Whether or not your readers have any interest in motorcycle racing I’m sure they would have appreciated your Editorial Comment which focused on the famous Oliver’s Mount race circuit, as thought-provoking respect of the many wonderful aspects of our town both past and present. I have to admit that whilst I have held a motorcycle licence all my adult life I’ve never felt the desire to attend a race meeting at Oliver’s Mount.
A frequent topic of conversation amongst the older generation, particularly those retired, is opinion on how their world has changed. Nothing to do with geographical or climate change but simply a reflection of the local scene and way of life since the so-called good old days.
Now but memories are such people as the bus conductor, rentman, lamplighter, rag and bone merchant, and the dustman (pre-wheelie bins) with the coalman and chimney sweep next in line. Even the policeman is a much rarer sight although I’m safely tucked up in bed when they patrol our town centre.
Long gone is the sight of queues that almost encircled some of our cinemas of that era, particularly the Odeon and the Futurist, as also are most of the late evening buses that catered for their patrons in all parts of town. Our cinemas, theatres (twice-weekly Open Air Theatre, the Floral Hall, Royal Opera House, and the Futurist ) and Olympia ballroom are sadly regarded as victims of generational changing tastes in entertainment
I have little idea about the extent of community spirit these days but feel sure that the gradual loss and resultant conversion of countless corner shops has had a diminishing effect. Having spent a few years of my schooldays as a part-time delivery boy at several shops – newspapers, groceries, and bread – I remember the carrier-cycles, now but a relic and a far cry from the supermarket
Apart from changing tastes in tourism, and urban renaissance schemes, a major factor has been the incidence of vandalism, not least of its effect being the loss of 15-20 public toilets within our town boundary; three underground in the town centre – Odeon subway , Harcourt Place and St Helen’s Square.
So, the question of icons. First, the “lost gems” as you so poignantly describe them; so many, but high on my list would be the Pavilion Hotel, the Royal Opera House, the Floral Hall, the Athletic Football Ground, and the Mere during the period that its outstanding natural beauty was enhanced by so many colourful tourist attractions.
On the credit side, so to speak, I agree with your assessment of the Stephen Joseph Theatre and also, from a slightly different aspect, the wonderful panoramic view of the the South Bay – but from the Esplanade, which includes those “untouchables” the Grand Hotel and the Castle.