Monday, 17 November 2014

1977 Blackpool Photo Album 4 - When The Tide Comes In

Continuing our series of photos from my 1977 album of Blackpool. We are still mooching up and down the Promenade, but today the tide is in so we'll have a look at what holiday makers would do when the beach was off limits.

Use of a telephoto lens has played with the perspective a little here. I was standing underneath the pedestrian road bridge whose shadow crosses in the foreground. It appears as though there is an army of poles standing sentry, leading towards the North Pier and holding up the tram wires and the same goes for the line of lampposts on the central reservation between the northwards and southwards lanes of the roadway. On the right a crowd of people wait to cross the road to the Tower, reminding us of a time when there were kerb stones...

Next to the Tower is the blue-green honeycombed front of Lewis's store, a true landmark of the Promenade. I must have been in there countless times, yet all I can remember is that marvellous front facia and an arcade of window displays that was accessed from the Promenade.

In the foreground a proud nan pushes her grandchild who is wearing a smart navy blue cardigan or jacket with white piping. He or she is bent down to admire the tiny wheels of the ground-breaking MacLaren baby buggy. Every single baby in 1977 had one of these. They were all the same design, there were as yet no imitators and they were available with deckchair-style material of either blue and white or red and white stripes. They folded down to a hitherto undreamed of small size and were great for taking babies on buses or in cafes and restaurants where the old style baby pushchairs took up too much room.

A little further on and a family are walking to catch the Fleetwood-bound tram. To their left an elderly man is wearing a suit for his stroll along the Promenade. All through my childhood in the 1950s and 60s, people wore their best clothes when out for the day and even by 1977 the tradition was slow to disappear, particularly amongst the older visitors. People still dressed up to go to a show whether it was at the poshest theatre or at the end of the pier. Whether a formal suit or a more flamboyant style (this was not long after the glam-rock era after all) people would go out looking their best. Alas; punk rock would break into mainstream during this year and "looking their best" came to include bin bags held together with safety pins...

As we walk along the Promenade, past the end of the Tower, we take a quick glance up Victoria Street. This street would undergo radical change over the next five years as almost every building would be replaced, narrowing the street which became closed to traffic and obscuring much of this view of the Winter Gardens Coronation Street entrance. A fine display of blue denim flares is marching past the corner of the Tower Lounge.

The impressive looking tower with its tiled roof on the left hand side of Victoria Street belongs to The Little Vic pub. A sign advertising Steaks sticks out from the Majestic Grill. This street was choc-a-bloc with cafes and restaurants at one time. There was the Egg and Bacon, Granville's Restaurant and Milk Bar, The Mirabelle Grill, a Wimpy, and Stanley's Restaurant which had a magnificent frontage to rival The Little Vic.

We start to head southwards, passing the front of Blackpool Tower. In true seventies style the fantastic decorative brickwork of the Tower building is obscured behind plastic and tiles. Several noteworthy mosaics though make up part of the building's front and although these have disappeared subsequently, some at least are preserved and displayed inside.

The Tower Circus is billed as Circus Fantastic and features the familiar face of Blackpool's beloved clown Charlie Cairoli, who is in his 38th year of performing in the ring at the Tower. In early 1939 Charlie and his wife had performed in a circus in Munich in front of Adolf Hitler, who presented Charlie with a watch as a memento. That September with the outbreak of war, Charlie had walked to the end of the North Pier and flung the watch into the sea. He would perform at the Tower to 1979, clocking up a record-breaking 40 years before retiring due to ill health. He is remembered with great affection in the town.

Over on the seaward side, the tide has come in and sunbathers are forced off the beach. Keep Out signs have been chained across the stairs leading down to the sands which are totally covered in crashing waves. Watching the waves crash up at high tide is a time-honoured pastime, if not always a sensible one. When the sea is at its most spectacular it is as well to remember the weight of a full bucket of water and reflect that some of those crashing waves are made up of a hundred such buckets. Quite enough power to knock someone down and drag them through the railings.

