Remembrance of Things Past

Mostly about growing up the 1950s in Ilford, Essex.


[113] All Manner of Things Shall be Well

I am coming near to the end and I want to do a broad summary. It will be a bit rambling, without any pictures and full of sweeping generalizations. I have put in lots of links so you can find out more details.


I don’t want to give you pages and pages of Terms and Conditions as we seem to get nowadays but I just want to make it plain that these are my views. For the Fifties they are the memories of a young boy brought up in a large family in Ilford with no knowledge of life outside my family and school. Even in the Sixties I knew little outside my small world. News and information from television and newspapers was far more restricted than today


We had virtually nothing of modern technology. There were fixed line Telephones, which we hardly ever used – more or less just for occasional local calls. Our house had Electricity but we didn’t have many uses for it. We had an electric iron and very, very occasionally in winter an electric fire might be used. Basically electricity was for lights. All the things you now think of as automatic just didn’t happen. We survived without Computers.

If you wanted to write anything you used a pen or pencil. Offices used Typewriters, which were only used by typists and Newspapers were produced by a complex, cumbersome labour-intensive process taking several hours.

For Photographs we had cameras and photographic film. You might take 36 shots in a week’s holiday and then wait a week for a single tiny print of each one. We did have Cinemas producing films but people did not make their own moving pictures.

(Perhaps the most automation we ever had was in traffic lights. They were very simple with no fancy stuff like lanes or filter lights or pedestrian signals. Some of them were able to detect when traffic arrived to hasten on the next change.)

Standards and Authority

Attitudes were more Formal and Standards were different especially our views about women, children, ethnic minorities, animals and sexuality. (‘Ethnic minorities’ is a modern term. We didn’t have them. There was some open racism towards ‘black’ people – and Irish!)

We respected the Authorities even though we had no knowledge of how they worked. (There was no Internet!) We trusted and believed doctors, teachers, policeman and generally vicars. If we didn’t there was no way we could question what they said or did. If something went wrong we accepted it – we didn’t think of suing anyone for damages.

Most people more or less accepted the Church and there were many more believers and regular churchgoers. The Church played a significant part in our education and our attitudes to Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and Sundays. St. Andrews Church at Ilford played a significant part in my life.


The government and Civil Service covered much, much more than today – coal, gas, electricity, railways, telephones, television and national savings. Education, doctors and hospitals and local government services were more centrally controlled.


Families stayed together. Men and women stayed married. Men and women were different. The man of the house worked; women stayed at home and were housewives; children grew up with their parents. More complicated family situations were rare. Homosexuality did not exist. (I am talking about generalities and public perceptions. It was not openly acknowledged or accepted.)

Most married women were housewives and there were few opportunities for work for women. Women expected to get married and raise a family at home and were generally happy with the situation. Housework (making beds, shopping, preparing and cooking food, cleaning and laundry, together with looking after children) took most of the average housewife’s day – and a lot of the evenings and weekends! Men were expected to do little at home and probably did even less.

Children, particularly those below school age, were looked after by their mothers because there were no alternative arrangements. Growing Adolescents remained in the care of their parents and could not vote until twenty-one.

While the man of the house earned an income and paid for regular bills (gas and electricity, rates, telephone etc.), he would pay a housekeeping allowance to his wife to cover basic food, cleaning and probably children’s clothes. In general, this allowance did not include anything for the wife to buy clothes or cosmetics (although most generally saved enough to look after their basic needs).

There was still the attitude that men made the major decisions for the family without consulting their wives, and wives just followed their husbands. The marriage ceremony included the promise for wives to ‘… love, honour and obey…’

[A major difference that affected all aspects of family life was that Contraception was not easy and abortion was illegal. It was not considered ‘right’ for unmarried women to have children.]

Law and Order

My impression is that there was much less public disorder and crime, but this may be partly from the innocence of youth. Police mostly operated on foot. There were no police cars. All they had was a police whistle to call for assistance.

There were different standards but crime, like other aspects of life, was more local. We didn’t have fast cars or easy roads.

Food and drink

Families ate together at home eating simple foods cooked by the housewife of the family.

