I can't remember the first time I went to Butlins, Minehead but my first memory is sitting in the nursery watching an Ewoks cartoon I must have been about three and I think mum and dad must have dropped me off for a bit of much needed peace. See that was the wonderful thing about Butlins it was so safe and catered to everybody's needs.
From the late 1980's to the early 1990's me, my mum and dad would travel to Butlins, Minehead every October for a weeks holiday and I have to say those holidays were the most magical times. I'm from Cornwall so although it wasn't especially by today's standards that far away, but back then it seemed like another land! My parents were not by all means very well off but for one week of the year we lived like kings and queens enjoying every second of our Butlins holiday.
We would travel to Taunton on the train and then then to the camp via the Butlins bus. I would pack up toys and books for the journey but I was always so excited I couldn't concentrate on anything!
As soon as we arrived it was checking in and then to get our chalet keys, Beachwood is one of the ones I clearly remember. During the later holidays of my childhood we would stay half board (I think is the term) and have our breakfast and evening meal in the dining halls. My mum always bought me new clothes for my holidays and I would always dress up in my finest party dresses for our evening meal. I remember at breakfast times we would take some leftover toast to feed the ducks with at the boating pool this was always our morning tradition.
There was so much to do at Butlins. My favourite pool was Oasis I was a little scared of Sunsplash and the flumes and only ever worked up the courage to go on the yellow one when I was a bit older. I also loved the fair, I remember the Mexican hat ride and the Octopus. The beauty of the fair back then was that all the rides were free, one of the last times I went I remember the fair had moved and there was some sort of token system for the rides. I loved the monorail and the chair lift and am sorry to see both have gone.
Some of my fondest memories are of my evenings at Butlins, after our meal and all dressed up we would go out. I vaguely remember the Princes ballroom but the one I remember the most is the Broadway Theatre. I loved it there! I remember it being so glamorous with its painted stars on the walls and big dancefloor. I would spend many an evening there watching shows and playing in the arcade with my dad. There was a game called "Exterminator" which we would play for ages armed with dozens of 10 pence pieces. There was a jokeshop in the Broadway and I would go in there and try on all the hats and wigs. The staff were so friendly and nobody ever told you off. At the end of my holiday as well as getting all of the autographs of the Red Coats I would always get the autographs of the staff in my favourite shops.
Usually before an evening out with my mum and dad I would always go and watch a show by the Wizzy World kids which I loved! They would put on a show each evening, kind of like a pantomine and I would sing along with them and all the other children singing "We are the kids from Wizzy World, Polly and Brains and Wizzers World" I can still remember the words and the dance to that song - I even got picked to go up and stage one evening with them and do the dance. On my last evening I would get all of the Wizzy Kids autographs, I will never forget one year Wizzer signed my hat "Watcha Princess Emma" he told me becaue I had long hair I must be a princess :-) I will never forget that.
I remember the Beachcomber Bar and the volcanoe that would erupt in there, I also remember going into Malones a couple of times and it being very smokey in there. I remember the outdoor pool and how sometimes at night it looked almost creepy. There are so many wonderful memories I have its hard to list them all.
The last time I went to Butlins was in 1995 there were a few changes then but nothing like what it is now. My parents have been back a couple of times since the skyline pavillion was erected and they weren't too fond of the changes. To be honest I think it would break my heart to see it now all changed I like to remember it how it was.
My parents never had the chance to take me abroad but I am eternally grateful to them for my Butlins holidays and I would never trade those memories for any Disney holiday. They were some of the best years of my life and I hope when I eventually have children I can create such wonderful holiday memories for them too.
Julian Herbert contacted us to echo Emma's comments. Julian had this to say;
"I just want to echo what Emma said about her family holidays to Butlins (we used to go to Minehead, and Bognor on alternating years) 1979 to 1987.
I must say that I couldn't agree with Emma more!! I haven't been back since 1987, and I wouldn't go back now for (like Emma) it would be too upsetting to see how things have changed. Instead I shall cherish my childhood holiday memories, and even today I often recall in my mind the wonderful times had by all during those all-too-brief two week holidays to Butlins. Again (like Emma), I wouldn't trade those holidays (and those truly wonderful memories) for all the tea in China, or all the holidays in Disney.
Now that I have a family my wife and I instead take our children to Centerparcs, and although it isn't Butlins, I can see the same wild excitement in my childrens faces, and I know that those same treasured memories are forming in their own minds.