Updated: Feb 22
Ever wondered what it was like to work at Pleasurewood Hills during the first season back in 1983? Extracts from this genuine diary will give you a glimpse of the life of an employee back in the early days of the park.
15th August 1983
Today I was on the “Death Slide”. It is a sheer drop of seven foot before it levels out. There were about five burns up to about 1.30pm, but it was only because they didn’t do as I said, or they went down without a T-shirt, even with my warning!
16th August 1983
I was an attendant on the “Biff and Bash”, and it was a long and boring day.
17th August 1983
I am cheerful and hopeful in the mornings, but then I was told that I was on the Bish and Bash again. I was more prepared than yesterday because I brought a book and the day went quite quickly, but I paid for my contentment because Charles, a foreman, warned me about my book at 12.30pm, and then at 3.30pm he saw me again with it. I opened the conversation, “About the book,” and I explained that I do my job properly, but it gets unbearably boring. He said he likes reading as well, but if I value my job I won’t read. I do value my job but I also value my sanity. That would have been a good answer but it didn’t come to me then.
17th August 1983
I was on Bish and Bash today but the day went quite quickly. At 5.45 though I thought I’d read a second chapter of my book, and I was caught. What rotten luck.
17th August 1983
It was the foreman’s day off today so I had a comfortable day reading at Pleasurewood Hills American Theme Park.
31st August 1983
Mum came to Pleasurewood Hills today and said how proud she was of me because I was so polite and good with the children. One thing that I have over the other attendants is that I want to see people enjoying themselves. On the Bumper Boats an attendant said to a girl who was already crying, “Turn your f***ing engine around” because she was spinning. When I was walking to the coffee room from the Death Slide I saw a girl in exactly the same position. She was very scared and no one was rushing to help her. I climbed over the fence and told her gently to turn the engine around. She did so, she stopped spinning, and went to the side where someone got her out.
11th September 1983
The BBC’s Radio One Roadshow came to Pleasurewood Hills, and I felt sick at the end of the day because I had been conned out of an interview on the radio. At 3.45 a maintenance man came up the Death Slide and said, “Go and get your bread mate.” I came back from my break early because I suspected what was going to happen and when I got back. Tony Blackburn was up there, and Charles my foreman was interviewed. He didn’t say much except his name and what the slide was made of but I felt sick.
18th September 1983
At the end of the day at Pleasurewood Hills I asked the manager, “Can I have a few words? I have a great idea which will be a great publicity stunt and also raise money for charity. Why not enter Woody Bear (the mascot of the park) for a half marathon.” He thought it a good idea except that he doesn’t think I’ll be able to do it. He said, “You’ll need a twelve man relay team to get him through.” Later on I tried the costume on. I saw the manager and said I could do it but the feet were too big. Another man said, “We could get another pair of shoes for you and cover it in felt.” Mr Larter, the owner of Pleasurewood Hills, said, “What’s this?” - so Mr Barnard the manager explained. Then Mr Larter said to me, “It certainly would be a great promotion gimmick and charity raiser.”
27th February 1984
Newspaper Article: "For most people the idea of running thirteen miles is daunting enough in itself but one Beccles schoolboy has decided to run his next half marathon in a bear suit. "I’m trying to get as many sponsors as possible and I thought the novelty of this would attract more people," he said. He is being lent the costume of Woody Bear because he works at Pleasurewood Hills occasionally. "I have only worn it once to see what it was like” he said, “but it will make it much more difficult. You get hot enough running a marathon without wearing a costume and it’s quite a weight.” He is confident that he will complete the course, although he said he would probably put in some extra training with heavy clothes, in addition to his usual six mile run twice a week."
13th March 1984
Pleasurewood Hills phoned. They want to get a lot of publicity for me and have a dress rehearsal. Apparently they’ve made a new Woody Bear suit for me which is much lighter. I have a feeling of guilt and worry because of my lack of training for the event. I’ve been on two six mile runs and a three mile runs and I was always tired after them.
6th April 1984
There was another news paper article about Woody Bear’s run again today. The worry that was going on at this time was intense. There’s nothing worse than feeling so unenergetic, and doing hardly any physical activity, but at the same time knowing that on Sunday there was miles to be covered to maintain the reputation of Woody Bear and myself.
8th April 1984
I looked in the mirror and said, “This is your day of fame.” As it turned out it was Woody’s. After we were all off, the pattern began which I was to follow throughout the course. I waved to everybody I thought would wave back, and then I waved to everybody because they all waved back. I reached Beccles at 1.00pm. Dad told me afterwards that he had heard a child saying, “When’s the bear coming?” to which the dad replied, “Not long now.” I was greeted with applause everywhere. Practically everybody who had a camera took a picture of me. One person took a cine film of me.
12th July 1984
A lady congratulated me on my patience with the children today, however my former extreme patience has declined. On the bumper boats there was a boy who was irritating me because I was shouting, “Can you come in please,” but he was continuing to muck about. Eventually his boat hit a boat I was securing to the side, so that water spayed up and sprayed my face. I lost my temper and shouted, “Can you come in now please.” His parents were nearby and understood. Keeping the Veteran Cars going round, so that everything runs smoothly, is one of my priorities – and therefore when people are loading up and they are really taking their time, I’ll set the car going before it is fully loaded, if it seems I can get away with it. Usually this causes no hassle because people think it’s a mistake, or else they don’t mind. However when I separated a child from her family the father wasn’t at all pleased and used the occasion to use all the swear words he knew at me. One can see the contrast in people when a few days later I did exactly the same thing and the mum and dad were smiling and joking about it. All night I dreamt I was operating the Veteran Cars.
17th July 1984
I was on the Fantasy Boat Ride today, which requires that I press a start button over and over again. The best part of the day was between 1.30 – 2.30 when I was in a state of half sleep.
18th July 1984
After a day on the Veteran Cars I rose out of my bed in my sleep and pulled over a cupboard, thinking I was pulling a car along, making all the things that were on top of the cupboard fall off.
9th August 1984
I have been known to boast to you about my kind and caring attitude towards the customers at Pleasurewood Hills, however I did find a limit to my kindness. Shawn advised me that we ought to tell our boss about Vernon. He’s an absolute manic on the Vereran Cars, lifting the handle up to start them when people are half way in the car. I’ve witnessed his madness, and also when I relieve Vernon for his dinner I find that people getting in and out the cars, are hesitant and afraid – looking at me to see if I am going to lift the handle. But my concern for the public didn’t go as far as reporting him, because no doubt if Vernon didn’t do the Veteran Cars, I would do the job more regularly, and I prefer doing the “Crazy Golf”. When I relieved Vernon today I simply said, “John (our boss) said would you buck up.” That made him sit up.
13th August 1984
I’m quite enjoying Pleasurewood Hills at the moment, but even so my day was livened up when this boy from the Veteran Cars came to chat to me. There’s this plastic orange in the “Crazy Golf” hut, and as I was handing out change to people, he was handing out the golf stuff. I’ve never laughed so much for ages when he gave this boy a golf club and a plastic orange instead of a golf ball. The boy went off and played with it.
Extracts from David Matthew's personal diaries entitled "Portrait of a schoolboy".