Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Down on the Kent coast at the seaside in the 1930s

Now for reasons I won’t go into I never went on holiday to the seaside as a child.

Apart from one disastrous day at Dover waiting to meet my dad off the ferry with a coach load of returning tourists my summer holidays were spent with my grandparents in Derby.

Sand, sea under a Greek sun would be years away, but for those who could do the yearly break at a resort on the coast was a must.

So I am back with some old photographs of the way we used to do it during the middle decades of the last century.

The weekly paid holiday and relatively cheap train fares made the seaside holiday pretty standard.

In many parts of the country most of the factories would shut down for Wakes week and on mass it seemed large parts of our towns and cities exchanged grubby streets and noisy factories for the fresh sea air, fish and chips on the pier and the dreaded landlady.

Those who worked together, got on the same trains and went to the same holiday destinations. So much so that places like Blackpool talked of Glaswegian week and the beaches, trams and pubs would echo to the different accents of the different Lancashire mill towns throughout the summer.

All of which is a lead in to these two photographs of Harold and Alma Morris somewhere by the sea in Kent.

Both in their different way capture perfectly what those holidays were like.  Paddling in the water was just that with the trousers rolled up a smile for the camera and that knotted handkerchief, less a parody on more a reality.

And of course at some stage that pose on the shingles, prepared for a heat wave but mindful that even in June a British summer can prove a tad cold. Alma stares back at us with her towel over her legs, less a modest pose and more I suspect a necessity.

The other thing that strikes you are the cigarettes, this was after the period when most people smoked, when men’s fingers were stained yellow with nicotine and the upstairs on the bus offered up a dense cloud especially first thing in the morning.

I don’t pretend that these pictures are unique but these are less often seen than perhaps was once the case and they capture a way of leisure that has changed.

Many resorts couldn’t cope with the competition from cheap package holidays to destinations where the sun was guaranteed, and are now pale shadows of their former selves; others like Blackpool have reinvented themselves as the place you go for a weekend away or that all important stag or hen night.

So I am pleased Jean shared these pictures of her uncle Harold and aunt Alma doing the week by the sea.

Pictures; from the collection of Jean Gammons.

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