Let us hope the walkie cameraman who took this had his street trader license all in order! Maybe it was just automatic reflex to take the shot and worry about it afterwards. But whatever the case, the young Bobby shown here must have later gone and purchased the strip of photos, of which one lone survivor was added to our archive recently. I don’t think there is enough detail in the print for me to discover what force he was in (although I will rescan it as hi-res to see), and it is not marked in any way to identify the town. Still, it’s a walkie first as far as I am concerned.
Paul Godfrey has alerted me to yet another variation on the seaside souvenir photograph; not a “walkie” but the “ridie”!
A small home built child sized open carriage, set on what look like old pram tyres, attached to two skilfully made smaller scale model horses, all laid onto planking covered with sand. The particular coach was on the front at Great Yarmouth during the late twenties and into the thirties. This postcard was taken in 1932 and on the side the photographer has written a little ditty: “We are having all the fun and spree, at Great Yarmouth by the silvery sea.”
The carriage reappeared after the war, but a different one decorated with the Coronation Year 1953 motif has been seen. The horses in this case are clearly old rocking horses. It may be that the idea was confined to Great Yarmouth, but let me know if you have any examples or remember seeing it.
Derby appears to have had quite a long tradition of walking picture photographers (Spotlight Photos were certainly active here in the 1930s), and this latest find pushes that run through into 1948 – the date scrawled in pencil on the back. Sadly the owner gives no more information, and the photographer was not named on the back, so I was about to add it to the ‘unknown’ file when I noticed the public transport vehicle in the background.
Now bus enthusiasts are second only to train enthusiasts in seeking to nail the history of their chosen hobby, so I did a blow-up of the bus. To my surprise it looked to be a trolley-bus, a now largely forgotten form of bus which combined the flexibility of the ordinary bus with the eco-credentials of the electric tram.
I hunted down the British Trolleybus Society on the net and sent off my rather blurry image. Within 24 hours, Dave Hall, their archivist, was back in touch to tell me the bus was undoubtedly one of the Derby transport fleet, and looked to be on route 66 which came into the city across the river and ran south out to the suburb of Allenton.
This chimed with the likelihood that the walkie photographer would pick a busy central street to operate, so I checked the maps. Derby centre appears to have been massively pedestrianised so no street views were available, but I did a search for old pictures of St. Peter’s Street which was on the trolleybus route. Sure enough a nice view of the street, with a trolleybus in view, confirmed the hunch.
City centre walkies have a very different atmosphere to their holiday based cousins, and these two gents appear to be walking down the street together, the one in front saying something back over his shoulder to his companion, but it’s hard to be certain.
This could so easily be another anonymous walking picture, a squaddie on leave from his National Service. It’s under-developed, badly framed, out of focus and poorly printed. But the squaddie in question is Ken Hawley, who bought the walkie, sent one half back to his parents in Sheffield and kept the other, loaning it to me along with a handful of other walkies from his album not long ago (there is another on the page about Sheffield walkies.). It was taken in Coventry Street, London, March 15. 1947.
Ken’s name might not be familiar to many, but his death last week made the national papers as a result of a lifetime’s devotion to rescuing Sheffield’s industrial history (rewarded not long ago with an MBE). I actually first met Ken as a kid, when my father used to pay one of his numerous visits to Hawley Tools, an amazing shop packed with every sort of tool known to man. I still have the Stanley hammer he bought there in the 60s. When it was my turn to get into DIY I kept up the tradition until his shop eventually closed, a victim to the stupidity of people who would rather have a bargain screwdriver “made” in China that failed after half a dozen uses.
By then though Ken was on his mission, scouring old factories and chatting up retired workers to add to his collection. Sharing a similar fascination for the city’s disappearing industrial base, me and my brother would pass on any unusual artifacts we stumbled across. Only a year ago, well into his eighties, Ken was on the floor of our garage chuckling over another box of strange hammer heads and taking away a few to add to his collection. I can’t think of anyone in the city I’ll miss more.
