BOXING DAY AT ULVERSTONE BEACH

OH I DO LIKE TO BE BESIDE THE SEA!

I grew up  near Ulverstone, a seaside town on the north west coast of Tasmania. Boxing Day was traditionally beach day. During the nineteen fifties we were still without a car, and  travelled the four miles (8km) from our farm in  Mr and Mrs  Holmes’ black taxi.  The tradition was so heavily ingrained that even wild weather failed to deter us.  Some years we endured bitter winds and gritty food, shrugging off downpours as ‘sun showers’.

According to my father’s diaries we sometimes went with  neighbours. I have no memory of the occasion dad recorded in 1955, but one of the Richards kids told me recently that he nearly drowned and that his sister  Cheryl was bitten by a blue-tongued lizard!

FamilypicaSmellYuleLog 001

 

But more usually it was relatives, including my very ‘Victorian’ grandmother, whose appearance at the beach  seemed  utterly incongruous.  She was always so shocked when my father removed his shirt and went bare chested in public.

My mother (right) and various family members. Circa 1950

My mother (right) and various family members. Circa 1950

We packed our picnic lunch in a large brown suitcase. The Christmas festivities  ensured a good spread; thick sliced ham, home-grown roast chicken and cold Christmas pudding. There were preserving jars of fresh fruit salad to serve with  our own rich cream. Mum’s lovingly made   biscuits were packed too; melting moments, Christmas shapes, custard creams and  white Christmas slice. No paper plates for us. We took our china dinner set, a linen tablecloth, and the teapot.

Mr (or Mrs) Holmes would  obligingly inch the taxi down Beach Road, while my parents kept an eye out for a good table. It had to be towards the top end of the beach, preferably with a roof, and  sheltered by boobialla trees.

When my eldest bother bought a motorbike he would be sent down early to claim a good spot. In my parents’ eyes this was the only positive to  Kenny owning that wretched bike.  The Tongs family from North Motton were lucky enough to have a local relative who could claims theirs, and I suspect they often ‘pipped us to the post’.

 

The extended Tongs family in one of the best shelters. Photo courtesy of Lorraine Clifford (nee Tongs)

The extended Maney family in one of the best shelters. Photo courtesy of Lorraine Clifford (nee Tongs)

Boobiallas! There was something slightly wicked about the very name. They grew thick and mysterious, with little tracks sneaking in and out. Things ‘went on’ in the boobiallas, although I had no idea what.

Those bubble bathers!

Those bubble bathers!

 

In those early days we we could safely leave our belongings on the table without the slightest  fear of theft.  My sister Robbie and I would race down to the beach in our stretch ‘bubble’ bathers. They seemed to fit us for years. As we grew taller we lowered the neck straps until the bodices were nearer our waists.

 

There always seemed so much to do at Ulverstone beach. We spent hours poking about in rock pools and collecting smelly shellfish. We religiously gathered cuttlefish, for budgies we didn’t possess.  Although we could only dog-paddle, we stayed  in the often chilly water until we turned blue.

At lunchtime we walked up to the shop  to collect  boiling water for  tea, and the washing up.  A more important purchase from my point of view was a Neapolitan Family Brick (triple flavoured icecream). We ate it with Christmas pudding, hoping to find sixpences, for lolly buying later on.

The ‘top end’ of the beach was distinctly conservative. The shop was old-fashioned and rather dark. They sold a lot of raspberry cordial and dixie-cup icecreams.  Beside it was a sedate mini-golf course and opposite….a children’s playground!  We were slightly wary of some of the equipment, especially the hurdy-gurdy.  Robbie and I were fine on our own, but sometimes big boys would approach, and give us a terrifying push. On one memorable occasion I slowly turned green and fell off. My lollies spilled on the ground and I was sick on my  sandals.  But this playground  provided me with some of happiest times of my life.  My sister and I would sit on the swings with  a packet of mixed lollies….salty and sunburned, and with a whole afternoon stretching before us. Sheer bliss!

 

Sitting on the swings with a packet of mixed lollies. Bliss1

Sitting on the swings with a packet of mixed lollies. Bliss.

