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1956 MBT Davos.jpgThe annual “works outing” is a traditional feature of British life in the 1950s and early 1960s.  It might only be a weekend trip to the seaside, but some businesses are able to close down for two weeks of the year – often known as “factory fortnight”, and many of the staff can enjoy GOING AWAY together on a group holiday.   National companies such as Martins are able to plan annual trips abroad, and those lucky enough to be able to take their two weeks  to coincide with one of these excusrions are sure of an unforgettable experience.  Martins Bank Tours are eagerly awaited, and enable a large number of staff to find out about life in other countries.  Assisted by the Staff Holiday Fund, (which, by the way, is one of the earliest forms of interest free credit for bank staff) the holidaymakers can spread the cost over much of the year.  Naturally, cameras are at the ready, and Martins Bank Magazine prints several multi-page spreads to show what a good time was had by all, and to entice subscribers for the following year.  For a flavour of a typical Martins Bank Tour, we journey back to 1956 when staff are based in Davos, on a tour of Eastern Switzerland. This is the Bank’s fourth such venture abroad and it is not without incident, in the form of a rather nasty car crash involving members of the Bank’s Staff.  The pictures, with the exception of the group of four women at the end of this piece. are taken by the Magazine’s Editor, Alec R Ellis …

Martins Bank Party to Eastern Switzerland…

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1956 Davos - Main Group MBM-Wi56P061956 04 MBM.jpgA THUNDERSTORM was breaking over Victoria Station as the first members of the party began to assemble on the afternoon of Sunday, August 26th, for the long journey to Davos where our fourth Continental holiday for members of the staff, their relations and friends, was about to begin—a last gesture of defiance from the English climate to the despairing sun-seekers of 1956. In the small hours of the morning eleven of our number had gone by the night plane to Zurich, and later in the day two had travelled by the day plane. Earlier in the week four had gone by car and on the previous day two more had gone the same way. This left 35 to travel by sea and rail and by Monday afternoon we were all united, united except for the fact that half the party were staying at the Hotel Schweizerhof and half at Morosani's Post Hotel, both under the same ownership and separated only by a stretch of private grounds.

The journeys by all routes were uneventful and the run through Switzerland was the first experi­ence of hot sunshine and blue skies which the travellers had had for some weeks.  Then the rain returned—pitiless and torrential, hour after hour, causing rivers to rise and landslides to block cer­tain roads. We thought we had spent our money in vain. On the Tuesday afternoon many mem­bers of the party had an alarming experience when visiting the Via Mala Gorge—through which runs that evil stretch of turbulent water which is said to have inspired Dante, when first he gazed upon it, to write the lines:  “All hope abandon, ye who enter here”. The leading coach on approaching the gorge found its way blocked by a landslide on which Swiss military engineers were working with bulldozers. There was nothing for it but to turn back, a process which was attempted in reverse, while the rain roared on the roof and blotted out every­thing except the deep-throated thunder of the flood water racing down the gorge.

1956 Hotel Schweizerhof Davos MBM-Wi56P07

Hotel Schweizerhof, Davos

Then, tiring of this nerve-wracking procedure the larger of the two coaches managed to turn and the smaller attempted the same manoeuvre at a spot the choice of which was less fortunate.

1956 Local Squirrel MBM-Wi56P07.jpg

The squirrels in the woods near Davos were a great attraction

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Water was now swirling on the road from the side of the gorge and was rapidly rising up to the rear axle of the vehicle. Before the turn could be completed, the front part of the bus had to be edged right over a perilous drop, a manoeuvre which had been even more difficult for the larger vehicle. The move was successfully accomplished and it was later that we learned that at the most critical moment the people in the larger bus had been led by Mr. J. F. Carter in the singing of the 23rd Psalm, surely never sung in more appropriate circumstances.  Then the following night the rain turned to snow—deep and crisp and even, and the bus party returning over the pass from Lucerne sang “Jingle Bells”, “I'm dreaming of a white Christ­mas”, and “Good King Wenceslas”, instead of the more orthodox tunes for summer holidaymakers. We woke on Thursday morning in a Christmas Card world, a sparkling fairyland of snow and brilliant sunshine, fleecy clouds and blue skies, the air like wine and the light so bright that it hurt the eyes.

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1956 St Moritz MBM-Wi56P09.jpg

St Moritz

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On other days fleecy clouds tempered the heat of the sun and reminded us that the season in the high places was far advanced. The trips and expeditions undertaken by the members of the party, individually and col­lectively, were many and varied. The heated open-air bathing pool at Klosters was a great attraction for the children and its idyllic setting against the snowclad Alps proved an irresistible attraction to some of the grown-ups who went to watch them.


The ascent of the Schwarzhorn, dominating the Fliiela Pass, by Frank and Marie Parker, was an achievement at the other end of the scale, and in between there were the visits to Lucerne, to Cadenabbia on Lake Como, where the Bank party stayed in 1951; to Vaduz, capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein, where those who seek some relief from the burden of Swiss taxation find it profitable to dwell and travel in each day; to Lindau, on the shores of Lake Constance, in Germany; and to Feldkirch, capital of the Vorarlberg province of Austria.

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1956 Davos MBM-Wi56P11.jpg


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Another happy memory is of the afternoon on the Flüela Pass, with its two still lakes, one on each side of the road over the pass. One lake drains into the Rhine and ultimately into the North Sea, the other via the Inn into the Danube and eventually into the Black Sea.  The children spent the time playing in the snow, paddling in the icy water and scrambling up the foothills. The small and very select number who made the trip to the Alp Griim acclaimed it as the best of all the excursions, with wonderful views of Piz Palu and the glacier and of the other Bernina giants, St. Moritz and Pontresina being thrown in for extra measure on the way.

