Monday, 24 December 2012

The ghost of Christmas past.......

Simpsons department store in Piccadily is decorated for Christmas 1965. Simpsons may not be a familiar name to many now - it closed in 1999 and the art deco building is now the flagship store of the Waterstones chain of bookshops. However it was the inspiration for a series on British Television that IS familiar to far more people than Simpsons ever was. 

In the early 1950s, scriptwriter Jeremy Lloyd was employed as an assistant at Simpsons. Twenty or so years later he used his experiences to co-write Are You Being Served?

London at Christmas half a century ago. This is Oxford Street in 1962. Not all night shots on slow film are successful but this one works. You can almost feel the chill in the air as the shops count down the days and their money into the tills. Some of the department stores that fulfilled Christmas wishes for thousands of small and not so small children are still with us but others have gone. 

Whiteley's, Robinson and Cleaver, Derry and Toms, and others have all passed into history. Only memories remain from the cold Christmas trips up to London all those years ago now...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

....mostly Westward Ho!

Grand Central Terminal (NOT Station or Depot!) in New York is one of the great indoor spaces in Manhattan. Seen here in 1949 in a time exposure, it is still one of the main transport hubs in the city.

Here seen at an unidentified location, 4451 powers what looks to be the Afternoon Daylight along the Californian coast. 4451 has long been scrapped and 4449 is the only member of the class to be preserved and was retired from service in 1957. Restored in 1974-76 it has been largely operational since then, with its 15 year overhaul scheduled to start in 2013.

An unidentified location is seen here in a Kodachrome transparency. There are clues to the general location in the shot. The car dates it to the late 1930s/early 40s (I am not an expert on American automobiles, 1930s British are my thing!) The lack of ANY other traffic marks it as c1930/40s too (although that is not by any means a certainty as suburban streets such as this would be quiet most of the time). The palms suggest it is hot and the architecture of the houses again suggest a Spanish influence. The lake at the bottom of the road looks to be a reservoir, again suggesting a hot, dry climate. A best guess is California c1941

Although it is hot in the image above, it is not always so in California, the mountains can be treacherous. 

Donner Pass is one such place, named after a group of California bound emigrants who had to overwinter there in 1846 due to their route being blocked by snow, of the 45 survivors of the group (originally 81 strong) some resorted to cannibalism to survive. Bleak is probably the best way to describe the high Sierra Nevadas in the winter, and even as late as 1952 the train the City of San Francisco was slowed in a blizzard and eventually stuck in a snowdrift there for three days.

The Mountains are unforgiving as can be seen in the image of the car below. That is a brave driver!

After our American interlude we will travel back to Europe on the 1938 built Nieuw Amsterdam, of the Holland-America line seen here mid Atlantic in 1950.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

1939 -The World comes to New York

The 1939 World's Fair. Held at Flushing Meadows - Corona Park, which sounds idyllic but was actually the cleaned up Corona Ash Dump, New York's dumping ground for coal furnace ash, horse manure and garbage. This was the second biggest World's Fair ever held - only the 1904 St Louis Fair was bigger - and over the two seasons it was open 44 million people passed through the gates.

The British Pavilion is seen in the image above. Visited in June by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth it held exhibits such as the Magna Carta, the first time that it had left Britain. with the outbreak of WW2 it was deemed safer to keep it in the USA and it was stored at Fort Knox until 1947 alongside the Declaration of Independence.

The Fair celebrated the 150th anniversary of George Washington's first inauguration as President of the United States whilst looking forward to the future. In the distance in the image above can be seen the sixty feet high statue of George Washington which stood facing the future in the shape of the two symbols of the fair, the Trylon and the Perisphere.

But this was a fair for the masses and colour photography which had been available since 1907 in the form of Autochrome plates was now easily available with the introduction only four years previously of the iconic Kodachrome slide film. 

This was perhaps the first fair that the public photographed fairly extensively IN COLOUR. The Eastman Kodak exhibit had a background, painted by Salvador Dali, seen above and despite the perception today that colour photography was a product of the 1960s and 70s, colour photography was here to stay, even if prohibitively expensive - and that is why perhaps that it is seen as a recent invention. 

