Once a year the working men’s club funded an outing for the members’ children and that was usually the first week of the school holidays, but for weeks leading up to that we used to be so excited.
Day at the Seaside project 2012
Interviewee: Dorothy Cole – born in Newcastle 10.09.1937
The highlight of our year was a trip, what we called a trip to the seaside. There was quite a lot of working men’s clubs in those days and all the dads were members and they used to go and, you know, have a drink there at weekends. But once a year the working men’s club funded an outing for the members’ children and that was usually the first week of the school holidays. But for weeks leading up to that we used to be so excited and we used to practice running, racing, jumping because they used to have sports on the outing and it used to start, a special bus would come to the street where we lived. There was usually about five buses all filled with mums and dads and children. We lived on the south of the Tyne which was Hebburn, so to come to the other side of the river, to Whitley Bay, was quite a big treat. When we got off the bus we would be handed a bag, a white paper bag, and in it there would be a sandwich, a cake, a sausage roll and a half a crown. Today it would be twelve and a half pence and that’s what each child got just to spend on the day out at the beach. Then we would run down onto the beach, straight into our bathing costumes and we’d play. The thing that I used to think about was, only the mums got a deck chair, the dads never got a deck chair and we used to wonder why and then as we got a little bit older we realized it was because the men, once they settled us into the sands, went off to the pub and the mums were left to look after the kids. We’d have buckets and spades and rugs, well not picnic blankets as you know them now, just old army blankets they used to be mainly, and we used to stretch them out, put rocks on them. That was our table for the picnic.
We usually went just with our mother and other mothers from the street. We’d all go together, but that wasn’t that often because we lived about six miles away. Six miles is nothing now but in those days it was quite a long way because transport wasn’t like it is now, so we’d maybe go half a dozen times in a summer time independently of the trip, but the working men’s trip was the highlight. That, in fact, was our holidays. That was as far as we got.
We took, well apart from the bag on the special day, other days it was usually egg and tomato sandwiches and sometimes lettuce from the garden because grandfather grew lettuce on the allotment. So lettuce sandwiches and egg and tomato and meat paste sandwiches with a liberal sprinkling of sand.
I couldn’t swim and I still can’t swim but I used to love to be in the water and if the water got up to you know, the top of me legs and then I thought I was in deep sea. I used to love to do that, just paddling, getting into the water.
The thing I hated most was having to come home. We were never ready to come home, always wanted to stay.
I think the thing that’s changed most is it seems to be a dying tradition. Families don’t seem to go anymore. Package holidays came out and it’s often quite cheaper now to go abroad than it is to come to the English seaside.
We used to collect shells and we used to make shell patterns on the sand. When I was married I took my kids to the beach, we’re still talking about forty years ago. A favourite pastime of my little boy was to go and tell the lifeguard he was lost so the lifeguard would sit him on his shoulders. They used to sit the lost child on their shoulders and walk up and down the beach with a loud hailer “Do you know this little boy, or this child?” and several times we’d look and there was my little boy. The lifeguards quickly got to know him, but he used to think it was great, having a ride on the man’s shoulders.
What changes have there been from then to now? There’s one thing that comes to mind, I suppose it’s not that nice really but in Cullercoats they had caves and we used to go in there and play pirates or you know, anything. We used to be in and out of the caves, It used to be great but when I took my grandchild there three or four years ago it was very sad because there was bottles and cans and used needles in the caves. I thought that was sad because that was a part of my childhood and my children’s childhood. They often talk about it. You can’t do that now at the seaside.