‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Build-Up to Christmas. Winter and Christmas Parties at Harehills County Primary School in the 1960s. – Cup of Tea Tales
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Build-Up to Christmas. Winter and Christmas Parties at Harehills County Primary School in the 1960s.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hippy Attempt on the Summit of Mount Snowdon. What Foolish Things We Did as Students!
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Ashworth’s Sweet-Shop, Harehills. Sweets, Victory V Lozenges, Sweet Cigarettes and Other Delights We Have Lost Over The Years.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A’ Levels, the Final Year at High School, Planning to Leave Home, Getting into College and Growing Older if Not Wiser.
- David’s Bookshelf Issue 5
When I was young, and probably like most people in the late 1950s and 1960s, one of the greatest joys was a trip to the seaside. The concept of going to the coast and spending a day on the beach is a bit of a strange one, particularly when the weather on the Yorkshire coast could be so dire. But, regardless of that, it was always a time of great excitement. Like many families, money was an issue and the day trip, or a brief stay at a cottage on the coast, was a chance of going on a holiday. We did go to the major resorts, such as Scarborough, but it was the smaller ones that we particularly frequented, and there was an element of discovering new places that took us to some of the lesser known spots.
The problem with Scarborough was that it was so busy on a good day and the beaches packed, with little room to find a clear spot to set up. On some occasions, the sea fret was in and despite beautiful weather all the way, arrival could find the town shrouded in fog, cold and damp. So it was Bridlington, Filey, Sewerby, Hornsea, Flamborough, Danes Dyke, Hunmanby, Staithes, Robin Hood’s Bay and North and South Landing that became our favourites. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
Before we ever set off, there was the rigmarole of getting ready. My dad was always in his famous holiday moods. I think it was the stress of the trip with three boys, and the coming down from his stressful job, but it took two or three days to get over it and then he could become quite jolly.
One of my favourite places to visit was Sewerby, which is along from Bridlington. It is a small village, and it sits next to Sewerby Hall. The hall is worth a visit and at this time, when I was little, was quiet and not busy. I visited later in the early 1980s and it was quite different. It had, and still does have, an exhibition for Amy Johnson. This year is 91 years since her world famous solo flight to Darwin, Australia, where she landed on the 24th May 1930. She was awarded the CBE, the highest Order of the British Empire by King George V. It was a short walk from the village to the cliffside that fell precipitously down to the rocky shore. There was a wide grass strip along the edge and a wide pathway that ran from the hall to Bridlington. To get down to the water, there was a very steep series of steps built into the cliff and, at the bottom, a narrow platform leading onto the very narrow beach of rock and shingle. Most people didn’t venture down as it was quite a climb back up and they would just picnic or sit on travel rugs on the expanse of grass. I have two specific memories as a young child. One was whilst sitting on the tartan travel rug enjoying a picnic, a large dog wandered over, not on a lead, and it just cocked its leg up and weed on me. Now I have no understanding why me. Maybe the dog didn’t either, or maybe it just took a dislike to me, but I was horrified. I am not sure the rest of the family found it anything other than amusing. The other memory was that there was a tractor disguised as a train that used to pull a couple of passenger-wagons behind it. For a small price, it would take you the journey from Brid to Sewerby along the pathway. I remember, for some reason, probably because we wanted to torture our younger brother, we forced him to run the length whilst the rest of the family sat in the wagon encouraging him on. We loved it far more than our gullible brother did, who seemed to struggle to keep up with us all.
Whilst we are on the subject of my younger brother, it was him who had a nasty accident at Flamborough Head. It was a foggy day and the sea fret was in. The foghorn was mournfully warning ships that the head was nearby. We walked down past the lighthouse to the cliff edge, but there was nothing to see, apart from the light grey mist. Stuart, was running down the rough gravelly track, and he slipped and cut his knee. This doesn’t sound too bad, but it was and wasn’t helped by having short trousers. A large piece of stone chipping had cut deeply into the flesh just below his kneecap. Mum and dad were quite concerned as it was bleeding a lot. My older brother Andrew and I were quite concerned, as it was going to spoil our visit and our day. I remember that he was taken for first aid at the lighthouse and the flow of blood stemmed. We were told to take him to the hospital and off we had to drive. We had a long wait in the car, but eventually Stuart returned with his knee in a crepe bandage and he looked a little pale. Due to his inability to walk very far, it put a real dampener on our holiday. There was one bright part, and that was we went to the cinema in the evening to make up for it. Apparently, they had put stitches into the flesh just below his knee and they said it should be fine and would heal. The problem was that Stuart woke up the next day in pain and it got worse as the day went on. It resulted in our returning to Leeds early and him having a trip to St James’ Hospital. The doctor there was not impressed with the work done on the knee. He said it should never have had stitches put in as the bending knee was always going to tear them apart. He removed the stitches, re-bandaged the knee and then bound the whole leg in a thick wadding almost like a soft plaster that prevented the knee bending. Stuart had to manage like that for two weeks for the wound to heal and to prevent it from opening up again. Needless to say, he did recover, but he was left with a scar that was much bigger than it ever would have been if treated properly.
