"One of the earliest rhymes I ever learned was 'Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.' I later discovered that the reason my mother pushed this motto down our throats was to make up for what food deficiency was ever present and because she knew that more heat could be generated quicker by many bodies under the sheets and coats of a bed than in front of an electric-barred fire with no shillings to light up the gas. She also knew that hunger bites less in one's sleep than wide awake.
We grew up on Windybank Estate in Hightown. I was the oldest of seven children, my mother was a 1950's 'mother' and my father worked as a miner for most of my early years. Although materially poor, we were rich in imagination and prosperous in worldly experience. Indeed, it could be said that we lived in a wonderful time on Windybank Estate, where, in the main, every family was as poor as their next door neighbour. Even had such luxuries as fridges then existed outside the U.S.A., no food would ever have remained around long enough to have ever resided within.
Each year, my mother would take us to a camping site in Cayton Bay, Scarborough. It was known as Otways and was run by a tally-man who frequented our estate. My mum would beg, steal and borrow between December and April each year to pay a deposit for one week's camping in July. The balance would be paid for at a few shillings weekly and would require final payment of all money owed by the following December (five months after the holiday had been taken). All money to pay for food and entertainment for the week's vacation would be paid for by my father working through his annual week's holiday. Any money still required to cover basic expenditure would come from unpaid rent, along with any money my mother was able to extract and borrow from the gas metre.
The family always knew that when we returned from holiday, our kindly grocer, Harry Hodgson and his good wife Marion, would stock us with necessary food and provisions until dad next got paid. For the whole of my growing life, Harry Hodgson allowed our family, plus half the families on Windybank Estate, to pay for this week's food with next week's wages!
There were two campsites at Cayton Bay; each catered for folk who'd been born on different sides of the railway tracks. Otways was for the poorer families and Wallis' Holiday Camp was a forerunner to Butlin's. Wallis' had been in existence since the early 1930's and catered for families who never had to rely on the tick to get by. The poorer campers were allowed to visit the posher camp across the road during the day, but couldn't use their better facilities.
As our family was large, the owner of Otway's site allowed us to rent an old railway carriage that he kept in the field and reserved for large Catholic families. The old carriage had been painted white on the outside and a dark colour of paint on the inside ceiling roof to disguise the damp ceiling mold.
These were the days of the 50's when children were reared on lots of fresh air, Beano comics and an appreciation for what we had instead of regret for what we didn't. They were also the days when we often retired to bed early to avoid any remaining pangs of hunger, and yet, they are fondly remembered times by me and my siblings; the happiest of childhood days.
It was during the years of the 1960s when one young lad from Otway's Camp decided to cross the road and pay a visit to a young woman who was staying at Wallis' Camp. The upshot was the girl became pregnant after their secret holiday romance, but after her father had got the name of the person who had fathered his daughter's unborn child, and had written to the young man's parents on Windybank Estate, a shotgun wedding was hastily arranged. The young girl's mother argued against the 'suitability' of the match right up until her daughter's wedding day, telling her husband it would never work out. As far as the girl's father was concerned though, he was of the old school. In no way did he hold the views of a Brexiteer forerunner who believed that 'no marriage was better than a bad marriage!'
The couple married and had their child, but the wide gap in their upbringing, backgrounds and expectations always proved too much for them to handle. Before the child to their marriage was old enough to attend First School, the depressed father was found dead; having hanged himself in a moment of despair. After that episode in my upbringing on Windybank Estate, I never heard of another young camper to Otways cross the Cayton Bay road in search of true love. It was generally felt to be better if one married their own kind. " William Forde: December 14th, 2017.