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Olive’s Day at the Beach

One year my father decided to bring a caravan over to the North East and the first port of call was up near St Mary’s Island. To me as a small child, about 6 or 7, the sea was wilder.


Day at the Seaside project August 2012

Interviewee: Olive Surtees born in Westmorland

My memories are of Morecombe Bay.  I lived in Appleby in Westmorland and a great thing for the children and families there was a trip to Morecombe or Blackpool, but we always went to Morecombe.  Nowadays children wear flip-flops, but we always wore sandals.

There would always be a crowd of children with parents sitting round a Punch and Judy show.  If we went for longer than a day trip you would generally stay in a boarding house.  The entertainment in the boarding house would be in the evening.  There was no television.  It was very easy for people to get to know each other because we were thrown together.  There was communal eating at a specific time and of course, you actually got to know the family very well who were running the boarding house.  There would be a piano usually and there would be quite a lot of social interaction between the people.

I can remember now people who were there and where they came from.  There was usually somebody who could sing or play the piano.  Then, of course, there were the piers and a great deal of entertainment went on along the pier.  There was always a concert party and snacks and ice creams or whatever.  The other entertainment would be in the parks where there was a bandstand and that attracted a lot of people.

One year my father decided to bring a caravan over to the North East and the first port of call was up near St Mary’s Island.  To me as a small child, about 6 or 7, the sea was wilder.  I thought my goodness this isn’t the sort of sea I’m accustomed to and I had never seen a lighthouse before.  I don’t think my mother liked this caravan holiday it was too much like hard work.

We then moved off to Whitby because I can remember the steps up to the Abbey.  There was also at the time a far better selection of seashells on this side.

The other thing that attracted us were the slot machines.  My brother who was a wily sort used to go in and out of every arcade and then come back and report which ones were the best ones for getting the money.  The Winter Gardens was a grand theatre and they had the Wurlitzer organs and organists.  Reg Dixon was one.  George Formby performed in these places.  It was lively entertainment.

In the town where I lived was a building called the Tabernacle.  Being one for groups I joined the Band of Hope.  A man stood up and gave forth on the evils of drink to such an extent I was frightened for my life and never went back.  I met a friend later who said, “Oh yes we all joined the Band of Hope because they had a day trip to Morecombe.  Come the autumn we packed it in then we joined up again in the spring so we could get on our next trip to the seaside.”

My favourite part of going to the beach was playing with sand and going into the water.  Of course, if you’ve lived in a remote country area the sea alone is an attraction.  The other attraction was the fairground and going on hobby horses.  Then there were rolling pennies.  You put a penny in the top of a piece of wood and it rolled down and if it landed completely on a square with say a 2 on you would get two pence back.  Somewhere there would be 10 shillings or a pound, but you never hit that one.

There were shooting ranges and if you hit a certain spot you would get some woolly toy as a prize and of course they were great huge ones.  There was better communication at a personal level.  Once they had got those deck chairs up and they were all cramped together they started to communicate.  I can remember meeting up with people in the guest house, they exchanged names and addresses and they made sure they went back the next year and they’d send each other Christmas cards.  I remember donkey rides.  There were lines of donkeys and it was a big deal getting on one of those donkeys.

Getting dried and getting your clothes on when you came out of the water was a bit of a bind.  Eating sandwiches down there could be as well.

At the time I was going off on these holidays it would be wartime, so they didn’t have illuminations and I seem to remember it was very dark at night.  I can’t think there were any changes to the beach over there.  The other place we used to go was Heysham Head where the boats leave to go over to Ireland.  Part of our holiday was to go there and look out to sea to see these ships.

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