Secrets of the saucy seaside postcard

They were as much a part of the great seaside holiday as fish and chips and the end-of-the-pier show. Now a new exhibition offers a cheeky peek at the saucy postcard. STEPHEN PULLINGER reports.

The saucy seaside postcard can still be found in racks along Great Yarmouth's Regent Road, but its cartoons of busty girls and red-nosed men really evoke the heyday of British resorts – an era when sexist and racist humour was still deemed acceptable.

However, for anyone willing to put aside their PC sensibilities, Yarmouth's Time and Tide museum is offering a nostalgic seaside trip right back to the 1930s.

From today, large bottoms and big boobs are back as the museum in Blackfriars Road launches its latest exhibi-tion: Secrets of the Saucy Seaside Postcard.

Exhibition organiser Alison Hall said: 'Today we're more likely to send a text message to tell our friends and fam-ily we've safely arrived at our holiday destination, but the postcard used to be the popular, cheap and quick form of communication.'

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The postcard was born in Victorian times when the 1870 Post Office Act first permitted their sale.

However, today's format with a picture on one side and a divided back containing the message and address was not introduced until 1904.

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The exhibition shows how Bamforth and Co, a family firm based in the small Pennine town of Holmfirth, near Huddersfield, had a pivotal role in the growing affection for saucy postcards and their familiar array of characters and themes.

Ms Hall said: 'Fat ladies and downtrodden husbands, busty girls and scrawny men, seaside landladies, nudist colonies, toilets and honeymoon couples. They all crop up in the same kind of style as Carry On films.'

The Bamforth collection evolved through three generations of the family until production finally ceased in 2000.

The postcards in the exhibition, mainly from the 1940s to the 1970s, are a Bamforth collection held by Kirklees Community History Service in Huddersfield.

Ms Hall said: 'The cards reveal a lot about attitudes towards particular groups of people. For example, they show how racist and sexist society used to be. This means they can sometimes be offensive to modern eyes. However, to stop the postcards overstepping the mark and becoming too risqu�, postcard censorship boards were set up to de-termine what could be allowed. Yarmouth's was set up in 1957.'

The exhibition shows how the finished cards – now highly collectable – started out as doodles sketched by Bam-forth's skilled team of artists.

Derek Bamforth, who ran the business from the 1940s onwards, would examine the sketched ideas with his two salesmen to decide which would be the best sellers.

The chosen designs were then worked up in colour and captions were introduced ready for the printers.

The exhibition also features local postcards from the museum's collection and from local historian Colin Tooke.

t Secrets of the Saucy Seaside Postcard runs at Time and Tide until September 4. Entrance is included in the mu-seum admission price, adult �4.80, children �3.50, adult in a family group �4.

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