Lakeside Holiday Park, Burnham-on-Sea – As it Was in late 1950s VistaScreen 3D Souvenir Snaps

This is the way the world ends… not with a bang but with Lakeside Holiday Park. Or some such rubbish. There probably is some ponce out there quoting Eliot, but that’s not me; I’m here to tell you to get off your backside, get out and do things, and generally show those naysayers what’s what. Unfortunately, I’m stuck on my backside, because my beloved City has declared a state of emergency and my wife and I are getting daily emails that our events are canceled. A damn shame considering that we live in this city primarily to take advantage of its cultural offerings, but there you have it. So let’s have a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster of a post, cobbled together from various drafts ranging from 7 September 2019 through today.

The funny part of this whole blog post is that Lakeside Holiday Park could probably use a glowing review right about now. Or at least a semi-splendid one. As an American who’s never been to this holiday camp, I’m ill-placed to give one. And Lakeside seems ill-prepared to help themselves in… well any tangible way. They’re apparently not terribly nice to homosexual couples coming to holiday there (when noticed). Their overall services appear to be slipping. Apparently, ants are a real problem. You’d think they’d want to get their name out there… unless, of course, their videos are doing an adequate job:

Well… dinosaurs are always awesome, right?

VistaScreen Series H.146 “Lakeside Holiday Park”

On 7 September 2019, I scanned this set and apparently started blogging about it. This was not entirely by accident; I scan card sets regularly, and was setting up my autumn schedule to be sort of light since I was planning on November being full of rather nasty posts about the Battle of Verdun. Those nasty posts will still be coming, probably this November. But 9 September was my birthday, and the following day my close friend and collecting partner Doug called me to tell me his cancer had returned. We actually joked about this weird little set for a while, and then like most of my silly little projects, this got shelved while I took over learning Doug’s life’s work in Great War stereography.

Having rediscovered it, I was overjoyed to find a very competent holiday camp set from Stanley Long – and went about trying to learn about it. I figured a good place to start looking into the history of the holiday camp would be to ring them up. So at 4:05 AM my time – 9:05 AM theirs – I called them up two weeks past and was greeted by the most disinterested employee of Lakeside Holiday Park that one could imagine. The look of boredom on her face was tangible over the phone as I explained how cool it was that I’d discovered a rare 1958 souvenir from her camp, and wanted to know about it’s history. She didn’t know any more, but promised to transfer me to someone who did. Then hung up on me.

OK, fair enough. From her tone, I’d interrupted “chewing bubblegum time” at five minutes after open. I’d try again the following day, but a little bit later. At 5:15 AM I rang in and found my way to someone who sounded rather interested in the fact that over 80 years ago, some 3D photos of the camp had been commissioned, and that I had a complete set, of the between 50 and 250 that likely had been printed. She had no clue when the camp had been founded, or what its history was, but she promised to get me passed on to the appropriate people, and gave me an email. We hung up. I forgot all about Lakeside Holiday Park.

Subtext and Subterfuge

While getting ready to move flats, I ran across the Lakeside Holiday Park VistaScreen card packet. I realized that I had not heard back from the people at Lakeside, so I decided to call back… except this time, I was not going to be calling as some guy who had some neat VistaScreen cards and wanted to write about them. This time, I was going to call as Ian: Important New York City Reporter. Which is just me, putting on what I imagine a posh NYC accent sounds like, and pretending that I was up and about going to Very Import Meetings instead of still up in my pyjamas, watching reruns of Inspector George Gently. What follows is whatever my brain remembers from that night, likely filled in with some awesome moments that didn’t really happen, probably involving ninjas. Hey, this is my personal stereography blog, not “The New York Times”!

