It’s funny how a simple mention of things gone by will jog so many memories. So we shouldn’t have been surprised that a video clip of a laughing sailor prompted such a big response.
We posted the short movie on our Facebook page to help promote the daily Bring Me Sunshine page in The News, on which we’re publishing fun pictures, stories and jokes from readers as a rainy-day tonic.
Who better to get us in a jolly mood, we thought, than the laughing sailor who for many years would chortle to his heart’s content at anyone putting a penny in the slot at Clarence Pier in Southsea.
Lots of readers have happy memories of the mechanical mirth-maker – although several remembered as children that his laugh seemed, well, a little sinister sometimes. Dana Taylor watched the video and tells us: ‘He’s as terrifying now as he was then!’
Pam Key agrees, saying: ‘I had forgotten about him. I shall probably have nightmares tonight now! I always thought it was well creepy.’
Some, like Mandy Thomas, recall taking precautionary action as the penny dropped in the slot to set the little fellow off.
‘I remember standing behind my dad –- it used to frighten the life out of me!’ she says.
Diane Springett was more forgiving. ‘I remember the sailor – sweet memories of my childhood in dear old Pompey’ she says.
Val Smith says: ‘My kids loved this and are now grown up and living abroad but I will share this to them... happy memories.’
For some, absence has made the heart grow fonder. Caroline Gearing tells us: ‘I remember when my father was home on leave from the navy, he took me to the pier. l was only an infant and it frightened me to tears, but it’s made me laugh now though.’
Portsmouth City Museum has a copy of the laughing sailor machine on loan from a collector. However it was unable to confirm if this is the original machine that used to be at Clarence Pier.