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The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it. (Read 6870 times)
Mini-spiv
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The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Aug 6th, 2010 at 2:16am
 
Here's a little project I have thought up for all of us who have memories of the Kursaal.

Perhaps SOS forum members can contribute to this message and we can re-create a layout of what was actually there and where it was situated.

My own period of recall is from 1961-63.

After passing through the main entrance one came to a kind of glass-covered passage which led to a large circular area (also covered) that had two exits which led to the Kursaal's open-air area.
These exits were situated at about 120° from each other as was the aforementioned SOUTH passage thus for the sake of ease I shall refer to them as EAST & WEST exits.

Upon entering the 'passage' one was greeted on both sides by a row of game stalls and some alcove-recessed areas where alcohol was sold.
I do not recall every individual stall but do remember there being a glassed-fronted stall which contained the audio equipment that relayed music to the entire Kursaal complex, this was about a third of the way up on the left hand side.
Beyond this and still on the left hand side were several other stalls of various kinds at the end of which was a cafeteria.
Almost opposite to the audio 'stall' was a 'fortune teller' stall.
Continuing up this right hand side were several other stalls of various kinds including a small confectionary shop (sweets & fags) then came a ball game stall and lastly a darts stall which was opposite the cafeteria.

The large circular area contained some slot-machine arcades on it's periphery while the central area had some children's round-abouts, slot-machine and bingo 'islands'.

Emerging from the West exit up a few steps one could walk either left or right.
Going left brought you pass the 'Scenic railway' (on your right) and the 'Jolly tubes' (on your left) before ending that walkway at the 'Wall of death'.

If you had decided to go right after leaving the West exit you would traverse a track with many stalls and amusements on both sides. On the left was 'Kelly's (haunted) House', past which came a 'Ghost train' then a '.22 shooting galery' plus a few more stalls though what these were I no longer recall.

On the right side of the track you would walk past 'The Rotor' then came a (air pressured) 'Bazooka' stall whereby dislodging a coconut you would win it. Next came another darts and ball game stall followed by an entrance to a cafeteria (which had a rear entrance/exit leading (North-east) and the main rides area. Pass this cafeteria was another slot-machine arcade and at the end of this side was a 'Funny mirrors' amusement arcade.
 
If you continued beyond this track you came out upon many of the fairground rides one would expect to find.
There was a wonderful old-fashioned 'Carousel' roundabout with brightly coloured horses going up and down to the accompliment of organ playing music. To the left of this was the 'Watershute'.
Behind the carousel was 'The Bowl'(I believe it was called) which was a helter-skelter, and to the right of this a 'Dodgem' car track. Beyond all these and to the East was the famous 'Cyclone' railway.

Emerging from the East exit of the aforementioned large covered circular area you would have seen several fairground rides including 'The caterpiller'. I forget what else was here apart from the odd ice-cream, pop-corn, honeycombe and candy floss stall etc, so if you remember please say. I do recall however the aquatic 'Tunnel of love' which was situated toward the south-east of the Kursaal complex. (Punts driven by a hidden paddle machine which kept the water in circulation)

There was also another track that branched-off going East at the corner of where 'The Rotor' was situated and here (on the left) was the well remembered 'Knock 'em out of bed stall' then came some more game stalls, the details of which I no longer recall.
At some time there was also a 'Ring the bell' contraption (with a large mallet) but I think this didn't stay long nor do I recall where it was actually located.
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Mini-spiv
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #1 - Aug 6th, 2010 at 2:40am
 
I have mentioned 'The Rotor', 'The Jolly tubes' and the 'Knock 'em out of bed stall'. For those of you who have no idea of what these things were, a brief description:

'The Rotor' Was a vertical cylindrical contraption with an inner diameter or about 6 meters. You entered by way of steps to a side opening. Here you found the inside wall well padded to prevent harm. After taking your place at the inner wall the door was closed and secured and the cylinder was set into a spinning motion by a motor and after a certain speed had been attained the (false) floor upon which you had been standing was sudden lowered about two meters and you found yourself 'in the air', stuck to the wall. This situation continued for several minutes until the speed of the spin was slackened and you started sliding down the wall until you reached the lowered floor. When the spin had completely stopped the floor would rise to it's original place to allow you to exit the way you entered.

