Do You Remember the 60s?
...no, not really, give me a break I was only a nipper. But this is what I do remember... If this stirs anything for you please email with your memories, mine are fading fast...
Long, Long Ago (before that phrase was copyright), in a galaxy without VCR's, credit cards, ATM's, cell phones, microwaves, the internet, seat belts, child seats, bin liners, photocopiers, windsurfing and well, you get the idea....When batteries were U2's and never around on Christmas Day...when we Went to Work on an Egg...When Dymotape was high tech...
Outside Aunty Betts
In the beginning...
I was born in 1960, above a butchers shop in St Pauls, Bristol, I'm still hoping for a plaque. I started this because I keep getting "remember when..." emails that are all very interesting but written by some bloke in Arkansas. So no, I don't remember wax bloody coke bottles and the only car I ever saw with fins was a Ford Zodiac. So I wanted this nostalgia to be from my time and my place. A Bristol Suburb (estate) from a perspective about the same age that my kids are now, from stabilizers to derailleurs, about 1964 - 1970 for me. Not particularly a golden age, between Baby Boomers and Generation X, allegedly it was the swinging sixties but not to a 7 year old. My head just has fragments of what was going on rattling around in it. You can look up the history, the rock n roll years, or Google for all the well trodden nostalgia like Daleks and Hancock. This is about what I remember of day to day stuff. My parents wanted my sister and I to have everything they hadn't, the same sentiment as I have with mine; they also worried about spoiling us.
This was pre-decimalization. A hapenny was half a penny, good for 4 mojos or fruitsalads at the newsagent. Tupence was two penny's and a popular cats name, not a separate coin, but three pennies was a thrupenny bit; thick, brass and with 12 sides. A silver sixpence was a tanner, a good choking size for puddings and the tooth fairies standard rate. 12 pennies made a shilling or bob. A half-crown was 2 shillings and sixpence, written 2/6d, a big substantial coin and my pocket money later. Never saw a crown that I recall but 5 bob would be written as 5/-. Notes started at 10 shillings or 10 bob note, these and postal orders for any amount are why my generation still shake their birthday cards when they open them. There were 20 shillings in a pound note and 21 bob in a guinea. Posh stuff was priced in guineas, no idea why. Everyone always mocks the eccentricity of 12 pennies to the shilling, 20 shillings to the pound but it was a very practical currency. 12 is a very sharing number, divisible by 2, 3, 4 & 6. Base 10 is great for mathematics but less useful for divvying up when small people have their hands out expectantly. The tables necessary to convert old pennies to new pence in the 70's were quite something. Georges second hand bookshop on Christmas Steps just refused, even though that was illegal, he carried on marking his dusty books up in Old Money until the end of his days.
When, "When I was Kid...", Meant Something
Much like now, when I force my kids to watch Dr Who, my parents relived their childhoods through me and my sister. So my early years are very much a mixture of my own activities and their much older ones that they thought we should try. It had mixed success, as it does now for me with my kids. Like every generation of Bristolian they were forced to try the natural rock slide up on the Clifton Downs, fenced off or not, because my parents made me do it too. Oh, stop crying, Wheee!
We weren't old but there was old stuff all around, the litter of my parent’s generation. Vietnam wasn't our war; it was just something strange on the news. My generation didn't have a war, not until we yomped into 1982, but our parents did. They had stories; we had uncles and grandparents who had been in a proper war, some of them two. If they hadn't, then they'd done National Service where they'd seen (and touched) foreign parts. There were tales to tell either way.
Friends who lived in older houses still had air raid shelters in the garden, I guess many still do. Some concrete, some corrugated iron. We played in them, and people grew rhubarb near them for some reason. It never got eaten, possibly because of the kids confusion about shelters and outside loo's - which were also still around at various Auntie's houses. My cousins and I played with rusty bayonets we found in the attic, swords even - I learned fencing produced lots of little nicks down the length of the blade. It's a miracle I have eyes and limbs after some of the war games my cousins and I played with real edged weapons. Some of my friends kept their trousers up with National Service belts right up to secondary school. Short trousers of course, changing to Long Trousers was a right of passage around about 8 I think. Long trousers on a kid would wear out too fast; bare knees were self repairing, more or less.
