Thursday, 31 December 2015

Fourth 1977 Blackpool Photo Album, 2: The Golden Mile

Blackpool's Golden Mile features on today's flashback to 1977, with reminders of the Dr Who Exhibition, Lewis's department store, the building of Coral Island and the Golden Mile Centre.

I start with the Lewis's store as the only shot that is less oriented towards the holiday maker. Though it did draw them in their thousands of course. The store, which opened in 1964, is still fondly remembered in the town and added considerably to the aesthetics of the Promenade with it's turquoise tiling and backlit frontage. In 1977 it carried red, white and blue ribbons for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. It closed in 1993.

Another fine sight on the Golden Mile, though a brand new use for the building, was Ripley's Believe It Or Not Odditorium. Celebrating the startling and freakish amongst both nature and achievement, it was fun to visit and brilliantly stand-out at night when the large signboard lit up with bright red neon. A short time later Ripley installed a glass tube that fed water from a pool below to a huge tap that, as the water cascaded from the tube seemed to be flowing from the tap. The water then obscured the pipe so that the tap seemed to be suspended on a column of falling water. It was very effective. Sadly I have no photograph of it.

An out of season shot of Ripley's, also showing the Golden Mile Centre.

This was Blackpool's first large purpose-built amusement arcade. It would eventually become Mr Bee's and today houses the Sea Life Centre.

Together with Ripley's it dominated the Central Beach area of the Golden Mile. The bright blue and yellow of the Silver Jubilee commemorative tram passes by and the two port-a-cabins towards the left are the Lost Children's Centre (white) and a first-aid post in blue. There's a Wall's ice cream kiosk on the beach and I think the other one is selling seafood type rubbish for the southern visitors...

Why anyone would eat jellied eels and whelks is beyond me, though the practice of putting unidentifiable pap on meals and sandwiches is sadly spreading northwards. When people in the south say "we'll eat out" I invariably hear it as "we'll eat owt..." The number of times I went to London for work and had to point at something on a buffet saying "what the hell is that???" doesn't bear thinking of. But for all their culinary short-comings (they seem never to have heard of a crust for instance), the people are remarkably likeable!

For a couple of years the Golden Mile Centre hosted an exhibition of models and puppets from the Gerry Anderson TV portfolio. Twizzle, Torchy the Battery Boy, Four Feather Falls, Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray (Whoopee - colour!) (Waah! We still had a black and white telly!), Thunderbirds, Joe 90, Captain Scarlet, UFO, Space 1999... I used to go in and just lap up pleasure until it got dark and they threw me out...

An early season shot before they installed a massive and animated ogre figure over the end of this building to advertise The Horror Crypt. My goodness gracious, that steamed up a lot of people in the council who shouted their disgust and distress loud and clear, ignoring the fact that it was carrying on a great tradition of the Golden Mile. Farther into the distance are the green girders that would later hold up the roof of the new Coral Island centre, due to open in 1978.

The Devil's Den was a short-lived exhibition next door to the Brunswick which has opened a self-service fish and chip cafe. Self-service in those days meant you got a tray and slid it across rails whilst you gave your order and then waited for it to be plated before sliding the tray to the till. It wasn't too many years since this would have been unthinkable - that your order wouldn't be taken and served by a waitress in black with starched white apron. "What do I do? What do I do???" muttered people helplessly as others sat at empty tables, fuming because they had been there half an hour without anyone taking their order... The same people a few years later let food go cold in MacDonalds whilst they searched for cutlery...

The old-style open sheds full of flick-ball games, Ber-o-Mat one-armed bandits, pinball machines so old they didn't have flippers etc. were in their last throes. The old houses and hotels behind them that they were built onto had been neglected so long that they were in danger of collapsing. Nothing above ground floor level had been in use for decades.

The kiosks at the front of the arcades were the last bastions of those oh-so-scrummy hamburgers (which now had to be called beefburgers due to advertising law) which were fried on a griddle and then propped up in a row on the back of the griddle plate amongst a pile of fried onions that kept them hot. Asking for lettuce (even though it would have been lettuce and not some sort of weird-looking "salad leaf", then still correctly thought of as inedible) or pickle or a slice of tomato would have earned you guffaws of hysterics. Only recently was it becoming acceptable, though not yet the norm, to ask for a slice of cheese. You had your bun, a burger, lots of fried onions and it was normal to put ketchup or mustard or possibly both on it.

Youngsters have always wondered why old people get so grumpy. And I can now say that for every generation it's because everything that has been familiar and comfortable and good seems to get swept away by following generations. To those youngsters who read this I can say with all surety that you will feel like this yourself when you get older. Sadly though the generation between mine and yours is doing their best to ensure you will never get chance to do this yourselves because they are destroying things for you already, having got into power and now looking after their rich chums whilst dancing with their fingers in their ears in case they hear something that might prick the last remaining vestige of conscience they might have. Robin Hood, we need you back more than ever...

The other reason older people are grumpy is that it is, actually, quite good fun...

Down at Chapel Street, opposite the Central Pier. At the end of the building is an exhibition of props and costumes from Dr Who. The entrance is the Tardis itself, which can be seen halfway down the side of the building. Another of those bits of Blackpool's past that seems to be lovingly remembered. Incredibly almost, we were still only on the fourth Doctor at the time. Tom Baker played the Doctor from 1974 to 1981, lasting not quite as long as did the exhibition which lasted from 1974 to 1985.

As I write it is New Year's Eve. Tomorrow will be 2016, so a Happy New Year to all my readers! I hope it will be / is / was!

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