Some songs take you back to a particular moment in time, a key event in your life, a certain special memory. Other sings bring back recollections of a particular era or a period of time, it’s the latter that this post is all about.
Many long years down the lane of memory I thought I wanted to be a big something in the business they call show. Although which sphere of that multi disciplined industry was my direction going in I knew not. So what better way to find an avenue in which to follow than getting an all round grounding in the world they call entertainment. One of the key starting points for many aspirational youngsters is the world of holiday centres. Think of anyone from the golden age of all round variety performers and the chances are they learned and polished their craft working long hours at a centre of holiday makers pleasure. Des O’Connor, Dave Allen, Ted Rodgers, Roy Hudd, Charlie Drake, Jimmy Tarbuck, Johnny Ball, Michael Barrymore all started out as ‘redcoats’ at Butlins. Shane Richie and Brian Conley are just two famous former Pontin’s Bluecoats, whilst Joe Pascquale started out at a Warner’s holiday centre. Illustrious company, I first chose Butlin’s this was tough and savage and there was three of us in a two bedroom apartment, I being the newest member of staff had the lounge. They provided hot meals, which were in fact the left overs from the holiday makers previous meals, so at lunch time we often got congealed rubberised fried eggs and crispy hash browns that could also double as a shot-put. There were some nice meals I’m sure, but I can’t remember what they were. The accommodation block where new season redcoats were put had been condemned for human habitation two years previously, they were originally guest accommodation for when the site opened back in the 1960’s. There were so many redcoats at work, new fresh faced ones, mature long serving veterans of three or four summer seasons. They were lets just say harsh, the distinct hierarchy among the team made it obvious that any of the good stuff, the proper entertaining would be done by those of seniority, talent wasn’t taken into the equations. I knew it wasn’t the place for me when I woke up to the horror of seeing three massive cockroaches on my bed clothes.
Luckily with in the space of a fortnight I was out of that place and on my way to Dorset to a different holiday centre to entertain the kids during the day and the adults during the evening. I liked this place more, nice caravan to call home, nice colleges to build friendships with, plus the chance to see the sea easily every day. Those days started early, well earlyish, up for 8 for a thing called fun fitness with the adults. Then from 10 till 12 it was the morning session in the kids club, the ages ranged from 5 to 15. A two hour break was incredibly welcome and enjoyed usually by snoozing or hanging out with the girls - my work colleagues before another two hour session with the kids in the afternoon. I was lucky, I then had a couple of hours off before having to get ready for the evening’s entertainment. Once things were organised, I sent an hour or so in the kids club, then me and the girls had a 45 minute party dance set for the kids. It was fun, sometimes, but just imigen having to do YMCA, The Birdy Song, Superman and loads of other silly dance songs almost every single day.
A short break, either getting changed or having a crafty ciggie in our fifteen minutes between kids party dances and normal entertainment. The rest of the evening was always a blur, sometimes our resident duo played, then there was a bit from us, then the star act which was a visiting caberet artist, commediens or singers or magicians or some other act of entertainment, unless it was our turn to make the guests happy. We danced, we sang, we did things for fun, games and giggles, competitions and other such malarkey. Most nights were a blur really, we were incredibly lucky that sometimes the holiday makers would buy us a drink, which was jolly nice and jolly welcome. We’d not be off duty until the last guest left the main clubroom, therefore late nights were the norm.
I guess on average we worked a 90+ hour week for a take home pay of just over £80, no such thing as minimum wage, but it’s not the kind of job you do for the money. I have many memories from those days, various competitions, fancy dress nights, interesting kids, changing personalities, laughter and longing to have a wallow in a bath tub.
Another key memory for me was the last dance on a Friday night, every single Friday night. You see our week started and ended on a Saturday, that was our change over day, the day for departures and for arrivals, so Friday night was the last night with hundreds of holiday makers and me and the girls always said goodbye with this number. We’d march on stage singing this, I’d march back as the girls went forward, I’d try to catch up and go forward as they would be marching backwards. This went on for a little bit until I would miss my footing and fall off the four foot high stage. Yep, every week and always the fool making ‘em laugh right to the end.
Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.
© 2011 Copyright Jason Shaw Tweet