Early Holidays at the Tech
by David Shore
During my years at Hathershaw Tech in Oldham between 1953 and 1961, I was very fortunate that, in spite of a certain level of penury, my parents always "came through" and managed to send me on School-sponsored holidays (vacations). I treasured these experiences (most of them) which sometimes involved overseas travel, and they certainly coloured how I approached much of my later life.
The first trip I took was to Ireland. We went to a Holiday camp in SKERRIES just North of Dublin. I recall having word fights in the street with local Irish lads of the same age (about 12) and getting incredibly seasick on the return journey to Liverpool. We also took some days out in motor coaches to Dublin and other places (?). The only things I remember learning were connected with how much the Irish hated Oliver Cromwell and that they blew up statues and post offices as a result (!!) In many ways, I think I was somewhat over-awed by my first time experience of being away from home and in the constant company of my peers.
The following year was a trip to Moerdijk an Zee in Holland. This was better. We stayed in a Hotel and saw the bulb fields in Spring, a sight to be recommended. The trip encompassed the Easter weekend and I felt a "duty" to find a Church to attend on Easter Sunday. My knowledge of languages being approximately zero I attempted to read the various church notice boards to find the correct place to go (wouldn't want to wander into an R.C. chuch by mistake .. my goodness me !). Eventually I found a sign saying "Eglise" which looked enough like "English" for me to be encouraged to knock on the Parsonage door to ask about the times of Sunday service. The following day, I obtained the necessary absentee approvals from the headmaster who admonished me "not to be late back" and set off back to the Parsonage. I was seated with the Pastor's family and attended my first service (Eglise is just French for Church .. I know that now). However, all was not wasted. After the service the Pastor and his family took me into their home and showed a great interest in my doings and opinions. I had a wonderful time and never forgot the kindness they showed me.
Truly this was my first real experience of travel. I was late back to the Hotel of course, and in some trepidation of "six of the best", but Charlie Bell just said OK and allowed it to slide by.
I also vaguely recall a trip to somewhere in Hampshire where nothing too memorable happened, other than my friends and I finding (possible live) mortar shells in nearby forbidden area (a military firing range?) and the total panic it caused when we brought them back to the hotel as trophies. (What a load of wimps!!) In the following years we took a number of hiking and Youth Hostelling trips to Snowdonia in Wales. I loved these opportunities to be outdoors in the beautiful countryside (even when it rained) and developed a good relationship with the teachers who led the party, notably Harold (JAP) Wareing and Geoff Rayson.
When I was in the 5th form (59) the trip was to Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland. We travelled by train through the night and through France, something of an experience in itself. These chaps (and Jim Mills) were terribly good about trusting me to be responsible and, periodically, allowed me to wander off for the day on my own instead of being cooped up with the group. One day, I took a train trip up to the top of the Jungfrau mountain (the Jungfraujoch). Another, I hiked up the valley to the Trummelbach falls, a torrent of water pouring out of the rock. On the way home from Lauterbrunnen, by train, we found ourselves in Bern, waiting for a connection. The wait was several hours and the party was out of rations. Geoff Rayson and I were delegated to foray out the station and search for provisions to sustain us through the long journey through France. It was already early evening and all of the shops had already closed up and retired so we were at somewhat of a loss.
Although we didn't know at first, it was also the Swiss National Day so the shops might never have opened at all that day. We discovered this when we chanced into the celebratory Firework display half way through our evening search. So here we were in a strange town looking for signs of commercial life when we came upon a Night Club (!!!!!!!) In we went, hiking boots and rucksacks and all. In my best French I asked whether they could point us toward somewhere to get Bread. No reaction .. they spoke German, or perhaps my best French wasn't quite up to par. We were directed to a small, older looking lady at an inside table. We tried again ... my French getting no better response. Neither of us had any German so it became a trial of wits using sign language and English, which seemed to get a satisfactory response, as we we handed a written note with an address and other things which we couldn't decipher.
Following hand gestures of the lady's assistant we set off about a block down the road to find the address, which turned out to be a really plush hotel. The people behind the desk were clearly not too familiar with the hiking boot and rucksack crowd but read the note anyway and then showed us both up to a bedroom ???
Subsequent to our obvious confusion, an interpreter appeared and cleared thing up. Apparently our request for 'bread' had been misunderstood as 'bed' and the kindly lady in the club, who coincidentally owned both the club and the hotel, was providing us with gratis accommodation for the night. Unfortunately, time was a-wasting and our group was back at the station due to board a train home. We declined the offer with thanks but accepted a couple of loaves of bread and some jam, so the evening wasn't a waste after all. It certainly wasn't a waste from my point of view as I considered the whole evening experience to be a resounding success.
That turned out to be my last school trip.
Until somewhat later in life, I didn't fully appreciate how much these early travel experiences had contributed to my education and so never said thank you to the teachers who monitored and mentored us in those days.
The following year I did speak German (thanks to Peter Halliwell) and that set me off on my eventual course through life, although at the time I didn't realise it.
But that's another story.
Editor - David has lived in the USA since 1980 and is now an American Citizen livng in New York State. The above article is an extract from his website which I recommend you visit and read more of his reminiscences.