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Kitty’s Day at the Beach

We always went to Cullercoats Bay when we were young because when the tide was in it was a very safe bay for bathing. But as we got older we used to find our way along to the Spanish City.

Day at the Seaside project 2012
Interviewee: Kitty Brightwell born in Newcastle 1922

Photo of busy day at Cullercoats BayI lived in a big town you know – Newcastle –  for most of my life, and coming down to the seaside was a treat, especially during the summer holidays.  We didn’t come down for a long time because we couldn’t afford to; it was for a day if we did come and we just seemed to put everything into the day.  We used to paddle about and swim and play football or handball.  We’d eat ice creams, have our sandwiches and probably eat a lot of sand with them.  We always had plenty to do. There were swings and people used to come down to entertain.  There were concert parties and if anybody wanted to get up and sing or something they could get up and do it.  I remember if it was a Sunday the Salvation Army band used to come down.  They always had plenty of volunteers –  not me!  But there was one little boy I particularly remember always shot up like a bullet from a gun.  He always sang the same thing.  It was ‘Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam’.  It’s always in my mind that song; I can see him yet.  I always thoroughly enjoyed being at the seaside.

We always went to Cullercoats Bay when we were young because when the tide was in it was a very safe bay for bathing.  But as we got older we used to find our way along to the Spanish City.  There were all sorts of roundabouts and a big high figure of 8 railway that made you scream and the Ghost Train.  I remember the Ghost Train had things like spiders that would dangle in your face.  We used to call that enjoyment.  My favourites were the roundabouts and dodgems.

We did go to Tynemouth Long Sands but it was crowded.  The time I am talking about was a long time ago and people didn’t used to go abroad for their holidays.  It was fine when the tide was out but as the tide came in you had to go further and further back.  We used to go roller skating at the Plaza.  In the summer we used to skate outside.  It was great.  Tynemouth pool was always packed, then people started going abroad for their holidays and it wasn’t used so much after that.  Then, further along, there was the pool at Table Rocks.  We used to jump in, and then the safety people came along and said it was dangerous, but we’d been jumping in and out of it for years and nobody ever got hurt to my knowledge.

We used to take the usual buckets and spades and swimming costume and plenty of sandwiches.  We didn’t bother with windbreaks and things like that because we never seemed to stay still long enough to be bothered by the wind.  Parents used to take tea and a teapot, and you took the teapot to a hut where they filled it up with hot water for tuppence or threepence.  If I remember correctly the sandwiches were mostly egg and tomato.  I would have eaten sandwiches with anything in because we used to whip up a terrific appetite.  It used to do us the world of good actually.

In those days very few people had cars and we used to go by train from the Central Station.  It was just coppers; it wasn’t very expensive.  It took about 20 minutes or half an hour.  At Newcastle Central Station on certain days there was a queue right down the street.  You thought you were never going to get there, but you did.  And coming back again.  People used to set off earlier, but it never worked there was always a queue.  But it was all part of the fun I think.  At night-time, going home, everybody was worn out; buckets and spades, wet bathers, and shoes full of sand.

We had to go at weekends and during the school holidays, because parents worked all the week.  We used to set off in the morning and get there about 11 o’clock I suppose and stay there all afternoon.

The thing I liked best was the fresh air and it still feels different.  You can feel it doing you good I think.  And meeting all the people because coming down quite often you met a lot of people and we became friends.  I can’t really think of anything I didn’t like, I just enjoyed myself.

There have been a lot of changes.  The biggest change to the beaches was during World War Two because we couldn’t go on them.  They had big, huge concrete blocks and miles and miles of barbed wire.  It was a very sad and sorry looking place and a lot of the streets were blocked off.  There were a lot of soldiers about.  There were dances on at the Plaza and the big hotels.  Whenever I came home on leave I used to come down to the seaside.

The weather was different.  We had a spring a summer, an autumn and a winter, and you knew when they were going to start.  Of course, we only went down really when it was a nice day.  That’s why we think it was always sunny,  but it wasn’t all of the time.

Cullercoats Bay
Photograph from Newcastle City Library Photographic Collection

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