As a child I was lucky enough to live fairly near the coast in the north east of England. Our local beaches were at Roker and Seaburn.
Most of the men in the area were miners, and during the summer holidays whilst they were on ‘back shift’ (night shift), my mum and her friends would get us away from the house during the day so that our fathers could sleep.
Two or three days a week they would take us on the bus to Sunderland, a 15 minute ride away, and then we’d take a double decker to Roker which was on the other side of the River Wear. On arrival we’d rent a beach tent, and a deck chair for each of the mums. After the tent was up we’d change into our bathing costumes. The mums would sit chatting or reading magazines, and we children would spend all day playing games, building sandcastles and paddling in the sea. The water was always freezing cold but we never minded that.
We’d fashion a table and chairs for ourselves out of damp sand in time for lunch and would cover the ‘table’ with a cloth and set out the lunch of sandwiches, fruit, biscuits and drinks. The children usually drank lemonade, whilst the adults had a flask of tea. No matter how hard we tried not to get sand in the sandwiches, we never succeeded.
Occasionally we would go a little further along the coast to Seaburn where there were shops that sold souvenirs, ice creams and fish and chips. There was a miniature railway and the train driver was the brother of one of Mum’s friends, so we would be given a free ride or two. There was also a fairground and we looked forward to spending our pocket money there before going home.
One summer Mum’s friend heard that the people who owned the cabin, where pots of tea or just hot water to make your own tea was sold, needed staff. So Mum and her friend applied and were given the job. We children loved that summer. We spent every day of the school holidays on the beach, and I don’t remember it ever raining.
My dad was a member of the local working men’s club, and each August the club committee organised a day trip to one of the seaside towns further away, such as Tynemouth, Redcar, South Shields or Whitley Bay. All the children in the village looked forward to the club trip. We would get up early and make our way to the railway station in the next village and, on arrival, would line up in front of the committee table to be given our pocket money from the club members. Each child up to the age of 12 years received 2/6p, and there was 5 shillings for those from 12 to 16 years.
A private train was hired, which in those days was pulled by a steam locomotive, and once it arrived at the station it was a mad rush to get on and get into a carriage with our friends.
These trips would follow the same pattern each time. All the families would go to the beach together and once there the men would erect the beach tents and put up the deck chairs, then disappear to the nearest pub. They would come back around 2pm bringing fish and chips with them for a late lunch and afterwards would organise the children into playing beach cricket and other games.
After a sandwich and a drink, we’d be taken for a visit to the souvenir shops for a small gift and the obligatory stick of rock, and then we’d head back to the railway station for the return journey. When Dr Beeching closed the railway line we would go on coaches instead. At least 12 coaches would be filled, but it wasn’t as exciting as going on the train.
My parents would organise weekend trips for all our neighbours and we would go by coach to Blackpool to see the illuminations, staying in boarding houses. Each family would have organised their own accommodation for the weekend, usually going to the same boarding house every year.
We’d spend time riding along the Golden Mile on the tramcars, visiting the piers, going to the fairground and the tower where there was a zoo and a ballroom. I remember one year seeing something called ‘The Wall of Death’ where motor cyclists rode round and round a large wooden cylinder. It was very scary watching the cycles going round at speed. There’s information about one using this link: Original Wall of Death.
I always insisted on a visit to the ice rink and would drive my parents mad asking when I was going to go there. The highlight, of course, was the illuminations and we’d walk the length of the Golden Mile each evening trying to decide which display we liked best and changing our minds every few minutes.
Coming from a mining community, the men loved to be out of doors after their work down the mine, so made the most of these outings. They seemed to be full of fun and laughter and I have very happy memories of those days.
© geordiegirl 2009