The saucy seaside postcard is as British as fish and chips, Kiss Me Quick hats and deckchairs that you could never set up properly. In other words, they are a staple part of a British holiday tradition that has long gone, as people venture out to more exotic foreign climes for their fortnight in the sun and resorts like Blackpool are reinvented as stag and hen party destinations.
While the tradition dates back to the 1950s – when artist Donald McGill was prosecuted under obscenity laws for his rather tame postcards – the heyday of these cards was the 1970s, when they were found by the dozens in every seaside souvenir shop across Britain. The cards reflected the double-entendre obsessed British comedy of the era – from Carry On to Confessions, Are You Being Served to Benny Hill – though the cards were often rather more near the knuckle than those films and shows dared to be. Featuring extraordinarily busty women and sex crazed but easily exhausted men, often in nudist camps or hospital settings, these cards were an entertaining alternative to postcards featuring photos of donkeys, Blackpool Tower or other local attractions.
While there have been attempts to revive the saucy seaside postcard over the years, it’s hard to imagine them achieving the ubiquity that they once had. If no other reason, you can’t see today’s po-faced moralisers accepting such crude humour, stereotyping and sexism displayed publicly at child’s-eye level. What was once naughty-but-nice fun would now be condemned as corrupting and dangerous… much as it was in the 1950s.
Here’s a gallery of just a few of the postcards – many, but not all, from publishers Bamforth.