View From the Balcony
I just about remember living in a one room flat on St Pauls road in Clifton. Just up the road from the office where Aunty Bett worked on the triangle near the Victoria Rooms fountains. Seeing the fountains on (rare) was an early thrill. The flat had a balcony which at one point contained an old baby bath full of tadpoles caught from the pond on The Downs, where we spent a lot of time. For logic I can't fathom now I committed froggy genocide by peeing into the tub. I can still remember thinking about doing it, then doing it, but can't recall why. There was a strange and dark garbed lady who lived in the top flat, I used to sit on the step outside her door for more un-rememberable reasons. I had my first nightmare, a guided safari tour down a long striped tunnel ending with a tiger attack. Too much Time Tunnel on TV and trips to Bristol Zoo I am guessing. Got me in a screaming sweat and woke my parents anyway. That and Dad training Sleak-Streak balsa planes to do tricks on the downs is about all I remember.
Aunty Bet and Uncle Dennis lived in a tower block, it had a great view, I don't remember seeing any muggers or graffiti. They had orange curtains and a picture of some blue skinned Indian looking lady on the wall, it came from Woolworths I think, there was a series of them and everyone had one, even us. Plaster ducks flew the walls long before Hilda Ogden made them a joke, you could win them at the fair just like the Black Panther with the jewel eyes (I still have one, plaster of Paris with black tar poured over it). The goldfish with a life expectancy of 2 hours was another good prize.
Welcome to Garden Downs Estate
They were still building Stockwood when we arrived. The Garden Downs Estate as my parents wrote on their address for many years. There is a picture of 4 year old me sitting on a bulldozer in the field behind what would become our neighbors’ houses. "I remember when all this was fields...” no really. When they finished turning meadows into roads and houses, they colored in the waste ground that some places backed onto with Old Peoples Homes. Those building sites were my playgrounds. We played The Somme in the foundation trenches, climbed like Batman over the scaffolding and played hide and seek in the chimneys. I still get nostalgic for my childhood when I smell wet cement and plaster. We collected nails and the skeletal bow tie shaped wire ties that go between brick courses and flicked them at each other. Never even saw an adult to warn us off the potential hazard zones. Good job nobody was stupid enough to leave their tools around, but we did try, and fail, to start up the cement mixer once.
There was a very old house in a field where the BS14 Club and Stockwood Green School now stand. We would explore and scare ourselves playing in this place, though you had to watch out for the bigger kids. It had a lean-to greenhouse, inevitably short of windows, where every kid swore some other kids had seen an old man looking out.
Nobody had a telephone; you walked to the one on the other side of The Grove which had complicated instructions to contact an operator and "Press Button B". Contact with neighbors was made over the fence while hanging out the washing or in my house banging on the wall with the poker (the dents are still there). When people did start having phones they started off as party lines, sharing a number with a neighbor or five. Phones were wholly and completely owned by the General Post Office, only available in black and made of that wonderful non-plastic Bakelite. The GPO only grudgingly rented them to you so you had better be looking after them. The phone (single, there was only one) was always kept in the coldest and most distant part of the house, near to where the wire came in, because the GPO didn't trust your house enough to go trailing their precious cables through it, oh no. Our phone number was 4 digits long, 5349; it had 83 added in front of it in the 70's to the dismay of my parents.
