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Sunny Snaps 1937

Sunny Snaps 1937 London

Sunny Snaps, 1937, location not identified.

A group of eight lads out on the town in 1937 in this well worn Sunny Snaps walking picture, but what is the occasion? Six of them are wearing pale berets and five appear to have elaborate rosettes pinned to their their lapels. Geoff Jones sent me the scan, the postcard is from his family collection. It shows – second from the right – Geoff’s Uncle Fred, his Mother’s twin brother.
We have covered a number of Sunny Snaps postcards here before. There is no location given but it does match the ambience seen in many of the firm’s London walking pictures. I had a look through material I’ve gleaned from the web and found another Sunny Snaps walkie from what seems to be the exact same spot (the trees and tram posts match closely), also taken in 1937 (kindly sent by Graham Walton). There is a bit about the firm Sunny Snaps on the site, and more examples posted if you search for the firm’s name.

Sunny Snaps London
The lads in Geoff’s example all lived in East London around Canning Town, but the photo is a little ‘soft’ so we cannot really make out enough detail to try and match it to any street today.  However Geoff has just found another Sunny Snaps card taken on the exact same spot two years later in 1939, and this he has located to Barking Road, Canning Town E13.  The church just visible on the new find is Trinity Church. So mystery solved.
My suggestion is that they were probably on their way to a football match; I have seen photographs of footie fans wearing berets in the immediate pre-War era (see below). As to which team, again we don’t know, though Geoff feels it was probably West Ham. I had a look at maps and there were several important clubs within a couple of miles walk of Canning Town – and needless to say it would be wrong to err on such an important matter! If any football history fans out there can shed any light on it, please get in touch.

arsenal fans in berets 1930s

As for the lads themselves, the story becomes quite poignant. WW2 was declared two years after it was taken and Geoff’s Mum – who kept hold of the picture – says his Uncle Fred was killed during the Anzio battle in Italy in January to June 1944. All the other lads joined up as well, but not one of them survived the war. I am kind of used to this sort of story about WW1 but somehow you tend to forget that similar losses did occur during WW2 as well.
My thanks to Geoff for sharing it.

80 years ago today

WP1084 Blackpool 1940s girls.jpg

In May 1940 allied armies were trapped at Dunkirk. But even at such a crucial moment, ordinary life had to carry on at home. These three women, one I think was a teacher, took a break in Blackpool and were caught by a walking picture cameraman. This is one of two surviving walking pictures of the three from a group of snaps I picked up, so while they were taking photos of each other, they still bought the walking pictures.

40s girls outside digs.jpg

Ouside Digs 1940.jpg

Digs today.jpg

What made the little collection interesting is that the owners had dated all the snaps. From this we know they had two stays there in 1940, in May and August.  On 19th May they were staying at 22 Boothroyden, then a guest house (now a private house, lacking the curly railings probably cut down for war salvage), when the friend on the left in the walkie at the top took the snap above. Who the gent lurking in the doorway is I don’t know. The RAF had their training camp at nearby Padgate, and some of the shots show groups of RAF men on the beach, a popular spot for leave taking.

40s girls on prom.jpg

They were snapped on the promenade as well, in round plastic white rimmed sunglasses which were very fashionable at the time but look a little spooky in these images. But it’s good to know that they seem to have enjoyed themselves given the situation at the time. The other walkie of them appears in the book Go Home On A Postcard.

