THIS is the time of year when we all look forward to our summer holidays and the chance to relax and get away from everyday life.

Ironically, we sometimes run into our neighbours – or at least people from our own town – in airports, on beaches or around hotel swimming pools.

But it wasn’t so long ago that Bolton residents went on holiday with their neighbours as a matter of course. These were during the two Bolton wakes’ weeks holidays when the town would more or less shut down for two weeks at the end of June and again for a week in September.

These weeks were originally introduced so the mines, the mills and the big engineering companies could close completely for maintenance work. The effect, however, was that, as the schools were also shut, whole families — in fact, whole communities — could go on holiday at the same time.

This was often to traditional Northern resorts like Blackpool and Southport where the beaches would teem with holidaymakers from the Lancashire mill towns.

The men would wear a shirt and tie even on the beach, with trousers rolled up for the traditional paddle in the chilly Atlantic waters. The women would generally wear their best Summer florals, removing stockings and tights to let milk-bottle white legs get their annual dose of seaside sunshine.

The Bolton Evening News, as it then was, would print special editions of the paper and sell them at strategic points in the resorts. Staff would be sent most days to talk to holidaymakers and photos were taken of the happy groups.

Trawling along Blackpool sands, the latest slingback shoes carried and feet bare, was actually not the easiest job in the world.

“Anyone here from Bolton, Leigh or Atherton?” we would shout over the noise of people having a good time.

Groups would often shout back “Over here, love” and then we would have a chat with them about where they were from, where they were staying and what their favourite holiday activities were this year.

Unfortunately, as the Bolton weeks coincided with the Scottish holiday weeks, not all the holidaymakers were quite as pro-BEN as others and it wasn’t unusual to have our shouted query about origins answered with a gruff “No, we’re from Glasgow. B***** off!”

Nor did it always go according to plan at the several holiday parks where a BEN reporter and photographer would be regularly sent. I remember one at Southport where we arrived with a long list of local holidaymakers, supplied by the park’s site office.

In complete innocence, I knocked on one caravan door and when a man appeared, I said politely “I understand from the office that you are Mr and Mrs Jackson from Farnworth, here for the week?”

“Ah, well,” he began, shutting the door carefully behind him, “It’s actually not MRS Jackson who’s here.” We left and went on to the next caravan with an understanding smile. After all, the BEN wasn’t that kind of newspaper.