Merton And Morden Childrens Association Annual Camp.

A Memory of Pagham.

I first attended this camp in 1954 as a baby of 10 months of age and my first experience of the sea was with my father at that tender age. I attended for at least the next 10 years and learned to swim in the sea at Pagham and often played in the penny arcade and in the dunes behind the beach. I also used to fish for crabs at the old harbour and also fished with my father at the lagoon. I have very fond memories of the place and the camp - even if I think back and look at the possibility that we were probably a bit of a shock to such a small village. We used to travel to the camp - which lasted for a fortnight - in London red buses with our luggage being brought down separately on the back of a lorry, and we stayed in a field (I think at or near Church Farm) in army bell tents which were loaned to the charity who ran the camp. I can also remember being a bit of a pest and playing with the church bells when were not supposed to even be in the church and peeing on the floor when I got caught short - subsequently being 'frog-marched' back (by my uncle and father) through Pagham - carrying a mop and bucket to clean up my own mess - as a lesson. This horrified the local vicar of the time who thought this a bit excessive for a young boy of (I think about 7). I wonder what the Social Services of today would make of this?? (I did apologise to the vicar at the time but further belated apologies for any distress I caused as a youngster!). We use to have a sports day, a chess and a draughts competition and we played British Bulldog every night before we had our supper. We were then sent to bed while the adults got a well deserved rest, My slightly older cousins also remember going to the social club for illicit beers when they were about 16/17 as part of their memories of the camp - they were used as prefects to keep us younger ones in check - although my experience and memory is that they got me into more trouble than I ever did myself!!
I remember the year when it rained for nearly 12 of the 14 days of our holiday and we all were taken to the pictures at Bognor to watch a film (L'l Abner) and my father going to sleep in the back when he was supposed to be keeping an eye on us all. The cinema was to get us all out of the way while all of our bedding and a lot of our clothes were dried in the marquee. My father dug drainage ditches around all the tents and directed this run off water to a dip at the end of the field which then became our swimming pool - complete with plastic sheeting for a slide entry! My mother was the treasurer of this lot and also cooked for everyone in a small marquee. Breakfast was porridge and toast - with a choice of red or orange jam. Lunch was usually sandwiches/soup or salad - with the evening meal being stew (often mince and with carrots and onions) or something similar with lots and lots of spuds. (I remember the spud because I often ended up peeling them as 'jankers' for some misdemeanor or other!). Pudding was something spongy or pastry based with custard or (my favourate) roly-poly with golden syrup. Supper was cocoa and a biscuit. Not bad for a charity - and produced in a tent for over 100 kids!
If there is anyone around who attended or just remembers this this annual event I will see if I can find some old photo's and post them a bit later. Please feel free to contact me by email (via this site) as it would be interesting to see what memories still exist of this "pre-electronic age" piece of history.

With thanks to David Styles for this memory of Pagham

Added 03 June 2013

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