Not so powerful today though and a father and his two children, with yet another of those MacLaren buggies, stands to watch. Perhaps he is looking over towards the pier jetty in the distance and thinking that the fishermen standing on it are somewhat close to the waves!

On a sunny day the sunbathers are not put off by such a small thing as a few feet of water. They simply move lock stock and deck chair up onto the Promenade and set up camp there. On a windy day the brightly striped canvas wind breaks, usually held up by thrusting their feet well into the sand, are wedged into the tricky woodwork of the deckchairs and if they lean a bit, well no one minds really! Buckets and spades, still a feature of a childhood holiday have to be abandoned for a while, but comics, books and newspapers come out. There are no personal stereos or Sony Walkmans yet - the prototype would not be developed for another year and it will be 1980 before they appear on sale. A few people may hold transistor radios to their ear, but in general, anyone playing music loud enough to annoy others would be frowned on and most people respected the right of others to a bit of peace and quiet. Many people would spend their entire holiday on a crowded week in a little oasis of either sand or concrete with their neighbours' wind break just a couple of feet in front of them!

Good Lord! What is this?!? A monstrous ogre has appeared on the facia of an amusement arcade on the Golden Mile. As people watch, it turns its head slowly from side to side, glowering at the passing throngs. Most of them seem amused rather than alarmed. Not so the great and glorious worthies of the town. The local Evening Gazette's letter pages and news columns have never seen such outrage! "Is this the sort of thing we want on the Golden Mile?" scream the headlines. Councillors indignantly debate the abomination. "Lowering the tone of the Golden Mile!" they cried, conveniently forgetting that the Golden Mile was built on such things and far worse. Indeed what a shame that new advertising laws forbidding any false descriptions have swept away the two-headed giants, women with disembodied heads and living, breathing half-human, half-animal creatures from the Golden Mile. You knew they were all done with smoke and mirrors but they would now have to be described in advertising as illusions and that would not draw the curious in quite the same way.

The mermaids returned to the sea, the giants slouched to conceal their height and the women carried their heads off with them to where... no one knows... Eventually the ogre disappeared too. The Council chamber gradually subsided and the staff editing the letters page of the newspaper breathed a sigh of relief.

At the other end of the same arcade and attracting much less notice was a visiting display of replicas of the Crown Jewels. Bits of coloured glass and paste were displayed with pomp and subdued lighting. And all for an entrance fee of - wait for it - ten pence!

Looking back northwards from the Promenade in front of the Golden Mile. We can see the Tower with its silver top and flags for the Queen's Silver Jubilee, the Woolworths store, still occupying its site with the clock tower on the corner, the pedestrian bridge crossing the roadway, and on the left hand side near the bridge, one of the boats that used to take visitors on a half hour sea cruise off the beach. Sea cruises from Blackpool were less than spectacular. The coastline has no great rocky outcrops like Cornwall, though there are a couple of chunks sitting on the beach or just under the waves up near Bispham. And boats can't sail round into a nearby bay opening up new vistas and scenes to look at.

At Blackpool, the boat simply sailed away from the coast with Blackpool becoming a thinner and thinner line of buildings until it was time to turn around and sail back. There were no seal colonies and visiting whales are so few and far between that they make the newspaper headlines whenever spotted. As exciting as the boat ride, was the journey on a World War II vintage lorry which took you down to the water's edge from the beach and from which you walked the plank onto the boat.

A glance at the people walking towards us reminds us that the seventies was a period of renaissance for knitwear...

And I'll finish this time with this shot taken from the pedestrian bridge. The tide is going back out and the sands are starting to become visible again. The keen sunbathers, eager to get their spot are already sitting on their deckchairs close to the slope of the slade with the receding waves occasionally lapping at their feet. Someone else is heading down to join them whilst others are quite comfortable on the Promenade and showing no signs yet of moving their deckchairs.

A pretty young mother is guarding her pram with a baby just a couple of months old. Time for me to go and give her a cuddle, because she's waiting for me to hurry up and take my pictures!

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