School Holidays

 ... a look back at a less affluent time...

The school holidays are here again, children excited about the upcoming holidays, Spain  Florida, Portugal and places even further afield, I let my mind go down Memory Lane. (once again you might say) to a much less affluent time; when a trip to the seaside with the local club would be the highlight of  the summer holiday for many youngsters. 

Older readers will recall with fondness a day at Southport with the local club, younger readers may find something of an insight in a time not that long ago. My memories of those halcyon days of the early 1950s - It seems an age since the summer holidays and suddenly we are in the last week of term. I can't wait until Friday and the 5 weeks of freedom that beckons. 

You may have guessed from the first sentence that me and school were not the best of friends. I found my school days very uncomfortable to say the least.  It wasn't the regimentation or the discipline that bothered me - no it was the work I had, and still have a problem with spelling (thank goodness for spell check).

In my school days such a problem marked you out as being 'thick' and you were certainly treated thus . We who were poor 'spellers' were considered beyond the pail. The criterion for good schools in those unenlightened times was how many 11plus scholarships a school could attain; consequently all resources and teachers time was concentrated on the clever ones, the rest left to their own devices. 

An example in ten years in education I was never given one piece of homework! Thora Heard once said "There was no such thing as dyslexia in my day, you were sat at the back with raffia",  her experience mirrored mine to a T.  

I hope I don't sound bitter, it's just how it was in those days . Teachers can't be blamed entirely or perhaps even at all, they were expected to teach upwards of 40 children, without a classroom assistant in sight. 

Thankfully times have moved on and teaching methods have evolved beyond recognition smaller class sizes and the introduction of classroom assistants have transformed education. Any child with difficulties in any subject will be given extra tuition. In the fifties it was a case of sink or swim. The one advantage of disliking school was school holidays meant so much more. 

The start of the summer break was like mana from heaven . Mam always had a problem getting me from my bed on school days not so during holidays I would be up with the lark ready to go out playing. The many games enjoyed in the days before computer games and television, Hide and Seek , Throw out can, marbles , seashell, and my particular favourite skilly to mention but a few. 

Days seemed long with so much to do, so many games to play . When Mothers called you in for your dinner, (we're getting posh today and most seemed to have adopted lunch for the midday meal) you couldn't eat your meal properly for urge to get out again . "Eat your dinner before you leave the table, your friends will still be there" was most mothers usual refrain. You are not so sure, what if they decide to go the plantations in your absence and come back with a hoard of conkers. 

One of the treats that many children enjoyed was 'The Kiddies day out' organised by local Labour, Conservative, Workingmen's and British Legion Clubs.  Each child would be given an amount of spending money , usually ten bob (fifty pence) which when you realise that most rides were 6d (two and a half pence) it seemed like a king’s ransom. A label tagged to your clothes in case you got lost. A meal usually at ' The Star Cafe ' Southport. The noise in the dining (no teachers to keep order) was unbelievable imagine up to 100 children with money in their pockets and only minutes from the 'The Pleasure Beach', I think you can imagine the mayhem that ensued, only the thin line of wives of committee men and the women's section (no women on committee members in those days) struggling to keep a semblance of order, not any easy task, their only weapon the verbal warning "when we get home I won't half tell your Mam and Dad" this refrain seemed to echo round Southport and the coach or as the older folks referred the charabang from leaving Wigan to arriving back to be meet by mothers who seemed less than overjoyed to see their ' little treasures ' probably delighted to have had a day off from entertaining their charges, a day of peace during the long 5 weeks which they dreaded as much as we children cherished it, some much more than others!. 

 I'm very much in the 'some much more brigade! The minders didn't carry out their threat to spill the beans and said between gritted teeth that we'd all been as good as gold.  I did however hear more than one say " never again " I'm sure the passage of time would ease the trauma and in twelve months’ time they'd be there with their labels and spending money envelopes; ready to do battle once more! 

After the meal  I'm sure the staff at The Star Cafe breathed a collective sigh of relief) the dash to The Pleasure Beach, the first port of call always seemed to be The Hall of Mirrors and no visit to this Paradise of Fun would be complete without a visit to The Helter-Skelter,  a line of children with a flea-bitten mat in hand ascending slowly, each step giving you time to wonder if this was such a good idea; only the thought of being called 'soft' stopping you from turning tail and going back the way you'd come. Some brave souls would make the descent on their belly face first, not for me thank you very much! The absolute relief of reaching the bottom in one piece made the ordeal seem almost worthwhile.

 Then the side stalls, throwing hoops over almost impossible to get prizes , fishing ducks from water to revel a number on the bottom. And one that I always had a 'go' at 'The Donkey Derby. I never managed to win a prize, it always seemed to be the same people winning, it used to go through my mind that they may have been some relation to the stall holder, on one visit a lad who won 3 races on the trot looked decidedly like the owner of the stall, probably my imagination but as Mam used to say "you can't be hanged for your thoughts!"

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