Great Yarmouth’s ‘deckchair man’ Dusty celebrates 80th birthday on the beach

PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 June 2013 | UPDATED: 12:00 08 June 2013

Dusty Miller who celebrates his 80th birthday this week and celebrating almost 60 years on the beach in Great Yarmouth.

Picture: James Bass

Dusty Miller who celebrates his 80th birthday this week and celebrating almost 60 years on the beach in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2013

With stripey deckchairs, parasols and windbreaks piled high behind him, Dusty Miller has been looking back at a life spent on Great Yarmouth’s golden sands as he reaches his 80th birthday.

Known by many as ‘the deckchair man’, dedicated Dusty celebrated his 80th birthday this week.

It was a special occasion for the hard-working father-of-three but that doesn’t mean he stopped to put his feet up or slouch back in one of his chairs.

Instead Dusty, who has now been renting deckchairs to holidaymakers on Yarmouth seafront for 57 years, was on hand to man the bright blue beach huts and make sure visitors were sitting comfortably.

Concession owner Dusty – real name Leslie – is the first to tell you times have changed since he was a boy from the Barrack Estate sent down to the beach with his eight siblings with a bag of jam sandwiches and told not to come home until 5pm.

But more than half a century after he started working on the beach, he stills lives and breathes Norfolk seaside.

“It’s a bit like a working holiday,” said Dusty.

“I started the deckchairs in 1956 when I came back from the Navy. I spent a couple of years working for private companies then I ended up with Great Yarmouth Borough Council for around 40 years, then I set up on my own. It wasn’t a big risk because I knew the business.

“When I started the beach was crammed full of people; there were probably 1,200 deckchairs from the Pleasure Beach to the North Denes up to the racecourse.

“It’s different now and a lot of people bring their own chairs because they buy them cheap, but we’re still in business.”

Today you can hire a deckchair from Dusty for £1.50 for a whole day. Fifty years ago he was renting them for a tanner - that’s sixpence in old money, the equivalent to two and a half pence now.

“It was a different world,” he admitted.

“Things have changed, but you can’t compare or complain.

“Not many people get to work outdoors their whole life. I was brought up on the beach. I love the freedom.”

In July and August, Dusty swims in the sea off Yarmouth three times a day. Even in winter, if he and his wife June are not on holiday abroad, he will be at the beach huts, feeding the birds and talking to passers by.

“You’ve got to be here every day, whatever the weather,” said Dusty.

“People know we’re always going to be here, that’s why it works.”

Dusty might be modest but June and her sister-in-law Joy Adams, who runs Joy’s Cafe just a stone’s throw from the deckchair huts, believe he deserved a little fuss on his 80th birthday.

“He’ll never give it up.” said Joy.

“He is so dedicated and he does so much. Even if it’s raining or grey, he comes down and says he’ll stick around just in case it clears up. His customers come back every year and everyone knows him.”

Still fit enough to carry the chairs and windbreaks and swim in the ocean, Dusty shows no signs of stopping but has slowed down a little because of arthritis in his knee.

To mark his 80th birthday on Thursday, Dusty tucked into a slice of cake at the beach hut.

He was joined by his three children, Paul, Debra and John, and five great grandchildren as well as great great grandson Riley, who like his parents before him and theirs before that have taken up the mantle of helping out at Dusty’s deckchair dynasty.

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