  • Lakeside Holiday Park: “Hello, this is Lakeside Holiday Park!”
  • Ian: “Hello, this is Ian Ference outta New York City. I’m with Brooklyn Stereography. We’re New York City’s most widely read stereographical publication, and I’m calling because I have a hard deadline of tomorrow to run the article we’re doing on your holiday camp. (Strictly speaking, only the last clause here was an outright porky – I am Ian Ference, and I’m writing at you straight outta NYC. I am with Brooklyn Stereography, which having searched extensively, is about the only stereographical publication out of NYC – and therefore the biggest. But being that it’s a publication that I write myself, often in my pants, any “hardness” in the deadline was purely there to fool the nice lady from Burnham-on-Sea. Sorry.)
  • Lakeside Holiday Park: “Oh! How can I help you Ian?” (I think it might have been “Mr. Ference”, but sod that, it’s my dad’s name. I’m Ian.)
  • Ian: Well, I’ve discovered an obscure VistaScreen series commissioned by your camp (true) and it just so happens that we’re the largest publication covering VistaScreen in the world. (Dubious, but probably true. I can’t find any other publications regularly covering VistaScreen in the world, which would make it true by default, but last week this blog received 774 hits on VistaScreen posts, and I haven’t made one since November. If I’m wrong, prove it and buy me lunch. We should talk.) I recently tried to get in touch with your camp regarding its history, and you sent me to an email. I got no response. (All true.)
  • Lakeside Holiday Park (after a 10 second delay): This is Ian Ference?
  • Ian: Last I checked. You could ask my wife to confirm, but she’s asleep in the other room. (all true. You’ll have to forgive the snarkiness, but by now I’d been hung up on and messed about with so much that I didn’t really care, and I suspected that the woman was looking at a rather long email introducing myself and asking for information on the camp from over a week prior.)
  • Lakeside Holiday Park: I’m looking at a rather long email from you… (bingo!)
  • Ian: Yes! That’s the one, and now I’m thinking it was you I was talking to when I sent it originally…
  • Lakeside Holiday Park: I’ll make sure it gets on to the proper people! (to her credit, she did)

Lakeside Holiday Park, the “Followup”, and the Pictures

So Lakeside sent a response, and here it is in its entirety, omitting spaces and the sender’s name: “It’s a lovely idea and we’d love to know as well, I have asked owners and people that have been here a long time but unfortunately they don’t have any history on the Lakeside. We think it may have been a farm or small holding originally but not sure. So I’m sorry we can’t help.”

Um, thanks Lakeside. I’d have liked someone with some actual knowledge to read my long request for information, and maybe answer the questions. Or how about hitting the basics, like “what year were you founded in”? I mean I asked for “its history, its foundations, anything” – and they couldn’t give me a damn founding date? Bollocks; they just didn’t give a toss about my report on their holiday camp. Fine. We’re going to look at the pictures in terms of the images themselves, as taken by Stanley Long…

…accompanied by facts about the top two complaints about the caravan site on various review sites. Namely, we’ll address ants, because ants are just a pain in the balls when you’re camping. And we’ll address gay rights, since Lakeside apparently has a policy of deeming openly homosexual couples as “not family friendly” – and these complaints are since homosexuality was (finally) legalized in 2000. And I’m not a fan of bigots. In fact, I downright discriminate against them!

