1953 Sun Beach Girl Quest, Chelsea Lifesaving Club

Photos of beach scenes around Frankston and Chelsea, near Melbourne, Victoria, Australia in the early 1950s.

Back to the Show and Tell page for various items of eclectic interest such as old postcards and photographs, a 1913 colour photo of a demure young lady and eucalypt forest and rainforest in South Gippsland.
Back to the First Principles page for many other items of potential interest.

Robin Whittle  Updated 29 June 2016, 27 September 2012 and 28 November 2010, from the original two images of 1 October 2000  rw@firstpr.com.au

In 1999 I purchased some slides from a second-hand dealer at Camberwell Market - a Sunday flea-market which I attended religiously until around 2005. They were very early 35mm slides, from the late 1940s or early 1950s - judging by the motor cars and dress-styles. The film was hand-mounted in two pieces of glass stuck together with tape, so I guess this was before plastic or cardboard mounts were common.

Many of the slides were of individuals and homes, but several were of a beach event - evidently the Sun Beachgirl Quest. I have scanned two of these images (after removing the film from the glass slide and cleaning most of the mould from the film) and have provided them here for your interest.

The first one is a marvelous photo showing resplendent young women in the days before Lycra, bikinis and many of the complications we now take for granted. An announcer is at the microphone and perhaps the chap to his left is the DJ changing the needle on the 78 RPM turntable. A Digger is in a slouch hat and uniform and an elderly gentleman is wearing a hat.

The second image is presumably at the same event. While it doesn't show the Quest itself, it illustrates women in vibrant summer dresses - and some pretty bold sunglasses!

The dealer told me that he purchased these slides and many other photographs from an elderly woman whose husband had died some years ago. Clearly he was a keen photographer.

I hope you enjoy these gay glimpses of life about fifty years ago - probably about five years before I was born. If you can shed any light on the exact year they may have been taken, I would really appreciate it.

The above is the approximate text of a letter I sent to accompany prints of the images to the Chelsea Longbeach Surf Lifesaving Club and the Herald-Sun. (In those days, the Sun was a morning tabloid and the Herald was the afternoon broadsheet.) I didn't hear anything back from them.  I later read the sash the winning Girl was wearing and found that it was for the 1953 Sun Beach Girl Contest.  It is a Quest according to the banner on the balcony in the photo below, while the winner's sash (more space for longer words) is for "Sun Beach Girl Contest 1953 - Miss Frankston".

In 2015, The National Museum of Australia featured these images in an article and cover photo of their glossy magazine The Museum.  They scanned the slides and worked on the resulting images, which need considerably retouching due to dust and degradation of the film.  Issue seven of The Museum can be purchased for $5.95 post paid at their online shop.  The page for this issue is: http://www.nma.gov.au/museum_magazine/issue_seven .  It contains beautifully printed renditions of four of the images on this page of: the crowd scene, the line of women and children, Miss Frankston 1953 and the two runners-up, and the people on the roof.

Until June 2016, for the four main pictures here, this page had images from scans and retouching I did myself.  Now, for three of these I am using versions from thescans from the Museum. 

If you want to print these to make posters and the like, the links below in bold are the ones I suggest you use.

Sun Beachgirl Quest 1953 - Chelsea Lifesaving Club, Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne Victoria Australia Beauty Pageant

The next three links are to images from my own scans and retouching - they are not as good as the images and retouching from the NMA: Note the photographer on the lower right with a flash reflector on this camera.  This would be for magnesium-wool (or is it aluminium?) - oxygen flashbulbs, the size of ordinary 40-100 watt light globes. 

DJ with 78 RPM turntable and announcer at the 1953 Sun Beachgirl Quest, Chelsea Lifesaving Club

Here is the announcer and to his right, as best I can tell, the DJ.  This was before microgroove records and I think before diamond styli.  It is possible that he is lifting the tone arm to unscrew the needle and install a new one.  This would be a piezo-electric pickup (I guess) and it is necessary to install a fresh steel needle before playing each record.

My own scans and retouching:

Update November 2010

I  found a few more slides from this series.  They are stereo 35mm square slides, in cardboard mounts. 

In 2001 I was in touch with a fellow who has more slides from this era, including of the Beachgirl Quest.  He sent me an image which was similar to the one below, the beach scene image (both added to this page 2012-09-27) and an image which may be of the photographer .

These images were scanned with a CanoScan 9000F.  It is tricky to get the film flat, so they are not as well focussed as they should be.

1953 Sun Beachgirl Quest at Chelsea, near Frankston, Victoria Australia

It would be great if someone with retouching skills can work on these and send me improved versions.

1953 Sun Beach Girl Quest at Chelsea, near Frankston, Victoria Australia

1953 Sun Beachgirl Quest at Chelsea, near Frankston, Victoria Australia

Here are two images from the fellow I corresponded with:

1953 Sun Beachgirl Quest at Chelsea, near Frankston, Victoria Australia

Beach scene, maybe near Chelsea, near Frankston, Victoria Australia ca. 1953

Some of these images were from 35mm slides, with the film mounted between two pieces of glass which were held together at the edges by special white adhesive tape.  I removed the film from the glass and cleaned it as best I could before scanning it.  All but the first image here looks a lot better than the raw scan.  I spent some time with Photoshop removing spots of muck.

Here is a photo of one of the pieces of film from a slide, and of one of the stereo slides:

The white tape at the top of the stereo slide seems the same as was used to tape the glass pieces together.

I think it is highly likely that the stereo slides were taken with a Stereo Realist camera, which is well documented in this Wikipedia article:


Past events

Here is something I added to this page in 2012:

Bev Wilkinson of Seaford (Golden Days Images www.goldendaysimages.com.au) is mounting an exhibition:

Celebrate Living History of Frankston
at Bartiste, Ross Smith Lane
(Rear of 2/12 Young St) Frankston

Sunday 14 October 2012 from 4PM
Exhibition runs until 3rd November

(Click the image for a larger version.)

From the flyer:

You're invited to share a yarn over some great stories!
Interviews and photographs by Bev Wilkinson.

Prints of the photos below will be on show. 

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