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Christopher Untold Story

Staff Card - 1965

Christophers Untold Butlin's Story

I spent the summers of 1963 working as a barman at Butlins holiday camp in Pwllheli. The first summer I had just left school and the others were in the university holidays. The railway line to Pwllheli ran in a cutting through the camp and in those days the majority of campers and staff arrived by train at Penychain, the camp’s own railway station. Having lugged your suitcase up the lane, staff reported to the security office by the main gate. This was actually the old guardroom from wartime days as a Navy base and it still fulfilled the same function - though perhaps without the detention cells!

You then had a mugshot taken holding a board with your name and staff number chalked on it - just like a police criminal mugshot. Caernarfonshire had strict licensing rules and the staff pass contained a warning that staff were not allowed to drink in camper's bars after 10.30, a rule widely disobeyed as the staff bar was a cheerless place, albeit with cheaper booze.

You had to carry your staff pass to enter the camp, to collect your wages and could be challenged at any time to show it. The security office was the base for the camp’s own “police force” with uniformed Commissionaires who manned the main gate, escorted cash & valuables around the camp and patrolled to deter rowdiness. One of our barmen remustered as a commissionaire to great hilarity in his uniform with a peaked cap. There were, just like the police, plain clothes security who investigated crimes on the camp, particularly pilfering by the staff!

The Staff Chalets, Canteen & “Knocker Upper

The next task after arrival was to be allocated a staff chalet. The main staff chalets and canteen were in a gated compound (yes – surrounded by a high wire fence) at the east end of North camp, beyond the York dining hall. They mostly accommodated two staff in bunk beds. They were not very spacious! There was a wardrobe each and a washbasin. Unfortunately, in 1965 I was ‘billeted’ with a chef who worked totally different hours to a barman! I started mid-morning & finished late at night whereas he started at 5 am. He drank prodigious amounts of lager in the staff canteen and would go to bed late, oversleeping as a result. When he didn’t turn up to cook the breakfasts the “knocker upper” would be sent round and would rat a tat tat on the window with a coin – just by my head on the top bunk. If necessary, he would come round again and poke a branch through the little window – waking me up to rouse the hungover cook. Not only that but he smoked in bed and of course, the smoke rose and curled around my head above. After a while, I bunked with Norman, a fellow barman, and then I had the last 2 weeks on my own after he left.

In 1964 (Staff № 5263) I was in a 4-bed chalet with 3 dining hall workers so, once again, totally different working hours. The chalet was noisy and the bed “b……dy awful”. The guys were great though and the photos show Ken & Gareth plus the one they took of me. The other photo shows the staff ESR chalet lines which were pretty desolate. Redcoats, supervisors and senior staff had chalets in the campers’ lines, either on their own or two single beds (like in Hi-de-Hi), in much better chalets and surrounded by flower beds. In 1965 I had trouble getting a chalet as there were so many staff but was allocated to one in ER4. My chalet mates were pretty inconsiderate but after 6 weeks I moved in with Tony in one of the new staff chalets on South Camp. They were double-decker and a vast improvement. The ablutions were on the lower level as shown in the photo. The Animals had a hit in 1965 with “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place” and whenever it was played the staff belted out the chorus with gusto. The high fence shows my attempt to escape!

The staff canteen was at the entrance to the main staff lines. The campers’ menu rotated weekly but for the staff it was fortnightly, giving us a little more variety. There was a long servery and, just like a Force's cookhouse, you took a tray and the food was doled out as you progressed along. The tea urn at the top was lorded over by “Dirty Gertie” and throughout the day she would top it up with water and add more tea leaves, sugar and milk. Stewed and not very appetising! The staff bar and recreational facilities were very basic and plain with little atmosphere compared with the fancy facilities of the campers. 

The Camp Church and Religious Services

 Religious provision was very important to Billy Butlin and each camp had a church. At Pwllheli this was in the same building as the Coronation Bar, where I worked in ’64 & ’65. (Adjacent to it was the secure wine and spirit store, where we used to order and collect supplies for the bar, it was run by a kindly, elderly North Walian father figure.) Although in a large building, the inside of the Church had a low barrel-vaulted ceiling like a Nissen hut. I seem to remember it was nicely decorated with Biblical scenes. It wasn’t very wide and from memory it seated about 30 worshippers. Billy Butlin used to give clergy subsidised (or even free) holidays in return for them taking a service every morning and, during my 3 seasons, my diary records my going to Holy Communion on many occasions (and even the time; 8.30-9). It was quite unusual then to see a clergyman with bare legs and sandals peeking out from under his robes!
On Sundays there was also a big non-denominational service in the Gaiety Theatre. It started at 10.15 and was always very well attended, the large theatre usually looking full. The Redcoats and camp musicians used to lead the music. On 15th August 1965 Canon Tom Pugh, Butlin’s senior Chaplain, preached at what I recorded as “the nicest service yet”. Canon Pugh made sure that each camp had a chaplain in charge and at Pwllheli I think it was a local Anglican clergyman from the nearby town.

Christophers Untold Butlins Story
1963 - French Bar with all staff
Christophers Untold Butlins Story
1963 - French Bar with Barbara, Chris and Pat
Christophers Untold Butlins Story
1964 - Ken and Gareth
Christophers Untold Butlins Story
1964 - Ken and Gareth
Christophers Untold Butlins Story
1964 - Coronation Bar Staff
Christophers Untold Butlins Story
1964 - Desolation on ESR Chalet
Christophers Untold Butlins Story
1965 - Christopher Escaping
Christophers Untold Butlins Story
1965 - Dot 
Christophers Untold Butlins Story
1965 - South Staff Lines
Christophers Untold Butlins Story
1965 - Coronation Bar Staff

Permission was given to Mark and Butlins Memorabilia website from Christopher, to show his wonderful Butlin's story. Any stories and photos shown on this page are not owned by me and are owned by those who shared them. Please do not ask for their details as I will not share anything with you as I do not hold their details and it's not my place to give them away if I did.

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