STORYLINE - 2: ON THE BEACH *- Childhood Memories Of The Seaside In The Fifties (Faction)

'Children's Paradise' as the newspaper advert tells (below right)

Redcar in the late 1940s (happier days before everybody migrated in the late 1960s to the Costa Dorada etc on package holidays)
Redcar in the late 1940s (happier days before everybody migrated in the late 1960s to the Costa Dorada etc on package holidays) | Source

Redcar's Post-War and Fifties' memories

Evening Gazette advert from way back when before package holidays drew the crowds to the sun-soaked Mediterranean
Evening Gazette advert from way back when before package holidays drew the crowds to the sun-soaked Mediterranean | Source
Redcar Beach 'under siege', deckchairs as far as the eye can see, Candy Floss vendors, tea stalls, ice cream sellers, donkey rides along the tide line, Punch & Judy shows (at least two) and people tramping up and down looking for family or friends
Redcar Beach 'under siege', deckchairs as far as the eye can see, Candy Floss vendors, tea stalls, ice cream sellers, donkey rides along the tide line, Punch & Judy shows (at least two) and people tramping up and down looking for family or friends
High Street, Redcar, 'Woollies' is on the left. A lot of changes since then, such as half the length being pedestrianised.
High Street, Redcar, 'Woollies' is on the left. A lot of changes since then, such as half the length being pedestrianised.
Idealised Redcar Beach looking towards Huntcliff from late 1940s LNER railway poster. The local authority is in the process of restoring the sea front or Esplanade for much of its length.
Idealised Redcar Beach looking towards Huntcliff from late 1940s LNER railway poster. The local authority is in the process of restoring the sea front or Esplanade for much of its length.
This was more the reality in the 50s before package holidays saw the beach empty in the sixties and seventies. These days its mostly dog-walkers and runners you see on the beach, aside from tractors bringing inshore fishing boats to the ramp
This was more the reality in the 50s before package holidays saw the beach empty in the sixties and seventies. These days its mostly dog-walkers and runners you see on the beach, aside from tractors bringing inshore fishing boats to the ramp
1950s United bus at Middlesbrough awaiting driver for Redcar and Saltburn service 73. The bus station at the east end of the High Street was a hub for services to Middlesbrough, Saltburn, Eston, Guisborough and beyond
1950s United bus at Middlesbrough awaiting driver for Redcar and Saltburn service 73. The bus station at the east end of the High Street was a hub for services to Middlesbrough, Saltburn, Eston, Guisborough and beyond

A Life in the Day ...

We often went to the seaside at Redcar when I was a kid, Mickey and me. First off he would stay overnight with us, we'd have breakfast - usually cereal, jam and bread and a glass of milk. Mam would take off the cream before she'd let us pour the milk. Our milkman always delivered silver top milk in pint bottles to our house, as gold top was dearer by a 'Bob' (shilling) or so a week, but at least it wasn't on ration any more (not for a few years now, at any rate).

We were about ten at the time, Mickey being a few months older than me. A couple of years since, I had moved a couple of miles away with Mam and Dad to Eston and his family, him, his sisters, Mam and Dad stayed back in Grangetown. So there was this distance between us by this time, a walk along the path below the slag heap - I found out what it was some years later, but back then it was always known as 'the tip' - and past the old reservoir that stank to high heaven. You'd walk past it and try not to breathe in, then you had a wide, muddy flat area that you had to pick your way through, keep your shoes resonably clean. I'd catch a bus back usually, the 'T' bus as we called it, the motor bus as opposed to the 'trackless', or trolleybus that finished halfway to Eston and was no use to me.

Anyway, we made our way to the square (more like a triangle, with the High Street along two sides, the other side leading to Jubilee Road) to get the United bus, the sixty-three, to the seaside. Redcar was closer than Saltburn and had more shops so we could spend some of our pocket money at 'Woollies', as the F W Woolworth store on the High Street was known. The double-deckers were our favourite, although you had to clamber over everybody to get to the window seats if the bus was full.

'Bags I the window seat', Mickey would shout as we thumped up the narrow stairs to the top deck. The gangway on the old Guy buses was on one side of the bus, and you lurched all over the show before you got sat down. That might take a few miles, we'd be past Lackenby by the time we had a seat!

