Sunday, 12 July 2009

Noted for fresh air and fun!


(said in a Lancashire accent).


Yesterday's Times speaks of the demise of Blackpool as a resort. Blackpool - on the Lancashire coast - saw its heyday in the nineteen forties, when they often welcomed seventy trains a day bringing in holiday-makers from all over the industrial North of England. Now, with the advent of cheap flights and cheap tourist hotels, that same clientele have hopped on a plane and gone to the Costa del something instead. The powers that be in Blackpool are hoping that this year will see a return of some of those holiday-makers as the credit crunch continues to bite.

In the nineteen forties my father worked for Ruston and Hornsby in Lincoln (although long defunct you can still see their engines all over the world- and still in good working order). He worked for them as a foreman turner in the lathe shop for fifty years.

We had to take our holidays in the same two weeks each year - the last week in July and the first week in August - "Trip Weeks" as they were called in our area. During those two weeks you would go out for days here and there, or you would go to Skegness, our nearest seaside place, for a week in the YMCA Holiday Camp (did that several times) - or if you had managed to save a bit more money you would go on the train to Blackpool and stay in a Boarding House.For several years ourwhole family went to Blackpool in the late forties. My father and mother with me, my sister and her husband, my brother and his wife. We always stayed in the same Boarding House with a landlady called Mrs Cheffings. When we left at the end of the week, we booked the same week the next year. Life was all very ordered in those far off days.

Bed and breakfast and evening meal - the meals cooked mainly by Mr Cheffings - big English breakfast (i never had the blackpudding (ugh)) and a very conventional meat and two veg dinner in the evening. During the day you stayed out while Mrs C cleaned everywhere thoroughly, laid the tables for the evening meal and put her feet up for an hour. That was the good thing about Blackpool - there were plenty of places to go if it rained or was too windy to walk along the Prom (it is always, but always, windy in Blackpool).

I remember those holidays with affection. We swam every morning in the Lido. Then we would walk along the Prom deciding what to do next and eating an ice cream, or a candy floss, or a bag of shrimps. We would go to the Pleasure Beach where the men would try their hand at the shooting range and the bravest of us would go on the Big Dipper. Then it would be everyone on the Cockerels and Horses with its steam organ music. Afternoons would be spent on the Boating Lake or the Putting Green or sitting on the sands, or making intricate and elaborate sand castles. Then we would retreat to the Prom above when the tide came in and watch our efforts vanish under the water. We would build a good deep moat round the castle so that it would fill with water for an instant before the whole edifice was washed away.

But it was in the evenings when Blackpool really came into its own. All the big stars were there in the Summer season, so you went to the theatre. And then there was that mecca for the teenager in those days - The Winter Gardens. Reginald Dixon rose up out of the floor at the Theatre Organ (usually playing "I do like to be beside the seaside.") and we would dance. All the ladies would be there in their dance frocks (specially bought for their holiday) and those not dancing would sit up on the balcony at little tables, looking down on the dance floor.

I went back once - in about 1985, while staying with friends in Chorley in Lancashire for the weekend. It was the time of the Blackpool illuminations. We walked along the Prom in the dark and rode back in a horsedrawn carriage to look at the lights. Before we did that we had a fish and chip tea in an old fashioned cafe where the elderly waitresses all wore black dresses and white starched aprons, where every table had a white damask cloth, where all the cutlery was silver and where they served a plate of white bread and butter with the fish a chips. And a pot of tea at the same time!

Those days seem to have gone for ever, don't they? I can't really see them coming back. We have got so much more "sophisticated" in our holiday tastes and maybe in a way we have forgotten to enjoy ourselves.

# the photograph is of me with my Mum and Dad at Blackpool circa 1947 You wore a collar and tie and a jacket in those days - and, yes, I promise you, my Dad was enjoying himself.

32 comments:

jinksy said...

My memories are SO different! Only time I went there was as a member of a Ladies Babershop Chorus whose prelims were being held in Blackpool. We stayed in a big, old hotel on the seafront, where the floorboards creaked fit to wake the dead, and my singing buddy room mate had a horrendous cold , and sneezed LOUDLY about every 15 mins almost all night long... Eventually we gave up and read newspapers, until she fell asleep at last, near dawn, and stopped sneezing...We must have got all of two hours sleep. Pardon me if I don't enthuse about Blackpool...

Dave King said...

I only went there once. It was pouring with rain. We stayed about an hour. One day maybe I'll return. Good post. Much thanks.

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

Everything was wonderful then, wasn't it?! I could have written a similar piece; Big Dipper, carousel and all, just substituting Great Yarmouth for Blackpool - and Mrs Wiseman was the landlady! We preferred the East Coast for our holidays.

But I have been to Blackpool a couple of times, for the illuminations. Blackpool seems to have tried to hang on to its past reputation for far too long, always presuming the punters would keep coming. Sadly, they won't!

Woman in a Window said...

There is something painfully sad in letting go of those times. I like to think they still exist but no, we are all so fickle and spend focused, holidaying now seems to mostly be all about shopping. What a sorry lot we are.

LOVE that photo. Would enjoy more older photos here and there.

Heather said...

