Three little volumes in Special Collections give us a glimpse of winter holiday fun during the 1920s. Hullo Villars! Encore Villars! and Au Revoir Villars! are privately printed souvenirs of the Villars Revue, an annual show put on by English tourists in the Swiss town of Villars sur Ollon in aid of local charities.
The Revue was first held in 1914 in imitation of fashionable ragtime reviews, and revived 1920-1931. The writer Maurice B. Reckitt played a key role, writing lyrics and performing on the piano; his brother Geoffrey was the main singer. Each souvenir includes an introduction or retrospect by Maurice Reckitt, with lots of detail about the personalities involved, plus the programmes and most of the lyrics from each revue.
The lyrics usually praise Villars, the fun of ski-ing, skating and other winter sports, and the pretty girls to be met there, parodying popular songs and alluding to local ski runs and St Bernard dogs. There are plenty of bad puns and dubious rhymes: the combination of banana (a handy ski snack) and local area Taveyannaz (Taveyanne) appears several times. The downsides of the holidays – embarrassing falls, flu (best treated with gin and tonic), and problems with trains – also feature. Although it would be wonderful to have photographs too, the souvenirs do offer a lovely insight into the ski-ing life of the past.
The trio of Villars souvenirs came to us with the Peart-Binns Christian Socialist Archive: a collection of research material gathered by Yorkshire writer, John Peart-Binns, for his book Maurice B. Reckitt: a life. Two include Reckitt’s own bookplate, the third is inscribed (illegibly!) by him. Reckitt is best known for his ideas and writing about the relationship between Church and Society. It is pleasant to record also that, alongside his love of revues, Reckitt was enthusiastic about ballroom dancing and above all croquet. His Archive is held by University of Sussex Special Collections.