Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Do you remember when...

1950s holidays,



and communal eating

What I remember about our summer holiday in 1956:

A children’s theatre with puppets

A swimming pool with a tumbling waterfall

Music playing loudly all the time... especially first thing in the morning

A clown telling jokes while we ate three meals a day... all together in a very big canteen... with the same clown telling the same jokes... every mealtime

And Red Coats!

We were, as you’ve no doubt guessed, at Butlins in Skegness. It was the first ever holiday camp in the UK. It had been built in 1936 but because of the 2nd World War, it didn’t really get going as a holiday camp until the 1950s. The ethos was one of organised holiday fun... at least it was meant to be fun but the expression on my face in that picture makes you wonder.

Mum and Dad bought a caravan before the 1950s were out. It was a static one on a site in Ingoldmells. This was only minutes away from Skegness Butlins so very little changed. Our caravan had few amenities. We had to go on a short walk to a standpipe to get water and a longer walk to a toilet block for ‘comfort breaks’. I used to take myself to the toilet block in the middle of the night armed with only a torch and dressing gown. You wouldn’t let kids do that these days. Has it become more dangerous or are we more aware... or more paranoid?

I went back to Skegness Butlins in the 1970s when I had children of my own. The clown had gone and so had the massive communal canteen but there was still music playing. It wasn’t the loud rallying kind. I think it was Chi Mai also known as the theme tune from The Life and Times of David Lloyd George which you can listen to hear. [If I’ve remembered wrongly about the tune and you can remember what it was then please let me know!]

There are a lot of things that I can’t remember about the 1970s. It’s strange how memories work. The 1950s and 60s are clearer in my head than the 70s, except that the details are from a very small person’s perspective. If only I’d kept a writer’s notebook during the 1970s I’d have lots of rich material for article writing now. There’s a definite market in the UK for nostalgia articles. The Best of British are always interested in anything that might appeal to the older reader as are Yours Magazine. You can check out their submission guidelines here for The Best of British and here for Yours.

I just love those ‘Do you remember when...’ moments so if you have a favourite ‘Do you remember when...’ holiday moment I’d love to hear about it.


  1. I envy you the good memory - I'm not very good at remembering anything other than embarrassing moments. :)

  2. Rosalind, thank you so much for posting those memories, because I'm just revising a section of a novel where my protagonist is staying at a holiday camp on the Isle of Wight... that's so great to read your snapshots!

    I have loads of good memories about holidays - mostly of the camping variety. I used to love the toast that my mum cooked on the camping stove. It just had a certain flavour.... yummm.

  3. Hi Jemi. No I'm fascinated. Exactly how embarrassing would that be?

    Hi Talli, I guess that's called synchronicity. Glad it's helped with your protagonist. Have to admit that our caravan did at least have a proper little cooker and grill. I'm not very good at roughing it, I'm afraid.

  4. Ah Butlins in the 50's what memories you stirred for me. The loud noise of "Wakey Wakey" booming out over loud speakers at the crack of dawn. Collecting little metal badges with the camp name and year - wish I still had them. Competitions like Knobbly Knees (Dad won first prize) and The Bathing Beauty Contest. Organised games on the lawns in beautifully kept gardens and fabulous Talent Shows. Oh and learning to roller skate with a handsome Redcoat holding my hand.
    Thanks Ros - I've just indulged myself with a huge chunk of ME time remembering.
    Rifka M.

  5. Hi Rifka. I'd forgotten all about those little metal badges. I used to have some of those. If only we'd kept things like that from those days. Glad you got a chunk of ME time from the blog ;-)

  6. And in answer to the questions a few of my blogger friends have been asking me, yes the photograph is of me. I'm the little one. I'm sitting with my mother and I'm not eating which was apparently normal for me in those days.

  7. I find that all my childhood memories seem to be connected to music,
    Del Shannon's "Runaway" always reminds me of our family holiday in the Isle of Wight - it was obviously in the Top Ten during that trip.
    Whereas hearing the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night' puts me straight back into a summer camp I went to and I can even 'see' the people who were there although I can't put a name to any of them any more.

  8. Loved this post, it reminds me a lot of my "food memory" one I did a while back, when I asked twitter friends what the first food was they could remember.
    These little things take us back a long way, don't they?

  9. Hi Ann, yes music is so nostalgic. I love it.

    Thanks, Miriam. I've also written a post about food memories. It had the same name as this one, Do you remember when... and it was in November 2009.

  10. Hi, I just found your blog and have been checking out the writing site. Thanks for stopping by mine. I love writing about memories. Many of my manuscripts are about the 'old' days.