The bottom end of the beach was more crowded and a bit racy. Boys drove past in their cars eyeing off scantily clad girls.  The shop had a juke box, and served banana  splits  and ‘spiders’ (ice cream  sodas) at  formica topped  tables. The crowds came from the adjacent caravan park and camping ground.  Our longing to join the holiday makers was almost overwhelming. Oh to sleep in a tent instead of going home.

Camping ground, Ulverstone beach, 1950's

Camping ground, Ulverstone beach, 1950’s

Our  magical Boxing Day beach excursions continued for many years, until  changing social values  began to catch  up with us. In the early  nineteen sixties someone opened our suitcase and ate mum’s  melting moments. The following year our Box Brownie camera was stolen. The age of innocence had ended, though thankfully  nothing could tarnish the joy.

Around this time  we bought a green  Dodge utility, which dad taught himself to drive (very badly)  in one of the paddocks. He affectionately dubbed it it The Bus.

With siblings and school friend after a day at beach. We all travelled unrestrained in the back of the The Bus.

With siblings and school friends after a day at beach. We all travelled unrestrained in the back of the The Bus.

Robbie and I were changing too. As we grew  older the lure of the bottom shop became irresistible, We lounged about playing records  on the juke box, and sipping ‘blue heavens’. We fondly imagined this to be the height of sophistication. We rarely ventured onto the beach. Swimming wrecked our hair-sprayed bouffants and made our eye-liner run. We wore giant plastic earrings and bell-bottomed trousers.

The magic of childhood had gone forever, and with it those enchanted days at Ulverstone beach.

N.B. FOR MY SISTER ROBBIE, IN MEMORY OF THOSE HAPPY TIMES.

HERE IS ANOTHER TALE FROM OUR CHILDHOOD ON THE FARM

I LOVE TO HEAR FROM READERS. DO LEAVE A MESSAGE IN THE BOX BELOW. MAKE SURE YOU SCROLL DOWN AND COMPLETE THE ANTI-SPAM SUM BEFORE PRESSING ‘SUBMIT’

 

19 Comments
  1. Oh Pauline, I love your stories. I also had bubble bathers. Oh my gosh they were terrible, but at the time I didn’t think so. Also the family brick. We only had icecream on birthdays. We would order a family brick from the local store & go & collect it when time to eat as we didn’t have a fridge. Your childhood sounds a lot like mine, except I grew up in a suburb of Hobart. I absolutely loved any chance to go to a beach. We would walk to Cornelian Bay for a picnic and a swim. That was until the sewerage took over. It has now been looked after and has a lovely playground etc. Even a fancy restaurant. Boy how things change. You have stirred up some memories for me, thank you.

    • Pauline

      Thanks Julie, I think every little girl in Tassie must have had those bubble bathers! We didn’t have a fridge until I was about nine, either. That’s why those family bricks were so special!

  2. Fabulous memories-they were great times. I remember playing in Buttons Creek where it flowed into the sea at the eastern end of the beach. At dusk my father Bruce and Wally Hayes would run a net from the beach and catch an array of fish for the table – it would also attract an audience of campers eager for some free fish.

    • Pauline

      Thanks for taking the trouble to leave a comment, Deon. Yes…I should have mentioned Buttons Creek. My dad used to go fishing with our neighbours at one stage too….for garfish. Have never eaten them since.

  3. Hi Paulie, 🙂

    As I read your story the memories started coming back. I remember those bubble bathers well….at least they fitted fairly snuggly even though you could grasp the material and stretch it right out! I loved sewing and one year I purchased a pair of bright orange stretch pants with the idea of making my first 2 piece swim suit! I stitched a skirt around the outside and the “bra” top was stretchy fabric too. I wore it the first day of swimming lessons at school and thought I was the “bees knees”!! Unfortunately the salt water loosened the stitching and before I knew it I was half naked!!! Thankfully a kind class mate bought a towel into the water and I was able to emerge at least with some of my modesty intact! I loved the beach as did my brother and no slip slop and slap in those days! The browner you were the better. We used to smother Johnson’s baby oil on us till we fried! Love to read more. 🙂

