1961: Family and Portsmouth

Saturday 10th July 1961


The kids C1961

Gerald, Val, Tony, Alan and me.

By July 1961 I would have been toddling around and, this being the last week of the school summer term. Mum and Dad’s thoughts would have been turning to holidays and the annual trip to Portsmouth. The logistics for this trip were, in retrospect pretty scary. Transport was by motor bike and sidecar. There were five children and two adults so do the Maths. I am told the eldest two went by train leaving three of us to squeeze in to the sidecar, Mum to ride pillion and Dad to pray we didn’t break down on the way. There was a strict 30 M.P.H. speed limit imposed by Mum.

The actual holidays were usually the last week of July and the first in August. August 5th to the 7th of this year was the Portsmouth Navy days. No doubt that would have figured heavily in the planning of things to do.

We usually stayed with Uncle Albert and Auntie Sue in Wymering Terrace, Paulsgrove. The actual road was Cheltenham Road. Like our own home it was on a council estate but Paulsgrove was bigger, noisier and scarier than anything our little village might offer.

A typical holiday would involve chasing around to visit the various uncles and aunties who lived nearby and spending a scary day with Granny Stedman. There is that word again. I may have been seriously scarred by these experiences.

Granny Stedman lived on the Southampton Road. Now demolished for the Port Solent redevelopment the house did have back garden access to the coast of Portsmouth Harbour with the wrecks of submarines and rusty ships to wander and wonder about. She also had a swearing monster of a caged bird to frighten the wits out of this toddling child. My happiest memories from the years hear usually involved playing out the back of the house and keeping well out of her way when she ventured to the back garden swing chairs.

Uncle Albert spent most of his time driving around Portsmouth at breakneck speed fixing things like slot machines. We were told that under no account were we to go in his van. Auntie Sue was Maltese and very difficult to understand. They were very kind in giving us space on holiday but I am sure we were not entirely welcome as we would turn their house a little mad every year. I would, when a little older, annoy Albert by doing his crosswords.

The people of the beach were raising money to build a new village hall. This would involve sports days like the one suggested here. Mum would often run a stall or collect jumble for a jumble sale table. We would be kept out of the way. We would watch what was going on rather than get involved. Alan would by now probably have a part time job somewhere in the village, perhaps taking money at the temporary car park. The second weekend in July would have been one of the busiest days of the year for what was then a tourist destination.

Typical days out were planned to:-

  • Porchester Castle – scored highly in my fun things to do.
  • Navy days in the Docks – good when the Ark Royal was in, boring on other days when it all seemed to be a bit shouty for me.
  • A climb up Portsdown Hill – excellent because the top had loads of space to just run around and throw things.
  • A day on the beach at Southsea – Dull, dull and duller. As now, I didn’t appreciate sitting on a beach watching people get hot and annoyed. The best bit was watching the boats go past but the beach wasn’t even a sandy one.

Mum’s imagined diary for a Saturday in July 1961

Diary entry

To Do List

  • Wash clothes needed for next weekend.
  • Get suitcases down from the attic.
  • Write to Uncle Albert tell him when we will be there. 1 o’clock

Plan for next weekend

Leave 8 O’clock

Saltford 9

Warminster 10

Salisbury 11

Southampton 12

Portsmouth 1

  • Dad’s sandwiches on 2 till 10
  • Set up stall with Mrs Rowe.
  • Sort Jumble
  • Remind Dad to get Train tickets
  • Cook dinner. Sausage and mash
  • Sports Day in the field. 1 till 5 Stall till 3
  • Granny Howse for tea at 4
  • Clothes off line
  • 6 -7
  • Baths and beds 7 – 8

Mum never wrote a diary, she never had the time to do it. She did write lists though.


1976       ICI H W 21

1977       Rumney Legionnaires D 19 9-2-25-1

1991       Oldbrook H L 8no

Next Entry 14th July 1962


  1. Valerie Taylor (Vavvy) wrote

    Hi rich, some thoughts about ‘ the motorbike’. (MHN699). I remember Tony riding on the back of the bike, you and Ger In the back seat of sidecar, mum in front with baby Derek on the floor in the nose of the sidecar!!.. All very scary as mum didn’t like dad going fast and used to bang on the window at dad to slow down. No crash helmets either in those days. Brown paper on the inside of dads coat to keep the wind out. I wonder what Tony would remember of those journeys. X


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