No Place Like Home
Central heating meant the fireplace in the center of the room and you learned to keep the doors closed behind you. "Put the Wood in the hole", "Were you born in a barn" were all familiar jocularisms bandied about of a long winters evening. Carpets were definitely not wall to wall and a fireguard was placed up front to protect the rug and the dog from tumbling coals. There was a big concrete bunker the size of a small shed in the back for storing the coal. Actually coke, as it was called, a refined allegedly smokeless variation. My Aunty Bett & Uncle Stan had an older house with a cellar; the coal was actually delivered by a bloke in a Donkey Jacket hefting Hundredweight bags of coal that he then emptied down a circular hole in the ground, her coal-hole, as it were. Yeah, caused a chuckle. Bags of coal came in canvas bags with a round metal seal on the top attached by wire. Coal was taken into the house in a coal scuttle that stood by the fire ready for a top up, putting more coal on was very manly to small boys. Fires had to be cleaned out and coke produced "clinkers", twisted and fused sculptures of ash and coal, smashed up gleefully with the poker.
Food was not nuked in the microwave before serving, that's cheating. It was an orchestration of bubbling pots and pans leading up to a miracle of steam and timing. If you were late, dinner was thrown in the oven with a second plate on top, so when you got it, it was surrounded by a tidemark of hardened gravy and burned your mouth. It served you right, being late for dinner was a sin deserving of a starving Biafrans lecture. Biafra was starving before Ethiopia, but there was no Geldoff back then, just Blue Peter (Valerie Singleton in mini-skirt and kinky boots) and collecting old wool clothes to raise money. No Ebay neither, real rag and bone men were involved in converting the bags of old jumpers and scarves to cash. It would have been easier to just ask for money but that just wasn't done. Charity came from donating aluminium foil milk bottle tops and other things that were fundamentally, well, garbage. They always exceeded their targets too, amazed that the red line painted to track donations always went off the scale and ended up threading miles through BBC corridors. Apparently they consistently aimed low or someone wasn't very good at measuring.
Our families staples were faggots, beef burgers (no buns, covered in gravy and onions), fish-fingers, stew with dumplings and meat and kidney pie (steak? I doubt it...). Vegetables came from the greengrocers (Rogers & Harris's), and were brought home in mum's own shopping bag that went everywhere with her. They were peeled, shelled or sliced as a family activity in the afternoon when the test card was on. Meat from the butchers (Dewhurst's) was whatever was cheap (I have eaten every animal body part from hoof to tongue). There was no local supermarket for years. There was a Newsagent that sold everything from shoelaces to Plasticine (modeling clay vastly superior to Playdoh) and Newspapers of course. It closed at 5pm like everything else and only opened a half day on Wednesdays. Only Off-licenses opened at night, Sunday of course everything was universally shuttered and closed. There was a whole lack of 24 hourness, if you needed anything; from petrol to food, after 6 you were shafted. The Off-license was only good for drinks and Oxo flavored crisps. On the other hand, if you were sick, the doctor would come to visit you, at your own bedside, 24 by 7. The clinic provided special government issue Welfare Orange Juice (never tasted anything like it since...) in square glass bottles. We had a spoonful of Cod-Liver Oil & Malt then popped Haliborange vitamin C tablets to stay healthy. Plus there was school milk of course, that didn't end until Thatcher (Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher). A class ritual was the Milk Monitor plunging an official nail through the foil milk bottle top for a special short straw.
Furniture was a three piece suite and a sideboard, a pouffe if you were posh, we had orange cushions. The Royale Family had it pretty much spot on. Kids got the pouffe or the floor. The sideboard had everything crammed into it, booze behind the sliding doors, bills in the top drawer and knitting needles in the middle ones. On top was a fruit tray that never saw any fruit, a coffee percolator that I never saw percolate (it was years before I even knew that all coffee wasn’t instant, I used to take the percolator apart, it had interesting innards) and a biscuit barrel containing ESSO Smurfs, Mexico World Cup coins (which would haunt the place for years), plastic diddymen, air gun darts, cigarette cards, tea cards and buttons. All valuable stuff, mind you. Burglars in those days would no doubt go straight to the biscuit barrell.
