The Blackpool Museum Team have been traveling around the country to gather people’s holiday memories of Blackpool. Here is a lovely reminiscence from Barry Ashton of Penwortham, on his Blackpool Holiday Memories.
As a child (I was born in 1945) we (Mum, Dad and me) always went to Blackpool from Preston, the main reason being that Mum & Dad ran a provisions and green grocery shop in the working class part of Preston. A typical large corner shop that sold everything from potatoes to chamber pots, cabbages to cream cakes. Our customers, mainly good old fashioned mill workers, engineer’s, clerical staff or just labourers. They called in on their way to the places of work or before for their breakfast requirements and would call in at lunchtime for something to take home for tea or their lunch and finally on the way home they would get cooked meats fruit and vegetables for evening meals and requirements for the following day.
The mid 1950’s was an era without fridges and freezers
This being the mid 1950’s was an era without fridges and freezers so storage of fresh food was limited to the cold slab or meat safe. This meant that at holiday time when shops closed for the whole holiday period the first Saturday was a busy shopping day as people would buy in food for the following week in preparation for Day Trips or for the traveling requirements if they were “going away”. Similarly the middle and last Saturdays were bumper trading days as people returned to empty shelves or again prepared for the second week.
The result was that by the time the shop was closed and cleaning down was finished it could be 6 or 7 o’clock in the evening by the time we could leave to start our holiday, similarly if the shop was to open on the Saturday our holiday finished on Friday night.
Mum and Dads solution to this was simple Redman’s Park House Hotel, Blackpool. Even traveling from Preston bus station by Ribble Bus early on Sunday morning (in the days before we had a car) would get us to the hotel by lunchtime. Of course it meant driving along the Preston to Blackpool Road in the 1950/60’s the busiest road in Britain. It could take two hours plus to travel the 18 miles.
My first Blackpool memory
This brings me to my first Blackpool memory, arriving at the Talbot Road or Coliseum bus station and the local kids with their home made “carts” on which they would pile your luggage and take it to your boarding house or hotel for a few pennies. I also recall hearing vehicles with loud speakers traveling round the streets asking residents to contact (I think it was the police) if they had a spare room or bed as the town was FULL.
Once in the hotel booking shows for the week sometimes two in one day because if you didn’t book you wouldn’t get in. So it was Terry Hall and Lenny the Lion Show (I must still be a member of the Lenny Lion fan club after paying my shilling but I haven’t had a news letter for some time), Ken Dodd Show and at least two of the three Pier Shows. But my lasting memory because of the location of the hotel, was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the boating lake divided into two sections, paddling canoes and the motor boats. The activity that occupied most of my days at Uncle Tom’s was crabbing, all you needed was a piece of string about a yard long about 6 mussels available by the hundred on the sea front and a bucket in which to keep your catch. Simply tie an open mussel to one end of the string, lower the mussel down the wall of the boating lake count to 20 and raise the mussel slowly and most likely you would have caught a crab, the next big challenge for a youngster was getting it from the mussel to the bucket without being nipped. Once the bucket was filled they were all safely retuned to the water and I am sure I caught the same crabs year after year.
During this time mum and dad were actively involved in wearing out the canvas on deck chairs sleeping, what a waste of time when there was crabs to be caught. In later years Dad and I would take our fishing rods and spend time fishing off the jetty normally after buying our bait from Joe’s tackle shop. In later years and out of season we would travel to Blackpool by car every Sunday and fish from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from the North Pier jetty and sometime return without a fish, sometimes with “a bag full” but always happy. This reminds me of a story one Monday after returning laden with fish which I gutted immediately on returning home. An old lady customer came in and asked for “a collop of ham for Eddie’s tea” my dad asked “Ada would you like some fish, we caught them yesterday” Ada replied “yes please, Eddie loves a couple of Blackpool Dabs” so Dad went off and wrapped 4 in some newspaper and on returning asked Ada “how thick do you want the Ham”? “Oh I don’t want any Ham Eddies having fish for tea”. My Dad learned the lesson that you served a customer before offering free fish.
On another day after a day of catching nothing my Dad called over to Roberts Oyster bar, in Blackpool, to buy some fresh crab but being dressed for winter conditions and the possibility of being dirtied by bait and fish scales the proprietor mistook him for a tramp and as he looked at the window display was ordered to “Get on his way”. He was wearing a bob hat, scarf, ex-army Great coat and waders.
Thanks for the holiday memories Blackpool, the greatest holiday resort on Earth. Just wish you could guarantee the sun.