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BOBS: GEORGE DREW REMEMBERS (PART TWO)
Interview by Gary Radice
Article: Added October 2006
During the early 1920s the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens weren't going through the best of times financially. True, there were some amusement rides there, most notably a Figure Eight coaster. Several similar rides existed in other parks in Britain, a nearby one being located at Belle Vue's smaller rival Manchester's White City. By the middle of that decade things changed..
Along came a 'live wire' where amusement rides were concerned, and that 'live wire' was John Henry Iles. He and his family took control of the Belle Vue operation, at the same forming a new company Belle Vue (Manchester) Limited, and marketing the place boldly as:
"The New Belle Vue - The Showground of the World !"
The mid-twenties saw the creation of the Empire Exhibition at Wembley, and among the extravagances created for that event was a Thompson & Iliffe Scenic Railway with which Iles was involved.
At the end of
the Exhibition it was intended that all the structures would be
destroyed with the exception of the Empire Stadium. However,
seeing an opportunity, Iles stepped in and successfully
negotiated to bring The Scenic Railway to Belle Vue.
Such was the great success of the Scenic Railway that John Henry Iles soon realised that he just had to have something bigger and better! Who better to help him achieve this but the great Fred Church?
The deal was quickly done and Belle Vue's wonderful new coaster was under construction by 1928.
should be the name? Church's coasters in the U.S. went under a
variety of names as preferred by those who operated them, but Mr
Church made no secret that his own favoured name was Bobs, and
some of the American rides were called by that name.
Opening day at
Belle Vue was Whit Monday May 20th 1929 (Bank Holiday Monday),
and large crowds thronged to be the first riders.
Either side of
the crest of the lift hill were mounted large signboards bearing
the word BOBS in bold red letters. A similar sign was affixed on
the outer side of the third highest crest at the opposite end of
the ride. These signs were picked out in ordinary tungsten light
bulbs during night time operation.
In later years a smaller sign - "DO NOT STAND UP" - was mounted opposite the left-hand bend as the trains left the station. Presumably this was for the benefit of those who couldn't quite understand the meaning of KEEP YOUR SEATS!
A 'NO SMOKING' sign was later affixed opposite the loading platform.
I would like to
mention Leslie Joseph who was so much involved with the
development of ride projects and particularly the Water Chute
coasters. He was largely influential in bringing a Water
Chute to Belle Vue in the mid-1950s.
"..Chicago's Riverview Amusement Park was one of the most popular and famous amusement parks ever. After thrilling patrons for 64 seasons, it quietly closed its gates in 1967 without even having a goodbye party." Derek Gee, Riverview Historian