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Saucy Seaside Postcards

A stay at a British holiday resort always involved a look at the postcard racks outside the shops that lined the seafront.

As a young lad the scantily clad women on the cards were eye opening and as a slightly older young lad, the innuendoes were well worth a titter behind the card rack. Of course you didn’t pick one of those to buy, not in front of mum and dad; you chose a nice view of the resort. Then you took it back to where you were staying to write out to send to your friend back home.

If you were feeling kind the message usually was “Having a nice time, wish you were here.” However if you were that way out, and wanted to remind him that he wasn’t on holiday while you were then it would be, “Having a fantastic time. Wish you were here?”

By the time you were into your teens then inevitably you’d be bold enough to pick and send one of the saucy ones.

During the holiday season I’m sure delivering the mail gave the postman a bit of a giggle.

The Benny Hill type humour reflected British humour that was popular in the late fifties, sixties and seventies and seen in the popular “Carry On” series of films.

They usually contained buxom women, hen pecked husbands and “courting” couples, and always the innuendo or double entendre.

The postcard first appeared in the mid nineteenth century.

In “A brief history of the picture postcard” by Judith & Stephen Holder (FRPS) they write

“The creation of the postcard by Dr Emanuel Hermann in Austria on 1 October 1869 set in motion a revolution in the communication of the ordinary message of no especial importance, the private note, the mundane or jolly remark, the ‘wish you were here’ – indeed any short note for which no real ’security’ was required.

Almost all the main developments in the artistic designs of Postcard art originated on the continent, in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. The two main exceptions which developed in Great Britain were the Comic card and to some extent the Real Photograph cards of social, industrial and village history.”

Jonathan Duffy (BBC News Online) quotes from a book by Collector Tom Phillips.

“They were classless and democratic and the limited space was a blessing to those with poor spelling or without much to say. “

In an essay in 1941, the renowned author George Orwell wrote:

“Who does not know the ‘comics’ of the cheap stationers’ windows, the penny or twopenny coloured post cards with their endless succession of fat women in tight bathing-dresses and their crude drawing and unbearable colours, chiefly hedge-sparrow’s-egg tint and Post Office red?”

“In general, however, they are not witty, but humorous, and it must be said for McGill’s post cards, in particular, that the drawing is often a good deal funnier than the joke beneath it.”

Donald McGill ,was one of several notable illustrators, who among others included Tom Browne, John Hassall, Bruce Bairnsfather and Alfred Lees.

Unfortunately for McGill he was the unlucky one.

In the 1950’s there was a public morals backlash and Watch Committees were set up in seaside resorts. This led to the 81 year old McGill being prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act of 1857, and several of his cards being destroyed.

These are some of those vintage postcards.

They seem somewhat tame by today’s standards. It was enough however to cause confusion to the shop owners selling them and to cause several printers to cease trading.

After a couple of years this “do-gooder” attitude subsided and the illustrators and printers were back in business.

How are postcards faring in today’s “techno” climate?

In a recent survey the broadcaster ITV said that the number of postcards sent has dropped by 75 per cent. It showed that 67 per cent of those surveyed used emails or photos while on holiday, to keep in touch with family and friends.

And Donald McGill?

In 1994 the Royal Mail brought out a set of commemorative stamps featuring McGill’s postcards.

More from this author

Amazing Discovery: Answers to the Secrets of Life Uncovered in Postcards

High Jinks on the High Seas

More High Jinks on the High Seas

10 Offbeat, Bizarre and Wacky Facts

Five Mysteries and Surprises in Everyday Domestic Routines

Or for George Orwell’s essay

The Art of Donald McGill

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User Comments
  1. roberto sardelli

    On October 21, 2008 at 10:40 am


    brilliant, enjoyed this read, great job. Keep it up

  2. Lindalulu

    On October 21, 2008 at 11:10 am


    lol….still laughing, great job !

  3. papaleng

    On October 21, 2008 at 11:11 am


    very cute..

  4. Glynis Smy

    On October 21, 2008 at 11:44 am


    I can remember living in an Essex seaside resort and on Sunday the cards were covered up ;) thanks for the memories

  5. Eric Mendoza

    On October 21, 2008 at 12:57 pm


    Those are hilarious.

  6. goodselfme

    On October 21, 2008 at 2:19 pm


    Funny!

  7. Lost in Arizona

    On October 21, 2008 at 2:48 pm


    After the time I’ve been having, I needed a good laugh. Good grief, I’m still laughing so hard I’m crying. Thanks for the lift me up C, I really needed it..lol.

  8. nobert soloria bermosa

    On October 21, 2008 at 5:00 pm


    these are funny man,thanks for the good laugh,you just brighten my day,and i’m sure a lot more wil do

  9. Chris Stonecipher

    On October 21, 2008 at 6:13 pm


    Holy Cow! This is halarious! I am emailing this link to my family and friends. I am still laughing.

