Days Gone By: Memories of warm summer days at Felixstowe seaside
PUBLISHED: 13:04 04 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:10 04 January 2018
As we go through some of the coldest and shortest days of the year, Days Gone By readers have been recalling their summer days by the sea at Felixstowe.
Manning’s Amusements feature with recollections of the roller coaster, slot machines and the dodgems.
During the 1950s and 60s few families had a car and the train took many day trippers to the coast from stations at Ipswich and Westerfield.
Rod Cross emailed in and said:
I was a regular visitor to Felixstowe in the 1950s and 60s. My family owned a beach hut at the Manor End, which we would visit every weekend from Whitsun right through to early October. We either took the bus or went by train from Derby Road Station, Ipswich.
We always followed the same routine. First find an empty compartment near the front end of the train, the rear end as always occupied by those who had boarded earlier at Ipswich or Westerfield; slam shut the heavy door and heave down the window using the leather strap provided; then peer out with eyes narrowed to avoid the danger of smuts from the little tank engine in front.
First stop was the usually deserted Orwell Station at Nacton. Did anyone ever get on or off there? It was built for Colonel George Tomline, as the nearest point on the line to his Orwell Park Estate, but since he died in 1889, it had long outlived its original purpose. Trimley station was only marginally more busy, a one man and his bike type halt. At Felixstowe Town Station, you had the experience of seeing the engine steaming past the window as it transferred to what had previously been the rear of the train.
Finally, there was a short, curved stretch to Felixstowe Beach Station, where the remaining passengers disembarked in search of sea and sand. During the height of summer, this station was extremely well-used. After one particular Felixstowe Carnival, some time in the late 1950s, I recall a queue stretching through the station yard and down Beach Station Road, all the way to the forecourt of the shop on the corner of Langer Road. We stood in the corridor all the way home that day!
On arrival, I would make for our beach-hut and then brave the chilly North Sea water for the first swim of the day. Once in, it wasn’t too bad, but one often emerged with teeth chattering violently and skin a pale shade of blue. Once fully thawed out, it was time for lunch and then a walk along the prom to Charles Manning’s Amusements. There was the sight and sound of the triple-decker water fountain at the entrance; the smell of sickly-sweet candy floss and of frying onions at the hot dog stand; and the rumbling sound of the carriages on the roller coaster overhead. Next to the roller coaster, was the Crazy House with the constant throb of the cakewalk, which had to be negotiated before you could exit. There was a Ghost Train and an arcade of slot machines, most of which involved manoeuvring a ball-bearing into a cup or chute, or using a grabbing device to obtain a pink teddy or something equally tasteless. Right at the end were the dodgem cars with the rather hopeful notice, ‘Try Missing ‘Em. It’s great fun’. What it didn’t add was that giving ‘em’ a hefty whack was even greater fun!’
As a young teenager, it seemed to me that the laconic, greasy-jeaned attendants who rode on the backs of the cars, holding on to the conductor poles and casually leaping from one car to the next, probably had one of the best jobs known to man! Along the right-hand side was a stall involving feeding ducks with ping-pong balls, a rifle range, a coconut shy and a horse-racing game where each individual horse was propelled along by its ‘jockey’ rolling a ball up a ramp and down a hole.
In the centre were The Big (Ferris) Wheel, the prancing horses, the Waltzer, a roundabout with little cars, and a roll-a-penny stall. Most slot machines were for one player. These bore the black and white portraits of four famous film stars of the day. Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck paid out 2d; Jane Russell was worth 4d and Marilyn Monroe, as befit her status, a whopping 6d. Obviously, the odds were weighted heavily against the latter two coming up and I spent many an hour trying to work out any sort of sequence. There was a juke box, near the entrance. Inevitably, it was a magnet for brooding youths, lounging against the pin-ball machines, all quiffed hair and pointed shoes. Records to be heard most frequently were ‘Johnny Remember Me’, ‘Runaround Sue’, ‘Calendar Girl’ and almost anything by Brenda Lee, Everly Brothers and of course Elvis and Cliff. One record was played more than any other. ‘Runaway’ by Del Shannon. Felixstowe wasn’t just about Mannings Amusements; there was the Pier and Spa Pavilions; Millars and the Regal restaurants; trays of tea on the beach; visits to the roller skating rink and other attractions.
Reader Paul Hayward sent a photograph of himself and his parents taken on a chilly summer’s day at Felixstowe in 1951. He said:
I thought you might like to see the attached photo. It was taken in July 1951 (looking at the clothes I don’t think it was a warm one) of myself aged five, with my mother and father. I think they must have had a photographer stationed at the top taking everyone’s photo as they went passed for you to order. At that time we did not have a car so my mother and father would cycle from Roundwood Road in Ipswich to Felixstowe, with me in a seat on the back of mum’s bike, although sometimes we cycled to Derby Road and caught the train. When we were on the bikes we would often stop at the Shepherd and Dog public house at Nacton on the way home.
Do you have memories you would like to share with readers? To submit a letter, in less than 300 words, write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich, IP1 1RS or send an e-mail.