Tag Archives: carnival

fairground attraction – it’s got to be-ee-ee perfect!

(Post by Mark Arbuckle of Glasgow – November 2021)

Like most people I have a rather complicated relationship with Fairgrounds, The Shows, Amusement Parks, whatever you like to call them.

Excited, scared and bravado in equal measures.

My earliest memory is being taken to the Kelvin Hall Circus and Carnival in the early 60’s where the smell of the  elephants left an olfactory impression on me for many, many years!

Clydebank had it’s own annual fairground on the waste ground where St. Andrew’s HS would be built in the 80’s and then  demolished 20 years later.

I was taken to there in 1967 at age of nine by my grandparents. I thought I’d start with something gentle and build up to the more fearsome looking rides.

I chose a sedate looking motorcycle merry go round. Off it went with myself and a few other kids grinning at their family members.

After a few laps the leather clad, carny thought he’d have a bit of fun and cranked up the speed! The motorcycle had a purple velvet seat and I started to slide off it.

No seatbelts or H&S in those days!

The carny continued to increase the speed until my torso was now at right angles to the bike!I was holding on grimly to the handlebars.

The other kids were screaming and so was my Gran as she saw me whizzing round with my head barely 6″ from the ground! A man rushed up to the carny and grabbed him, shouting ‘Stop the Bloody Machine!’
It began to slow down and another man helped me to regain my seat!

My Gran was crying and very, very angry as she accosted the now sheepish looking carny with a few expletive deletives!!

I did return the following year but avoided THAT ride!

In the late 60’s my family’s annual holiday was two weeks in a small hotel in Whitley Bay.

Four kids, my parents and stacks of luggage all packed into a car for what seemed like an eight hour journey!
Are we there yet?…

The main attraction of Whitley Bay was The Spanish City!

An amusement park which at the time boasted Europe’s Biggest & Fastest Rollercoaster.

I LOVED IT!

I went every day with my siblings. There was a machine with a manical laughing clown just inside the main entrance.

Maybe that’s where Stephen King got his idea for IT!

I was initially a bit scared of the ‘Biggest Rollercoaster in Europe’ but once I’d experienced it for the first time I excitedly jumped off and rejoined the queue to go again!

There was also a Ghost Train which I thought was very tame until  somebody in the dark shadows, dressed all in black touched my face as the train slowed down at a corner! I nearly jumped out of my seat!
Again no seatbelts!

Local lad Mark Knopfler wrote a song about this magical place in 1980.

Tunnel of Love‘ by Dire Straits

Yeah, now I am searchin’ through these carousels and the carnival arcade
Searching everywhere, from steeplechase to balustrades
In any shooting galleries where promises are made
To rockaway, rockaway
Rockaway, rockaway
From Cullercoats to Whitley Bay. And to Rockaway

‘And girl it looks so pretty to me like it always did
Like the Spanish city to me when we were kids
Girl it looks so pretty to me like it always did
Like the Spanish city to me when we were kids.’

Sadly, after 93 years as an amusement Park, The Spanish City closed in 1999.

However it reopened in 2018 as a spectacular wedding and conference venue! Both Mark Knopfler and Sting attended the Grand Reopening!
I will visit it very soon!

Our last family holiday was in 1972 in Blackpool.

The obvious attraction was The Pleasure Beach and yes I visited it a couple of times over the fortnight. To be honest I was more attracted to a much smaller showground in the north of the town.

I was nearly 15 and was captivated by everything about it! 
My every sense was on overload!

The smell of grease, both from the rides and burger stands.
The sweet scents of Candy Floss and Popcorn.
The intoxicating aromas of perfume, perspiration and peanuts!

The sounds of laughter, squeals of delight and tantrums….and that was just me!

And the sights!

OH MY THE SIGHTS!

Pulsating lights, brightly painted rides, the strutting exotic carnys and, most memorable of all, the pretty girls in denim jackets and short skirts! Giggling in packs!

And of course the music of the early 1970’s pounding out from huge speakers on every stall and ride!

‘Lola,’ ‘Layla,’ ‘Let’s Work Together’ (and other songs’ names that begin with L!)

Three Dog Night‘s ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come
Whenever I hear this song I’m instantly transported back to that show ground!

Black Night‘ by Deep Purple, ‘All Right Now ‘by Free.’ In The Summer Time‘ by Mungo Jerry ‘Son of My Father ‘by Chicory Tip, ‘Blockbuster’ by Sweet and the glorious anthem of 1972, ‘Schools Out’ by the inimitable Alice Cooper!

I was totally in my element!

