Mike’s 3D keepsakes and mucky memories

AS most cinema films in my childhood were in black-and-white, it was a bonus when a Technicolor picture was screened.

As technology developed, along came VistaVision, “the wonder of CinemaScope” and stereophonic sound, and today they are forgotten techniques, surpassed by digital expertise that has changed beyond recognition the film-going experience and television viewing.

In 1975, I sat alone in Great Yarmouth’s Regent Cinema for a morning screening of The Battle of Midway, about the war in the Pacific. I was reviewing the film, which featured Sensurround sound, a deafeningly realistic effect that was almost tangible as, on screen, the big guns blazed, shells exploded and aircraft dived to attack. The building seemed to shudder, and, when the week’s run ended, occupiers of neighbouring properties must have been relieved that the battle was over!

Although I stated here recently that I had always avoided scary movies, I do now recall seeing The House of Wax in 1953, the pioneer 3-D film requiring glasses with red and green lenses. Now, 3-D is in vogue, and only last month came the launch of the world’s first 3-D phone that does not even require glasses.

Nowadays we tend to be blas� about new developments, but it is impossible to imagine the awe in which people marvelled at the introduction of stereoscopic pictures... more than a century ago!

These were not for audience viewing but for individuals who looked at photographs of familiar places in 3-D. I have some Yarmouth scenes, with two identical sepia-tone pictures side by side, together about postcard size. And regular correspondent Mike King, an ex-Gorleston resident living now in Lowestoft, has sent me more, produced by a London-based company called Fortescue Mann in about 1896.

He tells me: “There were 52 of them featuring Yarmouth, but we have only five. I don’t know if the family actually had the viewer to look at these, but, if they did, it is not around now. I suspect they bought the photos just to look at.”

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Mike has sent me: the Garibaldi, the one-time men-only hotel in St Nicholas Road, looking much narrower than I have seen it in old pictures; Market Place on market day; the ferry (the lower one, he thinks); women bathing in the sea; and herring ready for market.

My badly-faded three comprise the Royal Aquarium; an intriguing large Pleasure Beach or fairground-type ride; and Vauxhall Bridge, with many people milling around while others clamber high in the girder-work and a train trundles beneath them.

The bridge activity is almost certainly linked to an occasion of some sort, but I cannot ascertain what it was; the bridge was opened in 1862, probably before the innovation of 3-D photography.

Mike adds: “Seeing that shot of the Market Place reminds me that my Nanny used to take me there every Saturday morning. We walked out of Cobholm, across the Haven Bridge, then through Broad Row and Market Row.

“I have vivid recollections of a mass of people heaving along those rows, so dense that it was almost impossible to move forward: a “people traffic jam”, I suppose you would call it! I have never ever seen anything like it since.

“I also have vivid recollections of tipping Nanny’s shopping bag over in Mill Road, near the Lady Haven public house. Her spuds rolled all over the road and a boy on a bicycle stopped and helped her pick them up. I did this act of vandalism because she would not buy me something... Needless to say, I got a severe telling off from my mum when we got home. This would have been in 1948, when I was four or five. Nowadays that would be referred to as a tantrum!

“On another occasion, probably around the same time, I followed an elderly lady out of Cobholm... but when I got to the bridge, I observed that the river could be seen through gaps in the planks on the pavement so I decided to stop following the lady and proceeded to push muck through the gaps and into the river. Great fun!

“Meanwhile, the balloon had gone up at home when it was realised I was not around and could not be found. Nanny, like a lot of folk, used to take in visitors, and two men who were lodging with her volunteered to go to the police station to report me missing. They did not get that far as they encountered me on the bridge, happily pushing muck through the gaps!

“Another scolding!”