Theres an excellent web site dedicated to the memory of Wallis’s Cayton Bay holiday camp right here http://www.cayton-bay.info/ I could spend, nay I have spent, hours browsing those folders of old photographs and postcards looking for images of myself for we spent so long at that bloody place that I must surely by now be on their postcards.
Its wasn’t just us, it was the whole extended family, there are photographs not only of aunts, uncles and cousins but of grandparents and great-aunts too, all of whom holidayed with us in those halcyon days when you actually got to see and speak to your family most days of the week – indeed on the long-established week for going to Cayton Bay (first week in August) every factory in Leeds would close and virtually the whole city would set off for the East Coast, no wonder there was never any shortage of friends and workmates to form a wagon train circle on the beach with deck chairs and wind breaks – some times it felt like your parents knew everyone on that beach.
As far as I can tell from family photos I was in attendance at Wallis’s on a family holiday from birth, or at least the following August after my birth, and the last time that I recall ever going there was after I had passed my driving test, for I drove to the place myself, out of choice, and even paid for my own petrol, bloody madness, so that would be at 18 years of age then – there were years when we went elsewhere for summer holidays but certainly for the first 11 years of my life the words “summer holiday” meant “Wallis’s” and no other alternative considered.
In the early days the Wallis family seemed to have merely scavenged old caravans from farmers fields, evicted the pigs, stuck a bucket underneath them to catch whatever was poured down the sink and called them “luxury caravans”, hiring them out cheaply to the gullible people of West Yorkshire and the North East.
And it worked, look at any of the old photographs on that web site (above) and you’ll see a field crammed full of a huge assortment of old caravans, its like a caravan museum, but its not, its what would be called a “holiday resort” these days although in the early 60s the facilities were, shall we say, limited.
Plumbing was one facility which was noticeably absent, there was no water in your old caravan, and no drainage either – you fetched your water by the aid of a large plastic water churn which had been designed to be exactly the right size for an eight year old to carry when it was full, when I say carry I mean drag down the hill when full, for it was every childs job at Wallis’s to go fetch the water when his or her mother decreed.
You fetched the water from the single water tap that was provided way up at the top of the site, usually our caravan was the one that was as far away from the water tap as was possible and so the “fetch some water” routine was particularly irritating to this eight year old boy and the only enjoyment that could be gained from the chore was to enlist the help of your six year old brother to carry the water churn back down the hill with you and then kick it over so it spilled all down his legs, always got a laugh that did, you had to go back up the hill and fill it up again and then he’d never go back with you for the rest of the holiday, but hey, it was a highlight and we take pleasure from these things…
There was however a more sinister chore to do at least once or twice during your weeks holiday for underneath every caravan was the tin waste bucket, without any sort of drainage on the site the water that you tipped down the caravan sink had nowhere to go except to the waste bucket underneath and once this was full it was every kid’s job to squirm underneath the caravan and slowly edge your way backwards dragging a bucket full to the brim with filthy washing up water – then take it to the same tap at the top of the site where you got your fresh water, and tip it down the drain there.
But even that chore paled into insignificance against the dreaded chore of the piss bucket.
The nightly entertainment at Wallis’s meant that every adult on the site was required to gather together in the Rendevous club at the top of the hill and drink as much beer as was humanely possible, in order to facilitate this without the nuisance of having your children around the parents were instructed to lock their kinder in their caravans, leaving a curtain open so that an elderly man with a torch could walk around the site and peer in through the window periodically and inform the Rendevous Club of any miscreant child that was seeking attention from its missing parents – the job of the “Baby Patrol Man” was a most important one, of course he would be called a Paedophile now and immediately be burned on a bonfire by the mob of angry parents who’d all locked their kids in their caravans while they got rat-arsed in the club, but still, progress eh ?
Anyhoo, where were we, ah yes, the piss bucket.
So your parents would return to your shabby old caravan in the early hours having drunk their fill of beer all night long to find that although they’d been to the toilet just before they’d left the Rendevous Club, the hike down the long hill to their furthest away caravan had brought on the need to attend to toilet duties again – that would be the toilet that was way back up the top of the hill again.
It was for moments like these that the piss bucket was invented – positioned next to the door it was a handy way to relieve yourself right through the night without the need to tramp back and forth up and down the hill in your pyjamas and much use was made of the facility indeed.
And then in the morning someone would have to carry the piss bucket up the top of the hill to empty it down the drain where everyone else was queueing to fill up with fresh water, and that someone was of course your handy small child.
If I’m giving the impression that life for a small child at Wallis’s involved endless trips up and down the hill emptying various buckets of effluence and filling up churns of water then good, because those are my most enduring memories of Wallis’s and I cannot describe the relief of a twelve year old who discovers that in this years trip to Wallis’s they’ve had some modern caravans installed with the ultimate unheard of luxury of plumbed-in water and drainage, not toilets mind you, but at least the piss bucket could be tipped down the sink every morning now and disappear as if by magic.