Other activities when at home with mum were watching the Baby Burco boiler do the laundry. Waiting for the water to run clean and chasing my sister with the tongs to pass the time. A washing machine didn't appear for a long time and when it did it wasn’t plumbed in, the hoses slipped over the taps. Washing was hung on the line and carrying the laundry basket and handing up clothes pegs was another kid duty. Wet shirts flapping into your face was one memory, synchronizing hands and walking together to fold sheets was another. Everything was ironed. I played in the wooden box under the stairs where all the old toys ended up and mums metal laundry hamper which I could just about climb into. My friends had the Ali Baba type laundry baskets which were just our size and the washing line basket made a passable Dalek when you were under it.
Pretending We Are Out
No such thing as direct debit existed and wage packets were real envelopes containing actual money; few notes, many coins. During the week nights all sorts of blokes (and the Avon Lady, with her box of makeup - "Avon Calling!") would show up on the doorstep and collect money to be written into a little book. There would often be a scramble and an argument when the doorbell rang, sometimes we would be shushed and the TV turned off until they went away. I'm not sure what exactly they where all collecting for and anything money related was out of bounds for young enquiring minds. One guy was a feature of the evenings for years and years though. This bloke was called Eddie Eaton, the greeting routine between Dad and Ed would go "Alright Big Al..." responded to with "Alright Big Ed...) at which they would both laugh, every week, Except those weeks where we didn't have the money. I found out many years later he was collecting for my life Insurance Savings, where I would get all of 100 pounds when I hit 21. My parents dropped this when I was 17 and they realized it was going to be worth bugger all to me. A different bloke showed up for the Football Pools, (almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the Lottery), usually a young guy who would play with the kids in the street for a bit "What's the Time Mr Wolf..." Nothing about that was ever weird or wrong.
What's that Smell?
Other characters roaming the streets were early recycling pioneers - actual rag and bone men driving slowly down the street in a battered flat bed truck (shouting "ey-up-romba" if what I can still remember echoing round the streets is accurate), greengrocers operating out of the back of Vans and door to door salesmen who really would stick their foot in the door if you were a bit slow. The Alpine truck would deliver over-large bottles of Pop that would be flat by the next day. We even had peddlers, people who would sharpen your knives and scissors for you, I can actually picture some guy sitting on our doorstep and doing this with a foot-spun grinding wheel. Not to forget the bloody Gypsies of course, offering to tarmac your drive, before "travelers" swelled the ranks of the shifty. My mum was afraid of being cursed and would often buy clothes pegs or Lucky Heather from Gypsy women on the doorstep.
Oh yes, the dump too. Stockwood was right next to a big rubbish tip, a landfill; The summer before secondary school a mate and I spent a lot of time trolling through that, unaware of third worldness of it all. You could just find some really great stuff. Probably did wonders for the development of my immune system. Favorite finds were ball bearings, loud speakers, light bulbs and valves (vacuum tubes) which made a nice pop when you threw them, half empty lemonade bottles which were worth sacrificing the deposit for so you could shake them up and throw stones until they exploded. We found a bag of syringes once (even I cringe at that now, they were big so something to do with farming I'm guessing, great water pistols...amazing we are alive really). Dirty magazines were an exciting find but we didn't really do anything but giggle and throw them away again. My parents always gave me a hard time about visiting the dump and I could never understand how they knew where I'd been.
Normal Service Will be Continued As Soon As Possible
TV's were big, but with small screens, they had their own spindly legs that they stood on and you changed channels by turning a clunky numbered dial on the front. The remote control was the youngest child of the house. They were made of wood, plastic didn't exist (well, not as we know plastic now, Bakelite was a plastic like substance that caught fire when it got hot). The TV took time to warm up and needed to cool off, it had to be unplugged physically from the wall socket every night lest there be dire consequences (My parents and most of their generations still do this, confuses the hell out of my visiting kids when the remote control won't turn the TV on in the morning). As well as the volume control and switch there was a vertical and horizontal hold control that had to be tweaked as the telly warmed up, it was an art. A color TV was as fanciful an idea as owning your own black and white one; all tellys were rented.
