Summer Holidays

The summer holiday was a big thing in the 1950’s. Family holidays were taken mainly in the school summer holidays i.e. second half of July/ all of August. Families went for one week or two, usually to somewhere by ‘the seaside’. Few people took holidays outside of the summer weeks apart from visiting relatives.

I remember that for a week before we went away we had to wear our tattiest clothes as all our decent stuff was being washed, dried and ironed by Mum ready to pack. Now we can whizz a few last minute washes through the washer and dryer and not everything needs ironing since the advent of synthetic fabrics.

A bucket, spade and ball were the only toys children needed for a day on the beach. Nobody knew the dangers of sunburn and sun creams were little more than moisturiser. So we burned. Then our mums put calamine lotion on the sore bits.

Traffic jams were a feature of summer travel all over the UK. Thus was before motorways, dual carriageways and bypasses and also, nobody went abroad on holiday. So jams were a regular feature. I remember that some years we set off on holiday at bedtime and while we children slept in the car – we were supposed to but were usually too excited – my dad would drive through the night.

Everybody sent postcards. My mum used to take her address book away on holiday and would spend ages writing cards to all her friends and relatives. I think her list of postcard recipients was probably the same as her Christmas one.

We rarely ate out – money was tight – and when we did it would be lunch in a cafe on a rainy day when it was too wet and cold for a picnic. Although I do remember wet, cold picnics too!

The holiday was planned months in advance. There was no last then. I imagine, I can’t ask them now as they both died a few years ago, that everything was arranged by post. I have no idea how my mum and dad found the caravans, B and B’s (boarding houses as they were known) or holiday rentals we used. We went to locations all over Britain so it certainly wasn’t down to local knowledge. From our home in Wales we had holidays in Scotland, Yorkshire, Dorset, Kent and many other places. In this Internet age it’s really hard for me to picture how my mum and dad arranged the annual family holiday.

The pictures above have all been found on Google Images. They are adverts, mostly for rail travel. I have talked about car journeys but many, many families went on holiday by train too. The posters all advertise places I went to on holiday as a child but I have also chosen them because they are great posters and so evocative of the era.

11 thoughts on “Summer Holidays

  1. I live in Yorkshire now but don’t remember the ferry which came before the Humber Bridge. Your memory is very similar to mine if going to Devon and Cornwall before the Severn Bridge. We used to cross the Severn on the Beachy/ Aust ferry. Thanks for commenting. M


    • Well, definitely not best clothes! They were for church on Sundays and family visits. We just wore our oldest, scruffiest things for a week so that our mum could get all our summer dresses, shorts, T-shirts washed and ironed to pack. It took so much longer then with no washers and driers! We got into camping when I was in my teens and loved it! It wasn’t really done much here in the 50s but the late 60s saw the arrival of camp sites and shops selling camping gear.

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  2. I seem to remember newspapers had ads for holidays at certain parts of the year, also your parents may have gone to the library or elswhere to look up B&B’s, etc, in the regional phone directories.

    I loved summer holidays – my happiest memories from childhood are of them, ours mostly in Weymouth, Dorset.

    Did you stop off for picnics on the way (when you didn’t go at night, I mean)? We did, and there always seemed to be a bramble bush just when we needed to have a pee.. 🙂

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  3. I enjoy your postings and have asked my father who is 100 how they booked our holidays. There were 3 routes : adverts in the papers : they contacted what is now tourist information and word of mouth and mostly done by post and phone. Liz brown

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  4. It was sad to see racks and racks of “new” postcards in junk shops in Margate, the last time I was there in 2014. The scenes (based on the photography) seemed to have been taken in the late ’50’s/early ’60’s, when such seaside towns were still holiday destinations. Although my holiday experiences as a child meant visiting friends and relatives in Europe, your post reminded me of the experiences of my British childhood friends. They saw far more of the country than we did when we lived there! Lengthy preparations were certainly a part of holidays back then. And writing postcards to all and sundry was absolutely obligatory! That I do remember. I even had a postcard collection at one time.

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