Southend On Sea In The 50's
A Memory of Southend-on-Sea.
Southend-on-Sea in the 50’s
At the housing estate in Mitcham where we lived they had a tenants association. Every Friday night, two of the committee would go round to the Elm Court flats in Mitcham, where we lived, to collect one or two shillings. This money was for an outing that the committee organized, mainly in winter, so that people could have an evening out at least once a year. There were not many people that had their own transport then. They would start collecting at the beginning of the year and then start organising an outing. Sometimes it was an Ice Show at Wembley, or stage show at the Palladium or Windmill Theatre or a light hearted play in Shaftesbury Avenue. One year we went to Southend-on-Sea. It was all very exciting as we were going to be there at night time when all the lights were on. The South’s answer to Blackpool Lights.
We all went in the coach that picked us up at the flats on a Saturday afternoon, allowing plenty of time to get there. When we arrived it was just starting to get dark so the lights were already shining brightly. The coach dropped us off at the seafront. We looked out over the rail above the beach and had to really strain our eyes to see the water. We could not see it, then we were told that the tide went out a very long way and this was why we could not see it!
The coach driver told the adults what time he would pick us up in this same spot, thus allowing many hours to wander along the promenade and go to the Kursaal. We had all been told about the Kursaal and the amusements inside. The first thing we did was to buy our dinner, it was that time of the day. We had fish and chips, drenched in vinegar of course, and Mum and Dad treated themselves to some cockles and winkles with their chips. We sat down on one of the benches along the promenade and ate our tea. Dad bought a bottle of Tizer as a treat for us to wash down the fish and chips. When we finished we were off along the promenade looking at all the lights, some flashing different colours, but all very glittering and sparkling. Mum and Dad allowed us to pick a couple of rides to go on and also we had a shilling to spend on the many machines that were there, whatever ones we wanted to play on. I don’t know what the ride was called that I picked, but sugar bowl comes to mind. It was a giant (to us anyway) Helter Skelter made of shiny wood and when you got to the bottom you ended up in a big wooden bowl that you had to climb out of, hopefully before the next person came down, otherwise you would be knocked off your feet and have to start climbing out again. I think there were bumper cars, but we had to go on them with an adult as we were too young to go on ourselves. Dad took my brother on one. I decided to go on the 'sugar bowl' again as it was very exciting. We used our shilling up on the bagatelle machines, where you pressed a lever and a ball bearing would shoot into the game area. You hoped it would land in one of the small cups, as you could get your money back and have another go. More than ever the ball would clatter through the obstacles and go to the bottom of the machine and a sign “lost ball” would come up and that was the end of that game. Still we enjoyed ourselves very much. I think I also put a penny in the Fortune Teller machine, not really knowing what it was. I cannot remember what it said on the card you got, but it would have been interesting to see if anything that was foretold came to fruition over the years.
Soon it was time to go back to where we were dropped off by the coach. When we arrived the driver was waiting there for all of us. A head count was done to make sure everyone was on board before we started our journey home. I never remembered much about the trip home as I probably fell asleep before we had even left the outskirts of Southend. All I know was being woken up by my parents and shuffled towards our home to get into bed, tired but very happy for the trip.