I have similar memories but placed on the south coast as I grew up in Bucks. We would stay at Mum's cousin's flat while they were away, and cater for ourselves. Fish and chips bought from a seaside shop taste so much better than inland ones. Oh happy days - thankyou for reminding me.

Denise Burden said...

Some of my Mum's family were from Blackpool so I was brought up with stories such as these. A couple of her Aunties ran the infamous Boarding Houses and a cousin of hers was a dancer on the end-of-pier-theatre shows before she met this dashing pilot with Hollywood style Clark Gable moustache, who whisked her away to become Mrs Biggles somewhere down South.
When Mum grew up and had a family of her own, she always refused to go to Blackpool 'cos she'd had her fill of it, so my "seaside" was Scarborough and Whitby.
Very interesting post and love the photo!

Cathy said...

Sounds like happy memories and the photo is sweet. Our family trips to the beach always included everyone so we had about 20 or more staying in the same hotel. I really miss that feeling of family. After my grandmother died, everyone seemed to lose interest in the big vacation and the holiday weekends that were always spent together.
Our youthful days were so innocent and I'm saying that as a girl who was a teen in the 70's. We were allowed to roam the entire length of the beach at Daytona and were never worried about. Now with pediphiles and such we don't want to let our children 10 ft from us.
I think I would like to visit Blackpool. I like a place with history and a good stiff breeze.

Leenie said...

I truly enjoyed your post. The style and the vocabulary are so lyrical and not American. We claim to speak the same language, but few people in the United States even know what a damask cloth or a dance frock is. We have worked so hard to become casual that we have lost a lot of class and elegance.

steven said...

hi weaver, that was a fantastic post rich with incredible memories. it was a real privilege to read. i had a couple of holidays as a boy in blackpool in the early to mid-sixties. i remember the magic of the illuminations and the smells of food wafting out onto the street. the tower was a marvel to me and of course the seaside with donkeys and rock was beyond my experiencing. i think my mum visits here as well and if she does she'll likely read this and have some comments about how naughty her two boys were but we'll skip over that!!!! have a peaceful day. steven

willow said...

This is a wonderful picture of you and your parents. You look very tall here. Loved hearing about Blackpool.

Sal said...

I do love your photo!
I visited Blackpool in the mid 60s and remember it being just as Steven says.

I've just re-read, 'A Fortnight in September'..set a little before your photo but I loved the story..so simple! I became so engrossed as I took the holiday at the seaside with them!
;-)

Pat Posner said...

A great 'Happy Days' post, Weaver.
Love the photo.
Did you have to take your own salt and pepper to the boarding house?

Strokes for Tess
xxPat

Totalfeckineejit said...

Great memories well told ,Weaver, and a lovely photograph too.

Pam said...

I'm pleased, as an Aussie, to say I've been there Weaver! Had seen and heard so much about it growing up with our television programs from England, that when my husband and I were doing a road trip from Scotland to Wales a couple of years ago, I shouted "There's a sign that says "Blackpool", as we went through England. We diverted to see this place we heard so much about. (Another one was Gretna Green).Loved your post!!!

patteran said...

A wonderful memoir, Pat, and the perfect picture accompaniment.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh Jinksy - so sorry for reminding you of it!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Dave - Blackpool and rain often go together in the same sentence.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Derrick - I agree with what you say - we all have more money than we had then and those days are over.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Woman in a window - thanks for the comment - I personally hate shopping but I do know what you mean - it is nostalgia that makes us want those days back - but they will never return and places like Blackpool must realise that if they are to succeed - they must move on.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Happy days indeed Heather.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks Denise - didn't realise you Mum's family came from there - but don't suppose Scarborough was all that different (tho' not as rainy).

The Weaver of Grass said...

Cathy - as you say times have changed - maybe, as we all move about so much, that sense of family is no longer as strong, and that is a pity.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Leenie - two nations divided by a common language! I always have to remember when I visit US that I have to ask for the restroom not the toilet or the loo!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Nice to think of you eating candyfloss and skipping along the beach and being naughty Steven.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks willow - yes all three of us children were taller than our parents (must have been the school milk).

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks willow - yes all three of us children were taller than our parents (must have been the school milk).

The Weaver of Grass said...

Sal - A fortnight in September? Is this a book? If so please give details as it sounds my sort of read.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Pat - salt and pepper ? Did some boarding houses insist on that? We really became friends with Mr and Mrs Cheffins but however wet it was we never returned to the house during the day - that was absolutely not done.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks TFE

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks Pam - interesting that you should call in at Blackpool and Gretna Green -I didn;t realise their fame had spread that far.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Dick - expect you have similar memories from your childhood too.

BT said...

Oh how wonderful Weaver. Now I have a good story about Blackpool. My mother was a dancer and had an interview with, and was accepted into The famous Bluebell Girls in Paris. I still have the letter from 'Madame Bluebell' in a brown envelope. On the front of it, my mother wrote 'Didn't go, went to Blackpool instead'!!! And it was in Blackpool that she met my father as he was playing in the end of pier band! This would be in the 20s. They often talked of the Winter Gardens. I have only been once on a Bank Holiday weekend but we had a great day and the sun shone all day.