Memories of holidays in Rhyl are ever golden

It seems strange these days but, before the advent of cheap flights and the boom in package holidays, you could almost guarantee where most of your friends and neighbours were going during the Potters’ fortnight.
The Eighties marked the decline of a much-loved tradition – a decades-old, mass exodus of families from North Staffordshire to either Rhyl or Blackpool.
Tens of thousands of us made the annual pilgrimage to either of the seaside resorts.
It was North Wales which dominated my childhood holidays to such an extent that I just assumed everyone went there.
Indeed, such was Rhyl’s popularity with plate-turners that you could even pick up The Sentinel of an evening from one of 30 retailers in the town during the last week of June and the first week of July.
(You see, you can take people out of Stoke-on-Trent but you can’t take Stoke-on-Trent out of its people).
Rhyl will always remind me of endless days spent building sandcastles, too many coppers lost in slot machines and countless bags of chips eaten as we walked along the front.
I can almost taste the cold toast mum fed me and my brother as dad drove us along the A51 to Chester before turning on to the A55 in the direction of North Wales.
Even now I can recall the excitement of that first glimpse of the sea as we rounded the corner at Splash Point and my desperation to get on to the sand – even before we’d checked in to our accommodation.
Mum and dad always booked one of the wooden, beach-front chalets close to the old lifeboat station and Uncle Eric’s cycle track.
That was our base for the week – complete with tiled floor, a sink, a powerpoint, a table and four chairs.
The resort itself was a place filled with wonders to a couple of lads from Sneyd Green.
Who cared if the sea was freezing cold? There were miles of sandy beaches to play on – packed with parasols, deck chairs and wind-breaks. All you had to do was watch out for the donkey poo.
There were little shacks selling buckets and spades, tiny flags for our sandcastles, sea food and all sorts of holiday tat.
The front was dominated by the Royal Floral Hall – a riot of colourful plants, flowers and shrubs which spilled out on to the promenade.
This giant, three-piece greenhouse backed on to a huge outdoor paddling pool which was always crammed with youngsters.
There were also a number of beautifully-maintained crown green bowling greens which gave the oldies something to watch and somewhere to sit and have a cuppa.
In June 1980 another building was opened of a size and scale to rival even the Floral Hall.
The Suncentre, an indoor water park which was a forerunner of our beloved Waterworld, went on to become the most successful tourist attraction in the town’s history – not least because it gave families like mine somewhere to go when ‘Sunny Rhyl’ didn’t quite live up to its billing.
At night time the focus switched from the sand to the amusement arcades with names like The Bright Spot, Joyland and Casino Corner which lured us in with flashing lights, loud music and the smell of hot dogs and candy floss.
My brother Matthew and I would each be given a handful of two pences in a plastic cup with which to win our fortunes.
When they ran out it was off to the pub with mum and dad to sip on cokes and listen to the jukebox before sharing a cone of chips on our way back to the B&B.
I’m sad to say that Rhyl nowadays is a shadow of its former self and you seldom have trouble parking along a promenade which was once teeming with tourists.
But those three miles of sand still remain – as inviting as they ever were – which is why yours truly and his children will be back there next year, if only for the day, to make some more golden memories.

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