Going for the interview was so nerve wracking. I had wanted to be a Redcoat since I had worked at Skegness as a supervisor in the coffee bar. I did two seasons at Skegness and loved the camp and the town; I wanted to come back, but, as a famous Redcoat. Unfortunately the man that interviewed me for this illustrious job, had other ideas, and, I ended up in Ayr Scotland. I still felt like the luckiest girl in the world because I WAS GOING TO BE A REDCOAT!
Arriving on camp that first day was quite terrifying, but, on meeting the girl who was to be my chalet mate, I knew life was going to be good. Bev was a real cockney sparrow, and we became firm friends.
The camp wasn't open that first week, so we spent our time cleaning, painting and generally getting the theatres ready for opening. We all got to know each other really well. We had to put together a show and learn about the duties we would have to carry out. The Reds from previous years, and Bev was one of them, helped all us rookies a great deal.
On the Friday before Saturday camp opening, we had a dress rehearsal. Oh, putting on that uniform for the very first time, I cannot begin to tell you how I felt, only that, I have never felt that way since, and don't expect to again. We had a pep talk and when the boss, Doug Mcloud, was satisfied that we wouldn't let him down, it was off to the chalet to get changed and hit the bar.
Saturday morning hit us like a hurricane. If I had known just what reception duty entailed, I would have never let the tiniest drop of alcohol past my lips. The old Reds just looked at us newbies with a wicked grin on their faces. One hard lesson learned. Reception was hectic to say the least; the little barrow boys could make our weeks wages on that one day. Glasgow fortnight was my favourite time, the men would load the barrows up with the booze for the two weeks, and the wives would struggle with the cases and kids while the men then stood in line for the chalet keys. Hilarious!
I have lots of memories from my time at Butlins, but here is my very favourite. I made friends with a family whose little boy was in remission from leukaemia, on the Friday night when he was oh so sad because he was going home, his parents then told him that they had booked for another week. The look of pure unadulterated joy on his face will stay with me forever. I often wonder if Billy Butlin was somehow magical, because he surely made magic memories in millions of people's lives.
This photo shows Valda, third from the left, with Suzi, Gerry the camp tramp & Carol in 1979. Click here to view more of Valda's photos.