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 wallet

Kodak wallet.jpg

While the photographs are the main focus of this site, I can’t help pick up some of the photo wallets which are often to be found in amongst them.  Designed to hold negatives and prints, they were very ephemeral items, yet some have survived over 100 years or more now. I suppose most people just shoved them in a biscuit tin along with the family photos and there they lurk.  In general people seem to have been happy just to keep the print, and once mounted in an album the negatives were often later thrown away, but sometimes you do find these carefully tucked away “just in case”.

This is very typical of such wallets, produced by Kodak and given to chemists and film processors to hand over to customers.  It features their classic red on yellow logo. Sometimes wallets would be over-printed with shop details, occasionally shops would get their own printed up.  Here Kodak have supplied some overprinted stickers for the shop to personalise the wallet. From the type I would think a date of the early 1930s.

There are some galleries of photo wallets old and new on my design site. And if you have any you don’t want, you know where to send them! And yes, the shop on Preston Old Road is still there, but is now a physiotherapy clinic.



Uncle Bill?

WP1149 Mablethorpe old photo.jpg

While Uncle Bill took “Reflex Snaps” at Skegness, one has now turned up from Mablethorpe 14 miles up the east coast, even though his Skegness details are on the back.  Which makes me wonder if he also took this one, an unmarked walkie also taken on The Pullover at Mablethorpe in the early 1920s that matches Uncle Bill’s walkie print.

Mum has made the trek from their accommodation in the heat of the mid-day sun, bucket and spade at the ready, and is more or less ignoring the camera which suggests she has seen it a few times before, although she bought the print anyway. I assume it then passed to her lad when he grew up, and has now ended up on the second hand market. The framing is a little unconventional but the cameraman only had a few seconds to get the image. Because it’s taken in horizontal format (which just about all the walkies taken here were) the photo takes in plenty of the surrounding scene as well as throwing the people in the background well out of focus.  Notice too the hasty out of true paper cropping and the very uneven edges of the print area courtesy the negative holder.

I assume for a time Uncle Bill had a kiosk just over The Pullover nearer the beach where most of the traders were based on the concreted seafront area. People were funnelled that way as there was no other access to the beach from the town and it became a small shanty town of sheds most years.

You can read a little more about Reflex Snaps at Skegness on the site, and see more images from Mablethorpe’s Pullover on the site as well.  There are more examples in the Go Home On A Postcard book as well.

Dog house

St Bernard dog Margate Sunbeam

That’s the dog’s house on the right.  The dog itself, a St. Bernard I think, is posing for a cameraman from Sunbeam Photos in Margate, with a woman sat on top.  It is not an example of the sort of bygone animal exploitation which we would frown upon today, as the dog is actually stuffed.  Onto a strong iron frame.  Although I guess the idea of stuffing dogs is also a little strange to most of us these days (if not then there are firms in America who will do this for you, or even freeze dry your pooch).  The idea here was that if Sunbeam had already photographed you walking along the prom, they might then entice you into posing with the animal for another portrait.  And Sunbeam didn’t just stop at large dogs; over the years they stuffed lions, tigers and camels, and even had a go at an elephant in the 1920s (although that looked more like something put together from black rubberised tarpaulin).  Needless to say I find this sideline to their walking picture business fascinating so have decided to try and catalogue their menagerie on the site.  As well as proper animals, Sunbeam also went with cuddlier versions which were perhaps less likely to send kids screaming in the opposite direction, so we get fluffy Felix the Cats, donkeys, Donald Ducks and more. They were doing this well into the 1950s.  So take a look at the selection so far and of course if you have anything along these lines do get in touch!  Sunbeam weren’t the only seaside photo firm to go in for this, but were by far the most prolific.

The Sunbeam Animal Menagerie


charabanc trip Southend.jpg

A form of transport which has long since disappeared, and probably just as well given the lack of safety features, the charabanc trip was another ritual of many seaside holidays – either for a trip out or even getting to the resort.  They were very popular in the 1920s and into the 1930s.  And they were also another target for our street cameramen, who would take a souvenir photo of everyone on board prior to the day-trip, and I assume have prints available for them on return or at least on show somewhere near the dropping off point.  With a dozen or more passengers it could be quite lucrative, and that so many postcards like this survive shows how popular they were.

The example here is very typical, though it is hard to know where it was taken. The Star charabanc has been hired from Binghams, on Southchurch Avenue in Southend, but that doesn’t really narrow it down much! So unless an expert in old churches in the area spots it, we’re stuck.  I would imagine early 1920s for the date, and I’m not sure what the 1/16/7 reference number is about. I do like the louche looking driver with the ciggie dangling from his lip too, some things don’t date.

Rhyl Pier

Rhyl pier off web.jpg

Piers are often a good way to identify unknown seaside photographs, but this shot of Rhyl Pier taken in the 1950s and sold as a postcard clearly shows a Walking Picture kiosk at the town end, although the photo is not clear enough to make out which firm ran this. Sadly this pier had a bit of a fraught life, what with steamers chopping chunks off, fires in the Pavilion and storm damage. What was left was restored in the Sixties but then faded again and was taken down by the council in 1973, leaving just Pier Street to remember it by.

Margate in Autumn

WP1148 Margate Sunbeam.jpg

Well, I’m guessing, but the weather does seem that way in this walking picture. Four women out taking a stroll. I was going to go with a date of the late 1940s judging by their smart outdoor coats and wonderful hats but I have another walkie dated 1939 which matches these hats so closely I feel it is just pre-War. The composition by the unknown photographer is accidental but excellent nevertheless. The postcard walkie is by Sunbeam, the South East’s most prolific street photographers, and was taken on a reflex camera using paper negatives. I do not know where it was taken, the back has Sunbeam’s Margate address on but the “V” code on the front matches other walkies taken in nearby Ramsgate which the firm also covered, so I think this is a more likely spot although it’s hard to match the buildings. The postcard has gone more sepia with age than many of theirs, and there is some discolouring in places which may be due to chemical splashes at the processing stage. One of the women has scrawled the christian names of everyone on the back but those are the only details we have.

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family on board

Family Cleethorpes studio Hardy.jpg

Or are they?  In fact not, they are in the studio of J. W. Hardy in Cleethorpes. And despite being at the coast, the background image of a boat is all on a painted canvas backdrop. The family are stood or sat in front of this, and the backdrop is cleverly painted so the decking blends in to the wooden floor.  This type of ‘on board’ backdrop was very popular, I have quite a few in the collection, and it’s interesting to see the variations used by different studios. I suspect such backdrops were supplied by specialist firms but haven’t found out much about it yet.

The family here look reasonably well to do, and managed to stay still for the long exposure, all except the little lad!  Hardy’s later began to take walking pictures, and there are more details on the site.