Sunday, 22 February 2015

I do like to be beside the Seaside.

I'm jumping back into the 40's again for this week, mainly because most of the photographs are from 1948.
My grandparents house, where we lived, was on Harrington Street in Cleethorpes.  The houses were on one side of the road only as the railway line into Cleethorpes station was on the opposite side.  As a boy in the 40's & 50's I spent hours watching "real trains" going by our house with their thundering, clanking steam engines straining to pull the seemingly endless line of coaches and thick smoke and steam belching from the engine. 
The Railway Station was built in Victorian times and made
The station was built in Victorian times but
has undergone several changes.  The Mermaid CafĂ©
shown here though has retained it's original
design and is a listed building. 
Cleethorpes a popular seaside resort for the Victorian gentry to come and bathe in the sea, it was considered good for the body and soul.  However it was in the 40's & 50's that the "masses" descended on Cleethorpes for either a day trip or longer stay in the many guest houses along the seafront.
Most of my memories from the heydays of Cleethorpes as a seaside resort come from the 1950's and I remember the "Seaside Specials" trains bringing people in to Cleethorpes in their thousands!  The trains would come in, one every 15 minutes at weekends and then at the same rate for every day of the 6 week summer holidays.  Most of the "trippers", as we called them, were from the industrial areas of Yorkshire; they came from the steelworks of Sheffield and the mines of south Yorkshire.  When the government passed a law that all workers should have paid holidays this prompted the exodus to the coast for the annual trip to the seaside.  The 2 most popular weeks for the summer holiday were the last week in July and the first week in August.  The mine and steelwork owners decided that if the workers were to have paid holidays they would close down for those two weeks every year and take the opportunity to carry out any essential maintenance whilst the mines and steelworks were deserted.  In Cleethorpes these two weeks were known as "Sheffield Week" and the population of the town increased dramatically as thousands of holiday makers from Sheffield had their annual holiday here.  There were special events, games and pastimes arranged for the children and newspaper shops and sellers even sold the local Sheffield newspaper called "The Greenun" for the adults on holiday to keep up with events back home.
The people would spend a week or two in the boarding houses and
A recent picture of the Big Wheel
but it is largely unchanged from
when it was first erected barring
a few coats of paint.
enjoy the sea air and beaches, there were lots of penny arcades, beach rides, a big wheel and of course donkey rides to keep the kids happy.  At the south end of Cleethorpes we had the largest outdoor swimming pool in the country and also an indoor saltwater pool on the promenade.  Both have sadly gone long ago.

The beach would be full from very early in the day and the visitor had to get down there very early to secure a good spot. 
A day at the seaside would not be complete without a
donkey ride.  There have been donkeys on Cleethorpes
beach for as long as I can remember.  This is a recent photo
taken in Oct 2013.
Deck chairs could be hired for the day and it wasn't long before the last one had been taken.  The popular pastime of "Promenading" occurred on Bank Holidays, especially Good Friday

My Nanna & Granddad
"Promenading"
at Easter time when everyone would turn out in their finery to walk
 
along the seafront and "Promenade"!!
Me and my Granddad also
"Promenading"

 
The largest number of folk though came for the day and it was great for us lads to sit on the fence opposite our house watching the trains come by and take down the engines number, a pursuit known as "Train Spotting".  I said earlier, trains would come in from quite early at 15 minute intervals and, after a bit of practice + one or two grazed knees, I found I could run across the road to the wooden fence alongside the tracks and jump up, using three knot holes to gain a vantage point on the top before the train approached.  We would sit up there most of the morning until the trains stopped coming, just before lunch.  Each train that unloaded it's passengers at the station would then reverse back down the line a short way into the sidings to have it's locomotive engine turned on the turntable and placed at the opposite end ready for the homeward journey.  They would be kept fired up to maintain a head of steam and then in the late afternoon they reversed back to the station, one at a time, to collect their weary passengers for the return trip.  The sidings were vast and held many trains, they were also directly opposite my grandparents house and I can still remember the dramatic site of scores of trains "parked" there, all in steam and just ticking over.    
Now you might think how lucky we were to be brought up in a thriving seaside resort but, although we did go "down the prom" and onto the beaches my mam hardly ever took us for days on the beach, mainly because of the crowds I suppose.  Also, I suppose we just took it for granted and didn't appreciate how lucky we were to live in a town that others spent their holidays in! There were, and still are, three main beaches at Cleethorpes.  North Beach which stretched from the north end were the railway station is to the Pier, Central Beach from the Pier to Brighton Slipway and South Beach from Brighton Slipway to what was then the outdoor swimming Pool.  
However we did go to a beach, the locals went to a secluded bit of the beach beyond the north end and away from the "Trippers", it was called locally "over the bridge".  The bridge in question was Fuller Street Bridge, a cast iron pedestrian bridge that gave access over the railway lines to a lovely area of deep, soft sand where we spent many happy times.   There was a high fence along the seaward side of this beach to cut out the ever present sea breeze and our mam would sit behind it knitting while me and my sister played in the sand.  The beach was very close to the railway lines which were not fenced off at this point and we could play with our buckets and spades whilst waving at the trains passing by, the drivers and firemen always waved back and often called out to us.  One or two whistled at our mam, by the fence, I could never understand why!  There was no such thing in those days as Health & Safety Regulations, if we were to go there now the Railway Police would soon be down to arrest us for trespassing.
They were happy days and I enjoyed that little beach but I hated the sand in my shoes on the way home!  Now matter how well mam washed and dried our feet the sand gritted our feet all the way home.  
A compilation of photographs of my sister Kathleen and
me on the beach at Cleethorpes.  Most were taken in the
summer of 1948 and I would have been about 18 months old.
Kathleen is five years older than me.