report by John Slater
Katie opened her illustrated talk by referring to the write up I produced for her stunning presentation, last year, when she fell for my ploy by repeating the title of her talk before a packed Centenary Centre – ‘Kiss me Quick’ !
‘Captivating Katie’, more than lived up to her billing in the programme as the, ‘ever-popular’. She entranced us all from the first smile!
Katie’s talk was based on the splendid exhibition of newspaper pictures from the 1960’s by Bill Peters, fondly remembered by many of us in the audience. A selection ofrom the twenty-two thousand negative he presented to Manx National Heritage have been on display in the wonderful House of Manannan.. They date from the 1960’s. These are gradually being examined and catalogued – no easy task, with envelopes labelled, ‘Elephant on Promenade’ or ‘Transvestite on Strand Street’ as two examples!
We were presented with some surprising figures for the 1960’s. The population was as low as in the 1840’s – about 50 000 people, compared to the 80 000+ today. In one year, only one new house was built. Compare that to 2017 a.d, (after Dandara)!
‘Cometh the day, cometh the man’, in the shape of a new Lt Governor, Sir Ronald Garvey. He led the change from a moribund, former mass tourist island into a low tax economy. The transition from 1961 with 75% of the population involved with tourism shifted into finance and the economy started to pick up.
Tourism still continued. One picture showed Port Erin baths during beauty competitions. There was a scandal in one diving competition when a diver was declared as ‘Too good to be a woman!’ Shock, horror when the competitor was found to be a man! We weren’t told how this was demonstrated.
Douglas beauty competitions, at their peak, had more than 3 000 spectators in deckchairs. These had started in 1948 as fitness competitions. There had even been a boy’s best swimsuit class. Imagine the outcry now! Social change can be remarkable over the years. The days when a lady might not show an ankle to contemporary dress is extraordinary.
Peel was featured with the remarkable P50 car built on the riverside. They were about £149 when new, now around £40 000!
It was good seeing Beryl Swain aboard a 50cc TT bike. She made history as a woman rider. I had been involved to a minor extent in building the first 50cc motorcycle. TT rider, Arnold Jones, 7R AJS and Matchless G45, was a friend and worked as a rep for Britax. His first effort enjoyed a Royal Enfield cycle frame and, I think, a tuned NSU Quickly moped engine. Its first public outing was at Silverstone with a demonstration lap being completed by another girl, Pauline Dyer. I remember the London Evening News featuring her as ‘The Girl with Oil in her Veins.’ How rapidly this concept developed, rather as electric racing bikes have in the past few years.
Katie led us through the first Casino and accompanying corruption, up-rating hotels, the damage of the seamen’s strike, Radio Caroline oh and so much more! Oh Katie, come back soon!
Our next meeting is on Wednesday 17th January at 7.30pm in the Centenary Centre.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!