Sometimes it was foggy down here and you would see people all dressed up and it was just thick fog but they still went and sat on the beach. Newcastle could be baking hot but by the time you got to the beach it could be misty and murky.
Day at the Seaside project August 2012
Interviewee: Les Best, born in North Shields 1949
At the seaside I used to build sandcastles, eat candyfloss and lots of ice cream. We always went near roundabouts ‘cos I needed to be entertained. I used to go on shuggies or the roundabouts, and I suppose basically have a good day. The shuggy boats had a rope that you pulled and the harder you pulled the higher they would swing. I used to prefer the roundabouts though. I think they cost about sixpence. I don’t suppose they would like it as much now, but we enjoyed it then.
There was always somewhere to go on the beach, and I needed to be free so that was a good thing for me. Then there were the beach ponies you could ride on. They were kept on Beaconsfield. I remember there was a chap called Joe who used to live in a caravan on that field and look after these ponies all summer. It think it was a little bit more expensive to ride the ponies or you could ride in a cart. I remember when I was a kid there was a horse called Mollie and she pulled the rubbish cart. They used to go up and down the beach collecting the rubbish ‘cos quite a lot of kids got cut feet from broken glass.
I used to go with family. There were 4 to 6 of us ‘cos relatives used to come down as well. You had to get down early ‘cos in those days the beach got full, I mean really, really full. If you wanted a particular spot you had to get down there round about 9.30 in the morning. If it was a bit windy you could hire a tent for about two and six and you could get changed in the tent. The chairs were a bit cheaper.
We took buckets and spades, beachball, something to sit on, ‘cos I didn’t like sitting on the sand. I didn’t like the feel of it. And egg sandwiches, I loved egg sandwiches and you nearly always got sand in them. Just the idea of having picnics on the beach was quite appealing. And there were little cafes nearby where you could buy hot water in a teapot or flask. The season used to start about Easter and go on until September. It was pretty quiet after that.
I used to live just behind the Park Hotel so I didn’t have far to travel. I didn’t walk very well; I used to go down on my bike mostly.
The thing I liked best about the beach was just being there and the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I didn’t like the feeling of the sand when you came back up. I had to jump in the bath as soon as I got home ‘cos no matter how much you cleaned off the sand there was always a bit left.
The seaside has changed dramatically over the years, it’s gone to virtually nothing now. The package holidays came in and people went abroad and found that much more interesting than sitting on the beach. I don’t think you’ll ever get people being grateful for that beach in the way that we were. People from Scotland used to come and stay for a fortnight and you couldn’t get moved. Wherever you went there were these Scottish people. Cullercoats station – people used to pour out of there every day in the summer heading for the beach. There was always a load of trip buses along the seafront.
Sometimes it was foggy down here and you would see people all dressed up and it was just thick fog, but they still went and sat on the beach. That was when the tents used to come out. Newcastle could be baking hot but by the time you got to the beach it could be misty and murky. There was always a sea breeze. But you got quite a lot of shelter if you sat on the beach and it could be quite warm. The summers were better, it was warmer.