Restaurants were up-market, much rarer than today and for special occasions and the rich. Eating at a restaurant was a more formal occasion and a more formal process. Except when on holiday, ordinary people rarely ate in restaurants or hotels. (Restaurants in those days were limited to British or perhaps French Cuisine. Foreign restaurants started to emerge in the sixties with Indian and Chinese restaurants.)

The only ‘fast food’ in the fifties was fish and chips, and for most people this was the only experience of eating out. The fish and chips were usually taken home, wrapped in newspaper, but there were facilities to eat in the shops. This would have been a much more informal and cheaper experience than eating in a proper restaurant.

The first equivalent of the American revolution that was fast food hit England in the early sixties. It was the Wimpy Bar. This was a glorified coffee bar which served hamburgers in buns (‘Wimpy’) but not exactly in the Macdonald’s takeaway fashion. They were served, with chips, at tables and on plates, with knives and forks – a downmarket version of restaurant service. The real takeaways such as Macdonald’s did emerge, in their full American format, until the seventies. After that came Pizza and other culinary imports from the U.S.A.

Pubs were much more common. They were crowded with men (not women) who drank pints of bitter and smoked. Pubs did not mess around serving food. Alcohol at home was less prevalent.

By modern standards, cafes were non-existent. When shopping in Ilford Mum might have a cup of tea at a department store café. That was it.


Almost all early Television was live, not pre-recorded. (The only real exceptions were programmes repeated a day or two after their original broadcast.) Also, in a way which is not easy to define, there was a much narrower range of programmes, only what the middle class establishment of that time would consider to be in good taste. This consisted of news, information and entertainment based on ‘Variety’ (i.e. singing, dancing, comedy, magic, circus acts etc.) Sports broadcasting was virtually unknown as technological limitations made ‘outside broadcasts’ (anything not done from the central studios) both difficult and expensive. Back in 1950 there was no choice of viewing, no television advertisements no phone-in programmes, no Soaps, no reality television, no live football, no morning television.

We had one channel for a few hours each day with very poor quality black-and-white pictures on a nine-inch screen! My memories of Children’s Television date from these earlier days. By the late sixties we had three channels, still not broadcasting all day and still without the reliability and picture quality we expect today.

I have a whole series of blogs about particular stars of television – from David Attenborough and Doctor Who … to David Attenborough and Doctor Who!

Of course in the Fifties Radio was just as important with Mrs. Dale’s Diary and Two-Way Family Favourites.

General Entertainment.

At home, people spent some time watching television, listening to the radio, reading and perhaps making their own music. Pianos were nowhere near universal, but were far more popular than today. Cinema was more popular. If people went to the theatre, it was a far more special night out than now. People more often just went out walking together.

Pop Music hadn’t really started. Televised sport was almost non-existent – apart from the weekly football results.


I have said a lot in my blogs about Primary School, Secondary School and University life all of which were much more formal than today. I can only speak for Grammar School education, which may have some similarities with the few remaining Grammar Schools today – including my alma mater, Ilford County High School, which still exists. Teaching was based on chalk on blackboards, reading from textbooks and writing in exercise books. Our most sophisticated visual aids were – coloured chalk.

We had just the traditional subjects, formal homework, end-of-term examinations and hand-written reports.


We had simple local ShopsGrocers, Bakers, Butchers, Newsagents, Chemists, Hardware shops and Post Offices were common. Big towns had Department Stores but there were no Supermarkets. If I take an example, the baker might sell half a dozen types of loaf (only one of which would be sliced and packed,) white rolls or brown rolls and a few types of cakes. We were not burdened with Choice. There was, of course, no on-line shopping.


There were no motorways, just narrow roads going through the centres of towns so that long-distance travel was a series of traffic jams. For local shopping parking outside the shops was easy and free.



We used cash and coped with pounds, shillings and pence and it was all done by mental arithmetic. Shopkeepers gave us the right change. Credit was virtually non-existent. Banks managed all their calculations without automatic calculators or computers.

By way of a diversion, here are some typical prices from the Fifties (or perhaps early Sixties) from memory. I have converted pre-decimal money to approximate decimal equivalents.