'The Jolly tubes' Were two rows of horizontal cylinders with a inner diameter or about 2 meters and about 5 or 6 meters total length.
In fact each row had two cylinders revolving in a different direction to the one it was 'sleeved' into. As with 'The Rotor', the inner walls were well padded to prevent harm. The fun was had 'Walking the walls' or running through the 'Tubes' without falling over. (I was ace at this, lol).

The 'Knock 'em out of bed' stall. This was the sauciest stall in the Kursaal (at my time).
The frontage was about six meters wide and some seven meters or so in depth.
At the front was a counter upon which wooden balls were bunched in groups of four at a throwing price of about 2/- (Two shillings).
At the back of the stall were two separate 'cages' protected by diamond-shaped wire fencing. Each cage contained a mechanically tip-able bed upon which a scantily-dressed young lady covered only with a blanket would lie.
Above both of the cages (on the rear wall) were two painted target rings each about 80 cm in diameter, in the middle of which was the 'Bulls' eye' which triggered the bed-tipping mechanism.
If you hit the target out she'd roll (onto a sponge covered carpet) to the great and often lewd cheer of the crowd.
Naturally some clients were better shoots than others and occasionally some would complain that they HAD hit the bull's eye but the girl hadn't tumbled!

So as not to 'lose a crowd' it was sometimes 'politic' for the guy running the stall to 'prove' that the mechanism was working by prodding the bull's eye with a long stick which he kept under the counter. (Although, unbeknown to the crowd there was a trip-switch under the counter which could be used in an emergency or to retain and animate the crowd for who knew how long it would take to 'build-up' a new boisterous money spending crowd?)

For those who actually worked the stalls & rides at the Kursaal there was a 'Hymm' which we all yearned to hear each night: 'There's no business like show business'. This was the song they played over the Tannoy which indicated the contractually agreed time had arrived to board-up and close shop.
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« Last Edit: Aug 6th, 2010 at 4:24am by Mini-spiv »  
 
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #2 - Aug 6th, 2010 at 4:32am
 
use to love the bikes on the wall of death and the Rotor
you know what chaps - they were the good old days -but now long gone
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #3 - Aug 6th, 2010 at 12:37pm
 
Far too young to remember the fun park part but I do remember when it was just a small arcade within the Dome lovely little arcade some fantastic games. 

One of the games you controlled a bulldozer and had to push red sand into this hole to win a prize.

Remember looking through the locked doors down the aisle of one of the wings, seeing the decaying building, always wish I could have seen it when it was really kicking.
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #4 - Aug 7th, 2010 at 6:24am
 
I used to rent a spieler from Jonny Hurst a well known kursaal character dead opposite knock em out of bed shy I used to spend many a happy tea break at the back of stall with a girl who worked on knock em out of bed (enormous breasts!!!) A lot of kursaal rides where taken over by woodhouse brothers as you may remember. I am married to Norman Woodhouses ex wife. sadly Norman is no longer with us having passed away some years back. He and I always remained great mates even after his divorce from Teresa and his son Daniel and I are still mates and close neighbours in Leicester.I still visit sothend when possible even if its only for some pie and mash.
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #5 - Aug 14th, 2010 at 2:05pm
 
I used to run the Scenic Railway, and during the winter months maintain it.  I can well remember dangling underneath the track doing repairs 90ft up in a snowstorm.   Health and Safety - whats that Wink Wink Grin
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #6 - Aug 14th, 2010 at 8:27pm
 
Nice one Fred, those were the days. Carefree and ignorant but all part of the tapestry of the times  Grin

I know that time plays funny tricks but for all the time I either worked at the Kursaal or was just visiting, I don't recall ever seeing a (uniformed) policeman there.