Past Wilton Lane end we came level with the chemical works, all sorts of steam and odd-coloured smoke being released into the sky. No 'clean Air Act' back then. Smells like rotten eggs and furniture polish would hang on the air when the wind was out of the wrong quarter in the summer time. Funny that, as when I sometimes waited for a sixty-two bus by the works on Church Lane there was often a smell of rotten eggs there as well. Something to do with Dorman Long's steelworks adding limestone to the iron ore, I think. Lazenby was usually cleaner, as we trundled along past the Half Moon pub on the main road, and then on to Kirkleatham where the Turner family used to own the whole village, just as Wilton by that time was owned lock, stock and barrel by Imperial Chemical Industries, or ICI as we knew it. Passing what was once the fee-paying grammar school - I thought it was the hall - we came off the Yearby road to go east to Redcar. By now we were in something more akin to 'countryside' as we passed the church and rejoined the main road. What looked like castle ramparts at the side of a field always puzzled me. Turners had a castle there that came to grief in the Civil War, or so I thought. I imagined cannon poking out from the low ramparts blasting away at the Roundheads, wherever they would have come from. Kirkleatham was a bit of a backwater, as I found out years after. No real threat to 'Ollie' (Cromwell).

The bus trundled past the crossroads at Dormanstown, and over the railway to the Coatham roundabout before turning three quarters of the way round into Redcar past posh-looking terraces and the Cricket Ground. Another couple of turns brought the bus to the town clock roundabout, where we jumped off as it slowed to a crawl on the tight turn, another three-quarter one, before it rumbled down to the bus station past Woollies.

They still had the wooden floorboards in Woollies at the time, but at least they had more tills, not like at the Co-op, where you had to queue up at the counter and queue again to pay for the goods. They had pulleys between the till and the office - which was typically on the other side of the shop, so they had to ring bells and send little packets of change or notes backwards and forwards. Mind you. no-one saw more than pound notes or ten-bob notes (ten shillings) back then. You had a very good earner in the house if you saw fivers being handed back and forth between Dad and Mam (not the other way round, though).

That was in the 'good old days' before inflation caught up with us. It was a dream if you thought you might earn a thousand pounds a year. Teachers did, and they could get mortgages, but in my early youth I knew as much about mortgages as most people my way knew about the theory of relativity. Most people I knew lived in rented houses, but Auntie Jo was a teacher. She and Uncle Jack had a mortgage, and Auntie Betty worked in a bank, so she and Uncle Bill had a mortgage as well. They were going places! Although Dad was getting good money, he didn't have security. The steel works at Cargo Fleet kept threatening to shut down, so there was no security there, was there! Where Uncle Jack worked, at Lackenby Steel Works, was a new plant with contracts from abroad and within the country. That much I knew. Mickey's dad worked at Smith's Dock on the Tees, and there was no job security there, either, as I found out by the time it came to leaving school, but that was in the future yet.

We thumped about on the wooden floorboards between counters. At this time Woollies' claim that nothing cost more than a penny had gone the way of all intentions. You needed a few 'Bob' pocket money on you, and you had to think about crisps (across the 'Pond' you call them chips, but that's a bit confusing because to us chips are thick wedges of fried potato, 'Tayters', that you call 'fries') and a bottle of 'Pop' (lemonade, soda to some, but there was precious little lemon in it), 'Cream Soda' or 'Dandelion and Burdock', as well as bus fare home. So a few plastic soldiers was my limit. They were moulded in pliable plastic, modelled on 'Yanks' - if you wanted British soldiers they were made from a lead alloy. You had to go to a 'proper' toy shop and they cost a bit more, so 'Yanks' it was, until somebody called Airfix came along! - and forget about accuracy, unless you could find someone later who was daft enough to swap his dearer lead soldiers for your cheap plastic ones. Another school pal Brian, I met at secondary school, was given lead-alloy soldiers by his Grandad, British and Napoleonic cavalry with arms that you could move to look as they were charging! He wasn't going to swap, he was brighter than that, so I just looked and marvelled. Mind you, he let me hold them, so that was chancing his arm a bit!

