AS a schoolboy in the 1940s and ‘50s and during much of my early working life the annual Wakes holiday was greeted with great excitement. Wakes, starting on the second Saturday in July, was “our” holiday in Halifax.
Almost everyone, it seemed, was on holiday! Our railway station was packed, as were coach pick-up points such as Harrison Road and the Courier office.
Even in Mixenden, where I lived from the age of 13, there was a line of coaches. Blackpool, Bridlington and, a little later, Cornwall and Devon, along with Butlin’s, were the main ports of call, along with Scarborough, Whitby, St Anne’s and the like.
On holiday you greeted your neighbours, friends, and workmates on the street and in the local amenities. It was home from home, in fact.
The only difference was the people from Scotland, who shared our holiday dates and destinations and in large numbers – especially Black-pool.
Back at home, should you go into the town centre you’d find it deserted, making you wish you, too, were “away”. Or grateful for the peace!
This love affair with Wakes began in 1896, courtesy of our chamber of commerce. At first Halifax Wakes was in August but in 1945 it was moved to July, a move that seemed to be resented by all the “older end” I met, be this family or workmates.
July was often “rained off” and the engineers, to take one quite big group, were the first to take an extra holiday in September to reduce the long run from July to Christmas and because of the high possibility of poor weather in July.
From 1943 onwards the sur-rounding towns and cities had all worked out a roster of holidays so the trains, buses and resorts only had to cope with Halifax or Bradford or Brighouse or whatever at a time.
This system worked very well; there was less competi-tion for trains and coaches and so more available for our local towns to share when their holiday time arrived.
Also during Wakes firms could carry out plant alterations and major works without running machines and staff to bother about, and customers knew you were shut and planned accordingly.
It also meant that children were off at the same time as their parents. Classes and children’s education were not disrupted. Later, when workers took floating holidays the schools wanted children at school, even when their parents were off.
I was rarely off school but I remember once, when Mother kept us off when snow drifts completely covered the front door I was surprised to get a rousting from the head “ Sickness and parental holidays are the only reason for being off school,” he shouted.
Actually, by accident or design it all worked out quite well, with cheap winter and early and late holidays enticing us for breaks in the sun abroad.
Around 1960 a fitter I knew at work saved up for two years, doing without holidays, so that he and his wife could save up for an expensive holiday in Spain. Everyone felt sorry for him when he got back; he’d spent all that money on a dream but it had rained all the time he was there. He looked just as pale and pasty as he did before he went To make it worse the natives told them it hadn’t rained for months!
Despite hiccups like this the ticket to the future had been booked. Cheap beer, sun and a desire to cater for our need for fish and chips saw big changes in holiday making, aided by our entry into Europe. Old folk could take their rheumatic limbs into extended winter breaks with pleasant weather and cheaper living.
Now the warmth, beauty and inexpensive availability of places like Poland increase the possibilities for of our sun-starved natives. For the better off Africa and America offer some unusual holiday delights. We are spoilt for choice as the world shrinks even further.
It’s all a long way from my schooldays at Moorside School. Then the mention of the word “holiday” saw me charging out of school with my mates, all of us swinging our pump bags around our heads.
We’d sing all the way home: “Hip hip hooray, we’re breaking up today; if we don’t have a holiday we’ll all run away. Where shall we run to? Up Nursery Lane, see Mr Ashworth running with his cane.”
We thought it the height of naughtiness (the names of road and head were changed as applicable). Happy memories.