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Growing up in the 50's and 60's

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1950's - The Seaside Holiday

A personal experience of Buckets, Spades and Fun

The great British Seaside Holiday was at it's height during the 1950's and early 1960's.
Although many were finding things difficult in post war Britain, families were searching for ways to escape their work and memories of what was going on a decade earlier.

Grandpa with grandkids on the beachThe holidays were split into various categories...

1. The Hotel / Guest House / B&B got to by Train, Coach or Car
2. If you were lucky enough, as we were, to stay with a relative who lived closed to the Sea
3. The Holiday Camp, a full boarded week of fun and games.

I remember our weeks with Great Aunt Nellie very well. She lived a stone's throw from the Beach at Selsey Bill just south of Chichester in Sussex.
It was a old Semi with I guess two bedrooms, small garden to the rear which backed on to a field with Donkey's!

At that time we didn't have a car but my Grandparents did (Nellie was my Grandmother's sister), so that meant the trip from Sevenoaks to Selsey was quite a crowded one; Grandma, Grandpa, Mother, my sister and myself, our Father stayed at home.
With suitcases and everything else, I don't know how we managed!

The drive of about 90 miles took the best part of the day. Although Grandpa's car was a pretty good one, an Austin A70 Hereford, with us lot plus baggage it needed a break every 20 miles or so.
Grandpa was an Engineer at Ypres during WW1 and I recall quite well that at every stop the bonnet would come up and he'd go round the engine watching and listening, checking the water and so on.

Once again, I'm sure many of my age group will say the same, there were certain smells which still come back to you 50 years on.
His garage at home in Tonbridge had that constant aroma of petrol combined with leather, wood and garden tools.
This lingered on through every journey we made, none of us suffered from car sickness though!

For us it was mainly a beach holiday with mandatory day trips to Portsmouth and Bognor Regis plus half days in the small harbour Villages of Bosham and Itchenor.

A favourite part was the daily early morning walk to the Newsagents. Being on the seaside they sold everything from Newspapers to Buckets, Spades and Postcards. Again, the smell stays there for ever!

Without mobile phones and email back then, if you didn't send a Postcard to the other Grandparents and various relations there would be trouble.
In fact, after my Mother's death last year we found amongst her belongings every Postcard sent from every holiday pre-technology days.

I've never been a one for rushing around, having schedules etc. and I was the same back then, to just go to the Beach and do my own thing was the greatest pleasure of all.
One bucket, one spade, one crab spotted, one imagination and your day was made.

Two other add on's to Selsey were 1. The Lifeboat Station which is still there, we would walk along to the end in the vain selfish hope that it may get called out and we could watch it. It never was as I recall. 2. Being close to RAF Tangmere we'd hear the Meteor Jet Planes breaking the sound barrier above us. At that time, going at such a speed was only a few years old, what excitement!

Selsey was a more residential spot but the day out to Bognor Regis afforded us an experience of the more known British Seaside Holiday; lines of Hotels, Guest Houses, Fish and Chip Restaurants and Fun Parks.
Although being there in some fun capacity in the 30's, Billy Butlin opened his Holiday Camp there in 1960.

Brothers and sisters on the beach at SelseyAs my sister and I grew older we would go our separate ways for holidays, but my younger sister and two brother's would continue the yearly event of Selsey Bill.

Onwards into the mid 1960's and the great British Beach Holidays were to be overtaken by the coming of the Jet Age which led to cheap package holiday's to Spain.
These appealed more to the adults of course, all they wanted was a sun tan and a big Sombrero hanging up in their Sitting Room.

Being a child in the 1950's and experiencing the true beach holiday on a windswept sandy and shingly beach though had everything and in some ways it's nice to go to a beach now and see kids under 10 years of age playing just like I used to, it's a place to let the imagination run away - and there's no harm in that.
It's usually only the grown ups who spend the time texting and surfing the Net on their ipads.

The seaside brings the child out in children, back then it was how it's meant to be; adventure, fun and.......sand all over you!!


Selsey Bill West Beach



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