  • 1p would have bought a cup of tea. (Coffee was 2p.)
  • A stamp for a letter was about 1½p. (There was no distinction then between First Class and Second Class post!)
  • A Mars bar was 1½p, a Kit-Kat 1p. (Most other chocolate bars did not exist then.)
  • A bus ride started at 1p and was unlikely to be more than 10p. (Buses were double-decker and had bus conductors.)
  • A small loaf of bread was about 4p.
  • A haircut (for men) was about 5p.
  • A pint of beer in a pub was about 5p.
  • A cheap plastic ball-point pen was about 10p (and probably still is).
  • Single records, when they started, were about 33p. LPs (33 rpm) were about £2 to £3.
  • A three-course meal in a restaurant would have come to between 50p and £1.
  • A gallon of petrol was about 25p. (That’s a gallon, a bit more than four litres!)
  • A black-and-white television set (9 inch) was about £60-70. (This figure has remained virtually unchanged for 50 years.)
  • A 4-bedroom semi-detached house in the suburbs of London was about £250.

(The Retail Price Index has risen by a factor of about 25 since the mid-fifties. Most of this inflation took place in the Sixties and Seventies.)



There were virtually no plastics so things now made of plastic would have been made from wood or metal.

Packaging, when it existed, was simple, perhaps a rectangular box. Bread, meat, fruit and vegetables were sold loose or perhaps wrapped in tissue paper.

We knew little of some modern health concerns and Health and Safety was not a major consideration. Substances like mercury, DDT and asbestos, now considered very dangerous, were uses routinely. The same can be said for lead in pipes, paint, toys and petrol. Smoking was common, ubiquitous and accepted.

Here are some of the evils of the modern world, which we did not have in the Fifties.

  • Consumerism and advertising were much less significant. There were no three-for-two or buy-one-get-one-free offers.
  • We had and no junk mail.
  • There was no cold calling on telephones.
  • Utilities – gas, electricity, water, telephones, television – were state controlled and there were no choices of tariffs.
  • Banks and building societies were similar to each other – offering few choices at identical rates.
  • Telephones did not have premium rate calls – but then all non-local calls were difficult, unreliable and expensive.


Something younger people find hard to understand is that we knew so little of the nastier side of life that we trusted people.

There were no school runs by the parents. Children as young as five walked to school on their own. When we were seven or eight we were sent to the shops at Beehive Lane on our own. Women with babies would leave them in prams outside the shops.

[I know. I said no pictures. I changed my mind.]

We played in the streets or spent the day at Wanstead Park Recreation ground – without mobile phones and without even watches. We came home when it was time for tea.



I have put in a lot of links but there is a lot more in the blogs including some about Christmas, my family, politics and some miscellaneous odds and ends … and language. I still think the best way to read then is to start at the beginning and work forward.

My last blog … in a week or two … will be about language.


The title of this blog comes from the quotation ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’ from Revelations of Divine Love, the first book in the English Language known to be written (about 1395 AD) by a woman.

We know little about the authoress, Julian of Norwich. Even her name is uncertain. She lived in the second half of the Fourteenth Century as an anchoress in a cell joined to the Church of Saint Julian in Norwich, which is probably the source of her name – although Julian was a common name for women at the time.



As this is almost my final post I want to acknowledge my sources. Apart from my own memory I have just two sources.

There may be an odd exception but almost all of the background information and most of the pictures come from Wikipedia.

The rest of the pictures – apart from a few of mine – come from Facebook, generally from the rapidly growing number of groups devoted to nostalgia about the Fifties and Sixties.



[112] Rock Around the Clock

I wanted to do a whole blog talking about all the different ways of playing and recording sounds and video but this would be mostly things we didn’t have in the fifties that have come and gone since then. So I have truncated it a bit and added some other topics.


I want to start with Music, something we take for granted now, just streaming it automatically over the Internet. But of course we didn’t have the Internet then. Apart from actually making your own music (usually this would be playing a piano) there were only two or three ways you could hear a piece of music. For the youth of the fifties and sixties the music revolution came with record players so let’s look at records.



You may not even know what a record was. A Record was what we now call vinyl, a hard disc-shaped object with a spiral groove. If you rotated the disc a fine needle in the groove could pick up the recorded sound for playback and amplification by electrical means.

