A FAMILY OUTING
By Irene Coates
This was an annual event that took place in what is known as race week in the month of June. It was known to all in the village as the school trip and was held for all the children, but those that were of school age were given an extra treat on that day. Although I do think a lot of the men folk looked forward to this day out every bit as much as the children.
The day started with all eyes on the weather that was the most important thing of all. I seem to remember as well a lot of others that it mostly rained. As you can imagine this is not a good start to any day out especially when you are on the way to South Shields. The bag was usually packed the night before and the bucket and spade also stood at the ready in the hope that the sun was shining for us on our big day out.
This was truly a big event to us children then, for most of us it was the only time we got to go on a train. Yes a good old fashioned steam train took us all the way to South Shields from Killingworth Station. This was about a mile out the village next to the Station Hotel pub (hence the name). As a child I lived with my parents and younger sister in the colliery row known as Office Row, so we had to walk down through the village then along Station Road. This was a country road with none or little protection from whatever the weather bestowed upon us and always seemed a long walk, but you were that pleased to be going away for the day and on a train journey too, we all just marched on along the road and chatted to each other. Like the children all the mams and dads new each other so there was friendly banter between everyone, as we walked along towards the station and tried not to notice the rain too much.
As I said this was known as the school trip but was not organised by the school, but by various kind and caring village members that must have put a lot of hard work and time into making this day come together for us children. Oh and not forgetting the men folk!
I can remember it was Mr Maty and Mrs Hannah Wilson who were the persons that stand out in my mind that took part in the organising of the school trip. For years I really thought they were my aunt and uncle, I can remember I often called round to see them on a Sunday when I was visiting my grandmother who also lived in the little prefab estate in Camperdown. I suspect my visit like a lot of other children’s was made very welcome and often rewarded with a sweet or biscuit. I can remember thinking on leaving Hannah waving me goodbye after one of my visits how quiet and lonely they must feel and that was why they did this for us school children.
On arriving at Killingworth Station you had to go and give your name and address to one of the official looking persons that would tick your name off the list, and then each child that was of school age would be given the whole sum of half a crown two shillings and sixpence. Today that would be twelve and a half pence. Because there were two children in our house that was five shillings for us, this was a lot of money to spend in one day.
I would not like to say that all the children would be given charge of their half crown to spend at will. As you can imagine for those with a large family it was perhaps the only day with all the means to have a day away with the free transport and spending money for the bairns.
One year I remember it was fine and we were on the beach, my mother and sister and I. Dad had gone where all or should I say most of the men had gone away to the bar. That is after they had took the time and trouble to pick what they thought would be a nice spot for us to spend some time on the beach. It seemed as soon as we had arrived you could see the dads making a hasty retreat up the beach back towards the town centre to the clubs or pubs.
I cannot remember if it was my sister or myself that lost a half crown in the sand but I can remember we dug a lot of sand that day more than usual, so much in trying to find it our mother said we had moved the beach over to North Shields. We laugh about it now, but we certainly never did much laughing that day.
Another year it was raining none stop so we went to the pictures a (cinema) and we saw the Tommy Steel Story. This was a big treat because we never got to go to what we called the proper cinema only to Burradon pictures. That stood just about where Dalby and Sons business yard is now, on the corner next to the Half Way House. It never had a grand entrance with nice fancy carpet, and nice background music playing as you waited for the picture show to begin so we were all talk about the day at the cinema and how we had seen the new film that I think had just been released.
On another occasion again a wet day we were taken into a restaurant for lunch, as I said it was pouring with rain so it was a means of escaping into the warm dry comfort of this nice establishment which was very busy. After quite a while our order was taken and again we proceeded to wait but it was nice and warm and the smell of the food made the wait seem worth it. While waiting our mother popped to the toilet before our meal arrived. I can only remember she was back as quick as jack - flash saying we had to pick up our coats and things we were not stopping in this restaurant after she had caught a look into the kitchen. Just like that we were once again out in the rain and looking for what might be a suitable place to eat, that was not bursting at the seams with all of the wet and hungry day trippers. We ended up in a fish and chip restaurant café, and were told the big fancy places are not always what they make out to be.
I was also told many times of the train journey home one year when I had needed to spend a penny. The train was not the kind that had a corridor or a toilet on board just the carriage type. The seaside bucket was made ideal use of and my dad took charge of lowering the window to deposit the contents onto the fast passing tracks. This never happened because he threw the contents out into the wind that did promptly blow it back onto him. This had been a good laugh for all; the other family that we were sharing the carriage with often reminded me of this year after year as we were growing up.
These are just some special day memories of how I saw and knew the village as a child in the nineteen fifties. Things have progressed so much now. I know we never had the material things that a lot of children take for granted today but I do sometimes think in many ways we may have had a lot more.