We all recall the excitement of a holiday in our childhood, the anticipation of a new environment and possibly the ocean and beach time.
For many post-war older people I have talked to about holidays in their childhood, all have agreed they were for the rich and not for working-class families on a tight budget. Talking to Elders from England, holidays would consist of a day trip to Brighton, Blackpool or Southend, depending on what part of the country you lived in; almost all would recall the train or coach journey, a packed lunch of sandwiches and homemade cake.
If you were lucky enough to have ice cream on the seafront, you would use a bucket and spade to make sand castles until it was time to catch the train back home. For many, the day trip to the seaside would have been the most anticipated highlight of the year.
The changes came for those born in the 1950s who would enjoy the compulsory two-week factory fortnight, from the last week in July to the first week of August, when all manufacturers would close down for two weeks, allowing families to head to the coast for the compulsory seaside jaunt. Places such as Skegness, Lowestoft, Blackpool and Brighton became the most favoured locations to frequent. The holiday would usually consist of the popular bed and breakfast guest house that provided a comfortable bed and full English breakfast in the morning. The growth of guest houses exploded during this period; some were more popular than others, and word of mouth would be the best recommendation for families to choose where they would stay.
Whether it was a day out at the seaside or if you were lucky enough to have a two-week holiday, British resorts offered a carefree existence away from the humdrum working week back home.
Resorts would offer amusement arcades, candy floss and ice cream and the obligatory fish and chips eaten usually on the promenade. Children would enjoy donkey rides on the beach; amusement parks would offer Dodgem cars, roller coasters, Ferris wheels and a carousel, to name but a few. Strolling around the fair would be mandatory, so would be toffee apples, candy floss and hot dogs as treats.
On the promenade, there would be scattered vendors selling buckets and spades for the beach, a wide range of seaside rock that was hard and sugary, confectionery which was eaten by children every year and could have led to the rise in visits to the dentist for teeth fillings later that year. Not forgetting the compulsory postcards to be sent home to all the family and friends telling everyone, “What a wonderful time you were having and wish you were here!”
Holiday camps such as Butlins and Pontings became all the rage during the 1960s in the UK, offering organised activities, amusements for the children and adult entertainment for the adults. The camps hired young people known as ‘Red Coat and Blue Coat hosts’, whose job was to guarantee you had a memorable holiday, sure to tell all your friends and family and return the following year. Chalet-type accommodation provided basic amenities and came with three hot meals a day served in the communal dining hall. The dining hall was the place where new friends and acquaintances were made, often to return the following year.
Mum and Dad would be more relaxed; Dad seated in a deck chair with his pipe and handkerchief tied in all four corners strategically placed on his head. Mum was sitting next to dad, chewing on a stick of rock and glancing through the latest copy of a woman’s own magazine, keeping a crafty eye on what the children were doing on the beach. Those bygone days were simple activities on the annual holiday that made people happy and content.
The good old days of the ‘Great British Holiday’ ended with the advent of cheap package holidays in the late 1960s, initially to Spain, Portugal and beyond, where sunshine was always guaranteed, unlike the inevitable wet British summer weather.
One lady in her late eighties I spoke to, summarised her experience of early childhood holiday recollections as being – “Time to let go from the daily routine, and create happy memories with family and friends, capturing magical moments to cherish for the rest of your life”.
Do you have memories from your travels with your older family members? Share them with us on email@example.com