Every day I endured walks along the promenade,  shopping or a bit of sunbathing, (where I actually got burned!… Yes in Blackpool!?!) but the whole time I was anticipating the delicious excitement of the evening to come! 

By December 1974 I was going steady. My great friend Rab was going on a first date with a girl and I suggested we go as a foursome to The Kelvin Hall Carnival.

In preparation for his date, Rab bought new jeans and shoes and a trendy short beige raincoat. The kind that is back in fashion now!

I have to confess that I can’t remember his date’s name….
(I don’t think I ever knew it) only that everyone knew her as Duck!?!…..

We excitedly browsed the stalls and bought hot dogs slathered in onions and mustard. Then we had Candy Floss, Cola and Chocolate.

Rab’s date was going very well.

We’d already gone on the obligatory (for courting couples) Ghost Train and Dodgems where you were allowed, nay encouraged, to smash into each other’s cars!

And we’d all tried to win a prize at the clearly rigged shooting gallery and throw the ring over the jam jar to win a goldfish.

Rab then said that we should have a go on The Waltzer.

He went on first followed by Duck, then myself and my girlfriend.
We settled in, pulled the safety bar up to our laps and off we went.

It immediately accelerated and a carny (maybe a relative of my torturor in 1967) jumped onto the back of our car and started to violently spin it, to our initial delight.
After about two minutes I glanced to my right and saw that Duck’s face had totally drained of colour and she was rocking forward over the safety bar. She suddenly sat back upright and started to retch, turning towards me…..

At the last second I gently but firmly guided her head in the other direction.

She then vomited spectacularly all over Rab!

And remember our waltzer carriage was still spinning at top speed!

Rab was covered in undigested hot dog, candy floss and a brownish bile from his head to his knees! So too was poor Duck and she was still vomiting but now into the carriage at our feet!

Mercifully the ride finally slowed down and came to a stop. Unbelievably the carny was shouting at us that we owed him money to clean the carriage.
Big Rab with vomit still dripping from his hair told him to go forth and multiply!

We all headed to the toilets.
I helped Rab to clean up and my girlfriend attempted to perform a miracle on Duck!

Rab used hot water to clean his hair, face, coat and jeans and then used every toilet roll and paper towel in a vain attempt to dry off.

The girls finally emerged from the Ladies about 45 minutes later. Duck was still very pale,  disheveled looking and, to be honest, still a bit smelly.

We unanimously decided to call it a night. So we headed out on to a chilly Argyle Street to catch the bus home to Clydebank.

Nobody spoke much on the journey home.

Sadly we never ever saw Duck again! (Maybe for the best…)

Hopefully she is now a loving grandmother and entertains her grandchildren with stories of her past….

But maybe NOT this particular one!!

my 1970s teen-angst diary (part 2)

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – April 2021)

Revisit Part 1 of ‘My 1970s Teen Angst Diary’ here.

INTRODUCTION RE-CAP

First crush, unrequited love, friendships, breaking-up, making-up, chicken in the brick, going to the flicks, grey tights, the disco, ponies, clogs, orchestra practice, sexism, a court case and Col’s wooden ‘Andie Block’…it was all going on in 1974!

In those far off pre-digital days of my youth – the 1970s – there were no bloggers, no tweeters, no Instagram or Facebook opportunities to express or comment on whatever thought popped into our heads. And wasn’t it great! The notion that other people might be remotely interested in our inner thoughts was alien; I grew up hearing that old chestnut, “you know what thought did,” even though I had no idea what it meant.

On my ninth birthday in 1969, my mother gave me a five year diary; encouraging me to “keep all my secrets” within this little blue leather book with a lock and key; as she had done in her youth. I kept it sporadically.  It is only in the past two years that I have begun writing a journal once more and it is considerably less entertaining than my teenage diary!

June 2nd, 1974

 “Saw a film called ‘300 Spartans.” Hollywood, violins,  corny but quite good. For lunch, cooked chicken in brick with garlic, also potatoes, peas, fruit salad, milk, gravy & dry cake. Yum!

 Went to Col’s to see rabbits. We just missed DARRYL SMITH! Col was in a towel as he was getting ready for a bath. Couldn’t see rabbits. Went for a walk round the block with Zoo.”

 June 13th, 1974

 “Didn’t go to orchestra practice. I’ll get Mom to write a note. I might (well, probably will) have to testify about accident which Julie and John had (fight). Help! I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God!

Went to piano lesson. Playing Fur Elise. NOT going to disco Saturday night as sold out of tickets. Going to TOP RANK Saturday morning.”

NB: I had witnessed a school fight between Julie and John, which had begun as a flirtatious game but ended with Julie falling down stairs and knocking out a tooth. Her mother reported it to the police and it ended up in the Juvenile Court. My testament prevented John from being sent to Borstal.