Kodak No. 3A

family in street mono.jpg

This remarkable (at least to me) street scene was probably captured by an amateur photographer in the years just before the first world war. It’s a postcard print and the blurring of the negative frame at the edges, as well as the slight movement in the photo, both make me think it was a amateur photographer responsible, perhaps even printed in a home darkroom. But what a great composition, almost like a wide angle image, with the older daughter on the left forming the immediate point of interest before your eye starts to move across and begin to take in all the little details. Younger son, in sandals, is balanced on the railing fence (which for some reason has nails protruding from it), while Mother keeps an eye on him; it all has a slight air of The Railway Children about it.
The original card is quite faded and lacks contrast but after scanning it, working on the levels and contrast, the image has started to come back to life. The scene must be the edges of a town, as there are tram rails and posts running down the street. There are no cars, but two horse and carts are visible in the distance, one loaded with hay being guided by a labourer on foot. There are houses and a church further in the background but nothing which would help (me) identify the location, and the card has no details on the back, probably having come out of a family album at some stage. The back is pre-printed with the rate of half a penny, and as this was increased in 1918 we know it must pre-date that.
I assume father took the photograph having hopped over into the field, and must have been well pleased with the results from his camera. Looking online, camera collectors suggest it could have been taken with something like a Kodak No 3A (on sale in 1912) which took film and gave negatives about the size of a postcard. This camera had no viewfinder, you judged the composition by accepting that it was about the same size as the camera and working out the approximate focus using a scale. Luckily it seems to be quite a sunny day so this has helped keep things fairly sharp. Given the technology we have today you really have to admire these early home photographers.

Donkey ride

Great Yarmouth Jimmy Thompson.jpg

This interesting seaside photographers pitch was spotted by my brother, who was mainly interested in the plane, but let me pick it up. The location was not identified and the image carried no clues as to where it might be, but as it gives us a great feel for the novelty seaside beach “studio” I thought I would add it to the archive. On a hunch I sent a scan over to Paul Godfrey, who was straight back to tell me it was in fact the beach at Great Yarmouth. The reason he knew was he already had a couple of views of the same site and one of them had “Yarmouth in the holiday spirit” painted on a board. Furthermore it turned out that the absolutely manic donkey held a secret. Once the customers had seated themselves in the cart, the donkey could be made to rear up and amuse everyone, as can be seen in Paul’s picture! At that point the souvenir photograph would be taken, and people could collect a print later in the day. The quality it has to be said was not the best but they are great fun.

Jim Thompson Yarmouth donkey.jpg

The pitch was run by Jimmy Thompson who started off selling home made fizzy pop (so fizzy the bottles often exploded), roasted “London” peanuts and “French” nougat (again home made). The whole family were involved in the business right up to WW2. The top photo was probably taken in the early 1920s, and as well as the donkey and cart, they have a large mock up on a plane (The Silver Queen) which could hold several people – with their heads poking out of the top. There is also a much smaller bi-plane for kiddies, and of course the inevitable head in a hole board. One shows a dirty boy, being soaped by his mother, the other an inebriated gentleman. Needless to say we’d love to hear from anyone who might have postcard showing these props being used.

Gorleston Pier Gardens

WP1166 Gorleston walking 1950s.jpg

This is a very run of the mill late Fifties walking picture, but I kind of like that the older couple are still walking out arm in arm somewhat in defiance of what we are told these days was the era of the teenager! I also like his oversize jacket; we all had these when we were kids so we could grow into them, but one suspects this was unlikely to happen here. She is carrying what was then the ubiquitous and indeed capacious tartan patterned shopping bag. Both are a little out of time in the footwear department; his white leisure shoes are quite dated, as well as in need of a new coat of Lady Esquire (which I am amazed to see they still make!), while her bobby sox look is again a little incongruous to our eyes on a woman of a certain age. Still as I say, they’re enjoying a nice stroll in the sun, but where? The only clue for me was the somewhat over large reference number scrawled across the negative, which matched some walkies I have taken at Gorleston On Sea which is the less well know resort just below Yarmouth. A quick check online confirmed this guess, and the interesting looking (deco?) circular Ocean Rooms dance venue in Pier Gardens are still there (a tribute to Rod Stewart advertised when I looked but not a word about it’s history, even on their official site). Beyond that the chimneys of the Pier Hotel can just be seen, and again you can still book in here although the area round about looks like it might be a bit bleak out of season despite efforts to gee up some of the features including the old bandstand.
Technically I think this must have been taken using a 35mm camera, and the film is very contrasty, but they must have liked the postcard print. No firm is identified.