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1956 The heated Pool at Klosters MBM-Wi56P12.jpg

The heated Pool at Klosters

1956 Chair Lifts MBM-Wi56P07.jpg

So were the chair lifts (so far as the youngsters were concerned)

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This was the day which made the holiday for the children and if winter sport consists of snowballing the grown-ups mercilessly, then winter sport we had, all included in the price of a summer holiday and no extras, except for the hire of boots in which to enjoy the underfoot conditions to the full.  Then the walk in the woods with the rapidly melting snow avalanching off the trees, and skilfully*placed ambushes rejoicing the hearts of the children all the way home, while every direct hit was betrayed by a sodden patch on the clothes of the wearer. When the snow gave out, as it rapidly did at the lower levels, there came the delight of feeding the squirrels and birds which were so tame that they would alight on one's clothing and feed out of the hand. The snow departed and so did the rain. The sun came out and stayed out for the remaining ten days: some days the skies were cloudless and from nearby peaks a matchless view was obtained of the Bernina Range, forty miles away, and of the sugar loaf of the Piz Bernina.

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1956 Lake on the Flüela Pass MBM-Wi56P10.jpg

Lake on the Flüela Pass

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In addition, there were expeditions up the various lovely valleys which debouch into the main valley in which Davos is situated, trips to spectacular passes such as the Stelvio—the Three Passes tour involving the negotiation of 134 hairpin bends in one day. It is hard to say which was the most enjoyable, but the name of Martins Bank was well and truly spread on every chair lift, funicular and cable car for miles around. One of the outstanding memories was the quiet and lovely afternoon spent up the Sertig Valley, with John Howard fishing in the stream, Mrs. Papworth and Peter boiling water and making picnic tea for us all, after the peaceful stroll to the head of the valley to see the impressive waterfall. 

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1956 Crossing the Strela Pass MBM-Wi56P11.jpg

Crossing the Strela Pass

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Others made St. Moritz their main objective for a day's outing, and Chur the largest town in that part of Switzerland, proved a great attraction to those who discovered it. Martins Bank special shopping excursion to Vaduz and Feldkirch, the latter to obtain the advantage of the favourable rate of exchange, proved a real winner and stilled the complaints of some that never enough time was spent anywhere on most of the excursions. Well, it was on that excursion, and none who took part will forget the heavenly two hours spent in the Principality and in Austria. In the evening we all came together after dinner and talked of the experiences of the day or took part in various frolics so painstakingly and energetically organised by Pat O'Neill, the Poly representative at the Schweizerhof. One night each week there was a beetle drive, one night a dance at the Post, another a dance at the Schweizerhof.

We had a treasure hunt which finished in a nearby tavern, and a games night. Those who preferred a quiet evening, an evening stroll or a visit to some place of entertainment followed their own devices, complete freedom of choice being axiomatic. And so we came to the last night when, by common consent, we all gathered at the Schweizerhof for our fancy dress ball. And then, when all was ready to begin, came the sad news that Edna and Arthur Smith, who had left us that morning on the return journey by car to England, had met with an accident at Glarus, Edna being very gravely injured. We carried on with the dance as best we could, for we knew that that would have been her wish, but most of us had lead in our stomachs after hearing the news. We are glad to say that after several weeks in hospital in Switzerland Edna is now back in England and is making a good, though slow, recovery. We cannot conclude this account of our holiday without placing on record the names of those whose efficient service contributed so much to our happiness. Mr. Vinnicombe, Manager of the Independent Tours Department of the Polytechnic Touring Association, and his assistant, Mr. Nicholls, for their patience and courtesy in dealing with the intricate detail work beforehand; Pat O'Neill and David Hester, the Poly rep. and her assistant at Davos, whose labours on our behalf none but the writer can possibly fully appreciate. 

Mr. Kuhn, Manager at the Schweizerhof and probably the most efficient hotel manager in Switzerland, for his constant attention to our comfort; and we must not forget Franz, at the Post, who treated us all as his beloved children, his solicitude for our welfare being beyond praise. And many times during those happy days we thought of our dear friend, the late Commander R. G. Studd, whose interest in our holiday ventures was so keen and lively to the day of his death. His contribution by means of his holiday organisation to the happiness of so many thousands od people is quite beyond computation, and we have often thought how satisfying it must be to be able to feel that one has made so large a contribution to the sum of individual happiness. The tradition is established now —Switzerland, 1949; Italy, 1951; Austria, 1954; Switzerland, 1956. So many friendships made, so many happy memories of joys shared.

1956 German Swiss Austrian and Bavarian by E May Williams MBM-Wi56P12.jpg

German, Swiss (Nini), Austrian and Bavarian

Where shall we meet next time ? That remains to be decided, but one thing is certainly clear— there will be a next time.Friend­ship must be kept green and far beyond the joy of spending a few days together in foreign places is that deeper joy in each other, the memory and comfort of which will be with us when skies are grey and the sunshine seems far away. It is difficult to convey this feeling to someone who has not shared the experience, someone to whom our holidays seem to be just conducted tours, for these are things of the spirit. But assuredly we shall meet again, and talk together and laugh together as we have done in past years. Thank you all for your friendship, for the happiness you have given us, and for memories beyond price.

(All photos by the Editor, except the one of the four girls, which is by Miss E. May Williams)