Walkie Snaps, Blackpool
Walkie Snaps operated in Blackpool for over thirty years. The walkies they supplied were mostly half postcard black and white prints. They printed three (and later two) the same on a sheet and then cut this up. The backs often have a mini postcard style divided design, with the name Walkie Snaps down the centre. But there are just as many which lack this, probably when supplies of the pre-printed paper ran out at busy times.
For a while in the late Twenties and in the 1930s Walkie Snaps sold a print which was around half an inch wider, and it is possible this was the first sort of print they sold. On the extra paper they printed the right hand film sprockets to imitate the movie camera walkies which other firms were producing. Two of the examples shown here (one taken on the pier, the other on the promenade) exhibit this trend, the third (again on the pier, scan courtesy Paul Godfrey) shows a later print without this. The prints from the Fifties in were smaller still and machine printed, often on Kodak paper.
Despite their longevity, the history of the firm has been hard to document. We know that in 1933 Vera Boulton and John Frederick Vickers split from their third partner Claud Parkinson, which suggests Walkie Snaps had been set up during the Twenties when the craze emerged. They were operating from No. 4 and 5 The Arcade, Station Road in Blackpool at that time (just across the road from the South Pier) but moved to a registered office at 34 Bond Street, round the corner, later on, advertising “Clear, Natural Action Photographs”. The firm also had kiosks at the promenade end of the South and Central Piers (and possibly also the North Pier), Waterloo Road (close to the South Pier) where they also took walkies certainly after the War, and at Cleveleys (about four miles up the coast. I have one example from there which is just post-War. Kiosks at Olympia Winter Gardens and Joy Town are also listed on some printed ephemera.
One advert from the firm notes that the negatives would only be kept for seven days which suggests they had problems storing them all. A ticket from the firm tells us prints would be available to view at the appropriate kiosk within four hours of being taken, unless it was taken after 4.00pm in which case they could be seen at the kiosk from 2.00pm the following day. They may have had processing facilities at their named office addresses, but they are likely to have been extremely busy during the height of the season.
Many of their walkies were supplied in a mini wallet, with an illustration of the Blackpool Tower (what else?) on the front. The last confirmed date I have for one of their walkies is 1963, but they may have continued for a time after this. I have never seen any colour prints from Walkie Snaps, so they may have decided the trade was no longer worth investing in new machinery.
Although Walkie Snaps had the bulk of the town’s trade, it seems likely other firms also had a franchise to take walkies on some of the piers, and these were usually full postcard size, although smaller size walkies from the immediate post-war years on the piers also exist. None I have seen have the firm’s name on the back. Blackpool had numerous photographic studios, so it may be that some of them went into walkies for a while.
The only named walkie rivals I have seen are Kinesnaps, who took walkies in the town in 1935 and possibly for a time before and after, selling prints similar in size and layout to Walkie Snaps; and Movie Photos, a print dated 1937 taken on the promenade. There was a firm called Walkie Snaps which operated in Cleethorpes on the other side of the country in the Fifties, but they were not related.
As always I would love to hear from anyone with any more information. It is very likely photographers who were around in the 1960s are still about, please drop me an email if you worked for the firm at that time.
Read about the book Go Home On A Postcard on the site too.