Well, after tearing around Woollies Mickey and me set off out through the back way to the beach. There were lots of places we could buy crisps and 'pop', as Redcar was - still is - a seaside town. In the days before package holidays to Spain or Italy Redcar, Marske and Saltburn beaches were packed out, end to end almost. There were fairground-type roundabouts, swings for the tots, donkey rides, tea stalls and candy floss stands. Did I say Punch & Judy shows? No? Whoever said English kids are angels? They'd bellow out at Punch or Judy, scream abuse at the crocodile when he stole the sausages, or at the policeman when he came to arrest Punch for 'bumping off' Judy. Then there'd be the pestering or yelling for ice-creams or candy floss. Nowadays people of my generation bleat about spoilt kids kids, but you should have heard them at that age!

We'd play with the soldiers we bought, get bored and wander on, gawping at some people smearing sun tan lotion on their arms and legs. Imagine it! Only my Auntie Jo and Uncle Jack behaved as if they were at the seaside for pleasure; they would go wading into the North Sea rollers and brave the cold, all the other men sat in deckchairs with their trousers rolled up and 'hankies' (handkerchiefs) with the corners tied in knots on their heads. Ever seen 'Monty Python' sketches? Well it was like that. Mind you, Auntie Jo and JUncle Jack also went to Italy on their holidays (furlough) because he'd been in the Navy, in the Med.

There had been a couple of piers once, Coatham Pier at the top end of the beach where Auntie Jo preferred to sit by the dunes in the soft sand. The boating lake was that end as well. Redcar Pier was further down the front, along towards the back of the High Street. A storm saw Coatham Pier off sometime earlier in the century, before the War, and all that was left of that was the ballroom on the promenade. Redcar Pier was 'seen off' after the War when a German coaster ran aground and rammed into it. There were the foundations under part of the seafront, with arches and stone abutments the depth of the beach. Where the ironwork had been attached were the remains of the spars or traces of bolts.

[Some years ago Redcar's beach doubled as Dunkirk for the film 'Atonement', with a few 'modifications'. I almost didn't recognise it, but there were still unmistakable features, and in long shots you could see the steel works at Warrenby] .

Time to hit the High Street again! About four or five in the afternoon we'd make our way back to the bus station for a sixty-three. About this time the shops started to shut down, some late shoppers still buzzing about, so there'd be long queues the length of the bus station platform and round. It was a bit like a cattle market, with railings that contained different queues for different bus services until the buses came. then there'd be pushing and shoving.

'Do you want this bus, Luv?', a woman might ask, as different bus services shared stands. A bus might go to Grangetown, North Ormesby or Middlesbrough from the same stand as one for another part of Redcar. Someone else might turn the air blue with swearing, impatient with slow-moving queues, earning dark looks from the housewives with hands over their kids' ears. But at last we'd be on, maybe 'inside', as the conductors called downstairs. A lot of passengers sat 'inside' rather than 'on top' because of the cigarette, cigar or pipe smoke, even though the windows were usually wide open - wound down to the full so it seemed like being buffeted by a hurricane if the wind was coming in from the sea - and the smokers at the back of the top deck.

That was Saturday afternoon done with. Another trip to 'Woollies' and the seaside over with. Stow the new soldiers away in the toy cupboard and get ready for tea. 'Wash your hands!' - or your ears get boxed.

Aah, doesn't it warm the cockles of your heart?


*Names of individuals have been changed to protect identities

Buddy, can you spare the time?

The King Edward VII Memorial clocktower stands at one end of the High Street...
The King Edward VII Memorial clocktower stands at one end of the High Street... | Source
this modified version stands some way along the pedestrian section of the High Street
this modified version stands some way along the pedestrian section of the High Street | Source

Tasty bit of nostalgia with your fish'n'chips? Have a look at the pre-package holiday era Redcar and Saltburn with a brief look at Marske between (below). Days gone... bring them back to life with a look through these pages.

Ways of getting around...