The logistics of storing and filing the negatives for all these walkies is still a bit of a mystery. Just finding space for thousands of negatives must have been a problem. But store them for a while some firms clearly did as these two cards prove. The quartet are on Blackpool’s North Pier, which was home to at least one walking picture business. The large Arcade Pavilion at the shore end is readily identifiable thanks to the elaborate curved roof and leaded surround (it’s still there, though sadly disfigured by a tatty 80s facade at the entrance). The foursome have been snapped in the morning and purchased the print later that day, but then decided later they wanted another copy. This has been printed from the same negative, but at a different time, as both prints show details (and even in once case another gentleman) on the edges not seen on the other. Even the enlarger frame itself is different.
One card has the usual postcard style back, the other is blank, so that might be the reprint. Most of the pre-war North Pier walkies (and I would suggest a date of mid to late thirties for this one) I see are postcard size, and none are marked. Elsewhere in Blackpool the Walkie Snaps images taken in the street (or on other piers – there are some on the site) are nearly always half this size.
Technicalities aside, with the four people and a supporting cast all striding purposefully towards the pier end, it looks almost like they have all been queued for a film crowd scene. Apparently the pier, Blackpool’s first, was built to attract the ‘better-class’ of visitor, and charged a higher admission (which later led to the building of a second rival pier for ‘trippers’!) This probably accounts for the people in the image being more soberly dressed than in some Blackpool walkies.
The postcard of the pier below was taken in the 1930s and the red dot shows where the photographer would be stationed.
My thanks to Andrew Gordon for sending this unusual Sunny Snaps card in. I know it’s not a walkie, but the overall result with the colouring is so attractive I had to post it here. Colour photography had been developed but not for the mass market, so many seaside photography firms offered a colouring service at an extra charge. I’ve seen so few examples that I assume not many people went for the option. After all, the whole idea of such prints was that they were purchased (often on the same day they were taken) as souvenirs. Having to spend more and wait longer went against this concept. Most professionally hand coloured photos you see are more formal portraits, often weddings, and larger prints, where the extra expense was felt more justifiable.
There was of course an alternative, DIY. Firms offered sets of coloured paints which were formulated to work on photographic surfaces. These were oil based (normal water-colours wouldn’t dry properly) and applied using ordinary fine brushes. The results depended on the skill of the user! Here it appears one of the children in the photo was allowed to have a go, and they’ve not done too badly. As there is some evidence of paint drying in patches, they might not have had access to a proper set of hand tinting paint, but the overall result is very evocative. The usual Sunny Snaps type panel gives the date 1937, and Andrew says it was taken at at Elmer Sands in West Sussex (which is close to Bognor Regis.) It shows Mrs. Margaret Gordon, Mrs. Galder and Mrs. Nelson-Wright with their children. You can read more about Sunny Snaps on the site.
This walkie is clearly a more organised affair than most. Probably the group of firends were approached on the walkway near-by in the usual way by the cameraman but arranged to have a full group shot all in a line, so needed space to sort themselves out before walking toward the camera. The location is easily recognisable by the ornate lattice cupola, which crops up in many walkies taken by Sunbeam in Margate. This was in the grounds of The Bungalow Tea Rooms in the Cliftonville area, above Palm Bay. Sunbeam seem to have had a kiosk in part of the building for a time too. The grounds also had a small open air dance area just to the right of the photo. This rather nice postcard view below shows the complex in it’s heyday, and the walkie people were more or less exactly where the three children are playing in the postcard. The only unanswered question of course is why “Bungalow”? I’m guessing, but there does seem to be an older single storey building on the right which may have been the original bungalow prior to all the extensions. It was needless to say all demolished in the 1970s. There is more about Sunbeam on the site, and if you put Sunbeam into the search box on the right, several other cards will be shown.
The card was loaned to me by Ellen Ryan in America, along with others taken by the firm. Some will appear in the Going Home On A Postcard book. Thanks to Ellen for her help on this project.