A roll of colour transparency film cost $5 - the equivalent of £50/$81 in today's currency! To put that into some context, the admission price for the Fair was 75 cents!!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Welcome to America - Not everything should be taken at face value......

Liberty Enlightening the World has stood sentinel over the approaches to New York Harbour since 1886. Now, her copper sheathing aged green with verdigris, she once shone in the sun, a beacon to millions of immigrants eagerly anticipating a new life in the New World. 

But the image above is not what it seems. No immigrant saw this as his or her first glimpse of America and the statue pictured above now resides in the Brooklyn Museum. Let me explain.....

The statue pictured, a replica of the Statue of Liberty albeit not a small scale one at 9 metres high, stood on top of the Liberty Warehouse at West 64th Street. This building is now converted into flats (condominiums) as, just off Central Park, this is one of the more desirable residential locations in Manhattan.   

The Liberty warehouse is pictured below in 1966.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Off to The States on the Queen Mary - 1952

Our luggage has been delivered to our stateroom on board RMS Queen Mary for the crossing to New York. It is 1952 and there is no restriction on the amount of luggage one can bring on board.

However some took this to excess, to such an extent with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who traveled with such amounts of luggage that, the story goes, Cunard hinted that perhaps they may wish to travel with less. 

The Duke and Duchess then transferred their allegiance to United States Lines. However there may have been other reasons for their shift in loyalty. The SS United States won the Blue Riband (in 1952 at nearly 40 miles per hour which is FAST for a liner!) and as a sea crossing was the only practicable way of getting across the Atlantic in the early fifties it made sense to travel on the fastest possible ship. Also, living in France, Cherbourg was a more convenient boarding point now that they were no longer welcome in Britain.

I am not sure when (or if) the Luggage story occurred as Edward abdicated in 1936, but was still using Cunard in 1940 - at least to send luggage ahead, as 14 pieces were unloaded from the RMS Britanic in New York with no sign of the Duke on board. 

While we are crossing on the RMS Queen Mary this time, we will possibly use the SS United States on a future crossing.

The next few entries will be images of the USA from the past, starting with a familiar icon - or so it may seem to begin with.  

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The front of the Palace......for real, this time!

Round the front of the Palace (not the theatre this time!) and we are in what may be more familiar territory, but four years earlier than the previous post for this is 1953. 

Buckingham Palace is seen in all its smoke begrimed glory - the stone having been cleaned in recent years. This is the official residence of the British monarch, but not that of the Court, which is still officially resident at St James Palace, and a coronation is in the offing. 

George VI having died the previous February, Elizabeth II is now on the throne and her coronation is in a few days, and despite it being June, it will take place in the pouring rain. 

London's streets are bedecked in decorations, but these are surprisingly muted here with only some red banners bearing the letter E to be seen on the right hand side of the image.

The few cars in shot appear to be pre-war and the fashions are muted, Britain was in a period of austerity and the browns, greys and pastel colours of the clothes are typical of the early 1950s. The demographics of the colour palette would not change until the mid to late 1950s when the brighter colours we are familiar with today would start to appear.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

At the rear of the Palace in London 1957, not as glamorous as it sounds.........

The rear of the Palace, the Palace Theatre that is. Now, I have NO idea why this particular image was taken, perhaps the three people wandering across Romilly Street are friends of the photographer, but they seem too relaxed to me as normally people posed for the camera. Other than that there is no great focus of interest, just another throwaway shot perhaps at the start or end of a film. 

However, there is a lot to be gleaned from an image even as apparently mundane as this......

Romilly Street had only been named thus since 1937, previously it had been called Church Street, but was renamed due to Sir Samuel Romilly having been born nearby at 18 Frith Street. No, I don't know why they didn't rename Frith Street!

The Palace Theatre, from the front, is one of the more spectacular of London's theatres. It is situated on what was Cambridge Circus, now just a road junction but back in 1957 a roundabout hence the "Circus" sobriquet - much like the more famous Oxford Circus that most people have heard of.

