Memories of the 1960s

The Palace Pier in the 1960s
Photo by John Leach

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. 

Do you have any Palace Pier memories? Share them by posting a comment below

‘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. 


Comments about this page

  • I remember on one occasion when I was around eight years old being taken on the pier, badly needing the toilet and having, shall we say, an ‘accident’. A chap who was running the ghost train came up to my mother and I, and gave us some tissues so that mother could clean-up the mess. I recall that the chap asked what my name was, and when I said that I was called Joe, he said “From now on, whenever I see you I’m going to call you Joe Stains!”. True to his word, whenever mother took me on the pier and we bumped-into the chap running the ghost train, he would always exclaim “Look out; here comes Joe Stains!”

    By Joe Ellenger (04/06/2015)
  • I recall the ghost train, too. My cousin took me on it during a holiday in Brighton. I was about 7, and he ten years older, so I was a bit tense, especially when fabric brushed against my head as we trundled along, and a skeleton materialised in the gloom of the tunnel! I also remember some machines that required you to put a penny in, and you then got a mobile torture scene, like a man being turned on a wheel with blades cutting lumps out of his torso as he circled, or a decapitation of some kind with painted blood included. All good clean fun!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (06/06/2015)
  • What fascinates me about the photo, above, is how much clothing people used to wear. Judging by the shadows, it looks as though the day may well have been a bright and sunny one. But people are comprehensively buttoned up. Looking at photos on this site, from the ’20s and ’30s, show women sitting on the beach in thick coats and their male partners wearing suits, collars and ties – all rounded off with a city hat. When my father went out, he always carried his neatly folded raincoat, draped over his right arm – as many men did at the time. I don’t think I ever saw him outside without his full suit and tie on, however warm it got. Come to that, I don’t think he had any casual clothes at all. What was it about the seafront and the beach that made people so reluctant to shed some clothing? Were they worried about what others might think?  Did they fear the cold or the rain?  I remember that my mother always used to urge me to ‘dry my hair properly’ after I had been in the sea or swimming at the King Alfred pool. Folklore at the time had it that wet hair might somehow cause colds. All a far cry from what younger people wear today – shorts, tee shirts and flip flops. And sometimes, all the year round. 

    By Philip Burnard (06/06/2015)
  • I blame antibiotics, Peter.  People think they are immune from the elements, and life itself, including me. Long may it continue, as I hate heavy clothing even at my advanced age, and the female of the species look better too!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (07/06/2015)
  • Talking of ghost trains I had another adventure. It was a ‘walk in’ and pitch dark after the bright sunlight outside.
    We were two giggly girls with a belly full of nerves. We paid and entered in. It was just like the ghost ride but on foot. I recall fumbling along in the dark clutching my girlfriend’s hand for dear life. There was a kind of handrail on one side then flips of cobweb-like cloth wafted over my face, a floor that went upwards, then downwards, and one on a slant. Then a moving floor of some kind. I was never very good in the dark, still not. I don’t seem to have those kind of feline peepers.
    At some point I recall stopping still, frozen, as if I just could not go on. I am not sure why I was the one leading the way. Pretty certain my friend would have pushed me forwards to rely on. We were in a mixture of giggles and panic. Suddenly a man’s voice quietly said, ‘You’re alright, this way’.  And a hand took my arm lightly and guided me onwards. In some ways that might have triggered more fear to suddenly find you are not alone in there. To this day I have wondered who or what he was. Did they have someone standing by in case of real trauma or panic attacks, fainting or falling? If so how did he see well enough. Did he wear special see-in-the-dark-specks? The ghost train has a route and you kind of know it will go its circle round and come out the other side. And although it triggers all sorts of screams, recoils and reactions it seems to move at a fair speed.
    This was totally up to yourself how long it would take and any amount of greeblies might confront you en- route.
    Well we obviously got out okay and I seem to recall the blaring sunlight was pretty strong, as it was before we entered the darkness. I am not sure what to make of it. Does anyone else remember this particular event on the Palace Pier and what it was called? This was about 1957 when I was 13 or so.

    By Sandra Bohtlingk (08/06/2015)
  • I remember that attraction to, Sandra. It was like a cross between a maze and a ghost train, but on foot. One corridor would lead to a hall with numerous doors in it, and passing though these doors would lead you back to where you started if you chose the wrong door. All very fascinating it was back then as a kid. Does anybody else remember this walk in ride and what it was called? 

    By David Scott (09/06/2015)
  • I remember the end of the pier had a landing stage where you could fish off. I used to spend most of the summer holidays fishing there we would go to a shop in Edwards street called Jack Balls to buy our bait and then onto the pier.  What great times they were. 

    By Mike Bryant (23/06/2015)
  • The attraction that you are talking about Sandra and David, was called the Crazy Maze. I worked on there as a teenager in the 60s. My grandfather ran the speedboats and a lot of family members worked on different attractions at various times, including the Helter Skelter, the photo booths and the amusement arcade. The lady who managed the Crazy Maze also managed a greyhound racing game on the other side of the pier, next to the Ghost Train. Ah, happy memories!

    By Sonja Fox (26/08/2015)

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