Welcome to week 20 of my Genealogy challenge, from the wonderful Amy Johnson Crow, of writing something about your Ancestors for a whole year, #52Ancestors in 52 weeks. This week’s prompt is ‘Travel’ which immediately reminded me of those halcyon days back in the 1960’s when we travelled to Kent for our Summer Holidays.
So bit back and enjoy a little piece of nostalgia and let me share with you my trip down memory lane…….
Before I start, I should tell you that Grandad was known by literally EVERYONE, as ‘ET’, his initials were E.T. Wootton, so he was ‘ET’ well before ‘ET’ ever became famous!!
So on with the story………
Now back in the late 1960’s my Grandparents had bought themselves a luxury (loose description) Caravan, in a tiny village, nestled between Margate and Ramsgate in Kent, called Monkton. This wasn’t one of those Caravans that you towed, this was a static one, on a permanent site, so the highlight of the Summer Holidays, was a two week stay at the Caravan Park, but of course we had to get there!
(Little Me and ET)
Kent seemed like a foreign country to a 6 year old who had barely left the street that he lived on, by this time and who excitedly bounced around the back of ET’s Ford Zephyr, filled with excitement and anticipation. What would this ‘brave new world’ bring, I wondered?
(Mum and the Trusty old Zephyr)
Packing seem to take forever, all day long, the front garden was slowly filled with an assortment of items, most of which I hadn’t seen the like of before. What was it all for? Why was ET continually scratching his head and why did we need such a ‘huge’ water container? How was this all going to fit into ET’s Ford Zephyr? I had so many questions………… would my ‘Action Man’ have any of the answers, I doubted it, but asked him anyway.
Eventually the packing was done, all that blood sweat and tears and every piece of available space was crammed full of ‘stuff’, what most of this ‘stuff’ was, I hadn’t a clue, but to be honest I was more concerned with the fact that after a whole day packing, unpacking and re-packing, there seemed to just as much left on the lawn, as there was in the actual car itself? Have my Cars made it I wondered?……….ET checked the oil one last time, was that the 6th or 7th time? Action Man and I had lost count, but the rich smell of Engine Oil filled the air again, as the dipstick once more plunged into the heart of the Engine and was swiftly extracted and wiped on one of ET’s old vests. I watched the satisfied look on ET’s face as he wiped the stick on the rag and then wiped the rag all over my head! Just time for one more check of the roof rack and the string before bed………
The kitchen was also a hive of activity, with all sorts of wonderful smells, from home made jam, to scones and freshly baked bread. Even now the smell when you open a pack of fresh butter, immediately transports me back in time and standing in my Nan’s Kitchen and waiting to ‘lick the bowl clean’ after a Baking Day.
So That’s it, we’re ready for the off, one more sleep until the Big Day.
Me and Action Man dreamt all night long, of all the adventures we were going to have, when we landed in ‘Foreign Territory’, we were tough, we were ready for everything that the New World of Kent was going to throw at us.
After a hearty Breakfast, Me and Mum slid across the back seat of the Zephyr as ET carried out his daily dance of choke, throttle, ignition, until he got the sequence just right and the Engine cough and spluttered, then roared into life as a rich plume of petrol fumes filled my lungs.
I felt like Royalty as we pulled away, it felt like everyone in the street was out to wave us off! I pretended to be a ‘Royal Prince’ waving to my subjects as we coughed our way up the road and away! The Sun was shining and Me and Action Man didn’t have a care in the world, this was the life!
“Right eye spy, with my little eye, something beginning with T”………
A blur of houses and roads, roads and houses and endless cars, it felt like we were on a conveyor belt……….wow what’s this a tunnel, now if you travel around the M25 today, the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and Dartford Tunnel are both a ‘necessary evil’, but in the 1960’s when there was just a Tunnel, to a 6 year old boy, this was excitement beyond my wildest dreams! I was Jules Verne on a Journey to the Centre of the Earth!
“Mum I need a Wee” I shout and ET says “Good lad I need a Smoke as well”, so that’s it we pull over along the side of the road, I have no idea if this is any kind of ‘official’ place to stop, but others are doing the same, as a convoy of Cars pull to the side of the road, doors open and kids run to the trees to water the flowers. ET stands satisfied with his morning’s work, as he draws longingly on his cigarette and as he exhales, disappears into a cloud of smoke. I watch intrigued at what he’s doing, as the smell of sulphur and smoke fill the air, ET coughing loudly, as me and Action Man wonder what ET is doing?
Nan and Mum lay out the blanket on the grass and ET seemingly unpacks the entire boot to get the picnic and this crazy contraption out, what’s the up to now we wonder? The smell of paraffin fills the air as the little contraption jumps into life and ET has created fire from nothing. Before long we are drinking tea and my belly is full of Jam Sandwiches. ET lays down smoking another of his cigarettes and I beg him to play Football. Reluctantly he stands, coughing and spluttering just like the Zephyr and he manages to kick the ball, I keep on and on for more (well I am 6 and it’s my job to keep going on and on, its a kids job, right?) and eventually ET runs out of steam!
Which reminds me, why were there clouds of steam coming from under the Engine? Was it on Fire? We pack everything away, all neatly folded and placed back exactly where it came from in the boot, it was like an early form of Tetris, to fit everything back into the boot. Just as everything was back in its rightful spot, ET decides that the Zephyr also is thirsty and needs a drink……….argh so thats why we brought the worlds biggest water carrier with us.
We’re off again, this time its………..
Ten green bottles
Hanging on the wall
Ten green bottles
Hanging on the wall
And if one green bottle
Should accidentally fall
There’ll be nine green bottles
Hanging on the wall
‘Mum are we there yet?’ I ask for the one thousandth time, ‘nearly, not far now’, good parenting, tactful answer Mum. I bounce around the seats, eagerly staring out the window looking for the Sea, another good ‘Mum’ tactic, see if you can see the Sea, little did I know we would never see the Sea on the journey! No seat belts to restrain me from trying every possible side of the Car, to spot the alleged Sea. Action Man is swiftly changed into scuba gear, plus boat, he’s ready for any eventuality.
Time for some sweets, ET’s favourite sweet peanuts, all stuck to the paper, so with every sweet, as you sucked them, the paper peeled off and you spent ages trying to get the paper out your mouth. Never ever liked the taste Yuck! “Mum I feel sick”, “well sit still then and stop bouncing around then!” Nan saves the day with her travel sickness sweets, Barley Sugars, pure heaven.
As we get nearer, the signs show, some strange and wonderful names, “Plucks Gutter”, Google it if you don’t believe me, that’s a genuine name, that we used to see every visit.
I begin to yawn, the excitement of the day has taken it’s toll on me as the trusty Zephyr pulls into the campsite, my face lights up with anticipation and excitement of what the holiday will bring, I ask Mum what the time is? She tells me its three o’clock………it’s taken us 7 hours to do the 60 odd mile journey, which is laughable today. Every trip back then was an adventure for many different reasons and life just seemed so much easier. then. Happy Days……………….
(Another earlier visit and family group)
(Yours truly from an earlier visit)
(We made it to the beach)
(Me and ET at my Christening in 1964)
I am very proud to have my Grandad’s name as my middle name and I was always called ‘Little ET’ when I was younger………….