A Very Bri­tish Hol­i­day

For many fam­i­lies in years gone by, a hol­i­day camp was the des­ti­na­tion of choice. Su­san Clare­mont-Smith shares her rec­ol­lec­tions.

The People's Friend Special - - CONTENTS -

Su­san Clare­mont-Smith re­mem­bers

AS a child, I spent many happy times in hol­i­day camps with my par­ents, sis­ter and ex­tended fam­ily of aun­ties, un­cles and cousins. Our first three hol­i­days were at Min­ster on the Isle of Shep­pey, Kent, whilst our last campers’ hol­i­day was at St Clare, Puck­pool, Ryde, on the Isle of Wight.

What a great idea Cap­tain Harry Warner and his three sons had – set­ting up camps which al­lowed fam­i­lies to hol­i­day by the sea­side.

At the time we lived in Lon­don, so for us it was quite en­chant­ing to wan­der through a gate in the hedge that led from the hol­i­day camp down to the beach – a peb­bly one at Min­ster and a sandy one at St Clare’s, per­fect for sand­cas­tle-build­ing com­pe­ti­tions, and where my sis­ter won a prize.

I had an un­ex­pected win, too, but mine was for wild­flower posy ar­rang­ing on a coun­try­side ram­ble later in the week.

Even now, I can clearly re­call the friendly welcome of the Green­coat team stand­ing arm in arm as guests walked through the main gate be­fore be­ing shown to pretty chalets with brightly pat­terned cur­tains.

By to­day’s stan­dards the ac­com­mo­da­tion was small, but oh, how I loved the snug­ness, with cosy dou­ble bunk beds and a nar­row rick­ety wardrobe in which we squashed all of our clothes for the next two weeks.

Ev­ery day was ex­cit­ing. Morn­ings were her­alded by a jolly Tan­noy an­nounce­ment with a timetable of en­ter­tain­ment. Soon chalet doors would be slam­ming shut as groups of hol­i­day­mak­ers hur­ried to the com­mu­nal din­ing-rooms, where I thought the first meal of the day was a feast.

We were en­cour­aged to join Warner’s Wag­tails club. We had a great time and learned the se­cret sign that we be­lieved only club mem­bers knew about, but it didn’t take our fa­ther very long to work out that the rub­bing of our right ear lobes meant some­thing other than that we had a prob­lem with our ear!

Grown-ups told us they knew we weren’t far away when verses of the club song could be heard be­fore the multi-coloured centipede of new friends came into view, back from an out­ing or a jaunt around the camp.

And while the chil­dren were away, the adults would play, if they wished. Hol­i­day­mak­ers were di­vided into two teams on ar­rival for the du­ra­tion of their stay – Cads and Col­lege. Some games were amus­ing, such as walk­ing­stick hockey and knob­bly knees con­tests, oth­ers more se­ri­ous like tug-of-war, swimming and div­ing.

No hol­i­day would be com­plete with­out beauty pa­rades for young and old. We clapped and cheered with great ad­mi­ra­tion as beauty queens and princesses, mus­cle­men and princes were se­lected on the ter­races be­side the swimming pool.

On hot days we swam in the swimming pool. On cloudy days it was a great treat to be trans­ported by our par­ents in a cy­cle for four as we raced and laughed with them around the camp.

At some time dur­ing the day there was usu­ally a trip to the amuse­ment ar­cade. The whole fam­ily played penny slot and pin­ball ma­chines, whilst mu­sic from the juke box blared out tune­fully in the back­ground.

A guar­an­teed re­ward could be had from the six­penny trin­ket ma­chine, brightly lit and en­tic­ing. I couldn’t re­sist it and lis­tened as my six­pence dropped, then watched long­ingly as a minia­ture white box con­tain­ing a sur­prise was pushed to­wards a chute.

Down it slid to the me­tal col­lec­tion area be­low and I ea­gerly looked in­side to find a gilt brooch or a sparkling pen­dant. Best of all was a pair of li­lac flo­ral clip-on ear­rings, which af­ter a while made both of my ears smart.

The ball­room was a hub of ac­tiv­ity in the evenings, start­ing off with fam­ily singing fol­lowed by danc­ing.

It seemed that ev­ery­one could ball­room dance and the ladies’ dresses were a whirl of full skirts as they were swished around the dance floor. Mid evening, ma­gi­cians and other va­ri­ety acts fol­lowed.

At this stage chil­dren could be taken back to their chalets and tucked safely up in their beds. Doors were locked and a han­kie tied on the han­dle to in­di­cate to the Green­coat childlis­ten­ing ser­vice where they must check and alert par­ents if a child was awake. How times have changed!

Well, I don’t sup­pose ev­ery minute was rosy and happy, as the smell of Ger­mo­lene and the musti­ness of the first-aid hut comes to mind, too, but a few years ago I came across an old Warner’s Wag­tails badge for sale in a bric-à-brac shop.

Its edges were worn dull with time, but the mem­o­ries it sparked were cheer­ful and fresh, just like the perky lit­tle bird logo that still shone in its cen­tre.

pho­to­graphs. We trea­sure our hol­i­day camp

All set for the fancy dress party.

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