We often hear the phrase: “Those were the days…” But were they? Janet’s recent interest in Marie the Palmist prompted me to take another look at some old pictures.
This must be very early in Canvey’s development – 1920s going by the fashion – and well worth a study in today’s context. Roll-films were already a commodity, but I have also seen early pictures that were quite obviously taken on plate cameras.
We see at top right that rarity on Canvey at the time, trees. We know they marked Furtherwick Farm, but just check out the Wild West (linear) settlement to the west of it. Horses graze on the large field to the left. Furtherwick Road was raised, flanked by ditches to either side, being one of the oldest roads on the island. We must here be in the middle of the car park/open space on the sea wall with the future Labworth Café and Monico to our right. It looks a long road, but it must have been walked by sufficient numbers to make it worthwhile for such facilities as having your palm read by ‘Marie the Palmist’ and to put a fresh film in the camera at the ‘Welcome Hut’.
The way everyone poses out on the mud in their Sunday best for the event of photography that was still something new… Except for the two people on folding chairs with the bicycle by the hut – they’d seen it all before. ‘Films developed & printed’ and ‘Nut Brown Tobacco’ are advertised. Now films are already a thing of the past and any colour tobacco is frowned upon. Is that Marie herself in the open door in her warm white cloche hat? ‘Scientific Palmist. Character Readings’. In a cobbled-together hut supported by angled staves? WW1 had given women a new importance and a taste for a new freedom, which rebelled against Victorian feminine frills. The new emancipated women cut their hair and wore trousers. The severity of the cloche hat is in line with that movement.
The advertising sign exhorts us to ‘Visit the Pavilion Restaurant & Tea Gardens. Hot & Cold Luncheons. Daily Teas. Music. Dancing. Boating & Bathing. Large & Small Parties Catered for. Popular Prices.’ In fact, Tea Rooms and Tea Gardens were all the rage. Today we seem to have settled for Coffee Bars.
The next postcard, likely from about the same time, is looking along the sea wall on a cold and blustery day. Visitors are wearing fashionable hats and fur wraps. Babies are carried. Families and boys in school caps risk the rough stones on the seaward side of the wall. There can’t be much sunshine, shadows are barely noticeable. A flat-cap motorcyclist made it to the sea wall down Furtherwick Road. We now know where the other bicycle was kept. That couldn’t possibly be ‘Marie the Palmist’ in her warm hat manning the ‘Welcome Hut’ under full steam, wafting its aroma towards the wall?
The hidden story in this picture is the way it shows what happened in 1953. The stony side of the wall would hold, but when the water seeped over the top, it washed away the grassy side, undermining its strength. Perhaps if both sides had been clad in stone…?
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You mention ‘Marie the Palmist’, I don’t know if you know much about her. In the 1950s her tent eventually finished up right on the corner of Oak Road and Furtherwick, next to Canvey Model Village and Longmans.
If you look at the story ‘A Showman comes to Canvey’ you can see someone married Marie Sivado (that was Marie the Palmist). As a youngster I always thought she was theatrical in her appearance, now I know why. She had a son, Danny, who had learning difficulties. He was quite big and one day as my elderly grandfather walked past the ‘Greenwood’ next to Chambers in Furtherwick Road, he grabbed him from behind and lifted him up! I think there are quite a few stories about Danny. I don’t know what happened to him.
I can add a little about Marie Before she married my grandfather, she was married to Charlie Brown of the Flying Sivados. They apparently did a lot of touring, including at least one tour to South Africa. Marie’s death certificate states she was a former trapeze artiste. Her daughter Bunty married an American airman after the war. Her granddaughter Yvonne who lives on Long Island, New York contacted me a couple of years ago and she was wondering what had happened to Danny as well (he was her uncle). I think Danny did have some sort of problem but I’m not sure what it was. Marie moved to Portsmouth after my grandfather died, so Danny might have gone with her.
I remember Maria the Palmist very clearly. When I was a small girl my father paid her to teach me French. I have no idea if this was a language she acquired or whether she was perhaps of French ancentry. What she taught me gave me a head start at school. As has been noted she was quite a dresser but I don’t remember her son Danny.
My Husband was driving back from Birmingham in his Lorry (late 50s/early 60s) when he saw Danny thumbing a lift to get home. He wasn’t far out of town so picked Danny up and during the journey he remarked… ‘people think I’m silly but I don’t need money to travel, I do it for free.’ Giving his usual cheeky grin.
We never heard of Danny causing any trouble and like many other Old Canveyites have often wondered what happened to him
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