Preserved Number 63 bus. Bristol L5G heading  for Middlesbrough via Eston and Ormesby. (Most days at this time though they were Guy Arab double-deckers with side gangways); got three of the single-deckers on the Thoraldby layout (cf RITES OF PASSAGE)
Preserved Number 63 bus. Bristol L5G heading for Middlesbrough via Eston and Ormesby. (Most days at this time though they were Guy Arab double-deckers with side gangways); got three of the single-deckers on the Thoraldby layout (cf RITES OF PASSAGE) | Source
Spend some time at the Lifeboat Museum at the eastern end of the promenade, look in on the oldest lifeboat, the 'Zetland', named in honour of the local landowner, Lord Zetland (the Earl of Shetland - it's a long story)
Spend some time at the Lifeboat Museum at the eastern end of the promenade, look in on the oldest lifeboat, the 'Zetland', named in honour of the local landowner, Lord Zetland (the Earl of Shetland - it's a long story) | Source
This is the modern RNLI Redcar Lifeboat, see offshore on the day of the Tesco Boxing Day Dip (see below), 2008
This is the modern RNLI Redcar Lifeboat, see offshore on the day of the Tesco Boxing Day Dip (see below), 2008 | Source

The title was changed*

*...from 'ALONG THE BEACH...' to 'ON THE BEACH ...' as a sort of commemoration of a song title by fellow Teessider Chris Rea. The song was one of a number on the eponymous album, another one being 'STEEL RIVER', dedicated to the 'part' Teesside played in producing steel and ships for the war effort in both world wars. How many don't know of Middlesbrough?

Here's another title for you to think of an article: 'DRIVING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS' (used one year for an Iceland TV advert - not the volcanic island, the food store chain).

The area and borough map

Location of Redcar in relation to the rest of the area around the east of Middlesbrough
Location of Redcar in relation to the rest of the area around the east of Middlesbrough | Source
A modern plan of the borough of Redcar, showing the pedestrian area on the High Street
A modern plan of the borough of Redcar, showing the pedestrian area on the High Street | Source

Bringing you up-to-date

Things have moved on apace at Redcar. These visitors have found the place to their taste - just joking. This is the Penguin Parade on the Esplanade, a light-hearted addition to the sea-front
Things have moved on apace at Redcar. These visitors have found the place to their taste - just joking. This is the Penguin Parade on the Esplanade, a light-hearted addition to the sea-front | Source
On Boxing Day, 2008 the Tesco store staff and families took their charity dip in the North Sea
On Boxing Day, 2008 the Tesco store staff and families took their charity dip in the North Sea | Source
 controversial tower on the sea-front seen at sunset in summer. Believe it or not, this is a ''vertical pier'. Redcar's original pier was wrecked in the late 1940s by a ship, and allowed to deteriorate until finally pulled down in the 1950s
controversial tower on the sea-front seen at sunset in summer. Believe it or not, this is a ''vertical pier'. Redcar's original pier was wrecked in the late 1940s by a ship, and allowed to deteriorate until finally pulled down in the 1950s | Source

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Comments 8 comments

INFJay profile image

INFJay 5 years ago from Santa Rosa, California

Enjoyed the trip down memory lane.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Glad to have been of service INFJay. Do you know the area?


INFJay profile image

INFJay 5 years ago from Santa Rosa, California

I have not had the pleasure of visiting the area but I've had similar fond experiences from my childhood "along the beach." In fact I have a draft of such an experience I hope to publish soon. Thanks again.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

If this has been of any use, be my guest


John Holden profile image

John Holden 4 years ago

Are you sure it wasn't Alan, Mickey and John? I really did feel that I was there.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

You might well have been. I borrowed the title from a song of the same name by Chris Rea, probably the same beach as he came from nearby Middlesbrough.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

What great memories. I am so ignorant about your area...and I discovered, while reading this, just how hard it is to understand much of what you said because of the differences in our language...our idioms are not yours, and yours not ours...but I stumbled along and enjoyed it greatly.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Well aye me auld mucker! Tek yon 63 bus a few stops down t'road t'seaside an stop off by t'clock. There's a pub there everybody knows as t'Clarry (Clarion Public House) on t'High Street. See ye there after clockin' off time, like.

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