Lakeside Holiday Park Entrance
The entrance to Lakeside Holiday Park looked lovely and well-maintained in 1958. Although there are 11,000 species of ant in the world, there are only 50 in the entire United Kingdom.
Lakeside Holiday Park Holiday Caravans (New Sections)
These are lovely caravans! But you wouldn’t have wanted to be caught committing a homosexual act back in 1958 when this stereoview was taken – it was illegal, but at least it hadn’t been a hangman’s offense since 1828!
Lakeside Holiday Park (Holiday Caravans)
These look like they were delightful caravans – let’s just hope they weren’t full of ants! Formica Sanguinea are nasty buggers – they raid neighboring ant colonies and attack them. Generally not nice, even in ant terms!
Lakeside Holiday Park View of Lake
That’s a lovely lake, son! Just make sure your attention is towards those nice ducks, and not any other boys that come strolling by, pomade in their hair. Alan Turing wouldn’t have been in the area; after pleading to Gross Indecency in 1952 and voluntarily undergoing chemical castration, the man who broke the Nazis’ Enigma ciphers took his own life in 1954 in shame.
Lakeside Holiday Park - Caravans and Lake
Oh, caravans and a lake! A lake that’s not full of ants, like our caravans! If the ants in your caravan in Somerset are biters, they’re most likely Tetramorium Caespitum – native to the region and nasty little scoundrels.
Lakeside Holiday Park Holiday Caravans
It would be lovely to prance about through these caravans! But after 1895 Oscar Wilde could prance no more – he got two years’ hard labor for “posing Somdomite” [sic] – they couldn’t even spell his sentence correctly!
Lakeside Holiday Park Recreational Center
Boy oh boy the recreational centre will be fun! That is unless it’s full of Lasius Niger, the black ant, and the most common pest ant in the United Kingdom. In that case, make like it’s infested with the coronavirus and go to the camp next door – maybe they have discount bottled waters! (There are numerous other camps in Somerset. No word on ants or gay rights – yet.)
Lakeside Holiday Park Anglers Paradise
Fishing, such a solitary activity – a man and his pole. And keep that to one man, one pole at Lakeside Holiday Park in 1958, mister! This would disclude Tory MP Ian Harvey, who went fishing with company in a park and caught a £5 fine – which lost him his seat in Parliament. Oh Ian!
Lakeside Holiday Park Corner of Site Shop
Looks like this shop sold all sorts of things back in 1958 – can you spot any borax for those moment when, despite the Lakeside Holiday Park crew telling you that ants are part of the camping experience, you really don’t want them to be?
Lakeside Holiday Park Children's Corner
The Childrens’ Corner, which really looks quite pleasant, like all of this camp – why I picked it over the other 1950s holiday camps in my VistaScreen archive. And that’s the rub isn’t it – sadly, in 1958, parents were generally afraid to have their kids congregate where there were gay men – that doesn’t mean that there weren’t gay men there, or that kids didn’t congregate around them. But places like Lakeside provided a respite from “metropolitan” values, and protected the kiddies from the scary poofters. Sadly, it still does.

So Stanley Long took some lovely stereographic photos of the various areas around and about Lakeside Holiday Park. He was a talented guy, and could make a good souvenir set though he often didn’t. If you went to the Park during this era, or if you remember it, please share your thoughts with us here or in the comments. Because that’s about all we know about Lakeside Park in 1958 – though I would of course invite my readers with memories to leave them below. We can enjoy the photos and decide for ourselves whether we would have had fun there. I’ll get into the notion of British holiday camps in a later post; you’re probably checking your facemask to see if it’s still firmly attached. Or whatever. It’s the plague apocalypse at last, haven’t you heard?

Sadly, post-war Britain was a place where you had to lock up your children in case the queers came for them. Same with America, of course, and much of the world. It was a different era. At Lakeside Holiday Camp, that mentality apparently continues, which is why I decided to write about it today, in 2020, when we should be past all that nonsense. We’re all supposedly teetering on the brink of death, but I was just saddened reading a couple reviews of this place. Because apparently, at least as of last year, there were places turning away couples who loved each other because… they both had the same genitals. So to the people who crafted that policy, a big two finger salute from me personally and from every other queer person I’ve ever known in spirit.

Oh, and in case anybody was incensed by my colorful language throughout this, all I can say is – you’ve got bigger things to worry about with the coronavirus, you bunch of poofters!


One Reply to “Lakeside Holiday Park, Burnham-on-Sea – As it Was in late 1950s VistaScreen 3D Souvenir Snaps”

  1. Ian, you were cranked up on this one. We also are largely house-bound, although (for the moment) my workplace is still open. Oddly, it is the staff who want to close it (government job, you know) but I’m the odd man out that thinks libraries should be open- especially when everything else is closed.

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