That there were occasional fights I do remember though, even once got smacked in the gob and I was only a by-stander! (As opposed to some memories, that one was indelibly imprinted) Shocked

For an excellent atmospheric reminiscence of the Kursaal,  see:

http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/discussion/southend-kursaal/1123442/
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« Last Edit: Aug 14th, 2010 at 9:53pm by Mini-spiv »  
 
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #7 - Aug 15th, 2010 at 3:50pm
 
This thread takes me back to the summer of 1949 when I was working as a temporary hall porter in the Grand Pier Hotel. I used to help out in the upstairs cocktail bar during the lunch hour and one of the semi regular patrons was C.J Moorehouse Jr. He used to show up dressed in (horse ) riding kit accompanied by his sidekick,who I believe was his executive assistant. I recall that he had one drink and was off. Anyone familiar with the comings and goings of the Moorehouse's, when they owned the Kursaal ?

Cheers   Brian
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #8 - Aug 16th, 2010 at 8:37am
 
C.Js side kick was a chap surname Crowley, I dont remember the first name, they did however share the same house ( two knocked together) in Park Road (?) behind the Kursaal. Moorhouse used to go rough shooting and hang pheasents in the main entrance office in the Kursaal. I often cleaned his shot guns as part of the winter security duties. His(CJs) sister was married to a chap called Warrie they had a son  Clifton named after CJ.
The Manager of the Kursaal and grounds in the 60s early 70s was an ex policeman Frank Akerman and a weird chap ran the turnstiles a Frank Freeguard, used to take snuff. During the summer weekends there were two uniformed police officers from Southend Borough Police who patrolled the grounds. I worked on the turnstiles during the 60s, we wore 1920s old police jackets as part of a uniform, I also worked on  the doors of the ballroom and estuary rooms during functions and at weekends.  Do you remember the staff canteen out the back rear of the tunnel of love? 
Not only do I remember "No business like show business" to shut the shop, I used to play it from the old radio room on an old reel to reel over the tannoy.  We also had a code for trouble or fights, the tannoy would sound, testing testing 123 wild mouse or water shoot and half the gate staff would collect defensive protection implements and charge out to join the fray, sorry, stop the trouble! I remember mostly the concessionaires, good and bad, Boswells, Millers, Manny Black, Strauss brothers, Evonne Stagg,  Tornado Smith and the young people who worked the seasons and left to do other things, the lovely young ladies that we meet during the long and busy summers. Great times and good memories, mostly!
I left the Kursaal about 1975.
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #9 - Aug 16th, 2010 at 10:41am
 
Hi Kursaal, thankyou for your contribution on this thread to your 'namesake'!

Yes indeed I do remember the staff canteen situated toward the north-west corner of the large southern coach park which itself was situated parallel to Beresford Road.
I even worked in the kitchen for a very short period. Only two things I remember about the place:
1. Hot 'sweaty' pies with soft pastry and mashy peas (edible though), and 2. They had a wierd potato 'peeling' machine which didn't really peel as much as rub the skin off the potatoes by using plenty of water and some revolving mill-stones which may have been a little wasteful to the 'body' of the spud but sure left 'em round!

Earlier in this thread I may have mis-named the "aquatic 'Tunnel of love'". On reflection I think it was actually just called 'The caves', maybe you can confirm this?

Yes I remember the Strauss brothers too, one was called Nat but the other one's name escapes me, do you remember it?
Certainly one was always seen with a cigar in his face and both were usually to be found milling around the northern end of the aisle where the large circular area was. I believe they had control of several slot-machine 'islands' there.

Maybe you also recall a father and son pair who ran a few of the game stalls, at least one of which was called Joe Brown?

One of the greatest Kursaal characters was of course Tornado Smith, the senior rider (and actual owner I believe) of The wall of death. The ultimate showman who never missed an opportunity to 'perform' even if it was only riding around the grounds of the Kursaal on his penny-farthing bicycle which one often witnessed.

And those "lovely young ladies that we meet [saw] during the long and busy summers" you mentioned sometimes came as a mixed blessing:
Many's the time a post or a wall brought me back to reality while being unable to take my eyes off them.  Cheesy
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #10 - Aug 16th, 2010 at 4:10pm
 