    • Pauline

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Cheryl. Very amused about the bikini! I also remember us swimming in our farm dam, and the muddy water staining our bathers. You poor Mum must have been very annoyed. X

  4. Your Boxing Day beach trips were the opposite in climate to ours in UK. We always went for a walk on Boxing Day – usually togged up in waterproofs and wellies! But your beach memories remind me that I too had a ‘stretch’ swimsuit (ruched elastic making the bubbles)and we would have a day trip to Scarborough at the height of summer with aunts, uncles and cousins. Sand in the sandwiches, cups of tea for the grown-ups from a beach kiosk, and ice-creams for the kids. Donkey-rides on the beach, and such fun splashing in and out of the sea – usually followed by panic because I couldn’t see where the family were at the top of the sands! And later, when it was time to leave, gazing longingly at the other families who were clearly staying on in Scarborough – while we had to go home. How I envied them!

    • I too grew up in the late fifties and early sixties in the UK as Ann did. I had similar beach memories and of the “Bubble” swimsuit. We spent our summer holidays at Ramsgate in Kent, but every Easter we would visit family in Middlesbrough,Yorkshire. We would often spend the day with family on the beach in Scarborough, Whitby or Redcar. You can imagine the weather in April on the North East coast of England. The adults would be fully dressed with coats on against the cold, while the young ones such as my sister, cousins and I played in the sand and paddled in the water…Sometimes with our dresses tucked in our knickers!!

      • Pauline

        Hi Carole. Thanks for leaving a comment. Yes, I have been to Scarborough on a chilly spring day. Haha, kids just don’t feel the cold when they are having fun, do they?

    • Pauline

      I thought that bubble bathers were purely Australian, Ann! Seaside holidays in the UK are just so different, but equally delightful.

  5. Fascinating – thank you. In Cornwall(UK,where I grew up at about the same time as you, we sometimes left the farm on Christmas Day or Boxing Day to go and walk on the beach. It didn’t seem all that special then, but now I live in the centre of England I do miss the sea.

    • Pauline

      Thanks Barbara. Oh my word, I so love Cornwall and those heavenly little seaside villages. Not to mention the Daphne du Maurier connections.

  6. I too had one of those ‘bubble’ swimsuits which I seemed to wear from 3 to 9 or 10! and your blog took me back to my childhood spent partly in Burnie and Devenport and visiting my cousins in Penguin, where my cousin Eileen was in the marching band. Nostalgia was the name of the day as you evoked so many happy memories for me. Thank you!

    • Pauline

      Thanks for taking the trouble to leave a message, Joan. I think it’s time I took a trip back to Tassie.

  7. The two shops, the playground with that scary hurdy gurdy and those oh so itchy bubble bathers all bring back vivid memories of my childhood spent growing up in Ulverstone. Most of my time was spent at West Ulverstone beach though seeing we lived opposite and we explored it to the hilt along with the children of the newly arrived Dutch settlers. I still go back on the odd occasion to the beach just to stroll along it, relive those precious childhood memories and seek out the rock pools I explored although the much loved creek has gone forever. Seagull Island was another fascination, looking for birds eggs, crabs and I’ll never forget the time the tide came in and we had to bravely swim/wade back to shore. Thanks for helping me relive those memories Pauline !

    • Pauline

      Hi Jeanene, Thanks so much for sharing your own memories. Yes, I went to the West Ulverstone Primary School after it opened, and knew so many of those Dutch migrant children. Most arrived when I was still at the Central School. I was always amazed at how quickly they became fluent in English. They were soon topping the class. I too had wonderful times at Picnic Point. I wonder if your Seagull Island was what we knew as Goat Island?

  8. Such a delightful account, Pauline! Having grown up in a completely different culture and continent, I found your story captivating. Thanks for sharing!

  9. What beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing 😀

  10. Oh, what wonderful memories you have of the holidays! It sounds like a fun time was had by all, and I am immediately reminded of our family beach trips (though they were in July, rather than December). Thanks for the trip down memory lane and a Happy New Year!

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