Sunday, 23 February 2014

Blackpool's Night Time Postcard Fantasies

This week I received an email from that good friend of this blog, Jim Exley. Jim has sent images from postcards for use on the blog before and was good enough to send me one through the post where I had several other postcards, from the same source.

This week Jim sent me two images which had originated from the same photograph. As near as I can tell, this would have been taken from a point between Central and South piers and probably from close to the junction of Lytham Road with the Promenade at Manchester Square.

It's hard to take anything on trust with these postcards. I admit I am going off the size of the Tower as much as anything - the terraced rows of guest houses and hotels along the Promenade were very similar to each other. But there's no guarantee that the Tower was not added into the photo by the company artist...

Take a look at the illuminated tram on the left. The photo was taken in broad daylight - you can clearly see the shadows of the parked cars on the left. So the tram must have been added at the "artistic" stage. In fact if you look closely you can see it appears to be somewhat more narrow than the rails it is supposed to be travelling along...

Actually this postcard looked very familiar and a quick look through my own collection turned up another very similar version. Yes the colours are a bit different, but after a hundred years they are probably both faded anyway. But the paintwork on the globes on top of the arch is slightly different also, so the company artist must have had another shot at it at some point!

And then in Jim's other image, the artist has gone just a little bit berserk, removing the arch for a far more ambitious piece of frippery and adding a toastrack bus adorned with some rather spectacular illuminations of its own which may well have taxed the batteries and generator of a bus of that vintage...

But harking back to my comment about wondering if the size of the Tower was a definitive way to gauge the location of the photographer... Ah... it's gone... Interesting too that this version betrays a bit more of the photo's daylight origins. Right at the left hand edge is the staircase rail of one of the huge Dreadnought tramcars. But it is still being followed by the not-quite-true-to-scale lifeboat tram!

Here's the same photo of that lifeboat tram, from another postcard in my collection, but again it doesn't look as though it really belongs in this photo. I like this for a number of reasons. The laburnum tree illuminations were actually real - I can just (only just!) remember them from my very early childhood. Painted on plywood, they were a regular feature of the illuminations for years. The artist has actually created shadows for one on the left and one on the right to make it appear as though they were cast by the moon (which in my experience never appears quite so far north). Unfortunately, having done that for the two illuminations pieces he decided it was too much like hard work and didn't bother with a shadow for the lamp post in the centre or, for that matter, for the tram... The cars seem to have a more realistic shadow coming from the sun which would have been over the sea. But the direction of their headlights seems to suggest they were a touring group from the Continent. Dipped headlights should point left in this country!

At least I can say fairly confidently that this photo was taken just south of Waterloo Road, which joins on the right opposite the windmill which survived until quite recently. Thankfully this doesn't require me to rely on the size of the Tower, which has been drawn in by the artist after he celebrated (with a few too many tots) his success with the shadows. The Tower itself leans drunkenly to the right and the zig-zag line was added by the artist's 3-year-old daughter as her daddy snored in a drunken stupor on the floor...

And lastly, a closer look at the illuminated lifeboat tram, which was real and was one of two illuminated special trams, the other being a Gondola. Many thanks for the postcard images, Jim!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Blackpool Showtime Ephemera

Last weekend I was having a root through my "stuff" and came across an old box which had once contained 10"x8" photographic paper. I used to get through quite a lot of these sheets as I used to freelance to local and the odd national magazines.

In the 1980s I must have kept this particular box to store leaflets and pamphlets and posters from Blackpool's theatres. I'll add a few of these latter from 1983 to this article, but apart from shows there were posters from bus companies and advertisements.

Around this time some theatres were finding that the traditional and well established summer season show started to slow down as the summer season progressed. The Central Pier (top photo) for their 1983 show split the season into four and staged different shows for each. We went to see the Bachelors if I remember rightly.

We used to go to the Tower Circus pretty much every year too, but I gave wrestling a miss ever since going with a few mates in Margate around 1972. From our front row seats (that we were pretty excited about) we were able to see easily just how much wind there was between a forearm smash and a chin and also were sadly able to hear one wrestler saying to the other "Corner!" before he grabbed their arm and whizzed them off into the corner post. Sort of put me off wrestling, that. The main bout had been Les Kellett and Jackie Pallo and I'm willing to believe theirs had been a professional bout, but the icing on the cake of disillusionment was after laughing at the little old lady who came down to the ring to wave her umbrella at bad man Pallo, on our way out we saw the promoter paying her...

The Russ Abbott show was hilarious. By this time Russ was already an established household name and we had seen and enjoyed him several times with the comedy group The Black Abbotts.

Over at the Winter Gardens, Paul Daniels was doing his comedy show in the Opera House for the season. I can't remember going to this one - we must have missed at least one of the shows that year...

We did go to this one though! And before anyone scoffs, I have to say that this was in Keith Harris's heyday, but even years after he had hung up his duck we saw him come back to stand in for someone who was ill and that night he was absolutely superb. He was brilliant on stage. Also in the cast of the show was Bobby Crush who had written Orville's Song which went way up the charts and the gorgeous Jacqui Scott who married Keith Harris just before the season began.

I can't remember going to this particular show either, but we certainly saw Bernie Clifton on stage a few times and he was brilliant as well.

And I'll finish this time with the Sunday show from the North Pier. Again we didn't see this show, but Candlewick Green were another comedy group - there were several around this time, along with the Black Abbotts there were the Grumbleweeds, Barron Knights, etc. Anyway I do remember another year when we were sitting on the front row at a Candlewick Green show on the South Pier, being somewhat resigned to find the lead singer, in drag, sitting on my knee as part of the act...

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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Welsh Postcards

January's a quiet month for photographers so that sort of leads to a quietish month on the blog as well. I can't let 78rpm records dominate the blog to the exclusions of all else, so here's a quick (and somewhat lazy) series of postcards from the Hayley Easthope collection. As they came from not too far from the Welsh border, I'll pick out a few postcards of that part of the United Kingdom and hope that the recent problems with weather particularly around Aberystwyth abate soon!

Hayley gave me a massive collection of postcards - I'm not halfway through them yet, but there's 260 of them scanned so far covering all sorts of places from the Wirral and Southend to Arab states and China! It'll keep me going for a bit!