This being England the choice of service was BBC or ITV; Harlech Wales & West for our area. BBC 2 was experimental. There were no morning shows, AM TV was Schools Programs or Open University on BBC 2. Watch with Mother was around noon and then it was the Test Card until 4pm. Now, some of you think you remember the test card, a picture of lines, grids and a young girl at a chalkboard? No, not that one, that's the New Colour Test Card, my generation had the far less interesting B&W 425 line one.
End of TV for the nation was 11pm signaled by the National Anthem, followed by a high pitched whine and a single dot in the center of the screen.
One extra channel could be picked up in our area by trying to tune in the Welsh Language version of HTV, but that did involve twisting the Antenna so every other channel was buggered. A slight drawback being that all the newscasters and announcers spoke only Welsh with a scattering of odd English words and Names for which there was no translation, amusing long before The Fast Show and Butrose-Butrose Gali.
For most of the day though, the TV had nothing on. You think there is nothing on TV now? Hah! Most of the daylight hours there was just the test card. When there was supposed to be something on but it was interrupted for technical problems, you got the Do Not Adjust Your Set message displayed. The friendly hint that, no this time it wasn't your telly but our fault; it was so often used it became a joke. There was even a satirical show named after it. Sometimes they would put filler in between shows, a man making a clay pot at a wheel or something. BBC 2, when it was struggling to its feet, was fond of showing scenes from some Expo, lots of clockwork gizmos and art with robotic faces, accompanied by good old sixities Pah Pah music. Often it was not that exciting. The lead in to Tinker & Taylor, a glove puppet and a bloke who read birthday dedications in advance of some cartoons, was simply an analogue clock ticking down, accompanied by martial music. An animated short got played a lot; Day-Oh! No, you're too loud man, animated guy moves further and further away...
The radio was on all the time, the same as the telly is now. There was no UK Pop music station; Radio 1 wouldn't appear for years and even then it timeshared with Radio 2, going off air at 6pm. But you could explore the world with a radio, no FM, no stereo but Long Wave, Medium Wave and Short wave bands. Some radios had exotic sounding countries printed on the tuning dials. Broadcasts would drift, tuning would wander and you got to really enjoy fuzz and white noise. The battery for our portable transistor radio was 9 volt, huge and could be used as a doorstop when it was done. Forces favorites did requests for some pretty far flung outposts and there was always the shipping forecast to enjoy – I got a slight thrill when they said Bailey west 4 or 5 veering northwest ...I believe it's still broadcast four times a day.
Stereo hadn’t happened, there was only mono whether you were talking Dansette’s or Gramophones that took up a whole sideboard. Though they were old fashioned even then, gramophones with real needles like a metal thorn and wind up handles were still around and in use. There was one in the hall at the Old People Home where my mum used to take us sometimes with her cleaning job.
Ah yes! Excellent! Love the record player one, yep, that funny long spindle contraption for stacking records...I forgot the needle change thing, you could flip the cartridge over on the newer styluses...when records started to skip you would put a penny on the stylus...Floppy records, forgot those, they usually needed coins to weight them down too which led to just seeing how many coins you could stack on the turntable anyway. Coins led to ball bearings and marbles, if only my parents knew...I am sure Blue Peter came up with a fighting ball bearings game based on that, magnets on the turntable, cardboard box over the top full of bearings…Our Prinzsound Music Center wouldn't show up until the 70's.
Ah, I used to have One of Those...
Unlike now, you didn't need a set of bolt cutters to get your toys out of their box on Christmas Day, but chances are you would be out of luck for batteries or glue for Airfix models. Airfix or the slightly naffer American Revell model airplanes were always constructed on our solitary tea tray, the only time it got used. Batteries used to be cardboard tubes that leaked when they ran down; you could get a couple more minutes out of them by sticking them on the radiator. If we get into the collectable Dinky, Matchbox, Corgi, Britains, etc, toys I had, you had, we all had - and destroyed, in various spectacular ways - I will get depressed. We all had Chitty Chitty Bang Bang didn't we? Who knows where those children in the back went...We all had 007's Aston Martin, I even had the silver one with the wheel shredders. Yes, the incredibly valuable one now, argh! I always wanted the UFO Interceptor in the Window at Ken Davies toyshop in Stockwood, it was too expensive for me at the time and ironically, thanks to Ebay, it still is.
