The walking picture firm of Wrates are covered on the site, but this seems to be quite an early hand numbered example of their work as the back print does not mention their Harrington Road studio or the Pier kiosk. It turned up recently, I would think it dates from the 1920s and shows two elderly but imposing ladies pottering past the entrance to the Tower Gardens on The Grand Parade in Skegness one morning. They are wearing fashions from an earlier to the photographer era, which perhaps make it look even older than it is. Despite their seeming indifference they must have taken a ticket a few seconds later and gone back to the kiosk in the afternoon to buy the print!
From one of the three Blackpool piers (my money is on the South Pier), another walkie from Blackpool company Walkie Snaps. This is a pre-War example, identified by the film sprockets showing on the right hand side, their layout at the time. The print is 3″ by 4″ approx and would have been a strip of three. The two girls are enjoying an early afternoon stroll judging from the shadows, other holiday-makers are taking a post-lunch rest in the shelter on the left!
There is some history about Walkie Snaps on the site (although for such a prolific walkie firm not much is yet known) and more examples of their photos in the book Go Home On A Postcard.
We’ve covered the story of the Skegness walking picture firm Wrates on the site, but this great image of the pier entrance turned up on the web recently. It clearly show the Wrates pier shop on the right hand side of the entrance, with several dozen people milling around waiting to buy their postcard at 1/- a time. Given the late afternoon shadows, it looks like it must be after 4 o’clock, which is the advertised time for when prints would generally be available, the walkie photographers usually having clocked off around noon. It’s probably taken in the late 1940s, as the print prices began to go up after that. There are more photographs of (and by) Wrates and their cameramen and women in the book Go Home On A Postcard. Unforgivably the pier buildings were torn down in the 1970s despite being a listed structure by then.
This walking picture is a long way technically from being a great photograph but it captures a tiny moment in time so well; two young women with a new baby out walking with their pram on a blustery day, you would think it was just taken by a friend – except it has the giveaway print reference number on the back. One of the women has written their home address on the back, 3 Howgill Cottages, Low Road. This is a rural road in Brigham outside Workington in Cumbria, but I cannot locate the house. Not do we know for sure where it was taken, though one of the North West resorts seems likely, perhaps Morecambe (could that be the Midland Hotel – 1933 – going up in the distance?).
Despite the poor print, what seems to be double exposure, chemical marks and the lack of detail (it’s only 2″ by 3″ but may have been one of a pair), they clearly enjoyed having it taken and bought the print as a souvenir of the day.
Here’s another of the attractive Sunny Snaps walking picture cards, sent in by Gill Tucker from the Worthing Local History Society. Although not identified, locals have recognised the columns of St Paul’s Church on Chapel Road in the distance (just above the hat of the gentlemen on the right in fact!) It was found in the West Sussex County Council archives. Dated 1938, the contrast between the very formal dress of the two gentlemen and the casual wear of the three young lads immediately behind them could hardly be greater. It would be the last peace time summer for any of them for several years. Sunny Snaps appear to have largely ceased work once WW2 began except in London, where they carried on for a time and also began taking walkies again after the war for a few years. The story of the firm can be found on the site.
Other walkie cameramen seem to have operated in Worthing before Sunny Snaps, as this example above shows. Taken on a movie camera in the late 1920s, the small print has no identifying text but the Worthing Arcade building can be seen in the background, along with the Harrison’s Corner shop next door, which became Somers Tobacconist a few years later and can be seen in many 1930s Sunny Snaps cards like the one below (from 1936.)
Scottish walkies are not seen so often, but the trade was active there and this walking picture turned up recently, taken in Union Street, Aberdeen in September 1947, the details recorded on the back by one of the two women in the photograph. This suggests a local photographer making a living throughout the year, as it’s beyond any sort of holiday season (I have seen a Skegness walkies dated as late as October.) The road is the main shopping street in the town, and unwittingly the image gives a real insight into the bustling nature of the thoroughfare, with a horse and cart, cars, cycles and buses (there are tram tracks too) all passing the camera, and there is a slightly misty atmosphere to the photo which I like. Although people on holiday might have expected to be photographed in the street, the look of puzzlement particularly in the lady on the right suggests this was not the case here.
The view is still very recognisable today in the shot above although the cobbles have gone and it is hard to replicate the foreshortening in the original image. The two women are just passing what is still Jamieson & Carry’s jewellery shop on the left (the firm have been on this site since 1925 although that’s a fairly recent move, they were established in 1733!).
Frustratingly there are no photographer details on the back beyond the ubiquitous frame number. The only other firm I know operating in the town was Movie Snaps, who also took smaller walkies here and in other Scottish locations in the late 1930s but seem to have closed when the War started.
Whilst my main interest is in the images, walking picture research on this site is providing information for family tree researchers, and we do get quite a few requests for help in identifying unknown walkies which we can sometimes solve. This walking picture is a case in point, sent to me by Annie Goldsen. She knew it showed her mother Mary, the young girl in the centre (aged 7), as well as Mary’s parents (her Mum in the sun visor hat) and her Grandmother, but was keen to know where they were holidaying. It was taken around 1935, and they were clearly off to the beach for a spot of cricket.
I like a challenge; at first I thought it might be Skegness as the white block building was quite like some buildings there, but I drew a blank. In the end it needed a potter through my archives from A – Z, and a match finally turned up in Worthing.
The postcard view below shows the exact spot the family were when the photographer pressed the shutter. The building in the background is amazingly still there, a sort of shelter, changing room and shop combined. Even the buses in the view match.
The walkie would have been one of a strip of three, the reference number is hand-written sideways down the frame edge.
It’s a lovely image, they all seem really happy and having seen him in advance smile for the photographer.
There are quite a few more Worthing walkies on the site if you use the search button.
The ladies from our earlier post (below) carried on buying their walkie portraits after the War; here are three more from the same small collection. Because of the tree lined street (and the fact they usually holidayed in the town) I assumed they were taken in Skegness, but looking more closely I found it hard to work out exactly where and decided they must be somewhere else. The only clues were what looked like the word “Dolphin” above the window on the building in the background, and a fuzzy cafe name on the gable end of the buildings on the far left in the photo below. This looked like “The Clee Cafe”; as The Clee is the name of the old fishing area of what became the town of Cleethorpes, that showed me where to look.
A hunt located the Dolphin Hotel and showed the ladies were walking down Sea Road, which links the centre of Cleethorpes to the promenade and the station. A photo from the time online shows exactly where the cameraman was working.
The hotel is still there (see the recent photo), now a loud nightclub, and it’s hard to imagine Laurel and Hardy staying there in 1954 (when they were playing near-by Grimsby.)
Sea Road has been completely changed by road improvements and pedestrianisation. There must have been some sort of recreation area on the right, as people seem to be enthralled by something going on there in the third photo below.
I would think these three walkies span the late fifties to early sixties period, but the firm is not identified and I have no others from this spot. Evidence of the haste of the darkroom work can be seen in the missed development at the bottom of the middle print, and the over exposure on the first print which almost obscures their faces, despite which the print was still purchased.
Although North Bay Snaps (whose known history we covered on the site a while ago) were probably Scarborough’s premier Walking Picture firm for a time before WW2 it’s hard to know what else the firm supplied. I assume there was a kiosk to collect and pay for walkies, but also probably a main shop and studio.
Peter Wollinski in Australia has sent me this North Bay Snaps postcard print which poses a few questions. The image is very low quality and looks like it was taken in an Autobooth. Peter says the younger woman on the right is his late Mother, the other lady is not known: “I have no idea when the photo was actually taken, but from the information on your site must have been before 1941 and probably before the war began. My mother was Austrian and worked in London from 1936 to 1943 before being interned on the Isle of Man and then repatriated back to Austria in 1944.”
Most autobooth photographs are quite small, passport size, but the machines often did (and still do) have an option for larger sizes. But they would do prints on special paper rolls, not postcards and as this is on a North Bay printed postcard back (and clearly cut by hand), it rather suggests they printed it in the normal way. Maybe the two women had a small photo and just wanted a copy doing, which would account for the out of focus look, yet the frame edge being perfectly sharp.
If anyone does know any more, let us know.