The other day I came across an old photo album in amongst the several piles of junk in my spare room.. I don't know why I call it that, because there is no spare room at all...
Anyway it was one of those with pages with semi-sticky lines along it and a clear plastic cover over each page. The idea was that you pulled the plastic sheet back, placed your photos and then smoothed the plastic back over, which held the photos in place.
The idea was that you could always pull the plastic clear again if you wanted to reposition the photos. It was a system that worked very well. Up to a point... Almost 40 years later the plastic covering has ceased to stick to the little lines. The photos though are well and truly stuck.
The photos it holds were placed there in 1977, the year after we moved to Blackpool and the year our daughter was born. I took hundreds of photos of Blackpool that year because every single day we would find some time to take her out in the pram and up and down the Promenade or round the Pleasure Beach in those giddy days when you could wander round free of charge and ride or buy snacks at a whim.
I have a huge collection of negatives from that year, but for some reason, the ones of the photos in this album have not yet come to light. I've spent a few hours scanning the photos from the prints in the album, then trying my best to colour-correct the rather warm colour cast that is partly due to age and partly due to the original processing. There are approx 60 photos in the album, so they are not all going to appear in this one article. But over the course of a few days, we'll take a wander down the Promenade to look at a Blackpool that was very different to today.
We'll have a look at Coral Island being built. We'll have a look at the Steeplechase ride on the Pleasure Beach being built. We'll be able to look all the way up Victoria Street from the Prom and see almost the full width of the Winter Gardens entrance at the top. There will be reminders of Charlie Cairoli, old Illuminations tableaux and trams no longer with us. There will be incidental wonders amongst the cars on the road. There will be some gobsmacking hairstyles and clothes... Let's kick off with a few of the photos you caught a glimpse of above...
Following a couple of years where this ancient Dreadnought tram was displayed on the Promenade whilst the Civic Trust attempted to raise funds to restore it, the very first electric tram to be preserved deliberately rather than as a by-product of it being pressed into service as, say, a service vehicle, Dreadnought No.59 became a regular and most welcome sight on the Promenade tracks. In the top photo it runs in front of the fairly new Golden Mile Centre, the first modern purpose-built amusement arcade on the Golden Mile. Hidden by the tram is the old Victoria Hotel which is occupied by a Ripley's Believe It Or Not attraction. The distinctive Las-Vegas-style neon tower visible with the row of yellow beacons along its top was a wonderful sight at night.
In the lower photo, taken a few seconds later, the Dreadnought tram is about to pass under the pedestrian bridge over the roadway, the only one of several planned bridges to be built. It was fine on the Promenade side. On the town side it brought pedestrians to a cold and quite nasty little concrete platform by the side of nightclubs and swirling litter picked up by mini whirlwinds with an atmosphere more akin to blocks of threatening high-rise flats than to what the average holidaymaker expected and wanted. It was a brilliant vantage point to watch the trams (as we shall see later in this series) but most people walked up it from the Prom, watched the trams and came back down the same side.
The boat trams were the oldest of the 1930s tram fleet (the double decker balloon trams replaced the Dreadnoughts). These open-air trams were hugely popular with visitors and were brought out every sunny day. 1977 wasn't quite as sunny a summer as the record-breaking 1976 had been, but there were plenty of opportunities to ride on a tram and feel the wind blowing your hair! Even I still had some then...
We've arrived at the Pleasure Beach. There's still free parking along the Promenade and an unrestricted view of the Big Dipper as Ocean Boulevard has yet to be built. The Log Flume weaves its way above the old boating lake which now houses the underwater track of the Tom Sawyer rafts. Further towards the left of the photo the Space Tower can be seen, though the gondola is out of sight behind the red space-age building which housed an amusement arcade. The purple and white striped dome houses a camera obscura and the Monorail track is rather obvious as it makes its way along the front of the lake towards the northern half of the park.