My favorite presents were torches (I still have an odd obsession with them), Airfix models (but not ships, boring), a battery powered projector with a long frame of Loony Tunes slides you viewed one at a time, spirograph (I liked the gear combinations that produced endless art rather than the ones that closed up into a flower or something). One year I got a whole bunch of Major Matt Mason spaceman stuff including an inflatable tent, a friend and an alien but not the space crawler, sadly. Cool though, I played with him until his helmet got lost and the wire skeleton inside broke; he went all floppy, don’t you hate it when that happens? You couldn’t help but be disappointed when presents turned out to be clothes, you could tell by the shapeless parcel. I got a clockwork Nautilus on my 8th birthday from my friend across the street, Craig, he had been going on about it for weeks so I hope he appreciated the show of appreciation I had to put on for him. Annuals were always good and could also be used to build forts. I’ve still got most of them too. I wish I could remember more of the presents I was lucky enough to be given over the years, um, Hot Wheels, Corgi Electro Rockets, Scalectrix, A trainset (that I broke so early on I don’t remember it ever going, I used to roll marbles along the big landscaped track), Action Man Space Capsule, Haunted House Game, Meccano, all the usual, we all had these I guess. Ones you could rely on back then but you rarely see any more were geometry sets that included a useless but lethal set of dividers and a set square you could use as Marine Boy's boomerang. A pantograph was another that showed up a couple of time, no, nothing to do with Witchcraft, google it to find out how we managed before photocopiers.
My memories of Christmas are playing with my toys behind the sofa while some movie was on. It was always too hot due to Turkey preparation side effects, steam, ovens and the tension coming from mum. I seem to remember I always did well for presents and there was the after glow of stacking postal orders, book tokens and 10 bob notes. Would have been nice to have some U2 batteries and Airfix glue around though.
Safety and Political correctness where unknown, despite the kite mark. I had spinning tops that rested on a small plastic disc easily removed to reveal a wicked point. Paint was lead based and teddy bear stuffing highly flammable. I loved getting guns; cap, spud or dried pea. My green William Tell Crossbow was made of sheet metal and could manage a whole extra length of knicker elastic. I removed the sucker at the end of the stick it came with and took a pencil sharpener to it. Pity about the cat. My favourite was a plastic Sten sub-machine gun, the magazine ratcheted into the body as you fired it to emerge on the other side, and you then pushed it back over like a typewriter to start again.
Can you still get caps? Newsagents and toy stores sold them, thin strips of paper with a tiny blob of gunpowder, they came in little round paper cases the size of a bottle top. Caps went bang on impact; either just for the noise in cap guns or to actually propel something like a piece of potato. Spud guns never lived up to your expectations. The black Lone Star spud gun was the one I had most often. It looked like a revolver and had a side loading chamber into which you place a small cartridge with potato embedded at one end and a cap at the other. A cap? One? Yeah, right, you folded as many caps into a Z as you could and supercharged it. Big bang, vaporized spud that shot off who knows where. That little cartridge always got lost though, maybe it melted.
Caps also went into metal missiles, bombs and grenades that you threw into the air to bang when they hit the pavement. There was a poor mans version of these bombs too, two bolts screwed into either end of the same nut, packed with z-folded caps, tightened just enough so that a bang on the ground would set them off. Sometime took a few hurls but that was part of the fun. We shouldn't forget too, the wasteful but satisfying fizz of pulling a whole strip of caps across your finger nail or scratched with a coin if you were a wuss. Ah, the smell...
A catapult was the most offensive weapon available. Not the silly wooden ones characters in The Beano used, these were made of cast metal. I once witnessed a fight where one kid held the leather end and let go the metal handle into the other kids face. Nasty. They were forbidden to me, I eventually made one from a coat hangar, hardware stores actually sold catapult elastic by the foot, was there some legitimate use for it? I still have it, in my garage, right now. Hmm...
