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rememberfileybutlins
stories
 

Telephone interview between Mr Spence of Leeds
and Sarah Daniels


Sarah Can you tell me what year it was when you first went to Butlin’s Filey?

Mr Spence It would be about 1968/69 when we first visited and then we went nearly every year until I was about twenty. Then we stopped going, so that would be about 1976. Later on I used to take my own children when they were growing up.

Sarah What was it like growing up in a big city like Leeds and then having the freedom of the camp?

Mr Spence In those days Leeds was very industrial, not like it is now. I suppose you could compare it like going to Disneyland today, or Alton Towers. It was utopia.

Sarah Can you tell me the kind of excitement you felt when you knew you were going away?

Mr Spence Immensely excited. So much so, (and this is extremely sad) that the first time I was going to go I was about eleven years old and my dad got a plan of the complex at Filey and I did a cardboard cut-out model of the camp at home with all the chalets and the chairlifts etc so I would know where to go when I got there. The most exciting thing of all was we had an old Morris Minor car and my father, my mother, brother, and myself all squeezed into this Morris Minor car. The predominant factor about the Butlin’s Camps was that at the front of the camp there were these huge flagpoles with flags from all different nations blowing in the wind. You could see these flags from about a quarter of a mile away and as you drove up to the entrance the first excitement as a small child would be seeing these flags blowing, you knew by that time you were there and that was the first emotion you felt and I think a lot of people have said that. As we were driving in I knew I wouldn’t see my parents for a week.

Sarah Going back to your model you made, did you painstakingly make it for a few weeks?

Mr Spence Oh yeah, I spent a lot of time building it and my father, who was a carpenter by trade, drilled a small hole into the wooden layout, a square hole, then filled it in with cement or plaster and then painted it blue. That was the outdoor swimming pool, it looked quite effective. I was quite impressed with it.

Sarah I remember talking to you once before and you mentioned that you had the best day of your life there. Can you tell us that story?

Mr Spence Yes, what happened was, we had booked for a week’s holiday as normal. Earlier in the year my grandfather had died and left us a bit of money. We went for our holiday in August and after the week was up on the Saturday morning, I started packing my suitcase ready to go back home. It was always extremely sad for me as a young boy. My father came up to me and said, “What are you doing?”
I said, “I’m getting packed ready to go home.”
“Oh no, we’re staying another week.”
I said “Why?”
He said,” Well grandad left us so much money we’ve decided to stay another week.” My father and mother had kept this secret from me all week, which I don’t know how they managed to do. Well, it was like winning the lottery, I couldn’t believe it, and I thought he was winding me up.
I said, “How did you keep it from me all week?”
He said, “Well, I thought it would be a surprise.”
I said, “surprise, that’s an understatement.”

So then what you had to do, (this is extremely sad), you had to get a special badge to say you were a two-weeker and imagine this was in the late sixties, and no one stayed for two weeks. So it meant that on the Saturday as all the people were leaving who had been there for a week, and they were passed by the people coming in for the next week, I had the place all to myself, so I was on the chairlifts, in the amusement park and on all the rides. Then I met the new people who were coming through ‘cos all your friends had gone from the previous week. So I was gloating that day. I got my badge, I liked that a lot.

Sarah How many hours do you think you played on your own when everyone had gone?

Mr Spence Oh till everyone settled in on the Saturday afternoon, because by that time new people were soon moving in and you met new people, because it was so innocent everyone went around on their own, there was the Beaver Club, there was no fear like there is today, everyone mixed in, families were more sociable than they are today.

Sarah Looking back over the years, from when you went as a child and then taking your own children, how do you think the British holiday has changed?

Mr Spence In those days they advertised the British holiday camp as a whole package. Once you paid once that was it. Today things like go-karts cost and this all adds up. Things like the swimming pools then were open all day and early into the night but today’s health and safety legislation is so stringent that a lot of the freedom has been taken away. Today you could not leave your children all day. I think people now are starting to revert back, maybe somebody like Richard Branson could start and successfully run a traditional holiday camp, with all the fun and competitions, just like the old days. People now are starting to enjoy the good old-fashioned cabaret show again, who knows what the future may bring.

 

 
 

Disclaimer - This site is dedicated to preserving the memories and heritage of the Filey Butlins camp. It has no connection whatsoever with Butlins, Bourne Leisure or any associated companies, nor has it been endorsed by them.

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copyright images - Sarah Daniels