  10. JK Kristie

    On October 21, 2008 at 7:11 pm


    Cute and funny! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Fossa

    On October 21, 2008 at 7:41 pm


    Funny as Heck! Awesome Article

  12. Lauren Axelrod

    On October 21, 2008 at 8:27 pm


    Totally hilarious

  13. Oscar Trejo Jr

    On October 21, 2008 at 8:40 pm


    lol… I have to admit… This is funny as hell, LMAO!
    Good job with the article.. I’m recommending this link to my friends!

  14. RJ Evans

    On October 22, 2008 at 1:40 am


    This brings back great memories of a childhood spent near or next to many wet and windy beaches in the UK. The smell of fish and chips, the rot of teeth on souvenir rock, the grousy landladies… ah what wonderful memories these have evoked! :-)

  15. s hayes

    On October 22, 2008 at 2:27 am


    Excellent article – Great fun

  16. thestickman

    On October 22, 2008 at 6:22 am


    Nice :)

  17. geri

    On October 23, 2008 at 5:43 pm


    lol thanks had such a good laugh

    Geri

  18. Kevin

    On October 24, 2008 at 9:24 am


    These are great. Well done!

  19. Joe Poniatowski

    On October 24, 2008 at 10:58 am


    Hah – these were amusing, thanks.

  20. SeventhSibling

    On October 25, 2008 at 7:47 am


    I can just imagine the giggles and laughs from the card display stand. Must have been a happy place to work seeing customers’ smiling faces after viewing these cards. Thanks for pulling them together to share with us.

  21. James DeVere

    On October 29, 2008 at 1:55 am


    Very bawdy. I remember the cards at Brighton, England. Brings back supurb memories.
    Best Wishes, James

  22. Poetic Enigma

    On November 7, 2008 at 12:08 pm


    these were definately amusing, this is a terrific article,
    well written!

  23. BC Doan

    On November 28, 2008 at 9:11 pm


    Very funny, and I enjoy it!

  24. graham

    On January 1, 2009 at 9:20 pm


    great stuff

  25. Marco Gennilli

    On January 3, 2009 at 10:44 am


    British Humour at its best! Brings back memories of seaside trips to Blackpool and Rhyl in the early seventies! :)

    Marco Gennilli

    http://www.medics4u.com

  26. PR Mace

    On January 27, 2009 at 10:40 pm


    Loved it, thanks for the laught.

  27. catlord

    On February 23, 2009 at 9:37 pm


    Oh these are still funny! :-)

    -thestickman

  28. C Jordan

    On March 11, 2009 at 9:53 pm


    Thanks all for your comments. Also special thanks to Detomah, owner and designer at http://www.totalformat.com for allowing this to be posted on his forum.

  29. Deepayan

    On March 15, 2009 at 3:39 pm


    funny postcards

  30. Peter Gander

    On March 20, 2009 at 6:54 am


    Hi, Interesting article, thanks. I am trying (almost) single-handedly to revive the Saucy Seaside Postcard myself – have a gander at petergander.blogspot.com Cheers, Peter

  31. Rod Ferrandino

    On April 15, 2009 at 9:22 am


    Clever selection; I remember this style of work from Esquire magazine, and much of what Playboy used to publish, back in the day.

  32. Amys Bloomers

    On April 17, 2009 at 10:24 am


    Hi I have a website http://www.amysbloomers.co.uk.
    I bought the software, as I find it very easy to order a personalised greetings card.
    It came with loads of images.
    I am trying to turn the site into a double entendre, tongue in cheek humour site.
    I am in discussion with the owner of some saucy seaside images so I can place them on my site and people can then turn the old style saucy seaside postcards into greetings cards.
    If anybody has any ideas to help or knows of any artists who may be interested in re sketching ths humour it woud be greatly appreciated.
    you can find my email details at http://www.amysbloomers.co.uk

  33. Raf

    On January 24, 2010 at 4:58 pm


    Great lets have more jokes

  34. Raf

    On February 1, 2010 at 3:42 pm


    Great thank you for making me smile

    Keep them coming

  35. I Have Had Enough

    On April 2, 2010 at 8:30 am


    I loved those old postcards; they just don’t make them like that anymore. I do also remember subtly sidling up to the rack for a sneaky peak; and then going red if an adult walked by, as if they cared what I was looking at.

  36. A.L.Smith

    On April 2, 2010 at 3:07 pm


    These are hilarious. Nice share.

  37. Bo Russo

    On May 1, 2010 at 11:43 pm


    Very funny stuff, hard to believe some it was sold.

  38. Joe

    On November 28, 2010 at 2:20 pm


    Very funny keep it coming great fun..

    More required in this cold weather…

  39. ignacio

    On January 14, 2011 at 4:32 pm


    Great. I like british humour very much altough I am spanish . Good jobe keep it up!!!

  40. DHAFER

    On January 8, 2012 at 9:52 am


    GREAT ;EXCELLENT JOKES;MORE PLEASE

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