I don’t remember any further accidents on holidays apart from suffering sunburn. Every trip to the coast started with the initial visit to the shops to buy plastic sandals, often a plastic mac as it was usually pouring down, and buckets and spades. We would then traipse off to the front and find a spot to settle down. Mum and dad would usually hire deckchairs, out would come the flask and they would settle down. We would strip off to swimmers and get set to play for the day. At one embarrassing phase, the swimming trunks were knitted ones and these would become baggy when wet, stretch and fill with sand. Oh, the embarrassment!
Other people would usually have the windbreaks as it was often very blowy, but we never did. Most places had decent sandy beaches, but some had the large shingle beaches that made digging impossible. Where the sand was good, we would make our castles with moats and towers. We would usually build them close to the water’s edge so that when the tide started coming in, the water would reach the castles and we would have to make repairs as we tried to keep the waves out and the castles watertight. Of course, it was a vain attempt and the tide always won, as King Canute demonstrated to his advisors.
If the weather was good, we would be happy all day, only stopping for lunch, sandwiches with added sand from our hands. There would be an ice-cream, a Ninety-Nine with the chocolate Flake, also with additional sand to add to the flavour and to grind our teeth. By mid-afternoon on a sunny day, we would feel the first prickling of sunburn. We had fairly pale skin and I can burn on a cloudy day, so sometimes we were really burnt. There was no concept of sun protection. Sun cream or oil was to assist the browning and the oil just helped you fry slightly. The best we had was to treat the sunburn afterwards. The problem after you had been on the beach all day was trying to remove your trunks whilst hiding in a towel. The sand stuck to your body and the removal of the trunks and the drying with a towel was agony. The nearest thing to a similar agony was my grandmother scrubbing you clean, but the sand added that industrial level scouring that was agony. This was so much worse if you were sunburnt and often produced tears. Oh, the joys of childhood!
The pain of sunburn is only the start of the misery. The pain could be suffered, but it is the itching that comes a day or two later that was much worse. Calamine lotion helped cool the burn, but nothing could stop the constant itching, and rubbing only made it worse. It was pure misery and was only solved when the skin peeled and the new layer replaced it. Here in Western Australia, we are the skin cancer capital of the world and we know that the damage done to a child’s skin can mean cancers later in life. I have had a couple of squamous cell carcinomas cut off me in recent years and so I would always recommend people keep out of the sun, or at least use sun-block. My mum did use sun oil, but I don’t think that gave her protection. She did tan quite well, but she suffered her own form of agony as a result. The sun would bring out her cold sore. These lurking viruses would break out with the sun exposure and the blister would form and cause my mum no end of pain. As you can tell, maybe my dad had a point with his holiday moods. Maybe he just knew what we were all in for!
I must tell you about one final experience we had when I was first married and we had our first baby, that illustrates dad’s unique sense of humour. We were going on a trip to Robin Hood’s Bay where mum had hired a cottage. We owned an orange VW Beetle car, our first, and we had to rush to get ready after work on a Friday evening to drive there. It was a rush, but we managed to get ready and set off for the journey. Our baby, had a bottle of milk to help him settle and hopefully drop off to sleep. He was never a great feeder, and he managed to make the bottle last the whole trip from Wakefield, where we had our first house, to Robin Hood’s Bay. A journey of over two hours! When we arrived, the accommodation was a very old, nicely furnished fisherman’s cottage. It really was two cottages, as the kitchen and bathroom were across a little pathway in another building. We had a bedroom to ourselves, but my younger brother, who was staying as well, had to share a large room with mum and dad. Apparently, during the night, my dad tossed one of his smelly socks across the room as a joke, and it landed across my brother’s face and mouth. Now my dad had particularly smelly and sweaty socks and so it scarred my brother for life, but the rest of the family found it very funny. Stuart couldn’t see the funny side, but it put the rest of us in a good mood for the next couple of days.
I look back with great fondness on our holidays together. They were not always wonderfully successful, but what family life ever is? As kids, we didn’t care. We weren’t unique, but we were lucky, as not everyone was as fortunate. Oh, I did like to be beside the seaside!
For those who are interested in my tales, I just wanted to let you know I am compiling my second book, Another Cup of Tea – The Teenage Years, and hope to have it available as a paperback and eBook in the next few weeks. This will cover the period 1966 up to 1973. The first book, Cup of Tea Tales- The Early Years covers life in Leeds from 1954 until 1966.