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Ian La Frenais
recalls the days
of smoke, sweat,
teds, and cheap
perfume...

Read more...
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Whitley Bay & Tynemouth Guide 2009 Archive

Former television presenter Bob Langley's broadcast career began in the early days of Tyne Tees television on the regional nightly news programme. In the late 1960s he became a reporter on Nationwide. It was as a result of his success on the show that he was reassigned to host the BBC1 afternoon chat show, Pebble Mill At One, and late night version Saturday Night at The Mill. Bob has also written several novels.
Beauty Unharnessed
by Bob Langley
It's strange to think of Whitley Bay as being in the nation's front line of defence but that's the way it was back in 1942.

With German-occupied Norway just across the North Sea, this stretch of coastline was considered ripe for enemy invasion. There were barricades everywhere, concrete pill-boxes, artillery emplacements, air-raid shelters and armed troop patrols operating out of Tynemouth Castle.

Riding from Newcastle on the electric train as a child, I would catch that first intoxicating whiff of salt air as we emerged from the station only to be swept by a sense of betrayal and disappointment when we reached the sea-front to find the entire area sealed off with barbed wire! I would peer over the barrier at the surf crashing on the empty beaches and think it the most tantalising sight I had ever seen; if only I could be down there, playing in the sand, splashing in the water — it seemed a fantasy world I could scarcely begin to dream about.

One night the German Luftwaffe scored a direct hit on the Rex Hotel. Our neighbour was serving as an air-raid warden at the time and narrowly escaped with his life when the masonry came crashing down around him. For the rest of the conflict the Rex remained a skeletal shell, a gaunt testament to the madness of war and the destruction it can bring but, when victory arrived, they built it up brick by brick exactly the way it had been before, and that was when the area really came into its own.

The late forties and fifties proved a golden age for Whitley Bay when thousands of holidaymakers descended on the town every summer and turned it into one of the most vibrant holiday centres in Britain.

It's changed a bit since the old days but when I walk along the magnificent promenade from Whitley Bay through Cullercoats to Tynemouth and look at the sprawling beaches, the craggy ruins of the castle and the sparkling monolith of St Mary's Lighthouse, I often recall the dark days of World War Two and reflect on how lucky we are to be here today, to live in such a splendid corner of the universe and to enjoy such beauty unharnessed and unobstructed on our very own doorstep.
 
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