It seemed that for most of my early life my parents took us to the seaside on either day trips or to stay in cottages they would hire. The main places to visit were Bridlington, Filey, Hornsea or Scarborough and it is Scarborough that I want to remember today. The journey time by car was about the same to all of these and took about an hour and a half. As an adult this is just a short trip, but as a young child it seemed to last a lifetime. There was little to amuse us in the car unless we played our own games and, as discussed in part 1, these involved I spy and the parsons cat, supplemented by a range of songs. My mum and dad were probably getting pretty desperate by the time we arrived. Three young boys would have challenged the sanity of any parent and when the sweets ran out, barley sugar to help my elder brother not suffer car sickness, Mintoes, my dad’s favourite, and Murray mints, mine, there was nothing left but to squabble.
Scarborough was the largest of the Yorkshire seaside resorts and it had two bays. One was full of amusement arcades, donkeys on the beach, Punch and Judy shows and the like, whereas the other was much quieter and more genteel. A large ruin of Scarborough Castle stood partially collapsing into the sea, built to repel invaders and those from north of the border. Scarborough used to suffer an annual invasion from the Scots when their factories closed for works’ weeks and the masses descended onto the town. Scarborough was thriving in the late 1950s and early 60s as continental travel had not really started and holiday camps, such as Butlins, were booming with organized holidays with a service to occupy children and allow adults a bit of peace.
Apart from the sea and sand and front amusements, Scarborough did offer other forms of entertainment. Peasholm Park had been opened in 1912 and it had ornamental gardens, which were of no interest to young boys, but it did have something that was. The lake was the scene of naval battles. The battle of the River Plate was re-enacted daily and large replica ships moved across the lake, cannons fired with real smoke and I believe was narrated. I loved it! I did hear that the largest of the ships had people inside controlling them, but I have no idea if that was true. It was a real spectacle to watch and the lake was also a place where we could sail the new yachts that we had just bought. The yachts were wooden boats, brightly painted and had real canvas sails and little strings to pull and trim the sails. We mainly sailed them in small pools so that we wouldn’t lose them if they took off with the wind. They were great fun and returned with us home to float in the bath. One other attraction at the park I loved was a night visit to the illuminated island. Peasholm Park was set out as an oriental garden and at night you could pay to cross the arched bridge and enter a world of magic. Well, it seemed so. On the island were characters from Walt Disney and these were lit from inside and it was magical seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs standing in the foliage illuminated from within.
Another place we would visit was Oliver’s Mount where the motorcycle racing took place. We would drive around the course and imagine what it would be like to drive it in a race. We would then go to The Mere. The Mere is a large ornamental lake with nice walks and a café. Why would this interest young boys, you might ask? Well, when we went there was a pirate galleon, the Hispaniola , and if we were good we would set sail and land at an island in the lake and here we were set loose to hunt for buried treasure. The pirate crew were a very motley bunch and, dressed the part, they would ham up the acting, check their maps and encourage us to scavenge for gold coins. I never found one, despite several visits, but many years later I took my oldest son back when he was about four or five, and on this occasion he was successful and somewhere we probably still have the coin. I hope Long John Silver doesn’t want it back! I believe that the Hispaniola has sailed off into the sunset, which is a shame. I am sure that many youngsters would still get a thrill from searching for lost treasure on a desert island.
Below is my Christmas song for 2018. A guilty pleasure. Go on! You know you want to! Christmas is Just Round the Bend!
Our final change of venue was the outdoor swimming pool. In the days when we went, the water was icy. The pool is now geothermally heated and I am sure much more pleasant. The weather on the Yorkshire coast is rarely hot and even when the rest of the area was bathed in sunshine, it wasn’t unusual for Scarborough to be blanketed in a sea fret. The damp mist had a chill that would have prevented anyone daring to take a plunge. Most visits to Scarborough were spent either fully jumpered up on the sand, digging our way to China, or sitting in the car with the windows steamed up and a constant drizzle preventing us from venturing out. This was often accompanied by the smell of vinegar as we would eat fish and chips from the newspaper. I can taste them as I write this now. This was finished off by a 99 ice cream for dessert. However, on the one occasion we went to the outdoor pool the weather was glorious. In these times shortly after the war, no one was aware of sun damage and having a tan was the way of showing that you had been on a holiday and had a great time. When lotions were used, only by my mother, they tended to be coconut oil and I think the purpose was to assist in the frying. My mother would tan, but my brothers and I took after our dad, who was from Scotland, near Oban, and the Viking descent offered no protection from the sun’s rays. The chill of the water disguised some of the burning and by the end of the day in the pool we were all like lobsters. I believe this was just a day trip and so we had a very uncomfortable ride back to Leeds. The shirts, so soft on the way, were now like ragged sandpaper and every movement brought groans.
When we arrived home we were liberally padded down with calamine lotion on cotton wool and I can still smell the pink flowery scent. The cool touch was wonderful, but was short lived. We were put to bed and despite the pain we all three managed to sleep. The worse was yet to come! The next day the soreness was less, but by the evening it was replaced by the itching. Again, more calamine lotion was added and it did provide temporary relief, but within moments the itching returned with a vengeance. We were instructed not to scratch it, but I challenge anyone to not scratch even a mild itch, yet alone an all encompassing, mind numbing itch that would not go away. We scratched and scratched ourselves until the following day, the inflammation began to subside, but small white blisters appeared and then finally the following day the skin began to peel. At least two days of the itching was endured before our skin was replaced and the horror left us in peace. Of course I now understand the dangers of the sun, living in the skin cancer capital of the world, but times were different. The English rarely had the weather to worry them until the advent of package tours to Europe and the guarantee of sunny holidays.