However, from the back, it reveals itself to be just another brick built monolithic edifice of no great arcitectural merit - much like any other theatre. 

We know it is 1957 as Victor Borge, the comedian and pianist,  is appearing in his one man show, fresh from a record breaking run of three years on Broadway.

Looking at the cars, the most prominent is a Standard Ten, which wouldn't park there today as the area is infested with double yellow lines!  The three wheeler looks to be a Heinkel Kabine, in production from 1956-58 so almost brand new here with possibly a Fordson Van behind the Heinkel.

The Coach and Horses pub on the corner is still open for business, although no longer serving Taylor Walker's beer. Taylor Walker, founded in Stepney in 1730 as Salmon and Hare were taken over by Ind Coope in 1959.

Kettners restaurant is still in business, having opened in 1867. Phillip Raphael Ltd advertising is no longer there and is now a barber shop offering £5 hair cuts (which is a bit of a snip in Central London)

"Guinness Is Good For You" is probably the most famous of the Guinness slogans of the period and when the hoarding is as large and prominent as the one at the end of the street, overlooking Cambridge Circus you couldn't ignore it!  

The yellow sign, which is almost unreadable in this image gave me a few problems. Eventually, looking at another shot of Cambridge Circus from 1952 that I have, and even on that slide it is partially obscured, it transpires that it is an advertisement for Dameroids - some type of patent restorative elixir, described on the label as "A Safe and Sure Remedy for General Weakness, Spinal Exhaustion, Neurasthenia, Physical Decay, and Loss of Nerve Power." Obviously so good that it isn't available today!!

The snake oil salesmen were alive and well in London half a century ago!!

The last summer of peace - Knaresborough 1913

In one of the earliest colour images in my collection, Knaresborough in Yorkshire is seen here in an Autochrome glass plate taken in 1913, only six years after colour photography became easily available in 1907. It is typical of Autochromes in rendering colours in pastel shades rather than the vibrant colours we expect today. But Autochromes of towns are rare as most, due to the long exposure times, were of static and colourful subjects.

The image is taken from the ruins of Knaresborough Castle and surprisingly for an image taken a century ago, very little has really changed in what you can see here. The trees now almost obscure the church of St John the Baptist and the railway bridge still carries trains across the River Nidd.

Waterside is the street running below the bridge but what appears to be the gardens of a house to the right of the road now has houses built there. Google Map street view is a wonderful thing and these houses were being constructed in 2008 when the Google camera car tootled along Waterside.

Just under the bridge what may in 1913 have been a house is still there, but new houses have again been constructed in the gardens.

The riverbank has also been extended to the outer edge of the bridge pier and finished in concrete.

Not much has changed here in the past century - and that is not something you can say about many of the images that you will see on this blog!


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Ose! I thought you said "'oes!"

MacBraynes seem to be having some trouble with letter "o"s at the pier in Tobermory in the early 1960s, possibly a defective batch......

The unidentified steamer seems to be leaving, but then again it could be arriving - its difficult to say!

To be honest the buillding could't be more MacBrayneified if they tried!

The MacBraynes Road services Bedford TK has a load of what looks like bagged gravel. A gent in a kilt views the departing ship which is heading to (or is arriving from) Oban and generally it is a scene of no great significance, but one that occurred numerous times per day throughout the Western Isles and interesting fifty years later simply because of its ordinariness.

The pier today no longer services the ferry, which now runs from Craignure. However, the pier offices still survive today with the upper floor now a seafood cafe, "Cafe Fish", that by all accounts is rather good and the pier is still used by shellfish boats.

There has been no trace found, despite numerous searches over the years of the rumoured Spanish Gallleon wrecked in Tobermory Bay after fleeing from the English in 1588, but it IS a good story nevertheless!

The title of this entry is taken (with due acknowledgment) from the two Ronnies Four Candles sketch, as it seemed entirely appropriate!! Apologies for any readers not from the UK as this will make NO sense whatsoever!!

All the Glories of Empire.........

The Empire Exhibition in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow in 1938 was intended as a showcase of the products of countries in the British Empire. Each country had its own pavilion. 

