I was born in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, which has been a seaside holiday town since the 1800s, when Baths were built for people to enjoy medicinal seawater and jetties offered for fresh air promenades.
Ever since, enterprising business people offered amusements for visitors. Most family albums probably contain of relatives snapped whilst promenading along the seafront on day trips or annual week away from walk. All very warmly wrapped up against the British climate and thrilled at being captured on camera.
My brother continued this tradition into the 1980s when he was employed during the school holidays to take snapshots of punters posing with squirrel monkeys which were dressed in little knitted outfits. Quite rightly, this is no longer acceptable as it isn’t right to exploit animals in this way.
Another tradition that seems to have disappeared is weighing yourself in public. I remember there used to be a man with large balance scales on the seafront. People used to sit in a swing whilst he put weights on the other side. I think he would make a joke of guessing their weight and then calculate to the ounce using tiny gold weights before giving the sitter a piece of paper with a record of their weight.
I have not been able to find any references to this type of weighing machine on the Internet, but it was very different to the “speak your weight” funfair type of device.
Of course today bathroom scales are common, but I wonder if we’ve not all become so weight obsessed that we would find this old-fashioned entertainment deeply offensive.
Wherever we look there is evidence of the impact of social change on towns, businesses and individuals. This reminds those of us working in public relations of the importance of research and understanding social trends.
Today we take photographs using mobile phones which are uploaded in public to Flickr sites. They will never be found in old biscuit tins (which is where our family pics are kept).
I was wondering where the current concern about obesity and other weight issues is taking us and envisaged a return to public weighing with records kept online of who weights what. Will what was once fun have moved from the public to the bathroom back to public again?
Then I found this cartoon – which aptly produces a press release direct from the “publish your weight machine.”