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August 2018

This month's document is chosen by Cath Mayo, the Trust's Conservator.

I am sure everyone has bought a magazine at some point, only to open it and have numerous glossy flyers float out of the pages into their laps. Most of the time they are left unread and chucked in the nearest recycling bin; but some examples have survived in pristine condition tucked among the pages of our old magazine collections. So, at the end of the summer holidays, my chosen document comprises two of these kind of flyers advertising Butlin's Holiday Camps, inviting the reader to request a free booklet.

During the 1950s holiday camps were still a relatively new thing. William E Butlin (Billy), the founder of Butlin's Holiday Camps opened the first camp in 1936 at Ingoldmells, near Skegness. It was a grand occasion and Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, was the opening guest. This proved short-lived, however, due to the onset of World War Two when family holidays were suddenly the last thing on people's minds. As the war ended, people were being tempted back to enjoying summer holidays by the beach once more and so holiday camps became accessible and fashionable once again.

Why this document?

I chose the flyers because they were very colourful and stylistic of their time. The images are very similar at first glance, but on further inspection, they are actually different. Treating them both as a kind of 'spot the difference' puzzle, I began to compare them.

The earlier one, on the left, has the tag-line - 'Butlin's, the Perfect Holiday for Mother' and depicts a happy family enjoying time in the sun. 'Mother' has a longer hair style, popular in the 1940s, and there is a pool in the background being enjoyed by other holiday makers. The second flyer shows the same image, but 'Mother' now has a shorter more fashionable '50s haircut and the pool in the background has been replaced by a car. The tag-line now reads – 'Butlin's, the Perfect Holiday for the Motorist'. The 1950s brought with it optimistic times and also family cars were becoming more readily available and affordable. What better way to spend the summer than to stay at Butlin's, where every member of the family's needs are catered for? Not only that, but you can get there in the comfort of your own motor car.

Everything else in the images appears to be exactly the same – an early form of Photoshop perhaps! This includes the style of the family's holiday outfits which have undergone no changes at all.

The reverse side of both flyers has space to fill in your details and a lengthy explanation as to why Butlin's holidays are pricey, but worth it. Again, there are differences; the '40s flyer has an image of Billy looking rather serious in a tie and jacket; he has also signed himself as William E Butlin. By the 1950s business-like Billy has gone and is replaced by a cheesy, grinning one who signs himself 'Billy Butlin'.

What I love about these two flyers is that they are very much aimed at different target audiences using the same images; it's also to do with the fact that social attitudes had changed and families were looking for something different from their holidays. The '40s flyer seems to be aimed towards mothers and promises them time away from the children. They can be left in safe hands while mum gets to 'feel the bride again' and recapture the magic of earlier years together with her husband. In contrast, the '50s flyer shows how the rise of the motor car enabled families to venture out on new adventures.

I'm not sure my excitement over these flyers will encourage people to archive their junk mail (which is probably a good thing)………but it was definitely an interesting, insightful and fun find.

  • Visit England Gold Accolade