“What did we have before dodgem cars?” That was the question posed by Kay Townsend in her talk to the Friends of the Museum of Somerset. As one of a family of showmen for the last hundred years Kay was well placed to give the answer – the Wave Ride where the car moved over a panelled floor lifted by underfloor levers. This mechanism caused at least one death and became unpopular, being followed by battery driven cars. The first “proper” dodgem cars date from 1920 and were exported worldwide from America. Billy Butlin realised their potential and in 1924 he borrowed £200 to enable him to buy some for his funfair in Skegness. He became a Dodgem Corporation agent, buying and then selling on dodgem cars and his empire of holiday camps was built on that. Nowadays dodgems have a motor incorporated into the front wheel, the cars are built of fibre glass rather than wood and the prospect of whiplash is lessened by the surrounding pneumatic rubber bumper. The joy of driving them remains the same as it was a hundred years ago.
All are welcome to the next talk which will be at the Museum in Taunton on May 17th at 7.30 and is entitled “Benefits, Brass and the Girtest Grandest Day”. The speaker is Philip Hoyland.