Thursday, 25 February 2016

Lost Blackpool - a walk through memory.

It's an interesting theme.  I was thrilled by an exhibition of photographs at Stanley Park Visitor's Centre during summer 2015.  I took Mum along and she told me some of her recollections of The Palace Ballroom and Raikes Hall Gardens, with its wonderful entrance gates.  My Great-Grandfather was a major shareholder in the company and we have his will, a huge scripted document on parchment with a wax seal.  The description of assets held is strange reading and is better left for another audience. It was a very long time ago.

Today I want to take you on a walk around the Blackpool of my childhood. The year is 1969.  We arrive in Blackpool on the Ribble 158: A double decker, red bus that travels hourly from Preston via Kirkham and Weeton along Preston New Road to the Oxford. Thomas Motors and The Oxford Pub are situated here.  We turn right into Whitegate Drive, passing a building that I am sad to say was called The Spastic Society, then Elmslie Girl's Grammar School on the right.  Whitegate Drive is lined by elegant houses and attractive shops. We pass The Heatlth Centre, an imposing red brick building that was formerly a hospital, then on to Devonshire Square. The Number Three is here, (so called because it was the third stop on the original coaching route to Preston) and we journey along to Devonshire Road Hospital at the corner of Talbot Road. There are bus depots here and Talbot Road bus station.  As usual it is busy. At least ten buses stop here at one time. People queue under shelter but it is vast and cold.

The walk down to Queen Street is not unpleasant.  The tiled, Art Deco, Odeon Cinema is just along on Dixon Road but we turn left to pass the Central Library and Grundy Art Gallery. This is a very select part of town.  There are two furriers, Springs and Gladys Whittaker, several gown shops including Chez Elle and Diana Warren, Harts the Silversmith, Lawley's china shop and The Capo di Monte Centre. There is a card shop, a lingerie shop, a bag shop and Data Furniture. Cave's Corner is there too as we turn onto Maybelle  Avenue.  Here on the left is MacFisheries and a sewing machine shop. Opposite is a tiny chocolate shop, where I buy a single Cote D'or bouchee with my pocket money.  Abingdon Street is lovely.  The Post Office, curtain fabric shop, jewellers and Hunters outfitters on the corner of Clifton Street, with a man on horseback jumping a fence.

We will walk down here toward the Tivoli cinema: It is my favourite thing to do.  There is a pet shop in the arcade that leads back onto Talbot Road and a wooden native American Indian stands on the pavement outside The Smoker's Choice. On the opposite side is The Oyster Catcher.  Beneath The Tivoli is The Bossley Grill steakhouse. So we cross the road, past the Town Hall and there is Edwald's fabric shop and on the right, upstairs, opposite British Home Stores, my parent's favourite Lobster Pot Restaurant. Onto Bank Hey Street now, near the Tower.  Lewis's on the right, Chelsea girl on the left, then RHO Hills and then a large corner, Marks & Spencer and the biggest Woolworths. There is another on Talbot Road.

No time for fish and chips at Hesketh's today. So we turn onto Victoria Street. On the left is Charisse, a very chic children's clothing shop, The Little Vic pub (that should have been saved). On the right, Collette's boutique, then the Gazette building with its imposing tower and useful clock. We nip through to the Grand Theatre entrance and nip into the UCP for a pot of tea and toasted teacake. As we walk up Church Street, I can see the giant teddy bear in Timpson's shoe shop, Laura Lynn on the right and Dolcis on the corner. Orry's school outfitters, Brown & Mallilieu luxury cars, then Vernon Humpage and The Danish Kitchen.  We have to run for the bus now, along King street passing the ABC cinema, Ardron's hardware and St John's indoor market hall.

Quite a trip wasn't it? The streets of Blackpool were clean, classy and beautiful. This week, I have written a poem about a building that was intentionally pulled down in the early 1990's, despite public opinion.  Built in 1939, it was a National treasure, a public asset and its loss was felt by local people for many years.


Demolition Derby

It was a National disgrace.
An act of near-sightedness,
The crushing of civic pride,
to a 'just-for-profit' mess 

An Olympian building crumbled
Under the wrecking ball
And after the dust cloud settled
Nothing remained at all. 

Elegant Art Deco Styling,
Tiling of Ocean Blue,
A towering treasure for leisure,
with sensational promenade view.

The pool was a full eighty meters,
Divided in swimming lanes,
with springboards and high diving platforms
attracting the top sporting names.  

They hosted the National Champions,
And Wiesmuller summered a show.
Yes Tarzan was here for a season,
everyone packed in, row on row.   

And each year, The Interschool’s Gala,
Would echo to raucous degree,
With colour block scarves and blazers, 
Arnold, Queen Mary, Montgomery.   

And I would be there in purple and gold,
Cheering my peers in the heats,
As the frenzy arose in the final,
We'd be screaming and standing on seats.  

It stood sixty years from the thirties,
They said it was past its prime,
The Derby Baths was forgotten,
The memory faded with time. 

They gave us an ugly Sandcastle
At South Shore, by the sea,
Not a pool where kids could exercise,
Just a mammoth monstrosity. 

Now all that we have is a wave pool
That bobs with obese bums and thighs.
No swimming lanes or high boards:
Just loads of blubber-filled slides.

The demolition of Derby Baths,
Began Blackpool’s unhealthy demise,
How could councillors look to the future
with pound signs clouding their eyes? 
Thank  you for reading. Adele


Annette said...

What a wonderful description of my memories of Blackpool in my youth :) Thank you!

Adele said...

So much has changed Annette. We all celebrate the retention of The Grand,Theatre, The Winter Gardens, the piers and The Art Deco Café but in the last three or four decades, so many elegant buildings, independent retailers and cinemas have gone. It was a real joy to reimagine the late 60's for the blog. Glad that you enjoyed it.

Harry Hill said...

Thoroughly enjoyable blog, thanks Adele.

felixgarnet said...

That was lovely and brought so many images back to my mind. Thank you very much, Adele. :-)

Adele said...

Your comments are lovely. I usually get 90-100 views on my Thursday blog. This week nearly 1,000. So happy to have found such a receptive audience. Thank you all.

Anonymous said...

Found this by accident. Haven't lived in Blackpool now for over 40 years but still go back regularly.
I was a police woman there in 1969 so you may have passed me on your trip used to go in to the back of Heskeths for fish and chips!

Alan Tauber said...

Yes a big loss I have just returned to the Fylde and give blackpool a wide berth.
I remember working at Henry's store where Boots is now and watching the mighty lead ball demolish The Palace to me that was the beginning of the end for blackpool.