SUNDAYS AT BUTLINS SKEGNESS
SUNDAY IS FUNDAY
Saturday was a strange day. This was the day when a great number of the forty Redcoats at Skegness were given their day-off. The rest were there just to meet and greet arrivals, and point them in the right direction. There was no affinity with the punters. They could bump into you two or three times from arrival to getting to their chalet, but wouldn't recognise that you were the same person they'd spoken to a little earlier. To them you were "someone in a Redcoat."
Come Sunday morning, when the guests had found their bearings, it was time to grab them, and inject them with enough energy to last the week. Firstly, it was off to Children's Theatre to enrol the kids in the Beaver Club, after which they escorted over to the Princes Ballroom for some Fun & Games with Uncle Ray & Auntie Eve.
At ten-forty-five, those adults in the "I'm on holiday, and I'm going to join in everything" mood were also herded into the Princes Ballroom for "Meet the Redcoats." Here the team was out in force, with the large contingency of General Duty Redcoats (GD Reds), backed-up by the Lifeguard Redcoats, and reinforced by the Revue Dancers from the Gaiety Theatre. (It was a part of the girls' contract that they do fifteen hours Redcoat duties to pay for their on-site accommodation.) They were deliberately put on Reception duties on the Saturday so that the arriving male population were more than pleasantly surprised to see the stunning array of "crumpet" in the Red ranks. The single males must have spent the rest of the week wondering where their dream date had gone, as it was only supervising the odd one or two children's competitions that the girls would be temporarily sighted in Reds.
Over one-thousand guests would be in the ballroom, out of which the Compere would invite thirty-two couples to come onto the dance floor to participate in the games. Guests too nervous or too shy to volunteer were "encouraged" by marauding gangs of Redcoats who would bodily manhandle any reluctant "volunteer" into the games area.
Over one-hour of non-stop audience participation was then run, at a manic pace, with high energy input from the Redcoats, and an equal amount of over-the-top activity from those anxious to be labelled as "good sports" or "characters.".
Games included two teams racing to pass a football down-the-line, between their legs; a similar game where they had to sit down behind each other and pass the ball over their heads; running down the line over everybody's crouching form; piggy-back racing; being spun around with their head resting on a putting stick until they were too dizzy to run back to their team in a straight line; and couples being asked personal and probing questions about each other - which, if they failed to answer, led to them being eliminated..
Eventually, just four couples were left. The man would sit on his partner's knee, and serenade her with the song "If You Were the Only Girl in the World," after which just one couple was chosen as "the winner." And what did they get for all their troubles? Why - a round of applause.
The whole thing ended with all the participants being recalled and asked to pray for good weather. They had to kneel down on the dancefloor and rest their head on their hands. The Redcoats would walk around checking that they weren't peeking. All the time, the Redcoats were packing up to leave. When the mic's and equipment were safely packed away the Redcoats would sneak off. Eventually the bewildered praying mass would lift their heads and look around to see what was going on. They were met by roars of laughter from the few remaining guests.
After a Sunday-roast dinner, it was back into the Princes Ballroom for the biggest competition of the week - the Holiday Princess. Entrants were encouraged to wear bathing costumes, so the competition was always well attended. However, most entrants didn't come prepared, and were frogmarched in line, wearing their "day clothes." There were the odd few girls, however, who were lured to the site by the temptation of winning a free week's holiday - when they would come back for the final - plus, I think, a car for the ultimate "all camps winners" - and these girls really stood out. .
Following the crowning of "Beauty," the "beasts" would be unleashed in the form of male entrants for the "Knobbly Knees" competition. These were subjected to all sorts of humiliating antics - from behaving like Tarzan, to mimicking his chimp. Compensation came in the form of being judged by the girls who came in the top three of the Holiday Princess competition, with the eventual winner receiving the title and a kiss from the winning girl - her first "duty" of the week..
Meanwhile, over at the outdoor North Pool, the Swimming Gala was in full swing - with fun events and competitive races for all ages, organised by the Redcoat Lifeguards.
Immediately after the evening meal, eighteen-hundred guests were herded into the Gaiety Theatre, to watch a full-blown "Variety Show." These weren't the Resident Entertainers, but professional acts from Clubland, brought in for just that one night. Amongst those in 1973 where guitarist Ken Taylor - whose most memorable piece was "The James Bond Theme"; Charlie Cairoli - the famous Blackpool Tower Circus clown, with Jimmy Buchanan; The Patton Brothers (I saw the Patton Brothers, Jimmy and Brian, in Blackpool in 2006, and they were still doing the same act. Maybe that's the meaning of "a familiar Patton." Great lads though.); Ray Fell - who, though he had to spend the first ten minutes of his act telling people who he was, was quite funny, with his catchphrase: "So we danced for a while"; and Billy Dainty - eccentric dancer and "gross" comedian. If you can remember any others, please let me know.
An hour-and-a-quarter later, eighteen-hundred guests were rushed out of the theatre, and another eighteen-hundred rushed in, for the second house. Afterwards, everyone met up in the Princes Ballroom, where the Redcoats were again out in force to drive the guests through the party dances such as "The Slosh" (three or four times a night) to the tune of Daniel Boone's song "Beautiful Sunday or "Knock Three Times" by Tony Orlando and Dawn; plus "March of the Mods"; and "The Conga" - played by the big-band sounds of Val Merrall & his Orchestra. At midnight, everybody staggered home, happy but exhausted, having had a brilliant day..
"Get them on the Sunday, and you've got them for the week," was Billy Butlin's motto, and how right he was.
BUTLINS SKEGNESS Redcoat teams: