Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Claim to Fame

In 1946 our family moved from the south of England to the North. A change in my father's employment eventually initiated what became some wonderful memories for me and my sister.

First we moved to a house in Primrose Valley, Hunmanby in Yorkshire -- which is near Filey. I was a little under two years old, so my only memory about this home was being in the pram one day and looking up at a big brass warming pan hanging on the wall! I've been told it was a picturesque location, but from what I can discover via the 'net, Primrose Valley is now a holiday caravan-site mecca.

My father had left the RAF at the end of the war, and returned to his old employer, Kodak Wealdstone -- while maintaining his own photo studio in the family home on Regents Park Road in Finchley. But he began to seek greener pastures.

A new phenomenon was sweeping Britain at that time -- and his name was Billy Butlin. While there were already quite a few holiday camps in existence in Britain, Butlin took the whole concept to a whole new level by making them far bigger and by offering a previously unheard of range of entertainment and activities. Butlin's Holiday Camps were really in a league of their own and were far larger than anything seen before or since. 'Mega-camps' we would probably call them, these days.

The camps were like mini towns, in some cases spread over 200 acres, and were virtually self sufficient. They were eventually equipped with shopping arcades, indoor and outdoor pools, a whole range of sporting and entertainment facilities, a fairground, a host of bars and discos, professional theatre shows, amusement arcades, boating lakes and even churches. They also boasted hairdressing salons, newsagents, betting shops, launderettes and post offices. Some camps had chairlifts, miniature railways, water skiing and even monorails. It was quite possible for a family to remain on Butlins soil for the entire duration of their trip, and many did.

The best part was that most of these activities were free and Butlins pioneered the use of all-in-one admission in Britain. What is now common practice was unheard of back then (in the 1940s!), and many people marveled at the fact that you could spend all day enjoying these facilities at no extra cost. (Find these and more fascinating facts and memories about Billy Butlin and his holiday camps, along with great photos at http://butlins-memories.com/
With the opening of a new Butlin's Holiday Camp in Filey, and because my father's great love was photography, he wrote to Billy Butlin with recommendations on how to run a photo business in his camps -- and was promptly employed by him as a consultant in 1946.

Butlin's camps were famous for their 'redcoats' as seen in the photo above. Redcoats were hosts or hostesses, smartly dressed in red and white, who were to act towards the guests at the camp as if they were guests in their own home. They were to be good mannered, know exactly where everything in the camp was, so that they could direct those who did not know, and they were to mix and mingle with the guests, not staying too long with any one person. They ate with the guests and even slept in the same accommodation as the guests.

Some redcoats were also photographers and they would wander through the camp offering to take photos of the guests in any and all kinds of activities and situations. The guests could then purchase the photos later. My father organized the building of the 3000 square foot photo factory at the Filey camp, gave oversight to 45 staff members and opened a full photo service available to 5000 people a week!

Life in Filey was fun, as I remember it. We spent much time on the beach in Filey Bay, where the brig reaches a mile out into the North Sea.

My father was also producing photos for postcards, at that time, and the above is one of his.
This is me, with my brother and mother on Filey beach. Look at those chubby cheeks...I was such a cutie!

Because my father was a photographer, my brother and sister especially must have become quite tired of being used as 'models.' I think his camera must have been glued to my father's neck, as we have SO many photos of us as children -- some of them extremely posed; so much so that in adulthood I have always determined to do exactly the opposite. I always like to take relaxed, natural, definitely un-posed photos of my family.

I have in my possession some 20 or more of these little photos of me, every one a different pose: My father was obviously looking for the perfect shot -- but for what?
For this! A postcard showing Butlin's Holiday Camp attractions, but with me as the centre of ALL attractions! I have never seen another postcard like this one, even though I have scoured e-bay from time to time. So I don't really know if it was just a prototype of an idea my father came up with -- one which never got off the ground. Or if they really were made for sale, perhaps they were to be personalized, where people could have a photo of their choice in the middle. But anyway I'm kind of proud of it!

By the end of 1946, my dad was in a position to purchase a house and we moved to Woodcock Road in Flamborough -- a tiny, idyllic fishing village on the North-east coast of Yorkshire. Thus began some of the happiest years for my sister and me.

1 comment:

  1. You really were a cutie!! I remember Dad taking those photos.
    Have a happy Thanksgiving! Owen and Glyn may be joining us on Kauai at our Thanksgiving. That will be a rare treat for us!