Reference to Tornado Smith and the Wall of Death had me scouring the pages of my copy of The Southend Story...A Town and its People. I left  in 1954, so was unaware of the following :-
QUOTE 
In 1977, Southend's famous Wall of Death rider Yvonne Stagg took her own life.Thousands of small boys had idolised her with a devotion seldom shown by their kind to a female sex. Everybody knew that Yvonne had broken all her bones at least once,and about the time she had toppled 20 feet off the Wall and a 385 lb. motor-bike had landed on top of her. In the end it was'nt the Wall of Death that reaped Yvonne, but her tangled love life. The father of her child Gustav Kokos was stabbed to death outside her front door by a jealous lover. Yvonne never recovered from the shock. The Wall of Death itself died two years later-- splintered,half rotten,soaked with sweat and motor oil,but still an arena of daredevil magic that had fascinated generations in the old,simpler Southend  UNQUOTE

Perhaps most of you were aware of this drama. Was Yvonne the only female rider to perform on the Wall of Death with Tornado Smith ?

Cheers  Brian
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #11 - Aug 16th, 2010 at 8:06pm
 
As I mentioned in "memories" I worked on the rides in 1966 one of those was "The Caves" (my pic working the boats is in one of my earlier postings). I remember when some of the girls got on the ride in pairs we would turn off the water wheel which pushed the boats round when the girls were half way then nip around the back and "rescue" them.
My auntie worked in the staff canteen so I never went hungry.
I remember Ackerman but his side kick was a bit nasty, always checking up the number of people on the rides compared to the light display showing the number who had paid, repeat rides were a perk to us.
I saw Mr Moorhouse mainly when I worked in the bars and was upstairs by the offices he was just like "Mr Grace" with a young blond piece beside him.
As was said about the call to assist any trouble it was a big rush to get there with anything you could pick up and take with you.
Ten minutes before they played "our song" to go home we all watched out for the lights on top of the dome to flash then get ready to pack up and go for a drink.

Happy days

Malcolm
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #12 - Aug 16th, 2010 at 10:13pm
 
Thankyou for your additional information Brian, a very sad story indeed and one we have unfortunately become accustomed to with many artists who have lived in the 'fast lane'.

You ask "Was Yvonne the only female rider to perform on the Wall of Death with Tornado Smith ?"

No, over time there were several, few were long term though and many more were simply forgotten. [See below]

Thankyou also Malcolm, as one memory evokes another, I recall that even before I actually worked at the Kursaal we brats used to gain entry to the grounds by lifting some wire-mesh on the southern outside perimeter of The Caves and wait for an empty boat to pass and then hop on. Often got 'nearly' caught but never actually caught however it came close at times.  Cool


Some interesting early pictures of Tornado Smith with his penny-farthing, lioness and one of his female riders Maureen Swift:

http://theselvedgeyard.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/the-wall-of-death-daredevils-lio...

and

Tornado with a another very pretty female rider:

http://messhamswallofdeath.com/indianmotorcycles.php


And here, some short vid-clips:

http://www.wpafilmlibrary.com/detail/lion_and_lamb_majorie_dare_and_tornado_smit...

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=48003

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=1516


And here, another 'lil gem from 'British Pathe' showing among other things 'The Rotor' in action! [At about 2:20]

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=73291


And lastly, YouTube also offers a mini-docu of how things used to be:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oo57RLz46gk
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« Last Edit: Aug 17th, 2010 at 5:39am by Mini-spiv »  
 
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #13 - Aug 17th, 2010 at 3:11pm
 
Thanks a million (Mini Spiv) for posting those links. What a great trip down memory lane. Would the YouTube video be the same material included in the 53 minute DVD, titled...Southend's Past..The town our parents knew ? I still plan to purchase a copy from TIMEREEL, based upon comments posted earlier in another thread.

Cheers  Brian
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Re: The Kursaal: How it was and how we remember it.
Reply #14 - Aug 19th, 2010 at 11:58am
 
Hi Brian!

You asked "Would the YouTube video be the same material included in the 53 minute DVD, titled...Southend's Past..The town our parents knew?"

Unfortunately, not having see the DVD myself, I can not say. Perhaps someone reading this who has seen it or owns the DVD will view the (above) YouTube clip and let us know.
I rather hope for your sake that if you are getting the DVD that it will contain 53 minutes of completely fresh historic info for you.

Here's a tip for you and others who may not be aware: You can copy YouTube vid-clips (as they often simply disappear) by downloading a little program found on this link:

http://youtubedownload.altervista.org/
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