HOLIDAYS 1950s STYLE

21 Jun

HOLIDAYS 1950s STYLE

MUM AND BROTHER AND ME photo image0-32.jpgIt’s a short trip from Rugby in the Midlands to the coast when measured in these later days in which we don’t think twice about climbing aboard a holiday coach to foreign parts, yet back in my childhood Skegness was a long way from home.

It’s odd how things have changed so much in a single lifetime. Distances have shrunk. Time has become compressed. The years speed by like so many frames in an old film. It gets to be terrifying!

Back in the day we went to the seaside most years. My mum, a widow with a minute income, somehow managed to afford a week in a caravan every August. I don’t know how she did it, only that it must have been bloody hard for her. There was me, herself and my (slightly) younger brother. I only hope we weren’t what they call a “handful”, he and me.

It was still dark when the taxi came to take us to the station, so, being August, it must have been very, very early in the morning. It was still dark when we got to the station, us and lots of other people waiting for the train to Skegness.

It wasn’t always Skegness. A couple of times we went to Great Yarmouth and on one occasion we went to North Wales. But mostly it was Skegness. I’ve got pictures to prove it. One of them adorns the top of this piece.

What a beast that train was at it thundered, slowing, into the station. I’m talking of the time when trains were still real trains and pulled by a steam locomotive. No diesel or electric nonsense here: we were taken on holiday in a proper train pulled by a fire-breathing monster. Sparks flew as it ground to a standstill. The fireman frantically shovelled coal into his furnace, the light of which flickered hot and red into even the darkest corners of the station.

We were going on holiday and the flickering monster marked the start of our journey. It meant the joy had begun.

It was always a caravan holiday and when I had a camera of my own, a box affair as old as the hills but working, I took a picture of the caravan we had that year, and joy of joys I’ve still got it. It’s here!
!950'S Holiday caravan photo image0-9.jpg
All those boyhood holidays morphed into one as the years that have rolled by since then have massaged them into a homogeneous portion of memory called childhood holidays. The digging of sand on the beach, the making of fragile canals for sea water to run down for a moment before washing away, the small crabs that were there for us to admire and, I seem to remember, play with. I hope we weren’t cruel to them. The candy-floss on sticks – you know, the stuff that health and safety killjoys have shoved into polythene bags for modern kids to have less to remember. The ice creams that dripped down shirts. The fish and chip lunches from newspaper sheets as we walked down the street.

Back then we didn’t have much in our wardrobes. There was still so much austerity around you’d be shocked it you found yourself suddenly living in 1950ish. Back then we wore our school clothes on holiday because our school clothes were all we had. Men – other children’s fathers because my own father was in his grave – wore suits, even on the hottest days. But then, if they wanted to be seen in their best things the only best things they had would most likely be a solitary suit. So my brother and I were in our grey school shorts, probably last year’s because the new ones for the new school year were being preserved in their newness for the start of the Autumn term.

The train puffed off. There was nothing on this planet more exciting than being on a train pulled by a steam locomotive as it puffed off, and nothing that smelled better than the mixture of aromas that clung to the smorgasbord of steam and smoke that belched out of the engine.–

I can remember very little about the caravans we spent our summer holidays in. I guess that after the journey to get there everything else was a bit of an anticlimax. I know we slept in them at night (of course) and the light was produced, brilliantly, by a gas mantle. Those lights were my solitary experience of gas lighting and even now I’m surprised (as I gaze at them through the lens of memory) at their white brilliance.

I can distinctly remember becoming a bus during the days when mum was peeling spuds and my brother was on the swings. There were concrete paths round the caravan site on which we stayed, and I spent quite a lot of at least one holiday (and probably more) being a bus and jogging along as if on an unkempt road, dinging my inner bell when I wanted to stop at a planned bus-stop. Was I imaginative or just plain bored? Who knows… after all these years I don’t.

You know, excited as I was by the journey from home, I have no recollection of any return journey. It’s as if they never happened! But they did and it’s a huge credit to my mum, who’s been dead for above fifty years, that I have so much to remember. Her life was hard and became harrowing, but she worked wonders and created the Peter who’s writing this now.

© Peter Rogerson 21.06.15

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