Family holidays

I have talked about holidays and day trips before but a reader suggested it would be worth revisiting – thanks Tom!

We were lucky as our dad had an annual holiday entitlement so we took a two week summer holiday every year. Most of the children in my school lived on farms – and farms can’t be left for two weeks! In addition, our mum and dad both came from different parts of Wales so we often had weekends away visiting relatives.

First, the summer holiday. What an adventure! Weeks of preparation by my mum – I remember having to wear only our older, scruffier clothes so that all our decent stuff could be taken away clean. Remember that family laundry was not a simple matter of pressing buttons on washers and driers.

In the 50’s, there were no motorways, by-passes, ring-roads or dual carriageways. Town centres had major routes running right through them and congestion was normal. With hardly any traffic lights, it was common to see a policeman standing at a major junction on what was called ‘point duty’. Because of the nightmare traffic jams we often set off in the evening and travelled through the night. How exciting!!!!


We holidayed in Devon and Cornwall several times when I was very young. There was no Severn Bridge then and we had to catch a little car ferry to cross over the river. One year, when I was about twelve, we went to Scotland. We stayed in a boarding house and in those days you left the house after breakfast and had no access back into the premises until late afternoon. That would have been alright if it hadn’t rained the whole fortnight! The nearby beach had a black flag flying every day to keep people away in the bad weather. There was a swimming pool in the town – a luxury! Our nearest indoor pool at home was over an hour’s drive away. We went to that pool every day and Mum and Dad taught us to swim.

Visiting my dad’s parents further north in Wales was always great fun. We loved the cottage they lived in with its thick stone walls, tiny staircase with a door at the bottom and the toilet at the bottom of the garden. The bed I always shared with my sister had a feather mattress and I can still remember the feeling of sinking into it on the first night when it was freshly plumped up.

One thing which has probably changed little over the years is how children play on a beach. Away from the X-boxes, TVs and mobile phones, children still love nothing more than digging in sand and playing ball or chasing games. Our buckets and spades were metal not plastic but the play was just the same.


Yes, we did at one time have knitted swimsuits, much like the one in the photo, except ours were stripey.

I’ll finish with one of the joys of summer holidays – ice-cream! Our village shop had no freezer when I was little so ice-cream was a treat on high days and holidays. You only had the choice of a wafer, cornet, orange iced lolly or choc-ice and from the vans you could get soft ice-cream in a cone with a Cadbury’s chocolate flake. 99s are still a favourite of mine.

Wall's 1950s UK ice-cream

1950s UK Wall's Ice Cream Magazine Advert

1950s UK Wall’s Ice Cream Magazine Advert


Keeping Warm

Back in the 1950’s I knew nobody who had central heating in their home. In fact, I don’t think I ever heard the expression. We all had open fires which burned coal and logs. Even in school, the classroom was heated by a large coal fire. There was an enormous fire guard around the school fire and on a very wet or snowy day there would be loads of hats and gloves drying out on it. There were less than thirty children in the village school so the guard was big enough to dry all our things out before we went out again.

In our house we had two fires, one in the dining room and one in the lounge. In the evening the whole family would be in the lounge together listening to the radio, later in my childhood watching television. We could get really warm and cosy in front of the fire, especially our fronts! Leaving the circle of heat to use the bathroom, get a drink or go to bed was something to be put off as long as possible. . . . and then done as quickly as possible.

In the very coldest weather we children had a paraffin stove in our bedroom. We were so glad of the warmth we didn’t notice the smell of paraffin.

imageOurs was just like this one.

In the morning there was always ice on the inside of the bedroom windows. The patterns formed were beautiful like this example.


Later on, in the 60s, when the family lived in a bigger house, we children had a bedroom each and each bedroom had an electric fire. We were allowed to use them when we were getting up and going to bed. We would not have even tried to spend leisure time in our bedrooms in winter as the electrics fires were known to be expensive to run. We had heaters like each one of these.


Bedding consisted of

. a top and bottom sheet – all cotton, brushed ‘flannelette’ in winter.

. two or three blankets – these were not soft and cuddly, they were hard and scratchy. As they were purely for warmth and sandwiched between sheet and cover the textures didn’t matter.  They weren’t pretty colours either. Some were beige, others were grey or brown.

. a candlewick bedspread.

. a feather-filled eiderdown.