Don Townshend wrote in to Looking Back recently with his memories of Eastbourne in the 1950s when he visited the town as a child and how it has changed.
Don lives in Essex and as a small boy travelled down to Eastbourne in his grandfather’s Austin Ten.
He recalled last week that towards the end of the journey his parents would say, “Can you see the sea yet?”.
We take up his story with his memories of some of the town’s familiar attractions including the tram, the William Allchorn boats and trips out the lighthouse.
“There was and still is a rock shop in Terminus Road,” writes Don.
“The smell of it was delightful because there was a rock making machine at the rear which stretched the rock mixture. For a young lad this was wonderful.
“Other childhood delights included a small scale tram system which ran from Princes Park to the Crumbles (now gone forever).
“The boating lake in Princes Park hired out boats for aspiring pirates. The lake is still in use by a sailing club.
“Talking of boats, there were boat trips from the seafront near the pier.
“There were two or three boats in the 1950s but my favourite was the William Allchorn.
“These trips lasted into the 2000s but sadly ceased a few years ago.
“I loved the smell of the sea and the splash of the bow waves. I never felt sick, which was a blessing.
“On one trip around the lighthouse, the crew of the William Allchorn threw bundles of magazines and newspapers to the lighthouse keeper.
“He caught some of them and missed others. Naturally the lighthouse is automated today, so no need for soggy magazines.
“I cannot write about 1950s Eastbourne without mentioning the railway station. We were still in the end of the age of steam and there was a certain smell and excitement about the place.
“I remember a display case with a sizable model of a locomotive. For the price of a penny, the wheels went round. What more could a young lad wish for?
“Was Eastbourne really more magical in the 1950’s or am I just viewing it through the prism of long hot summers of childhood?
“The railway station has changed and instead of the smell of steam there is the smell of coffee.
“Of course there were far fewer cars in the 1950s. Another feature of modern Eastbourne is that the beach is not covered in deckchairs.
“Yes, there are some for rental but most people today seem to sit on the pebbles.
“All digging and sand castle building is now done with safe plastic buckets and spades.
“Modern Eastbourne now features many events such as the annual Airbourne international air show, car rallies, fun runs, international tennis, tribute bands at the famous Art Deco Bandstand and much more.
“The massive Sovereign Harbour development couldn’t even have been dreamed about in the 1950s.
“Whenever we arrive in Eastbourne, I say to my wife, ‘Can you see the sea yet?’”
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