Great Yarmouth and the man who has holidayed there for 75 years

By Zoe Applegate and Laurence Cawley
BBC News

Published
image captionGeorge Bennett has been holidaying in Great Yarmouth each year since the age of four

George Bennett was just four years old when he enjoyed his first holiday in the Norfolk resort of Great Yarmouth. Now aged 79, he has holidayed there every year since. Why?

The year of 1966 was a special one for Mr Bennett.

Not only did England win the World Cup, it was also the year he married his beloved wife Sheila.

And it was in 1966 that Mr Bennett marked his 20th successive year of holidaying in Great Yarmouth.

Though 1966 was a holiday with a difference because it was where the newlyweds enjoyed their honeymoon at the town's Imperial Hotel.

The manager of the hotel, Mr Bennett remembers, asked the couple for their marriage certificate - despite the vehicle they pulled up in being covered in confetti.

Mr Bennett, who lives 132 miles (212km) away in Ryhall, Rutland, first discovered the joys of Great Yarmouth the year after World War Two ended.

image captionMr Bennett's son Mark suggested going to Las Vegas to celebrate his 80th birthday. Mr Bennett says he would prefer to go to Great Yarmouth

Then he was accompanied by his father, Len, mother Agnes and his brother and sister.

Their visits were always very well organised, he says.

And each year, Mr Bennett's father would crack the same joke.

"He used to park the car up and say 'that's it - I shall not see you for another fortnight'."

His father would always book two weeks in Great Yarmouth at the start of July and buy tickets for whatever shows were on at the town's five theatres. They would then go to each show every other night.

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"My father was a sweet manufacturer and he could bring his own sugar and butter - it was still rationed," says Mr Bennett.

"It used to take five hours to get from Stamford," he says. "It now takes two-and-a-quarter hours.

"We used to go through all the places - Swaffham, Acle.

"My father used to drive a Singer - how he used to pack it all, I don't know.

"The good thing about Yarmouth is it had five or six theatres with top artists that ran from June to September and they put on a proper show with orchestras and dancers.

"There use used to be five island boats to Scroby Sands," he says.

"Dad would give us some money and say 'off you go'.

"We went that many times that they used to take the boats back to the harbour and take us with them and then bring us back in cars."

image captionMr Bennett tells how the beaches of Great Yarmouth used to be "packed" when he was young

Sheila Bennett died last year with dementia.

Mr Bennett and his son Mark, 48, visited Great Yarmouth a few days after her funeral.

Mr Bennett Jr says their Great Yarmouth holidays are a firm family tradition.

To mark his own 40th birthday, he and his friends headed straight to Great Yarmouth.

"It's [a tradition that has] been passed to me and I'm sure I'll pass it on.

"It's very important to be close together since last year," says Mr Bennett Jr.

With Mr Bennett's 80th birthday just around the corner, there has been some discussion about where to celebrate.

"Mark wants to take me to Vegas for my 80th," says Mr Bennett. "but I told him, I still need to come here."

Even after 75 years of visiting the town, Mr Bennett still loves to holiday here and finds himself counting down the days until his next venture to Great Yarmouth.

"I still get excited when I go down the Acle Straight on the way here and still say things like 'it's only six weeks until we go to Yarmouth'."

image captionMr Bennett has taken holidays elsewhere, but he always comes back to his treasured Great Yarmouth

Mr Bennett, a former magazine advertising manager and pub landlord, has not always been entirely faithful to Great Yarmouth.

He has also, he admits, holidayed in Spain, Italy and the United States - in Las Vegas, Boston and Orlando.

But he always comes back each year to Great Yarmouth, sometimes up to three times a year.

"It's tradition," he says. "We've been to many places.

"People ask my why I am going to Yarmouth again and I say because of tradition."

image source, Andrew Turner/BBC
image captionMr Bennett plans to see Banksy's work in the town and wonders whether the artist might create a work about him one day

He admits his record of Great Yarmouth visits is fairly "amazing".

"This is 75 years but hopefully I'll make 80 years," says Mr Bennett.

"The beaches used to be packed in those days.

"There used to be a fella who would come round with his white smock on - selling ice creams and someone else selling peanuts.

"It used to be superb. It's got memories.

"I know I get a bit disappointed with [some] things - like it hasn't got the shows any more. But they are friendly people here."

As for their plans for this year's visit, well, there is a new attraction in town - a Banksy.

"He [Banksy] might want to do one of me on the wall.

"I've been coming here that long."

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