Amongst the numerous photographs in our collection are a small number documenting postal deliveries to holiday camps, dated October 1937. These appeared in the March 1938 edition of The Post Office Magazine (the General Post Office’s magazine, published between 1933 and 1966) accompanying a story on holiday camps by reporter Martin Grand (a punning pseudonym on the location of the GPO’s then Headquarters on St Martin’s Le Grand, London).
Grand’s article looks at some of the 10 holiday camps then located on the Norfolk coast and within the administration of the Postmaster of Great Yarmouth. “The management of the so-called camps is in the hands of men who are obviously determined to make this type of holiday a permanent and increasingly popular feature of the national life” he observes, describing the chalet accommodation, modern sanitation, wide range of activities and convivial atmosphere.
Camps such as those in Norfolk were an inexpensive and increasingly popular holiday destination for working people in the 1930s. While Butlin’s camps became the most famous, there were also a number of independent camps at the time. Editions of The Post Office Magazine featured advertisements for camps such as Caister, so many postal workers would have holidayed in them.
The photographs and the article show that even as they relaxed holiday-makers looked forward to the arrival of the postman. “The little red [postal] van is a welcome visitor two or three times a day” writes Grand “and the postman enjoys his all too brief and of course strictly official conversations with dainty damsels in attractive shorts and ‘kerchief”.
Another camp featured in the article, located at Gorleston-on-Sea, is described as “New-built on luxury lines”. “In design and decoration the buildings are reminiscent of the Queen Mary” Grand says, with facilities including “round lawns and gardens on gently sloping uplands overlooking the sea”.
A 1930’s brochure advertising the camp, which appears on the Gorleston Super Holiday Camp website, lists activities as including tournaments, games, dancing, whist, tennis, bowls, putting, croquet, deck-tennis, cricket and bathing. The brochure also describes Gorleston as “The ‘Queen Mary’ of Holiday Camps”, although it is impossible to establish whether it is The Post Office Magazine that is being quoted here.
Either way, the services provided by the Post Office were clearly much-used by those who stayed in the camps: “Outside the main gate [at Caister] stands a most cheerful looking pillar-box, his aperture grinning broadly and his enamelled eye twinkling in the sun” writes Grand. “No wonder he looks so pleased, for hundreds of jolly people in holiday garb fuss around him all day long, consulting the information displayed on his broad chest and slipping picturesque postcards into his capacious tummy.”