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"My 1965 season at Butlins Filey" by Lewis Lee Back

"My journey started on the exchange station Bradford in March 1965. I boarded the 8-30 train to Filey, changing at York. This was to be my first time away from home, I was nineteen and it was with mixed emotions I was leaving the town where I was born and bred. I had some time previously, had answered an advertisement for seasonal staff at Butlins Holiday Camp Filey. I had no doubt which position I wanted and that was barman. I knew I stood a good chance of that because my father kept The Unicorn Hotel and I helped him out as well as the club over the road. As expected I did get it after queuing round the block for what seemed hours. I was told by letter to report to reception on arrival for processing in the week prior to Easter. I handed my notice in at a small electrical shop where I was working and was all set for the off. My friends at the time said I was off my head as the norm at that time was to serve an apprenticeship to secure your future, but me being the rebel I am,I was having none of that.

So it was later that day I arrived at the camp all alone in a strange place dragging a large suitcase. (I must point out that at that time most people left school, worked and lived in the area they were born, most till they died.) I reported to security and was directed to reception to be processed. The camp was huge! I had never even been there on holiday, which would have been a help. As we moved along we were put in pairs to be allocated a chalet, the lad next to me was about my age and we got talking and agreed to share. The rules were very strict in the fact that male and female quarters were totally separate and made it clear from the off that being caught with the opposite sex meant instant dismissal. While we were queuing the women were going through another door and Trevor, that was my mates name, nudged me and pointed out a stunning blonde who was with a pretty dark haired girl, I remembered he said to me "let's go chat them up, the blonde ones mine". It turned out that he was good with the chat, and also a bit of a Romeo with the girls. So it turned out he got the blonde, Pat was her name and I got with her friend Ann, we all seemed to hit it off, not bad for the first day eh?.

After we were given our keys we went to the stores, and were given some bedding, so there we were processed! Our chalet number was B 25 and of course right at the bottom of the camp. When we went in, talk about basic, there was a sink with cold water only, a wardrobe, a small set of drawers and bunk beds. No mattresses, they were delivered later on the back of a truck, and dumped outside for us to drag in. Farther down the block were washrooms/showers and toilets that had seen better days, so that was our home for the next six months.

That Easter was freezing cold, the chalets unheated and only old army blankets to keep you warm. The staff canteen was in the bottom corner along with the bar which was the only place we could get a drink, even on your day off. Staff food was very basic, with most things bar veg coming in huge tins from abroad in bulk. The next day I reported to the bar supervisor for duty and told I would be working in the French bar. The building was massive, I was told the bar itself was the longest in Europe and so it was when I checked later in the Guinness book of records. We only had two days to prepare for opening as that was Easter Saturday, the start of the season. I do not remember how many barmen ran the bar but it must have been at least twelve. All the beer was hand pulled in those days, and the tills were cash registers, they did not add up for you like today and tell you what change to give, all that had to be done in your head. Our wage for a forty eight hour week was the princely sum of six pounds and we only got one day a week off. The bar was the busiest in the camp and when I had done a shift I was drained, but not too tired for a bit of socialising. All four of us got on well at the start, going around together but it was not to last. Trevor my mate had a roving eye and started seeing another girl, I, as I said was going out with Ann but had always fancied her friend Pat, so I told her how I felt and asked her out. I finished with Ann, which looking back now was a lousy thing to do but when you are nineteen and totally smitten with a girl you do not stop and think.

It was not long after this a new bar called the Beachcomber was ready to open and I was asked if I would like to work there as bar charge hand to which I agreed. After a crash course in cocktail making the bar opened and what a place it was. With my promotion came an extra two pounds a week and I had to be bonded as I had keys to the bonded warehouse which held all the spirits and liquors. Now my hours changed, I worked nine till twelve in the morning getting the bar ready, then back on at seven till midnight six days a week. Pat my girlfriend worked in a gift shop and her hours were I think nine till five, this did not give us much time together when working but we made up for it on our day off. We could not use the bars on the camp, so we used to go to primrose valley club next door, it was only a tiny camp then, not like today. Other times we went to Scarborough to the Golden Ball or Filey where we used the Three Tunns. Pat and I at that time were very close but as the weeks passed the pressure began to tell, we were both young and I could not be with her as I should have due to work. It came to a head early September I think, we had a blazing row and harsh things were said, this resulted in her packing up and returning home. After that things were not the same I think I lasted a further two weeks and I packed it in and returned to Bradford. Though it was for me a very sad end to my season at Butlins I never had any regrets working there, after all it was the swinging sixties and boy did I swing.

Lewis Lee."

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