Family Holidays in the 1930s

Listening to a group of schoolgirls talking about their exotic holidays spent in Spain, Italy and Greece made me recall my own childhood holidays in the 1930s. We were lucky to get one at all in those lean times, when there were no holidays with pay.

My parents, brother Tom and I lived in the East End of London, but were lucky enough to be able to spend each August Bank Holiday week with my mother’s eldest sister and her family in a then-quiet village in Surrey consisting of just a few cottages, a little shop-cum-post office and pine woods all around.

One big suitcase held all our family clothes – we had no holdalls or smart zipper bags then. I’d have a small bag with a favourite toy in it, and a purse holding the few pennies I’d been given by relatives, having been told to share them with my cousin.

After the bus journey to Waterloo station, dad would buy our tickets and we’d board
the noisy steam train for our destination. I could hardly wait to get there! We’d be met at the tiny station by my aunt, uncle and three cousins – two boys and a girl. After greetings had been exchanged, we’d all walk back to their cottage. I’ve often wondered how nine of us all squeezed into it, but we did.

My aunt would have prepared a real country tea – ham, fresh salad vegetables from the garden and home-made bread and jam, topped off with a slice of brown fruit cake. How we all enjoyed that tea, Country food somehow tasted different.

My girl cousin and I played happily in the large cottage garden. A large lavender hedge led to a big chicken run where my uncle kept lots of brown hens. Sometimes my aunt would let me help her collect the eggs. I’d quietly slip my hand under a sitting hen and bring out a warm brown egg – never will I forget the warmth of that egg in my hand, and how I enjoyed one for breakfast.

A big pine tree grew in the chicken run, a
rope swinging from one of its branches. There my cousin and I would spend hours swinging each other, lost in our own little world.

One thing we liked to do was go into the woods with a small barrow to collect pine cones to help get the copper boiling on wash day. The cones burned with a bright blue flame, and smelled lovely, as did the boiling washing.

My brother and boy cousins played in the woods, climbed trees and tormented us girls, but it was all in good fun. As it was August heather would be in full bloom on the Surrey heaths. I always came home with a bunch as a holiday memory.

All too quickly the week slipped away, and Sunday saw us back at the station saying our goodbyes with the promise to come again next year. We’d wave from the train until my cousins were long out of sight, and always took home so many happy memories, which have lasted down the years.

Edna Smy