Big things were purchased used, from the paper or a friend, or in easy payments on the never-never. Green shield stamps were given as a bonus on purchases at many shops. You collected them and stuck them into books, pink shield stamps were exclusively a co-op thing I think and not nearly as useful. You needed a lot of stamps to fill a book and a lot of books to get something worthwhile out of the catalog, I think an Airfix Kit would cost about two books.
I liked the Clarks Wayfinder shoes with compass in the heal and animal track patterns on the soles but our next door neighbor was a lorry driver for Tuff Shoes, so we wore whatever fell off of that. We did get some nice plastic tribal masks with one set of shoes. Oh, and of course we grew into things rather than have them fit first time.
Crazes would happen at school and in the street, some sort of toy or game would suddenly become popular. Stilts might appear but I never knew anyone who bought stilts, they were universally made by Dad. Likewise if it snowed Dad would knock up a sledge. Conkers, marbles, bubble gum cards would show up at school for seasonal or no reason and dominate the playground.
Comics would do promotions every now and then when circulation flagged. They would give away a cheap free gift like a banger - a triangular fold of paper that would unfurl with a bang when flicked. I liked the plastic pop gun; powered with enough extra elastic bands you could get a pencil to penetrate a cornflake packet. What was the point of the trifold cardboard thing with the cuts that allowed you to put a policemans head on a ballet dancers torso with a footballers legs? Funny for about 2 seconds.... Comics always carried adverts for instant stamp collector kits, it was a bit of a con because it said it was free, the small print being only if you bought this other junk too and committed to being a long term sucker. I sent off for one and just hid it when the threatening letters started to arrive asking me to pay or send it all back. I've still got it and I still feel vaguely guilty about it even though the adult side of my brain (not a highly developed area) tells me they were con artists. Clickers were another pointless freebie. a piece of metal stressed so it "clicked" when bent, oh the long winter evenings just flew by...
Cereal manufactures would do the free gift promotion too. As well as plastic nasties they would put stickers in the box, Action Transfers that you rubbed a pen over to make them stick on a scene printed on the box. Divers and Underwater, A Space Scene, you could place your transfers anywhere you liked, and they got everywhere, but if you rubbed the pen too hard it all got a bit 3-d in a bad way. You could also collect packet tops and send away for something big, Made in Hong Kong.
Petrol stations stuff, definitely, Mexico World Cup coins and Olympics medals, you got the big cardboard cutouts to put them in, must be some of those around on Ebay. As well as the glasses, toys and junk, one of the coolest I remember was a James Bond promotion where ESSO gave you stick-on Bullet Holes for your windscreen and windows.
I don't remember who claims to have invented the skateboard but like everyone else I placed last years annual over my strap on skates to go haring down any slope I could find. Pram wheels were in great demand to make carts out of. Nothing complicated a scaffolding plank and a big bolt for the steering. Bikes didn't come in a wide variety of sizes appropriate for different ages, you screwed wooden blocks on to peddles until you could reach. Stabilizers (training wheels) where the ultimate in instability, you would usually lose one somewhere along the line too so it depended which way you were trying to turn as to how wobbly you were. Helmets? Don't make me laugh...
Every now and then a Fair would show up on some waste ground. Never mind "Theme Parks" the thrills of the fair came not from the size of the rides but the chance of real harm coming to you from under maintained equipment quickly bolted together on any old bit of field. The certain knowledge that anyone to sue, complain to or beat up will have scarpered by the weekend was, um, quaint. Dodgems seemed to always have a Teddy Boy hanging off the electric pole at the back in a very cool way, nonchalant to the carnage around him. The Waltzers came with a deranged Gypo shouting "Didyersayfaster...?" to your white knuckles as he gave your chair another spin. Toffee apples were always rotten in the middle and once you'd eaten the big thick lump of caramel off the top where they had lain to set, you were bored of them anyway. Candy floss could be compressed to an ice cube sized ball for the instant sugar hit. My kids do this now, no prompting from me, must be instinct.
