A notable trip to Scarborough

For many of us it was our first time away from home. We were excited but a week must have seemed a long time to our parents as they waved us goodbye. It was 7.45 on a Saturday morning in May, 1959, when Eddie, our coach driver, drove us away. The prefects collected 2/6d from each of us for a fish and chip lunch on our return, then we were on our way to pick up our teachers. Miss Leonard, her parents and Mr Baker our history teacher.

From the first we were encouraged to take notes as Miss Leonard explained away the flat lands and soil of Essex, and we were well armed with information on the many cathedrals we passed.

The Grosvenor Hotel in Scarborough was to be our base, with the girls’ bedrooms on one floor, the boys’ on another. Miss Leonard sat in an old oak chair on the landing
until the early hours to ensure there were no nocturnal comings and goings. There were to be no midnight feasts either as we discovered when she pounced on a group of us giggling in my bedroom at midnight. She was a force to be reckoned with and not be crossed.

My notes, written up each day in blue fountain pen on lined paper, were not just the sentimental ramblings of a 12-year-old, more a bird’s eye view of a certain time in secondary education. In 1959, teachers still came from the officer class, disciplined and stiff-backed, they kept us on our toes and there was a pressure to conform. Neither were the prefects, acting as go-betweens, to be crossed.

Church on Sunday morning was obligatory and there was a five-mile walk afterwards, one of many that week. We carried packed lunches wrapped in paper bags, went single file along coastal paths, jumped over ditches and avoided bogs as best we could. There were purposeful squeals and squelches as the boys assisted us over stiles and stepping stones. In spite of the teasing, boys and girls were generally shy of each other. A photo taken by Mr Baker of the girls on Filey Beach in blue school blazers, white socks and grey skirts shows us as demure young ladies looking out at the world. We had crushes on our Swiss, German and Austrian waitresses, who were invited on excursions. We visited the Roman lighthouses at Filey and Flamborough, Bridlington and Burton Agnes Manor and climbed up 200 steps to Whitby Abbey. What an impression the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey made on me as they rose up in grandeur.

We visited Mr Brown’s 100-acre farm at High Killerby, where he grew wheat, barley and oats, kept pigs, chickens, cows and horses. Before buying tractors, he said, which cost nearly £200, the work was done by horses.

At Rowntree’s factory we were split into small groups. We watched while chocolate was poured into Smarties, and 20 minutes later as they were packed into boxes, cooled and stored for two weeks. We saw girls colour Dairy Box chocolates in readiness for Christmas, seven month’s away. And, then, the moment we’d all being waiting for – samples of Allsorts.

The trip wasn’t just about the Romans, the Normans, the Danes, religious conflicts or studying fossils from Filey Beach, it was about living history: the payments of 9d toll at Selby, and visiting antique shops. We also learned how to rub along with each other and with the expectation we would be on our best behaviour in public.

On our last evening we watched Sailor Beware presented by the local repertory company. Then there was packing to be done, and, before we knew it, we were saying goodbye with tears in our eyes to our waitress friends. On the way back lunch was fish and chips followed by thank-yous and a present for Eddie the driver of cigarettes.

When we got back there were notes to be written up, and some would never be thrown away…

Heather Grange