June 17th, 1974

“At school today Kim said that Pamela had told her that Darryl Smith had told her to tell Kim that he HATES ME!  (Boo Hoo.) I don’t know why, except that he thinks I’m dependent on him, so at next disco I’m going to dance with other boys (not that I’ve ever danced with Darryl, though I’d love to!!). This might make him see that I don’t need him, so he might like me again. I HOPE SO!! 

Still, as my pals say, “there are more fish in the sea,” though I still like Darryl as much as before.

Saw TV programme on SLEEP – very interesting.”

June 20th, 1974

“Nothing much went on today. Got pen friends, I will write to a few more.  It is EXTREEMLY hot today & tonight!! So hot, I might not use sheets!!

I have just heard a cat scream. Zoo is in heat. Made fudge – turned out like caramel – very nice!

 Julie’s mum doesn’t want her to come to m y house again. She said “you know who your pals are in these cases.” GOOD NIGHT!

June 22nd, 1974

 “Went to Halesowen to Sainsbury’s with Mom and Dad. Dad got sick ’cause they went to a party night before. Gave Shaz a birthday present – Elton John, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.” Went to disco tonight. Alright but a lot of kids there about 17 – some about 15. They stuck pins in you. Spent night at Shaz’s house.” (WTF – STUCK PINS IN YOU?)

July 16th, 1974

 “Tonight went to Carnival (in the States, a Fun Fair is called a Carnival) in Shenley (near Bartley Green Reservoir). Went on ‘WALTZER JOY-BOUNCE’, ‘SCRAMBLER’, & ‘ROCKETS’. 2nd time on WALTZER man spun me, Shaz & Becky round so I was nearly sick, skirt went back, couldn’t move or lean forward.  ROCKET handle moved up or down but ours didn’t work so we were up in the air all the time – I screamed & held on to Shaz. Scrambler man said to Shaz that I had white knickers on. When we went by him he patted Shaz’s knee. Went on stalls. Shaz won a furry toy on stick.”

July 17th, 1974  

“Had Summer Fair at school tonight. Ii did Pony Rides with Georgina & Jean. Georgina brought their  ponies, FELLA & JUPITER. I think we raised around £5.00. Georgina gave me 20p for my ‘hard work’ (cough cough!) I went in my jodhpurs & riding boots & several boys laughed at me. I got a coke & as I picked it up, I spilled Mr. Gupta’s (History teacher) coffee right in front of Mrs. Carter.” (Head Teacher) Oh well. Went to Georgina’s for an hour. Got home about 10.00pm.”

Andrea, aged 14, on one of her favourite ponies.

July 18th, 1974

“Last day of school this year! GREAT!  I’ll be 4th Year next year! Help! Tonight I am at Becky’s. We have just had an omelette. (Yum!) Tomorrow we are going to town early then going skating.  That should be funny! I’ll write about that tomorrow!

There are some Spanish girls at school. One of them did hand-stands at break on playground & 2 did piggy-backs. They are popular with the boys here. One boy said, “ Can I tickle your fancy?”  She didn’t know what it meant.

 Sang ‘School’s Out’  (Alice Cooper) as we walked home!”

(Copyright: Andrea Burn 11th April, 2021)

all the fun of the fair

(by Paul Fitzpatrick: March 2021)

When I was a kid, I loved going to the Carnival at the Kelvin Hall at Xmas, there was just something magical about it – it was a full out attack on the senses.

First there was the noise – chart hits being pumped out from every ride, plus the accompanying sirens, bells and whistles and of course the whoops and screams from the punters.

Then there were the smells – everything from the sweet smell of freshly spun candy floss to the not so sweet, throat-gagging, odour of elephant dung from the neighbouring circus.

And finally, the lights – bright, flashing, colourful, a bit like Vegas, it could have been any time of the day in there, you’d never know.

It was an alternative universe we visited once or twice a year and it never disappointed.

You could spend hours there just soaking it all up but normally it only took 60-90 minutes to spend whatever money you had. Frittering away your last few pennies in the penny-falls machine in the vain hope of extending your stay.
Inevitably walking away on the brink of a big pay-out with an avalanche of two pence’s hanging over the edge!

Then there were the rides.

We all had our favourites and our strategies to make the most of them.

For me the Waltzers were always number one but only if the ‘Waltzer guys’ supplemented the experience by manually spinning the contraption around. This however was a fete exclusively reserved for the girls they were looking to impress.

It was quite a dance, watching them weave their way effortlessly around the heavy duty machinery, snake like, waltzer to waltzer whilst eyeing up the talent.

