Another Dail Mail article on Briatain as a country where doors were left unlocked and children played in the street – in fact, a Britain that has long since disappeared. Here they examine how a growing tide of secularisation was beginning to take hold – with a striking effect on religious belief and leisure pursuits.
Sunday was a special day in the Fifties – specially awful, at least as
far as most young people were concerned. With shops and places of
entertainment forced to shut because of ancient Lord’s Day observance
laws, the boredom, the sense of nothing happening or ever likely to
happen again, seemingly affected everything.
It was a common view – born out by the sombre Sundays – that, if
church leaders had their way, the world would be too gloomy for words.
But it was fun and relaxation that Fifties people craved, as the
burgeoning demand for holidays showed.
The first National Parks were opened, giving access to beautiful
countryside, but until the widespread coming of the family car most
people stuck to the places they knew and loved best – the seaside.
The first Sunday of June 1950 was the hottest day of the year and
Newcastle Central Station was, according to a ticket-collector,
‘pandemonium’. From noon until late afternoon, four-deep queues for
trains snaked from the platform barriers back through the station and
out into the street.
Everyone was off for the day to the golden sands of Tynemouth,
where there were more queues – to get on the beach, for jugs of hot
water, for lemonade and candy floss, for the privilege of bathing in the
overcrowded swimming pool and for ‘funny’ paper hats. Longest of all
were the queues for ice cream.
However overcrowded, day trips like this mattered a lot to a
people still generally starved of pleasure. Most could not afford a
proper holiday away, even though the 1948 Holidays With Pay Act entitled
every employed adult to a paid fortnight off each year.
those who did manage to get away, two-thirds went to the seaside and
two-fifths stayed with friends or relatives. Less than 2 per cent – one
in 50 – went abroad.
But as the decade progressed, against a background of full
employment and rising wages, the numbers who could afford a holiday
ballooned, and resorts vied with each other to attract customers.