They had been around in various formats for some time but these were the standards of the Fifties:

[A] Singles were 10 inches (about 25 cm.) in diameter and were played at 78 revolutions per minute. (RPM) They lasted for about two and a half minutes. [You could turn it over for another song on the other side.] Most of the developing pop music was available as singles. They cost 6s 8d each through the fifties and sixties. (That’s about 33p but in those days that was a significant amount. Maybe you could afford one new tune a week.)

[B] Extended Play (EP) were 7 inches (about 20 cm.) played at 45 RPM. They were hardly ever used. Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles is the only one I remember. They played two or three single songs on each side.

[C] Long Playing records (LP) were twelve inches (30 cm.) played at 33.33 RPM. (Now you may know them as albums.) They would have about ten tunes on each side (as you can see in the picture above) so might last for something less than an hour overall. An LP cost about £2 10s. (£2:50)

[I am talking about pop music. Classical music could have much longer pieces on an LP – perhaps a complete piano concerto as two movements each side.]

[D] For completeness I have to say that there was a standard of 16.67 RPM. It was obsolete then.


A Diversion – Clockwork Toys

I have just realised that you probably don’t know about clockwork. Many years ago, when we didn’t all have mobile phones, we had clocks and watches to tell us the time. They were mechanical devices without a hint of batteries or electricity. (I know, there are still clocks but we don’t need them. Every device including TV and ovens may have a display showing the time. Everything now works by electricity or batteries.) Clocks and watches were powered by what we called ‘clockwork,’ using internal springs that were wound up and allowed to uncoil slowly – with a complex escapement mechanism.


So from time to time you had to wind them up. Most clocks and watches needed winding every day but some would last for a week.


We also had clockwork toys, cheap metal things with a removable key to wind them up. The simplest ones were tin plated cars, which would actually move like cars for maybe up to a minute after being wound up.



Back to music. Records were played on gramophones. The amplification of the sound worked by electrical devices but I remember from my early school days that sometimes the turntable was powered by clockwork. The teacher would wind them up before playing us a tune. Gramophones were fairly simple. You loaded the record by hand, played it and took it off when it was finished. dansette

Record Players

The revolution came in the late fifties with the Record Player and the Dansette shown above was the standard model. I was given a Dansette for my twenty-first birthday. I still have it in the loft. You could load it with up to ten singles. As each one finished the next one would drop and play. So we could play ten consecutive different single pop tunes. It was almost like what we might now call a playlist.

The record-player could be set to play at four speeds but generally it was used at 78 RPM for singles. [It was generally accepted that LPs were too heavy, valuable and expensive to risk possible damage by dropping them. The multiple play option was only used for singles.]

Don’t laugh – but these record-players were called ‘portable’. If you imagine that records of twelve inch diameter were played you can get an idea of the size of this machine. They were big and heavy but you could close the lid and carry it by the handle that you can see on the right. No, it wasn’t that easy. You had to tighten two transit screws with a screwdriver first to avoid damage to the mechanism by shaking! People didn’t actually treat them as portable but you might very occasionally take one with you to visit a friend.

Later Changes

There have been many changes in the formats for providing recorded music.

Seven-inch vinyl singles playing at 45 RPM replaced the older 78s in the late fifties. (The earlier bigger 78 RPM records were not made of vinyl. They were heavier and more fragile.)



Then we had Cassettes, magnetic tapes that wound slowly from one spool to another, from the mid-sixties to the seventies. A cassette was about five inches long so it was easily portable in its plastic case. The cassette player was also much more portable than a record-player.

Without going into the precise history, these systems changed very slowly so we still had records all through the cassette era. Things like cassettes (and radios) were developed and installed first for cars – with push button controls that were easier when driving. It was never possible to play records in a car but a cassette player was generally available with the car radio.

After cassettes we had CDs, then DVDs, then iPods, then mobile phones of increasing sophistication, and now live streaming.



I have said a little about early Radio, the other way we sometimes heard music. It was very limited by today’s standards and a radio set was about as portable as the ‘portable’ record-player shown above. Ours was bigger and much heavier. The only radio services were from the BBC – the Home Service (pre-dating Radio Four,) the Light Programme (now Radio Two) and the Third Programme (classical music, now Radio Three.)


