop, a small portion of a photo taken from the Central Pier on another occasion, this time on colour slide film. The tram had actually been painted in this colour scheme the year before. 1976 marked the centenary of Blackpool as a borough and during that year this tram had commemorated that event.

Still, at least they added the new lettering and the "Long Live The Queen" bit! Funny in a way to think that almost 40 years ago we were celebrating how long the Queen had been on the throne! Since then we have been through the Golden and Diamond Jubilees and seen a whole lot of change.

The album also holds this photo of a 1930s "Balloon" tram. These double decker trams were brought in as replacements for the formidable Dreadnought trams - we saw a preserved example of these in the first instalment of this series.

By 1977 trams were carrying advertisements along the side and a few trams were painted with all-over adverts. In later years these paint jobs covered the windows as well to the annoyance of passengers and the detriment of goodwill, though Blackpool Transport, i.e. the Corporation, raking in the money from the advertising, refused to acknowledge this. The paint went on a mesh over the windows. It was still possible to see through the holes and even if it was darker inside and appeared darker outside, not to mention the strain on passengers' eyes, that was thought good enough by the powers that be - who presumably never travelled on them and tried to look out of the windows...

This however carries a simple banner advertisement for Empire Pools. The National Lottery, which started in 1994, had a large impact on the popularity of football pools, whose heyday was probably during the 1950s and 60s. They were collected house to house by teams of collectors who braved elements and dark nights with bags of money around their shoulders with very little risk of being mugged. I collected coupons for both of the larger firms: Littlewoods and Vernons during the late 60s and early 70s without any incidents. I don't think I'd like to risk it now...

There were several ways to gamble on a football coupon with the most popular being the "any eight from ten" or "any eight from twelve" lines. Against a list of football fixtures (all held on a Saturday afternoon in those days before Sky arguably ruined the sport) you marked an "x" against those matches you thought would be a score draw. The scoring system awarded one point to a match where one of the two teams won, 2 points for a 0-0 draw and 3 points for a score draw. The object was to achieve 24 points from your top 8 scoring attempts which was the Jackpot score with the prize fund shared amongst all punters (if any) achieving it. Football pools were the general public's best chance at winning life-changing amounts of money without going into a bookmakers. In the early to mid 1970s after a few well publicised scandals where collectors had just pocketed money and thrown coupons away in the hope that punters wouldn't win anyway, public confidence in the collectors dwindled and most customers by 1977 either sent coupons off by mail, filling out coupons for several weeks at a time, or picked them up from and returned them with stake money to newsagents shops.

Empire offered a plan of "any eight from 20" with each attempt ("line") costing just one penny. Twenty such lines would cost you 20p per week with a chance of winning tens of thousands of pounds. The odds were far better than those of winning the National Lottery!

The 1937 casino building at the Pleasure Beach has never been a gambling casino. Designed by the Pleasure Beach's architect Joseph Emberton in the 1930s (replacing an equally-loved "casino" building of 1913) it housed restaurants and a banqueting suite and an Art Deco private flat that still exists. Although much altered internally it remains a Grade II listed building and is often described as the north's answer to the De La Warr Pavilion (at Bexhill-on-Sea). The Pleasure Beach monorail used to go round the outside of this building.

This is quite a personal memory jogger for me. This first-floor restaurant is situated between the Lucky Star amusements arcade and the pub on the corner of Station Road opposite the South Pier. In 1977 we lived with my parents in a hotel and guest house. My wife worked in the hotel and at nights after work, I would help out in the bar (hic!) On Sundays the main meal was served at lunchtime rather than evening and that was our free time - Sunday afternoons. Blackpool would be awash with guest house landladies, some of whom would even take off their headscarves and take out their curlers and go out eagerly to share the antics or scandals of the week with their friends and colleagues from other establishments over a brown ale or two.

This was our Sunday evening eating place. In 1977 you could still find pretty young waitresses in starched white pinnies over a black skirt and top. We would order steak cooked well done, believing wrongly that cremation made it more tender... Sometimes we'd get a little giddy and have a bottle of Blue Nun to go with it. Or (where's that bucket...) a bottle of Beaujolais (often called "Bow-jollies" by those trying desperately to impress!) By heck, these were sophisticated days...

Here's a turn up for the books! The photo album features this one photograph of Cleveleys whilst every other photo is of Blackpool! Here we see a Progress Twin-Car, tram and trailer, crossing the junction of Victoria Street West and East in the centre of Cleveleys. There's a lot more traffic lights and paint on the road these days but essentially the scene hasn't changed all that much. The thing that perhaps dates this photo the most is that delicious black and white striping on the traffic light poles. Never really needed much in Blackpool and Cleveleys, but as a young boy in Rochdale on the edge of the Pennines, in winter these stripes told you how deep the snow was... Global warming? When I was a nipper no one - and I mean no one - would dream of driving in winter without a spade and a few empty coal sacks in the car boot in case they got stuck in the snow. No, the coal sacks weren't to put snow in... you put them under the wheels to give a bit of traction to get out of a hole!

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