A remarkable film of Penarth as it was half a century ago has been put on line by the British Film Institute.
The film – made by well-known local professional film-makers Harley Jones and Chris Bellinger – covers a summer’s day in Penarth on the sea front as it was in 1966.
“Miss Penarth 1966″ sits demurely on a model train travelling up and down the pier with the 1966 Mayor Alderman T Glyn Salmon, councillors and holidaymakers.
Amongst the many characters in the film is Penarth’s immaculately-uniformed Piermaster Stan Galley – who treated the pier as a ship – his ship – and looked every bit the naval officer that he was.
In those days admission to the pier was not free. Tickets cost 3d each. (We were still using pounds shillings and pence back then). A round of golf on Cliff Walk cost 1/- (one shilling including the clubs and the ball) and a game of bowls on the “sea-washed turf” of what was then called Belle Vue Gardens cost 8d.
There too is Penarth’s go-getting restaurateur Eddie Rabaiotti who then owned no fewer than four catering establishments on the Esplanade ranging from the high-end Caprice restaurant to the Rabaiotti “snack bar”. Eddie Rabaiotti had begun the family business in 1959 .
The paddler Bristol Queen is seen confidently coming alongside Penarth Pier at a surprisingly high rate of knots to embark passengers for Weston. (Later that year in thick fog she hit the pier hard and caused considerable damage) . A double-rank of deck chairs stretches along the Esplanade as far as the eye can see. They cost 6d a session to hire.
It was a still a time of paddle steamers and deck chairs and genteel snoozing in the sun – but there were also newer elements being attracted to Penarth – then seen as “modern” but which have now virtually disappeared.
On summer nights the Esplanade became a drag strip . There were “mods and rockers” and loud motorbikes – many from out of town – racing up and down the front – to the alarm and evident concern of older folk who came to Penarth for a quiet time.
Out on the Bristol Channel the water-ski boom was just about to begin with Penarth-built Moonfleet Marine runabouts towing the first of what were to be scores of water skiers – skiers who were to stop skiing when the 1973 oil crisis sent the price of petrol through the roof.
Also seen on the Esplanade is a moody group of well-heeled young people looking as if they’d just strolled off the set of a 1966 edition of “Top of the Pops” as they posed – ostentatiously draped on the wings of a classic, new, Rolls Royce.
The Windsor Court apartments – then pristine and white – looked a lot crisper and more modern than they do now . Across Bridgeman Road Penarth’s much-loved vintage swimming baths were – at the time – still very much in use. Alongside ss the Victorian splendour of the old Esplanade Hotel enjoying a final flourish of its green velvet curtains before the disastrous fire which was to destroy it a few years later.
John Krieger who became Mayor of Penarth in 1965 says in the film “People come over to Penarth because it is quiet and it is peaceful… That is what we like to provide for our people and for our visitors – peace and quiet.”
“We have not had much development and we don’t intend to have a great deal of development – because other people like it as it is and we like Penarth as it is.”
The full film can be seen on http://tinyurl.com/jlabjfe
PDN Note : PDN Posters Andrew Rabaiotti and “Cogan nomen” have already helped confirm the identities of some of the people on the film (none of whom is named) .Any other nominations will be gratefully received.