Don't Miss Next Weeks Thrilling Installment!
We watched Laurel and Hardy films at the church hall Saturday morning, only time I ever went near a church. They collected shillings from us all to show Black and white American serials, westerns and awful sci-fi where the smoke from the model rockets drifted up into the air. We knew we were watching crap, Dr Who was higher quality, even then. It was a chance to be in a room with other kids, cheering for the villains, laughing at the cowboys. It ended with stacking those folding wooden chairs away, the type you always saw in drill halls (see, another war legacy), village halls and community centers (the more 60's name). Did we play cowboys and Indians? I don't remember it, we played War a lot. Bob Monkhouse showed old Silent Movies each week on the telly (Mad Movies) so I know who Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin were; I doubt very much my kids will.
Movies had an intermission, a break in the middle. You could buy drinks, maltesers and opal fruits from the stall before you went in but for some reason Dad liked to buy our snacks in the Intermission. A woman in tights would appear (oh, now I see...) with an illuminated tray full of ice creams and cigarettes. The light from the tray made the square Ki-Ora orange containers glow in a suitably alluring way. Ki-Ora always tasted of plastic and got you in trouble for the empty dragging on the straw noise. They would also sound like geese honking if you pulled the straw up and down. Butterkist popcorn may have been there, but we didn't do popcorn. The tray also had tubs of ice cream with separate wooden spoons. Movies were made with an intermission in mind, the worst one I ever saw was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where the intermission broke-in just as the car went off a cliff, I’m still emotionally scarred. Films were also continuously shown, so if you arrived early you saw the end first, happened quite a few times.
Cinemas, The Pictures, only showed one film at a time but there was more to it than that. As well as the A Movie, the main feature, there was the B Movie, which was often awful. Disney movies came with some terrible nature documentaries which I have since learned were largely faked. Those lemmings were forced off that cliff people! Two A Movies was a double feature. As well as the movies there were Pearl & Dean Adverts (Pa-Pa Pa-Pa Pahh!) or a cheery "Look At Life" social commentary.
There were photographs in the Lobby of key scenes from the movies you were about to watch, upcoming films too. My mum was an Usherette in her youth, considered a glamorous job at the time. She would use a torch to show you to your seat. There were choices of seat, the circle was expensive and was the broad balcony upstairs, the stalls were for the likes of us. I've got a feeling the National Anthem was played...and we stood up. Not all cinemas were equal; there were ones that showed New films and cheaper ones that had to wait until the films aged a bit. You could catch films later as they went to progressively down market cinemas. Gaumont, Odeon, Gaiety was our usual food chain. Films were classified as "U" for Universal, anyone could see it. "A" was adult; under 16's needed a parent with them. "X" was only to be wondered at if you were under 16. Lord Harlech's signature on the black censor card is still how you know the movie is about to finally start. Seats had ash trays in the back; they were hinged at the bottom to empty them when the cleaners flipped them down. Which obnoxious teenagers helpfully did to each one they passed their way to the exit.
Ah, them wer't days...
The slide on Clifton Downs. When I was a kid the concrete patch at the bottom wasn't there...a big hole was
Dad volunteers for National Service
View from the balcony of the St Pauls Road flat, Lord Mayors coach lumbers by
Helping to build the Garden Downs Estate, Stockwood, now twinned with Beirut
Stockwood Shops before skateboards and glue sniffing
Swings made of good old steel, none of this rubber and soft coatings rubbish
The Test Card, must see TV for the 60's
|The Prinzsound Music Center, stolen picture from Ebay - overpriced at 0.99 pounds...
Airfix B17G, one of the many I remember building, models were always welcome gifts at Xmas
Lone Star Spud gun image nicked from Ebay
Jenny Agutter as Usherette
The Gaiety cinema in Knowle, RIP.
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