Pleasure Beach marks 100th anniversary
THEY looked an unlikely bunch, many dressed altogether more conservatively than the average Pleasure Beach thrill seeker.And for Yarmouth mayor Tony Smith, attired in full civic regalia, it was perhaps the most unusual duty of his year in office, leading a civic party on a trip that had more ups and downs and twists and turns than the average political career.
THEY looked an unlikely bunch, many dressed altogether more conservatively than the average Pleasure Beach thrill seeker.
And for Yarmouth mayor Tony Smith, attired in full civic regalia, it was perhaps the most unusual duty of his year in office, leading a civic party on a trip that had more ups and downs and twists and turns than the average political career.
Friday's VIP visit to the Pleasure Beach, culminating in nostalgic rides on the rollercoaster, aka the scenic railway, was the centrepiece of an evening of celebrations to mark the seafront park's centenary.
To celebrate the 100 years that have passed since Charles B Cochran persuaded the then town council to lease a small area of sand dunes on South Denes for an amusement site, present owner Albert Jones invited families in for the evening on a discounted ticket offer.
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There was also a display of historic photographs and a re-appearance for a veteran miniature car that had been driven by such pier show entertainers as Jack Douglas at star days during the resort's 1970s heyday.
After a parade and rousing musical performance by 901 Troop Winterton Sea Cadets, Albert's father Jimmy welcomed guests and finished with the words: “We believe in Great Yarmouth and believe we will always continue on this tradition.”
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Recalling happy visits with her own children, the Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk, Carol Bundock, said: “What would Great Yarmouth be without the Pleasure Beach. It is a wonderful Norfolk institution.”
Delighted to sport his VIP gold wristband, Mr Smith, 61, said the occasion had brought memories from boyhood onwards flooding back.
He said: “I was born in Yarmouth and grew up going to the Pleasure Beach as a wonderful Saturday night treat with my mum. I was allowed to go on five rides and Saturday afternoon was spent choosing which ones. When people talk about Yarmouth the first thing they think of is the Pleasure Beach.”
The scenic railway had been one of the town's premier attractions throughout his lifetime, and he planned to introduce its delights to his grandchildren Isabella, two, and Alexander, one, when they were a bit older, he added.
The park was bought by Albert's grandfather Albert Botton from previous proprietor John Collins in the 1950s, and Albert took over as managing-director from his father Jimmy about 10 years ago.
The 1930s-era scenic railway remains as popular as ever, and with more than one million visitors annually the Pleasure Beach is still ranked in the top 10 of the country's most popular attractions.
For the future, Albert sees an exciting new future for the park if he clinches the licence for the town's large casino and is able to build his futuristic �30m leisure complex, which would be called The Edge.
He said: “The mix of traditional and newer rides is what gives the Pleasure Beach its special atmosphere. We are getting back to being more of a family amusement park rather than having too many white knuckle rides.”
He is proud that his park continues to thrive when resorts such as Margate, Ramsgate, Southport and Morecambe have all lost theirs.