In what was one of the wettest summers on record the exhibition which ran from May to December almost 12 million visitors attended the exhibition. The Scottish Pavilion is shown above with the lower portion of what was colloquially known as Tait's Tower (after its architect Thomas S Tait), but was officially the Tower of Empire. Intended to be a permanent reminder of the exhibition, it was demolished in July 1939 when war was imminent as it may have provided a distinctive reconnaissance point for enemy planes. 

The image of the Scottish Pavilion was taken on Dufaycolor and is one of two images I obtained a number of years ago. 

Since then I have been fortunate to collect more original images in colour of the exhibition, one of which is shown above. It shows one of the lions at the United Kingdom Pavilion and the vivid colours belie the fact that it was taken nearly seventy five years ago!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Off to Scotland - 1938

Euston, almost three quarters of a century ago, and London Midland and Scottish Princess Coronation class 6232 Duchess of Montrose starts away on on what looks to be a blisteringly hot day. The fireman looks back along the train and the banner repeater signal just visible above the front of the locomotive shows that the signal ahead, but out of sight of the driver is clear for start of the long run to Scotland. 

She is almost brand new, having been built in July so this is possibly one of her first runs. She would last until December 1962. She has been gone almost fifty years now. 

This is another of Sydney Perrier's Dufaycolor transparencies.

Three of these locomotives have survived and two have run on the main line in the past twenty years or so. One, 6233 Duchess of Sutherland, coincidentally the next numerically from this engine, is still steamable and runs on the main line having recently been overhauled while the other two reside in museums.

As we have a run of four hundred miles or so to Glasgow we should perhaps retire to the restaurant car for refreshments to pass away some time. There is something rather relaxing and indulgent about dining on a train as the countryside speeds past.


Off to the North - Euston Station 1958

We are standing just off the Euston Road in London and it is 1958. There are times when you wish the photographer had turned slightly before taking the photograph and this is one of them. Just to the photographers left is the famous Euston Arch, built in 1837 and demolished in 1963 just five years after this image was taken. What we can see here is one of the entrance lodges, which still remain today. The statue is of Robert Stephenson and has today been relocated in the forecourt of the new station which was opened in 1968.

The advertising hoarding opposite has the London Midland Region maroon enamel heading prominent and is advertising the Twin Screw Steamer Duke of Lancaster, then only two years old and running on the Heysham to Belfast route. British Railways ran ships as an extension of their rail services, along with hotels and at this time was a common carrier, by law having to transport all that was offered to them. The TSS Duke of Lancaster was in service until 1978 when she was bought for use as a static leisure centre and market. This was not a success and today she languishes out of use and derelict off the North Wales coast.

The road signs visible are pre-Worboys signs which were replaced starting in 1963 but even today there are still one or two of these still around almost fifty years later. 

The traffic lights are painted with black and white bands which was changed in the 1960s to the standard grey colour with black surround to the lights that they are today. The bollards are also black and white and cast out of rather solid iron, although they would today perhaps be plastic and yellow!

With that we should proceed into Euston Station and with the next post we shall travel twenty years further into the past and back to 1938.

Back to Southampton on the Mauretania 1954

On deck on the RMS Mauretania in 1954, these four unidentified passengers seem desperately trying to look as if they are enjoying themselves on what appears to be a rather overcast day somewhere in the North Atlantic. 

The RMS Mauretania was launched in 1938 with the same name as the famous four stacker Blue Riband holder of 1907 which was scrapped in 1935) was the relief liner on this route and sailed when either Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth were out of action for repairs or dry docking.

At this period in the 1950s The RMS Mauretania only operated the New York to Southampton route in the summer, cruising the West Indies and the Caribbean from new York in the winter.

After our arrival in Southampton, the next few posts will concentrate on Britain.

Times Square New York, 1967

The top of Times Square at 7th and 47th Street in 1967 with Sweet Charity playing at the Palace Theatre, which in its heyday in the early years of the 20th century was the most prestigious booking in America. All the major stars played there. It was converted to a cinema in 1929 and RKO's Citizen Kane had its world premiere here in 1941. Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Danny Kaye and others appeared here while it was a cinema in an effort to rekindle Vaudeville appearing before the main film, but although these were successful it did not lead to Vaudeville making a comeback.

