This film is part of Free

Wish You Were Here

Round-the-clock fun is the order of the day in this whirlwind survey of the tourist industry in 1949: from a mass Hokey Cokey at Butlin’s Pwllheli, to stand-up comedy in the Catskills.

Documentary 1949 18 mins


This tour of American and British holiday habits in the late 1940s makes up for in infectious enthusiasm what it lacks in in-depth analysis. From Wales to Nassau, and from Quebec to the Catskills, the emphasis is on communal - and often fairly vigorous - activity, from skiing, skating and golf, to dancing, sailing and fishing. The serious point - emphasised by Billy Butlin’s revolutionary holiday camps - is that by 1948 holidays were becoming available to everybody.

Viewers of a certain British sitcom will recognise the ‘Hi-de-Hi’ call of the Butlins Redcoat as he leads a packed ballroom in a slightly terrifying mass rendition of the Hokey Cokey. Jimmy Perry, the co-writer (with David Croft) of the popular comedy series ‘Hi-de-Hi’, based the programme on his own experiences as a Butlins Redcoat at the same Pwllheli camp featured in this film. From the ranks of chalets, to the playground, vast canteen, and (surprisingly plummy) tones of the Radio Butlin’s announcer, the sights and sounds of the British holiday camp are so familiar it is easy to forget that Butlin, did indeed revolutionise the tourist industry by giving ordinary people ‘a week’s holiday for a week’s wage’.