Friday, 30 March 2012

Vintage love: bathing costume and heels

I love this photo because it captures a time when people really made an effort with their clothes. You don't see many people wearing heels to the swimming pool and with their hair carefully coiffered - it looks like there's not much chance of that hair-do getting wet! But the main reason I love this photo is because the lady perched on the diving board is my late-Grandmother.

I have always loved looking at my Gran's collection of black and white photos, she always looked so glamorous. And yet you would never believe that she came from a very poor mining family from the Rhondda valley in Wales.

This photo is taken in the Tropicana on the seafront at Weston-super-Mare in 1938, you can see the Grand Atlantic hotel in the background. The Tropicana was a new swimming pool, with an elaborate diving board, which opened on the seafront at Weston in 1937. You can see the diving board in all it's glory here. A trip to Weston was seen as heaven to my Gran and her sister, a break from the grim mining towns of South Wales and a chance to relax and get glammed up.

My Gran had very little money, but she would adapt and alter clothes to add a bit of extra fizz. She also spent ages on her hair and always wore lipstick. As a young woman she had to leave home and move to London to get a job and I think this time in the capital got her interested in fashion. Whenever she returned to see her family in Wales she had the slight air of the film star about her. Although her family gently teased her new glamorous ways - when she returned home wearing a particularly jaunty hat, her Father remarked "where's the carnival?".

This photo is so optimistic because it was taken in peace time between the wars and after much suffering in the Great Depression of the 1920s. A few years later, it was a very different story, my Gran joined the WAAF and rather than following fashions in London, she was dodging bombs and moving around the country to various grim postings in old country houses as part of her war work.

I also love this photo as I am a Weston girl born and bred and I visited the Tropicana as a child in its 1980s reincarnation. It is also an important snapshot of an endangered building. There are plans to demolish this historical art deco construction and many people are very unhappy about it, there is currently and online campaign to save the Tropicana. The site has remained unoccupied since 2000 and it seems such a waste of a perfectly usuable space. I think it would be amazing if it could be restored to its 1937 glory as seen in my Gran's photo.

6 comments:

www.westonsupermum.com said...

Absolutely love this post. It shows personal and local history!

Does your Gran still live in WsM?

pouch said...

Glad you like it - she has a number of photos of weston dating from 1930s/40s.
She lives in Weston now, she's been there for about 25 years. She moved from Wales to Bristol and moved to Weston when I was about 6 :)

angharad handmade said...

Great photo, Nicola. It's such a shame so many of the old lidos have been shut down, such a lovely concept. I haven't been to Weston-super-mare in years, though we're hardly any distance at all away now, living in Chepstow. I was born and bred in the Welsh mining valleys, in fact the next door valley to the Rhondda, just over the mountain!

angharad handmade said...

Great photo, Nicola. It's such a shame so many of the old lidos have been shut down, it's such a fantastic idea. I haven't been to Weston-super-mare in years, though we hardly live any distance at all away now we're in Chepstow! I'm sure it's changed lots since I went as a child.

I was born and bred in the South Wales mining valleys, the next valley along from the Rhondda, just over the mountain!

Elli Moody said...

Thanks for sharing the photo and your Gran's story - I love the Tropicana - it would so lovely if they restored it to it's former glory :)

pouch said...

I agree Elli, it would be fantastic if they could make it into a functioning swimming pool again - it's such a waste.

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