Readers of a certain age will remember “taking in visitors”. The following memories of are of a Rhyl man from when he was a boy in the 1930’s.
Most families in Rhyl at that time “took in visitors”. It was an essential part of most families’ annual income. Families from Lancashire, the Midlands, Yorkshire, and beyond would stay with Rhyl families for their holidays. Bedrooms were rented out whilst the residents all slept on “put me ups” in one room, downstairs or even in the shed! One year I was sent to stay with family on Anglesey to allow more visitors in the house. The usual arrangement was for “Full board” or “Apartments”. Full board is fairly self explanatory, “apartments” meant that the visitors brought in their own food on a daily basis and the host (usually the lady of the house) would cook it for them. It was quite common for visitors to go up and down the street knocking on doors looking for accommodation. I can remember one occasion when the sheer number of visitors in the town meant that someone, presumably from the Council, drove around the streets with a public address system appealing for accommodation on behalf of visitors. More often than not visitors would be repeat custom, or recommendations. If one family was booked up they would pass the letter of enquiry to their friend or neighbour, and so it went on. People who came year after year became friends, I remember being taken out as a boy, by the visitors, as company for their own children. It was fun, we met people from all over the country and a lot of friendships were forged.
Another strong memory I have is of people waiting to get onto trains at the railway station. There was a queuing system outside the station where people were “penned in” in their hundreds just waiting for room to get onto the platform. Trains were in and out all the time. My wife’s memory is of seeing crowds and crowds of people on a Saturday evening filling the length and breadth of Wellington Road as they walked towards town for their trains home.
The promenade would be “buzzing” , activities included tennis, bowls, swimming, there was a putting green, Billy Manders and The Quaintesques at the Amphitheatre, Uncle Billy at the Coliseum and the one legged diver who used to dive off the end of the pier! One of the most popular attractions was Tomes’s Fishing Pond, everyone loved it. It consisted of a circular reservoir of blue opaque water which slowly turned, around which you tried to catch your fish. You were given a small rod, well a stick really, and a line with a hook with three prongs and it was the first to catch three of the tin fish in the water. The highlight of the game was the running commentary given by Mr Tomes as to how events were unfolding, in a similar way to a racing commentary and at a similar speed. His catch phrase was “three have two each” which he used regularly to heighten the tension and excitement. People loved it! Prizes included packets of fags and boxes of chocolates, this was not a game for children! It was under cover but open on three sides and was situated beside the old paddling pool. Jack Picton was Mr Tomes’s assistant. Some time later another one appeared, McManus’s Fishing Pond, which was on the promenade opposite Church Street. The promenade would be packed with people in the evening, one of our favourite pastimes was looking for cigarette cards in the empty packets that had been discarded, football, cricket and bird collections and inside “Churchman’s” cigarettes you’d get schoolboy howlers.