South Marine Drive

SP048 Snaps Bridlington Spa.jpg

Although it is the walking pictures taken by seaside photographers which fascinate me, many of the staff were very good at taking still portraits in the street. I assume that they normally took the walking picture (rather than give people the chance to turn them down!) but if the people concerned requested it, would accommodate them with a still portrait. This is a good example of one; what parent would not be pleased to take home a postcard like this for just a couple of shillings? On this occasion the small boy is behaving perfectly, there is plenty of light from a really sunny day, while both the focus and exposure on the glass negative (the sales reference number can be seen scratched into the plate) are pretty well perfect. The kid is fully prepared for a morning on the south bay at Bridlington, which is a large sandy beach stretching for miles. He seems to have sort of rubberised beach footwear, and two metal sandcastle buckets. The actual trouser suit is hand knitted by the look of it, and fastened on the straps at the top. The grand building behind on South Marine Drive is now the Royal Court apartments, still recognisable albeit later altered with balconies and bay windows added. The postcard was taken by a cameraman from Snaps, the longest running street photo firm in the town of Bridlington, and this was a very popular spot as people would be strolling along the sea front here and coming down via the access path behind. The story of Snaps is told on this site and there are lots more examples of their work too if you search for Snaps.

Deep in conversation

St Annes on Sea walking picture.jpg

These two ladies are deep in conversation as they stroll along the main street at St. Annes On Sea. If they’d noticed the camera at all I’d be surprised! These three frame cards are some of my favourite, done up to look like a chunk of movie film. There is no town given on the card but if you look you can see a delivery bike on the right, and this is for the shoe shop Stead & Simpson, St. Annes branch. Hipsters today like to think bike delivery is a new thing but of course it was going for decades before the last war. I would put the date at early 1930s. Given the St. Annes On Sea clue I was able to match it with other cards taken in the town.  It’s a postcard size print and was taken by the firm of Spotlight, who operated in a number of British towns. So far not much is known about them, but what I have gleaned is on the site if you follow the link above. I’d welcome any more examples.


Llandudno 1950 walkie.jpg

The location of this walking picture (which I spotted on the web) would have been difficult to identify, except that one of the trio has helpfully written “Llandudno, June 1st 1950” on the back in pen.  I’m guessing it’s Mum, Dad and Daughter on holiday, and because they have kept a note of where it was taken it helps identify other found photographs. It’s a smallish paper print and was taken on one of the main streets which run down to the seafront, and Dad at least seems quite taken to be snapped. The firm who took it is not identified, but I like the almost workaday nature of the image. Llandudno was home to quite a few photographers, though it is proving difficult to research them. There are a few more on the site from the seaside resort, including this one.


WP1167 bowler hatted gent in street.jpg

What an atmospheric photograph. The frame is only around 2″ by 1.5″ in size and lacks sharpness, but as a simple moment in time it takes some beating. The walking picture camera man was using a converted movie camera to take the image which would have one of of three in sequence originally, printed out on a postcard. The gentleman in the bowler (with a cigarette in his mouth) is tidily dressed, shiny shoes, neat collar and warm overcoat, probably on his way to an office. He cannot have failed to see the camera mounted on a tripod by this point but it hasn’t thrown him. Everyone else in the frame is also getting on with life, the van driver in his heavy leather boots checking the sheeting on his lorry and the young woman in the cloche hat probably not even aware of the camera yet. Within a couple of minutes all this would have disappeared leaving the cameramen ready to record the next tableau and keep his fingers crossed for enough sales to make his morning shift pay.

Our gent must have later gone the the firm’s outlet and purchased the set of images, then cut off the better two, which would have shown him closer to the camera, to give to others. This last frame has then kicked about in family photo albums for around 90 years before ending up on the second hand market.

The print throws up a few technical questions too. The sprocket marks are not real but have been added at the printing stage to mimic the look of a cinema reel. You can just see one of the actual 35mm film holes underneath on the left hand side. There is also the machine numbering which is quite early for this sort of use on a walking picture, it was probably applied at the darkroom stage, maybe even stamped onto the edge of the piece of film with a numbering device.  Then there are the very dirty frame edges round the actual photo, adding to the vintage look.

Where was it taken? I cannot tell. It looks like a very urban street scene. I have seen one other walking picture with this sort of sprocket design which was taken by Filmographs, but that too is not yet identified. There was a firm using this name in St. Annes on Sea, but this frame certainly doesn’t look like it was taken there. Let me know if you have any more like this.