15 April 2010

1980s Holidays - From Silver Sands, Caister, To Monarch Flight 666...

An early 1980s magazine ad for Silver Sands Holiday Village, Caister, near Great Yarmouth, and a 1989 Monarch Flight 666 boarding pass...

What were holidays like for a young working class lad like me in the 1980s?

Well, where I went early in the decade was entirely different to where I went later...

You may have read that the era of holidays abroad truly began in the 1960s. Not if you were poor it didn't. Throughout my childhood in the '60s and '70s, we rarely had a holiday - I've counted four caravan camp bargain weeks in my first seventeen years, and an occasional day out in my step father's old rust-bucket.

We had no dosh.

It was in the late 1970s and early 1980s that we sampled the aforementioned bargain caravan holiday weeks - amidst the heady delights of the Silver Sands Holiday Village at Caister, near Great Yarmouth. We stayed in an (to us) lovely caravan (with black plastic-covered seating, some of it cracking to reveal yellow foam), frolicked in the sand dunes, splashed in the sea and lapped up the "entertainment" in the on-site club.

I remember, back in 1977, my cousin Sue won a disco dancing competition on-site and received a copy of Down Down by Status Quo as a prize. Talk about crumby. And it was already out of date. What a disappointment!

I also remember when Silver Sands installed a Space Invaders machine in 1980. This was really "trendy" and "with it" as the Invaders had only been invented (in Japan) in 1978 and the machines had only made their debut at UK trade shows in 1979. So, the burbling Invaders from outer space at Silver Sands in 1980 led to great excitement and intense competition. And vast outpourings of spending money.

Nipping over the dunes to that lovely sandy beach... black and white telly in the caravan (we still had black and white at home, too)... fish 'n' chips and ice cream... "fun" entertainers at the Silver Sands Show Bar...

Simpler times. Often rather grotty in the actual living. But nice to look back on.

1983 - Silver Sands, Caister and Sunbeach were all then owned by Ladbroke Holidays. Silver Sands Holiday Village was touted as being "one of the friendliest on the Norfolk Coast."

Next door to Silver Sands was the Caister Holiday Camp, England's very first holiday camp, as it happened, beginning as a socialist venture of John Fletcher Dodd in 1906.

There were many changes at the Caister Camp over the years, as accommodation moved from tents to caravans. The Eastern Daily Press reported at the time of the camp's 100th anniversary in 2006:

Now owned by Haven, the camp continues to host 100,000 guests a year - although now they have chalets rather than tents and caravans of yore.

Some of the proudest moments of the camp's history came in the 1980s when Prince Charles chose to take his fledgling Prince's Trust charity to Caister for an annual holiday for 400 underprivileged youngsters.

Yesterday officials read out a letter from the prince written to commemorate the centenary.

Jack Bennett, who was special events organiser at the camp in the 1980s, said yesterday: “Everyone was on a high when the prince came to town. Everyone wanted to be photographed with him and he was very gracious, meeting as many people as he could.

“He did, however, have this thing where he never wanted to enter and leave by the same door - which led to a lot of hasty carpentry just before his arrival.”

Also from 1987 the camp played host to annual conferences featuring up to 5000 evangelical Christians, including George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury. “Before agreeing to come they asked who visited the camp,” said Mr Bennett. “I said enthusiasts, fanatics and nuts. I said they were in the first group but for a while I thought I'd lost them.”

And the camp's smaller neighbour, dear old Silver Sands, my old haunt, has now been swept up and absorbed into the bigger (and better?) scheme of things on the Caister site.

By the late 1980s, I was taking my first foreign holidays - jetting off to Italy in 1988, and Tangier in 1989.

My grandparents wouldn't have dreamt of such a thing. Nor would my stick-in-the-mud parents.

And nor, after 1989, would I.

I was really a Silver Sands type of person. The new freedoms of the 1980s did appeal to me, but discovering just what calamari was whilst I was in the act of eating it in Italy in 1988 did not.

Nor did flying. The merest hint of turbulence, and I simply knew that death was imminent.

For my holiday in Tangier in 1989, I discovered that the plane waiting on the tarmac for me was emblazoned "Monarch Flight 666".

I kid you not.

And so, since 1990, I've rediscovered the charms of Caister, Brighton, Blackpool and Hunstanton.

In fact, since the opening of England's - and indeed the whole of Britain's - first nudist beach on April 1 1980, Brighton actually seems quite an adventurous destination. But only for those brave enough to "bare all"!

I'll stick to fish 'n' chips, a nice polystyrene cuppa tea, an ice cream cornet and a wonky deck chair looking out to sea...

My idea of bliss!

Now absorbed into the Haven Caister Holiday Centre, Silver Sands, seen here circa 1980, is gone but not forgotten.


Sparrow said...

The memories - Scarby at the end of the school hols, sent away so my parents could get a break so I would go and join the grandparents. A day on the beach, fish and chips and then a trip down the arcades with a pound to spend on the 10p a go machines.

Bliss, sheer bliss.

Anonymous said...

Running leading on to marathon running.Best thing I ever discovered!
Saddly no longer get to run marathons but still have the fond memeries and the mates. Just love the 1980's though was born early 50's.

Unknown said...

Just looking really I had a day job 07:30-16:10 but in the summer of 1983 I also worked p/t in the Stardust bar as a barman 19:00-01:00 for 3 nights a week. I was probably a grumpy git all things considered and would def never do those hours again for anyone. Though the Soul weekend was pretty good.

Matttherug said...

Looking for a ray jump who run the key Kentucky derby stall in silver sands