Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Glorious trips to the seaside
Crisps and pop, and two half-crowns to spend
The sun is still shining as I write this column and we are still in the second week of the old Dewsbury Feast, of which I wrote last week.
My thoughts as I write turn to the glorious trips to the seaside which local pubs and clubs organised for local children.
Although the clubs organised most of them, there were some pubs which organised smaller trips, like the one above, arranged by the Station Hotel.
The club trips, however, were much bigger affairs taking thousands of children to the seaside every year.
My dad was a member of Eastborough Working Men’s Club and so it was their club trip I went on.
The resort chosen almost every year was Cleethorpes, probably because its beach was conveniently situated directly across the road from where the train stopped.
We caught the train at Dewsbury Central Railway Station, but before boarding, a label was pinned to our coats stating which club we were with, just in case we got lost.
We were also given a little brown envelope containing two half-crowns which we could spend on anything we wanted.
Also, on the journey there and back, we were given packets of crisps and bottles of pop on the train.
On leaving the train, we were given instructions to all meet up at a particular cafe at certain times, where we enjoyed a lovely lunch of fish and chips, and a sumptuous tea.
No wonder we felt we were being treated as very special children. No-one can take these happy memories from me.
For on that one day of the year, we children were made to feel important and special and worth being made a fuss over.
Sadly, Eastborough Working Men’s Club, like many other clubs in the country, is no longer with us.
Looking back on those happy days, I cannot help but think in many ways we have lost something pretty special with the closure of them.
They helped bring communities together and in doing so also brought children together, many of whom had never met each other before.
When I talk about these trips to old friends who went on them, we all agree that one of the most important parts of the trip was the train journey.
It was a long one but never boring because we could move up and down the carriages and talk to children we might never have met.
We could also sit back and look through the windows at the rolling countryside and listen to the sounds of the clickety click of the train wheels. All the while, we’d be contentedly munching our crisps and drinking our pop, all of which had been provided free.
We always went on these trips by train and in those days there were so many railway stations in Dewsbury, we took them for granted.
We never dreamed that within our lifetime they would all disappear, barring one, Wellington Road, which fortunately is still with us.
The other stations I remember were Dewsbury Central, Earlsheaton, Batley Carr, Thornhill Lees, and Ravensthorpe, which is still operating, I understand, but not staffed. There was also one at Chickenley Heath, and of course, the old Lancashire and Yorkshire station in Market Place, which closed before I was born.
Railway stations when I was a child were busy places with the trains running frequently, and the fares were within the range of what ordinary working people could afford.
It is hard to imagine that even little village stations like Earlsheaton had, in their heyday, 60 passenger trains stopping there every weekday, with 12 on Sundays!
People living in Earlsheaton could get a train almost on their doorstep which would take them straight to Cleethorpes. Oh happy days!
After my experience of travelling by train on club trips, railway stations became familiar places to me and my friends.
And, as they started to close one by one, they became our playground, and my favourite one was always Batley Carr Station.
Perhaps it was because it was within walking distance of my home in Springfield, but it became a place where I spent many happy hours with my friends.
We loved exploring the abandoned stationmaster’s house, which had stood empty for a long time, and it seemed pretty normal to us to make it “our house”. We went there most Sundays during the summer months, usually on our way home from church.
We took with us all manner of little items which we’d begged or borrowed from our relatives and friends.
Our “treasures” included a little buffet, a sweeping brush, an old lace curtain, a few chipped cups and an old cracked vase to hold the wild flowers we picked as we walked along the railway embankment.
Nobody stopped us, nobody questioned us, and we were left to allow our imaginations to run wild as we created a new Sunday identity – that of a little family which had just acquired a new house badly in need of a good cleaning.
We really did give it a thorough cleaning and we soon had the dusty windows, many of them cracked, sparkling clean.
The buffet wasn’t to sit on, but to be placed centre stage in the little front parlour, posing as a table on which to place our vase of flowers.
Although the station had closed some years before, the railways line was still a busy one, and we would stand and watch the trains go by.
We saw no danger in it, and neither do I think did the train drivers, who always gave us a cheery wave as they passed.
I suppose we were the “railway children” long before a film of that name was made.
Yes, happy days indeed!
■ You can email your recollections of Dewsbury in years gone by to: [email protected]