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I first went to Butlins, Clacton in 1949 and then for almost every year throughout the fifties and early sixties. To say I grew up in the Butlins culture and love the brand, particularly the entertainment, would be an understatement! This led me to the obvious next step, to apply to become a Redcoat. This I achieved in late 1967 and I went to work at the Cliftonville and Ocean Hotels during that winter. It was during this time I met and worked for Rocky Mason and got my first taste of his style and personality. Rocky was the entertainment manager during the winter months at the Ocean Hotel in Saltdean, Brighton. He was not only a good manager of his own department and staff but also had a special way of dealing with all hotel personnel. Including other department managers.
In March 1969 I was appointed to be Rocky’s relief manager. Rocky would train me to take over for the upcoming summer season at the Ocean hotel. During two memorable months, Rocky went out of his way to set me up for success. Nobody could have been more unselfish and helpful in sharing his knowledge in providing me with the tools for the job. By the time Rocky had left to return to the Skegness camp for the summer, he had enabled me to introduce many new ideas I had in my head, including a brand new format for the weekly printed entertainment program. Without his support, encouragement, and knowledge of the company policy, senior executives, etc, I know I would never have gotten these new ideas accepted.
My Butlins journey with Rocky continued in the summer of 1970 when following a brief few weeks at Filey camp, I went to Skegness as his deputy for the season. I will never forget that Saturday when I transferred, Rocky Mason was the first person I saw standing on the station platform, in his tuxedo! He was in between shows for the weekly “whose who”. How many people would put out a red carpet like That? That season was quite amazing, Rocky took me to all the senior management meetings, let me take Redcoat meetings, helped me to learn so much important admin stuff, and at the same time improve my stage skills, compering, etc,
THIS WAS THE SEASON THAT CHANGED MY LIFE!
Toward the end of the season, I was approached by P&O cruises to interview for the position of Entertainment Officer on their ships. This was a very attractive job possibility and an exciting proposition for a 25-year-old. I was naturally, somewhat hesitant to tell Rocky, after all, he had done for me. I needn't have worried. When I broke the news to him he broke into a big smile and said “go for it”. I was accepted and went on to a long and successful career as a Cruise Director with P&O/Princess Cruises.
Aside from my immediate family, nobody has had more influence on me at a crucial point in my life than Rocky Mason. So many of my lifetime achievements would never have been possible without him. I also know that I am just one of a long list of people, over the years, whose lives Rocky Mason made better.
As a footnote, many years later in 1980 to be exact, I was on leave from my ship and in the UK, P&O suggested I go to Filey to see Rocky and discuss possible cruise staff entertainers. Would you believe that Rocky was once again on the station platform to meet me!! Needless to say, we had a wonderful week together. With the introduction of social media, we stayed in touch and were always sharing amusing storied and updating each other. Rocky Mason was indeed the person who “Pointed me in the right direction” at a crucial time in my life and I was so happy I was able to stay in touch right up to his passing.
"Thank you, Rocky"
I can really admit that all those thoughts of excitement with each day at Butlins, used to go through my head every day, and I did find it hard to get to sleep, thinking about what was in the store the next day. I remember the excitement of approaching Clacton camp every year, and as we rounded the bend,to want to see what had been added from the previous year.
In 1956, it was the funfair, moved forward, to make room for the huge new block of chalets, that were along the seafront side of the camp. Then in 1958, I could see the big roof sign of the new Gaiety Theater, plus the brand new Indoor Pool Building with the marvellous South Seas Bar. I couldn't wait for us to get checked in so I could explore the camp. Then throughout each day of the holiday, magic, magic, magic. Terrific things to do all day, ALL TOTALLY FREE !! Three meals a day, with seconds wherever you wanted, then great evening entertainment for kids, early evening, and for adults right up to around 11.00 pm, ending with the excitement of 'Penny on the Drum'.
The fact that even now at 77 years of age, I still think about those wonderful wonderful times, with such vivid details says so much, say it all. There never was, before or after, anything like Butlins in its heyday !! Once you checked in everything, except extras purchased in shops, and drinks and things in bars, was free. Something the Butlins of today can't boast, nor would I really expect it, as times have changed so much. However, I, and a few people I am still in touch with, can still dream with the memories of what Billy Butlin created, and consider ourselves 'blessed ' by having experienced it. Me from 1948 onwards. Thank you, Sir William, it was indeed Most Pleasant !!
Permission was given to Mark and Butlins Memorabilia website from Chris Chapman, 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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