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Barry Island - A Personal Account of Working at the Bars in 1986, by Keith Owen Back

What a wonderful site. It has brought back so many happy memories for me of a time which changed my life in such a positive way forever.

I arrived at the start of the season in 1986 24 years of age, newly divorced with no idea how the rest of my life would pan out only knowing I was going to work in the Bars department. A complete failure in everything I did but I knew I had to sort my life out to have a successful future.

I remember getting off the train with a lad who was going to be a redcoat and some others in other departments who were all in their first season. The friendships forged that day continued throughout the season, whatever department we were in, and great times were had. My greatest sadness is that I can remember no names and all the photos I had were lost in a house move many years later.

I digress. We made our way in, were met, allocated our chalets and told to report to our various departments for meetings and issue of our security passes. I will digress again here a little. These security guys were mainly ok but some were awful bullies who loved the power and the removal of many friends security passes for trivial reasons which resulted in dismissal were pathetic. They could never understand why the bars staff treated them with such contempt when they came in to our bars for a drink. It was usually because some other poor bar staff had been dismissed for something trivial because of the power trips some of these guys were on.

Anyway lets return to my story. I was allocated to one of the bars, met by the supervisor who informed me that due to my experience I was going to be an assistant supervisor. Again I can't remember her name but she was fab.

Throughout the summer I had a fantastic time. Working until midnight, drinking in the disco until who knows when then starting again the next morning. Those impromptu catch ups in the cafe with many of my wonderful friends, all hungover, drinking the awful coffee and eating donuts still brings a big smile to my face. We put the world to rights and were always there for each other. Advising each other on our futures and what we were going to do. Bars, housekeeping or redcoats, it didn't matter, and I still see some of the faces now when I talk about them.

One name I do remember is the Bars Manager, Victor. He was a wonderful man who looked after me, giving me many opportunities during the summer and listening to my tales of woe from my past whilst telling me to look to the future. It was him that told me to use the customer service skills I had with people. Along with his advice and the support of those wonderful friends led me to the path I took to success in the future. It was wonderful to see a picture of him on this site.

I left in September as, with the support of my friends, I had secured a winter contract as a rep with Thomson Holidays, which was the start of more and more senior customer service positions with many big brands and a wonderfully successful career.

I truly believe if I had not gone to Barry Island that summer and met so many wonderful people who sorted me out, and were there when I needed them, it could have been so very different.

So sad to see the photos of its decline but when I close my eyes I can still hear the noise of the campers having fun, laughing and crying with some wonderful colleagues over a beer and forever thankful of the opportunities that came to me after my time at this wonderful place.

Thank you for this wonderful site and the many memories it has brought back.

Keith Owen.

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