When the TV series Hi-de-Hi first arrived on our TV screens, we found it funny – not just because it was funny, but because so much of it was true. We used to go to a holiday camp every year from when i was probably about five or six, I can’t actually remember. The camp was at the tiny village of Hopton-on-Sea, near Blundeston in Norfolk. Apparently the camp was built in the 1930’s by A. Edgar Simmons, so by the time we went the ‘chalets’ as the rather primitive huts (by today’s standards) were already old.
We used to go in the first week of September when it was cheapest and stayed for the whole week. Each chalet had beds, and may have had a wash basin, but no toilet, shower or bathroom – we had to go the toilet block where the basins were just lined up in a row so everyone could see each other washing and cleaning teeth. It was the first place we ever had a shower, which was usually cold, and at least that was private, but I have a feeling there was just a curtain across the doorway. Obviously there were separate men’s and women’s facilities!
We had meals in a big canteen, all sitting at long tables and we were brought food by waitresses. Before service started we sang ‘grace:’
Always eat when you are hungry
Always drink when you are dry.
Close your eyes when you are sleeping,
Don’t stop breathing or you’ll die.
It was strangely secular, and I guess left over from wartime. I don’t really remember the food, and I guess it was typical canteen meals of the time, but I expect, especially for us girls, it was different and being waited on was a completely new experience.
There were daily entertainments, sports, activities for the children, and the opportunity for parents to meet others and make new friends. At night the children were left in the chalets – which is unthinkable now, and wardens would patrol to listen out for any crying. A message would be broadcast over the tannoy to the parents who were dancing, or playing bingo, or having a drink in the bar ‘There’s a baby crying in chalet 15‘ or whatever. A parent would then hurry back to the chalet to sort the child out.Hi-de-Hi is a comedy, but in many ways it is so true, and I watch it fondly!