However in 1966 it reverted to being a theatre again and the original run of Sweet Charity was the first production staged and ran for 608 performances. Films were still shown between theatrical runs and concert performances were staged for a time as well. It is still a theatre today.

Luv, with Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk is advertised in an enormous hoarding across the street on a building that isn't a cinema! (It is difficult to discern exactly what the buildings are behind all the advertising that is the hallmark of Times Square). This was a now almost forgotten 60s "comedy" film that had poor reviews and I certainly cannot remember it ever showing on TV in the UK. It was, surprisingly based on a 1964 Broadway hit but the transfer to the big screen was not apparently handled well despite some big stars appearing in it.

One of New Yorks ubiquitous yellow cabs picks up (or drops off) a passenger, but 7th Avenue looks suspiciously quiet. The traffic lights have held up the traffic, and when they turn green the traffic will thunder down 7th again.

In the middle distance is the Brass Rail restuarant at 745 7th Ave. It was a well known eatery for years and apparently was still open for business in 1980 but I cannot find a date when it closed.

The Hotel Taft, opened in 1926 as the Hotel Manger, was renamed in 1931 after the former president who had died the year before. It closed in the early 1980s and has been refurbished as apartments but now only the first seven floors are used as a hotel, The Michaelangelo.

The DeMille Theatre was made into a multiscreen in the 1970s and closed seemingly in the 1980s and was empty for years but in 2007 it was gutted and converted into a restuarant.

With more original images of New York available from as far back as 1939 we will be visiting again, but with the next image that I post we shall return to the UK.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Folkestone Lido 1937

The now demolished Lido at Folkestone is pictured here in 1937 in a Dufaycolor transparency taken by the late Sydney Perrier. The block of what looks to be mansion flats is still there today, but the Lido is long gone. Not much in the way of road traffic is visible, but there are deckchairs out on the beach and there are plenty people out and about but they all look to be wrapped up - so possibly a typical British summer (I am not sure of the date as I am not able to check the original transparency at the moment)

There is, if you look close enough, a railway in the middle distance (a coach in what may be GWR livery is JUST visible) I have all of Sydney Perrier's rail Dufaycolors, but he took a lot of street scenes, ships and other images and some of these may appear here in the future.

Dufaycolors do not scan well due to the pattern of lines that make up the picture and the detail is not as good as that found on Kodachrome which had been introduced in 1936. Although Dufaycolor was still available after the war, it was discontinued in the early 1950s.

More images can be seen on

The first post........Back to the Fifties!

This is the Blog of where I hope to showcase some vintage colour images and encourage feedback to help identify some of the slides that came unanotated or mis-described. In this slide we go back to the 1950s in glorious Kodachrome in an image that puports to be of Edinburgh (but isn't) in 1953. There is just a hint of camera shake, not surprising with a film speed of only around 8ASA.

Leslie Porter is the garage company in the building on the right, under the huge Shell and BP advertising signs and next but one to the Milk Bar. The red van is run by Inglis, who are proud of their Quality Biscuits (which can JUST be read on the original), the large brick building is home to the Century Insurance Company.

The fashions date it definitely to the early 1950s, most of the men wear hats and brown overcoats, so it possibly isn't as warm as it looks! The make of the black car escapes me, but I have been advised that it may be a pre-war Humber or large Hillman

There is a single deck half cab bus in green and cream and two double deck buses in a red and cream livery in the background.
I have also been advised that the livery of the Buses is appropriate for Belfast which also had an Inglis Bakery, but the exact location is still a mystery. The tower may be a town hall and is fairly distinctive so it may be easy enough to identify if you know, but quizes are always easy when you know the answer.

I have thousands of slides, mainly unpublished and some more can be viewed on my website

I hope to update this blog fairly regularly with images from all over the world from 1909 through to the early 1970s in unpublished colour. From the streets of New york in the 1940s to Parisian street cafes in the 1950s and even 1970s street scenes that have changed out of all recognition.