Along the seafront in the summer you obviously had the Pier and Peter Pan’s playground but there were other activities too. There was an open air roller skating rink, loads of pleasure boat rides and there was this man who used to make scale replicas of Brighton Southdown buses, Brighton fire engines and cars. His name was Johnstone and his vehicles were Johnstone midgets. You sat in them and for 6d ( 2 1/2p) he drove you along the lower esplanade and back. They looked just like the real thing only smaller. He made them in North Road, Preston village. When I was younger, and lived in Preston, we used to go and look in his window and watch him make them.
Editors’s note: there are photos of the midget coaches in the Question and Answer section of this website.
Black Rock swimming pool
Black Rock swimming pool was thriving then and I remember you couldn’t get in the water because of all the kids with their tyre inner tubes, just like big black Polo mints floating about.
Louis Tussaud’s wax works
On the seafront you had ‘Louis Tussaud’s’ wax works. He was a relative of Madam Tussaud in London. As you went in there was a medieval knight who shook hands with you. He had such a strong grip that you could hardly get your hand out of his. In the front window was a scene from ‘The Pit and Pendulum’ with a man strapped to a table and a huge scythe moving backwards and forwards, getting lower and lower until it just missed the man’s body and started again. The building was on three floors and housed celebrities of the day, like Max Miller etc, politicians, a chamber of horrors and various scenes from fairy tales.
The Aquarium was a very popular place and in the early 50s they had two chimpanzees. One was named Gordon, after Sir Gordon Richards the Jockey, and the other named Steve, after Steve Donague, another famous jockey. On the weekend at 4pm the Aquarium keepers brought the chimps up to the gates at the top of the stairs and gave them their tea. This was advertised as Gordon and Steve’s Tea Party and went down very well with the kids.