1950s · Holidays

We’re all going on a (1950s) summer holiday

As someone seems to have finally told the weather, it’s officially summertime!

And of course, my thoughts are turning neatly to holidays (although goodness knows why – it’s a family joke that every time my mum or I go on holiday, everyone knows to expect rain).

When the nice people at Cotton Traders asked me if I’d like to take part in their timeline of summers gone by, I jumped at the chance to talk about holidays in the 1950s, partly because I knew taking these photos would be a lot of fun, but mostly because, as it turns out, summer holidays in the 1950s were almost exactly the same as the ones I had growing up in the 1980s/1990s, which brought back some lovely memories.

(Please read this next paragraph in a nice, booming, 1950s-radio-announcer sort of a voice):

The 1950s, it was still a time of austerity (that blasted rationing didn’t end until 1954). Holidays abroad were out of reach for many, but people were determined to enjoy a summer break, come rain or shine. And, let’s be honest, in Britain, it was most likely rain. Then a bit of shine. Then rain again. So, they packed up their buckets and spades and headed for the coast.


My gran at the seaside in the 1950s – thank you very much to my uncle Stewart for sending me this and the other photos of my gran in this post!

Despite some similarities (the buckets and spades, for one), our holidays perhaps weren’t quite like the 1950s. While our Norfolk-based caravan was pretty well equipped (with a gas stove, two bedrooms and an inside shower), I’m reliably informed that in the 1950s, caravans were much smaller, with very basic facilities – if nature called in the middle of the night, you’d have to head over to the communal facilities, similar to when you’re camping.

Having been camping once in my adult life, I can confirm that is something I never wish to repeat.

Some people also stayed in chalets, which were slightly more luxurious than the caravans (read: inside bathroom), but almost everything was done communally, whether eating in one of the dining halls, taking exercise classes, or entering one of the many, many contests that were the order of the day.

As for us, although we did used to stay in a holiday camp and made a few friends, we and our fellow holidaymakers didn’t enjoy our holidays together as one big group. But while the entertainment had changed a bit – I can’t imagine my gran (who would have been my age in the 1950s) hitting the dance floor while a DJ plays some of the cheesiest music known to man, nor can I imagine taking part in a knobbly knees competition – many of the other things we got up to on holiday were the same.


Gran all ready for a summery night out

The Junior Talent Competition, for example, was still a big thing, and I was desperate to enter every year, despite having no discernible talent.

Then, of course, there was the outdoor pool that was absolutely freezing, no matter what time of day you went (‘Just put your shoulders under, you’ll be fine!’ became a family catchphrase); walks along the pier with a stick of candyfloss or ice cream, which invariably got dropped and/or eaten by a seagull; picnics in the park (or, in our case, Sandringham, a family tradition that continues to this day); trips to the beach where you’re obligated to go and paddle in the water, no matter how chilly it is; and of course, fish and chips – out of the paper – as you walked back to the caravan, slightly sunburned, and shattered from doing absolutely nothing all day.


Me on our trip to The Needles, Isle of Wight, last year

Alright, I’ve convinced myself. I’m cancelling the sophisticated Italian honeymoon, and heading to Skegness (via Wellingborough, according to this bus). Who’s in?


 ***This blog post was written as part of the  Cotton Traders’ ‘Celebrating a century of great British summers’ timeline***


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