We may have been young and daft but we spotted this pretty quickly and employed a tactic where we would split up into pairs before joining the two most eligible girls we could find that had space in their Waltzer.
We’d done our research and we knew with some certainty, that this particular Waltzer was going to get hurled around the West End of Glasgow something rotten.

The girls were normally a couple of years older and were oblivious to us and our rouse, totally swept up as they were in the attention of the Waltzer Guys and the fact that this chariot of metal was about to spin off its axis into the Clyde.

It was a tactic that served us well and I would still recommend it to any young pups out there looking to maximise their Waltzer experience.

Another top ride was the Rotor, a concept based on centrifugal force pressing you against the cylinder wall of the ride, as the floor below disappears.

Rotating at dizzying speeds, you were literally stuck to the wall like an insect to flypaper until the giant food blender came to a stop and the floor re-emerged.

Being Glasgow of course, there were plenty of gallus punters who didn’t respect the laws of Newtonian Mechanics, so you had guys doing hand stands against the wall, people trying to consume fizzy drinks and worst of all, numpties jumping on the ride after scoffing a baked potato or such like.

The result was nearly always the same and I can confirm that a combination of centrifugal force and vomit is not pleasant for anyone involved.

Think Problem Child 2 for any of you that have seen it!

Everyone had their favourites – the ghost train, the dodgems, the rib-tickler, the fast motorbikes, the cyclone, the umbrellas and the chairoplanes but apart from the odd scramble for a specific dodgem that you had convinced yourself was 50mph faster than the rest, I don’t seem to remember ever having to wait long to get on a ride.
Certainly none of this 30-minute waiting time malarkey that you see now.

Then there were the salon games you were encouraged to play, the challenges that always looked so easy to win, with the big unattainable prizes stacked behind them as an incentive.

Throw a small hoop over an ever so slightly larger plinth and win a diamond ring, throw rock-hard table-tennis balls into a jam jar and if by some miracle you manage to get them to stay in and they don’t bounce out again, win a Rolex, knock the superglued coconuts off their shy with a foam ball and win a holiday to Vegas! …..(okay I’m taking it too far now!)

In all my years I never saw any of our crowd win anything other than a goldfish in a plastic bag and that was by hooking a few plastic yellow ducks out of a puddle of water, an attraction normally reserved for 5-year-olds.

I can also confirm that taking Goldie the goldfish onto the rotor wasn’t the best idea.

Then there was the penny arcade with its plethora of slot machines, that split into two types.
None of them rewarding….

Ones where you could win cash prizes (like the fruit machines or penny-falls) but never did.

Or ones like the big crane thingy with the giant claw, where you could win prizes like watches and jewellery. However, the only thing I ever saw this badly constructed piece of Meccano collect in it’s giant tentacle was cheap key-rings.

In saying that we never went out with the intention of coming back with anything substantial, and we knew that any money won was just going to be ploughed straight back into the place anyway.

Every ride pumped out music at maximum volume and the better the song the more enjoyable the ride, the song that reminds me most of the Kelvin Hall is Shaft by Isaac Hayes, a perfect soundtrack for the time.

‘Who’s the cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about?’
Shaft!
‘Right on’

My grandparents lived in Partick so I used to go to the Carnival regularly as a youngster, however, my peak Kelvin Hall years were when I was around 13/14, young enough for it still to be a big adventure but old enough to go on my own with my pals.

For all the excitement I do remember trying to keep my wits about me, wary of a different crowd and wary of the speed and velocity I was being flung around this palace of fun – but it was always invigorating.

At 13 you tend not to over-think things, you just live in the moment and enjoy it, so it was tragic to learn that there was an accident on Boxing day in 1978 when two people unfortunately lost their lives on a ride called the Concorde Flyer, due to a machine malfunction.

I remember going to the circus a couple of times as well, but that was usually a trip with the Cubs and the only reason for going was the 30 minutes you’d get to go on the rides afterwards.

I’d left the Kelvin Hall behind by 1974 and had moved onto the big-boy rides at Blackpool’s pleasure beach – namely The Grand National and The Big Dipper.

Then when our own kids were old enough we went to Disneyland and Universal’s Island of Adventure in Orlando and of course pretended it was for the kids benefit.

The rides and the entertainment in Florida are on a different level of course – The Hulk Coaster, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Splash Mountain, Tower of Terror, etc but for all the razzmatazz I’m still not sure anything compares with the Waltzer at the Kelvin Hall on a cold December night with two bonnie lassies onboard and an amorous Waltzer guy – geien it laldy!

THE WALTZER GUY WENT TOO DAMM FAST THIS TIME!