The Beatles with smog masks on before playing at the wear Ardwick Theare, December 7, 1965
Even The Beatles wore smog masks when they visited Manchester in the era of the thick pea-soupers.
The Fab Four tried the latest mask on for size when they played the Ardwick Theatre in December 1965 – but it probably wasn’t designed to cope with George Harrison’s cigarette!
Smogs were common in Manchester in the 1950s and early 1960s. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1956 to reduce air pollution, but it took some years to reach its full effect.
Smoke continued to belch from factory chimneys and home coal fires, combining with fog and poor weather to turn day into night – quite literally. You could be forgiven for thinking that the photograph taken in Oxford Street in November 1953 was shot in the late evening – it was midday.Fog in Manchester turns day into night on Oxford Street on November 17, 1953
The same is true of the picture of the Hyde-bound double-decker bus ploughing through the fog in the same month. The time, believe it or not, is 1.30pm.
New kinds of masks were not the only way to beat the smog. Bus companies introduced motorcycle combinations kitted out with batteries of bright lights to blaze a trail through the fog. Local residents would sometimes walk in front of buses to guide them as they knew the neighbourhood well enough to find their way in the dark, even when it was supposed to be daylight.
Other approaches were less high-tech. Parents made sure children wrapped their scarves round their mouths as they waited at bus-stops for the school-bus headlights to pierce the morning gloom.A bus in Manchester during the noon smog November 1953
All these pictures and many more like them from the M.E.N. archive are now available in a new book that aims to capture the spirit of Manchester in the post-war years.
Around Manchester in the 1950s, by local author Clive Hardy, contains more than 160 pages focusing on every aspect of life in Manchester from music to football, from trains to planes and automobiles, from work to fun and leisure, from the movies to the magic of Belle Vue.
The new book is being published by Manchester-based business iNostalgia. They’ve been busy using social media to collect stories and memories from readers as well as posting a series of intriguing images from yesteryear.A bus being led by a motor cycle combination fitted with a special battery of lights in January 1953
In the weeks ahead, the M.E.N. will be featuring evocative pictures of Belle Vue, fashions, ‘Derby’ matches, music and Christmas in Manchester.
So if you have any special stories or pictures to share, please email the M.E.N. at or log on to the iNostalgia Facebook page.
Around Manchester in the 1950s (ISBN 978-1-84547-242-9) will retail at £19.99 plus P&P when it’s published in November, but M.E.N. readers will have the chance to buy it for £14.99 plus P&P.
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