A magical place
The Palace Pier was a magical place. In the 1960s a charge was made for going onto the pier; having paid it, you passed through a heavy iron turnstile. It felt as though you were entering somewhere quite strange and different. Also, as a child it was easy to feel frightened by the possibility of falling through the gaps in the wooden slats. There were various small stalls along the edges of the first part of the pier. A woman operated a complicated machine that produced ring donuts. I was a great fan of these and can still ‘taste’ them, today.
Where was Eva?
There was a man who made candy floss; it was probably better watching him making it than eating the product. You had two choices, a sticky face from biting into the candy floss or sticky fingers from picking bits off the stick. Further down was Eva Petulengro’s booth where she practised clairvoyance and palm-reading. I never saw anything of Eva, nor did I ever see anyone going in or out.
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‘Fixing’ the machines
There was a huge slot machine hall in the middle area. It had a booth where you could change larger coins into pennies, to play the various machines. In my teens, me and my friends found a way of ’fixing’ the fruit machines that paid out money. Over time, we could empty out a machine and take our illegal spoils back to the booth to have them changed into larger coinage. Needless to say, the management soon got wise to this and soon we found that our ‘fix’ didn’t work.
The end of the pier
At the end of the pier, there was the ghost train, which I only had the nerve to ride on in my teens. Next door were the bumper cars. You could either drive straight into another car or try to dodge them. I always admired the young man who jumped between the cars to take the fares, it was a balletic performance. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the pier, in the 1960s were the beautiful, polished wood, speedboats. The style of them was a throwback, I think, to the 1930s and would not have been out of place in a remake of ‘The Great Gatsby.’ I recall that they were a bit expensive to ride in and I think I only went on them once.