Saturday, 1 August 2015

Blackpool Memories from the 1980s

The last couple of days I've been scanning some of my colour slides, taken in Blackpool. I'd love to say that my filing system for slides was as good as my system for black and white negatives - which were stored seven strips of five negatives in plastic or tissue pages in a binder. The page would be dated and the negatives numbered by strip with negatives A to E.

Colour slides were single photographs and whilst also mainly stored in similar albums on pages with 20 individual plastic pockets, many of them got taken out to be stored in those long magazines that fed into a projector ready for those winter nights when the "big screen" would come out. As different presentations were put together, some for family, others for the local photographic society etc. they inevitably got mixed up a bit and because I also used to send them off to magazines for publication it got too easy to get them mixed up and wonder what year they came from... So thirty years on, here's a few slides most of which I think come from 1986!

Looking up the Promenade from South Pier. The windmill opposite Waterloo Road was more for decoration than milling flour (which it never did). It originally was installed to disguise a ventilation shaft at Manchester Square in 1931 and was moved to the Promenade opposite Waterloo Road in 1963. It was illuminated during the autumn illuminations and the sails were motorised so they would turn. It was removed to allow the sea defences and new promenade work to take place a few years ago.

If any of these photos is not from 1986 then this is one of the most likely candidates. From 1976 to 1981 we lived adjacent to the Promenade near Manchester Square and at weekends would often just walk into town early on Saturdays. We then moved down south shore and a bit away from the Prom but it was still a regular occurrence for us to walk down to the sea front and into town.

Every morning the council used to send these lorries out to wash the Promenade roadway. High pressure jets on the front of the vehicle used to blast at the road surface and rotary brushes would follow. This does pre-date the June 2008 regulations requiring horse-drawn landau owners to fit dung catchers to their horses. At first ridiculed as "nappies" in the national press, the catchers, designed by the RSPCA, did play a huge role in cutting down the much criticised piles of pongy poo on the road.

A sunny day on the North Pier. The least commercialised of Blackpool's piers has always remained the favourite of sunbathers. The side benches may get a little uncomfortable after an hour, but deckchairs could be hired regardless of the state of the tide either on the northern side of the pier or in the sun lounge which not only provided shelter from the wind but had gentle entertainment from the organist.

The pier tram was later to commandeer the northern half stretch of the pier. But for now it was a quiet haven for relaxation. With few personal electronics and no Internet people read books, magazines and newspapers. The cassette-playing Sony Walkman was well established by 1986 and their first portable CD players (called Discman until 1999 when they became CD-Walkman) were brought out in 1984.

I remember taking this photograph from the pier one Saturday morning. During the week there had been a death from drowning in the sea which had been featured on the news and yet people still thought think of Blackpool as a gently sloping and therefore safe beach. There are currents and underflows however. This young lad isn't necessarily an idiot. But his parents... Respect the sea. It won't respect you at all...

Donkeys by law had a day off every week in Blackpool. Like the tourists themselves, the donkeys would lie in wait (well... stand in groups...) for the tide to go out and would then be amongst the first on the beach as soon as a bit of sand appeared. The first eager sun seekers were advised not to wear expensive shoes on the beach as feet are much easier to wash...

Walking past the front of Blackpool Tower one day I came across "Little" Jimmy Buchanan, stooge to the great Charlie Cairoli. Jimmy was a star in his own right, recipient of Heaven only knows how many pies in the face over his many years performing with Charlie. He was happy to pose for this portrait which I hope brings out the warmth of his character.

Having stepped as far back as possible and leaning backwards over the railings of the Promenade's edge, I almost manage to fit in the full height of Blackpool Tower with a wide-angle lens.

This one could be either 1984 or 1985. Taken at Blackpool Zoo it shows the female orang-utan Azimat with her daughter Victoria. Vicky was born in 1984 and is now the matriarch of the orang-utans at Blackpool with two daughters of her own, Cherie and Summer. Born with a dental problem, she was taught by keepers to bare her teeth for inspection and as a consequence delights zoo customers by grinning at them regularly!

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