Back in the 60s I started my hotel management training with Trust House Hotels who are no longer in existence. It was a national company which owned quality hotels of all shapes and sizes. I was one of the first females the company decided to train in management which was, until then, a male dominated vocation.
My first trainee management post was at the Grand Atlantic Hotel, Weston-super-Mare. A splendid victorian building it rightly dominated the residential part of the promenade. In those days it was a 4 star hotel and definitely deserved that status but I see, from some comments on websites, that it has deteriorated badly in recent years. Such a shame that a building of great dignity should now be denied the tender loving care it received and appreciated for over 100 years.
At the Grand Atlantic I concentrated on the housekeeping and function part of my training and it was tough. Miss Reid, the housekeeper, took no hostages and her standards were exacting. We started work serving morning teas/coffees to bedrooms at 6am (no DIY trays in the rooms in those days!) and were lucky to finish before 4pm. A few of us had to also work evenings as each floor had to have staff available in case guests required laundry facilities, beverages and many of the other services which have now vanished. It sounds as if it was all work and no play but, to be honest, there was always time for laughter. Happy days.
During my time at the Grand Atlantic I met some 'superstars' such as Cary Grant, Patrick McGoohan (he used to use the outdoor pool early every morning and would be sitting in the sun lounge when I reported for work), Jayne Mansfield, Diana Dors and many more. Most were starring at the Weston Theatre which was widely recognised as one of the 'best in the west', but Cary Grant regularly visited because he still had family in the Bristol area.
What has all this to do with the pier fire yesterday? Well, the pier was only about 200 yards from the hotel and I have spent many a happy hour, at all times of the day, strolling down the pier just to relax. I didn't spend much money because I didn't earn much as a trainee and had a car to keep on the road. I know I received much more from this dignified victorian structure than I gave and I still appreciate that fact.
Thankfully the new owners have decided to rebuild it and I will definitely visit when it's completed. For me, I'm just happy I had the experiences of its differing atmospheres. The Grand Atlantic set me on a career path with a training which stood me in good enough stead for me to manage large hotels in Europe for some years and the pier at Weston-super-Mare was my therapeutic escape from a greatly enjoyable, although demanding, part of my career. Oh happy days!