Thursday 30th January
Butlins was new, Butlins was exciting and Butlins was what the working classes aspired to. We went to Butlins twice as children in the fifties. To Margate if I remember correctly. I was only 8 or 9, definitely under ten and it was anticipated for months before we eventually loaded up the car and set off. It took hours as we made our way from Suffolk down to and through London and on to the Kent coast. There were no Motorways and no Sat-Nav either; it was down to map reading and hopping from town to town, trying desperately to read the signposts.
We were all in one chalet, which was little more than a beach-hut. Judith and I were in bunk beds and mum and dad had a double bed just next to us; I think there were two rooms and a toilet and sink but no bath or shower. Well, it was next to the sea and there was the swimming pool too, outdoors and of course unheated. Everything was free; I can remember that, the tennis courts, the crazy golf, the pool and the amusement park and rides. And there were Redcoats everywhere to help and show you how to do things. And there were meals in huge halls, long polished formica tables and lots of food.
There was entertainment, competitions, glamorous grannies, swimming and running races. I had such a fabulous time as a child but all too soon the two weeks were over and we packed the car and headed back to boring Suffolk.
Then in the sixties I tended to camp with the Scouts, and then it was package holidays abroad and Butlins fell into a slow decline. Now they feature sixties music revival weekends, still surviving somehow. But never again will they be filled with smiling young children and adults at last affording that wonderful long awaited holiday by the sea.