Heady days when summer was a great institution

From bathing beauties to Solent cruises - South Parade Pier's summer programme for 1961
From bathing beauties to Solent cruises - South Parade Pier's summer programme for 1961
jpns-19-08-17 retro Aug 2017
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THIS WEEK IN 1980: The expansion of Waterlooville

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W hatever happened to the end-of-the-pier shows? They seem to have fizzled away just like one of these fireworks.

It’s summer 1961 and the traditional British seaside holiday bubble had yet to be burst by cheap flights to Benidorm.

The end of the pier show - fireworks explode over South Parade Pier

The end of the pier show - fireworks explode over South Parade Pier

The main picture shows an advertisement from a guidebook to Portsmouth and Southsea of that year. And just look at what was on offer at South Parade Pier, Southsea. Hard to believe, 51 years on.

Orchestral concerts in the bandstand twice daily, talent and bathing beauty contests, dancing in the Pier Ballroom and steamer excursions from the end of the pier. And, of course, those regular firework displays.

And look at some of the names who had appeared in those end-of-the-pier summer shows in the theatre in the previous two years: Arthur Askey, Bob Monkhouse, Jimmy Edwards, Tommy Steele...

Seven years earlier a guide to the resort carried the headline: ‘South Parade Pier attractions...where’s there’s always something doing’.

In the summer of 1954 you could have caught Cyril Fletcher and Betty Astell in Masquerade; Jack Hylton, Chesney Allen and Arthur English in (K)nights of Madness and a cast of 60 in the Portsmouth Players’ musical Veronique.

And then there were the rest of the events in Portsmouth during that 1954 season ranging from Southsea Cricket Week and Navy Days to an Open Dog Show and...the Order of the Sons of Temperance Conference.

My thanks to Mick Cooper for reminding us of a great British institution now, sadly, a faded memory.