There was not much music on the radio and none of the developing pop music culture that was soon to emerge.

For us the high point of the week was Two-way Family Favourites.


Pop Music

Now is the time to talk about popular music or Pop Music, which arose from about the late fifties, helped by the new record-players but driven by the emancipation of youth. Boys and girls of sixteen used to be – boys and girls. The age of majority was 21 and adolescents below this age had little freedom or independence or money to squander on themselves. The culture of youth emerged gradually from the late Fifties.


We had Skiffle Groups from the mid-fifties, typified by Lonnie Donnegan and Tommy Steele, They made music with a tea-chest bass, an acoustic guitar and a washboard.


Rock ‘n Roll, also from the mid-fifties came with Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and The Comets. This was the pre-cursor of modern so-called Pop Music.


From 1960 we had all sorts of different dances like the Twist, immortalized by Chubby Checker, the Locomotion from Little Eva and many others.




[Acoustic and Electric Guitars]

It was a time of rapid change in music and one of the technological changes that helped the development of Pop Music was the electric guitar. An acoustic guitar is a plucked instrument. Even with a plectrum it is much quieter than a violin. It is shaped with a large sounding board to magnify what little sound is produced and it’s usually played sitting down.

The electric guitar, which came into its own with Rock ‘n Roll, picks up the tiny sound and amplifies it electrically (in much the same way as a record-player amplifies the sound made by its vibrating needle.) The guitar was connected by a cable to large powerful amplifiers although modern guitars don’t even need cables. It was much louder and made a different sound but it was so much easier to use than the acoustic version.

[The Spotnicks were an instrumental group from Sweden who, in the early sixties, produced an unusual sound with Orange Blossom Special. They were ahead of technology with cable-less guitars but it was not perfect and produced an unusual sound.]

Pop Stars and Pop Groups

I am going to have to name names. Some were short-lived. Some lasted for decades. In the late fifties and sixties the British and UK pop worlds were different with some overlap. Often a massive hit would be covered the other of the Atlantic from its origins.

In no particular order here are some Early Rock ‘n Roll and other popular music artists from the Fifties, some American and some British – Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Tab Hunter, Pat Boone, Bobby Darrin, Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Buddy Holly, Pat Boone, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Johnny Tillotson, Cliff Richard, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Bing Crosby and Harry Belafonte.

[This includes some that may have been called Rhythm and Blues or jazz or easy listening ballads.]

A few more from the Sixties – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Hollies, Cilla Black, The Shadows, (Cliff Richard’s backing group but also an instrumental group in their own right,) The Moody Blues, Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel.

There were many others. Apart from a few singers they were all men.

Radio Luxembourg

Apart from the BBC radio we could hear popular music on Radio Luxembourg. This was broadcast from the tiny country of Luxembourg and you have to remember that radio then was not the quality that we get now from FM radio (or digital radio.) It used Medium Wave at a wavelength of 208 metres (1439 K Hz) and the signals had to travel the distance from Europe. We could only hear it after dark when the signal bounced off the ionosphere to the UK. [That’s enough science. You can look it up yourself.]

From the early Sixties, Radio Luxembourg effectively broadcast continuous pop music from records to its audience in the UK – from about sunset to around 11:00 pm. (In those days we were a more 9-to-5 society. Television stopped before midnight. Pubs closed at 10:30 and people went to bed. We didn’t have discos, nightclubs or entertainment continuing after midnight. Luxembourg did continue to the early hours of the morning but it changed to slower easy listening, ballads and jazz.)

Unlike BBC radio, Luxembourg was a commercial radio station with frequent adverts. Most famous to our generation was the voice of Horace Batchelor advertising his Infra-Draw method of winning on the pools. It was a statistical method, which almost certainly did not work, but he kept trying to sell it. We would hear the same advert again and again we all heard him repeating: “Horace Batchelor, Department One, Keynsham, spelt K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M, Keynsham, Bristol.” I think that everyone of my age knows that Keynsham is near Bristol and knows how to spell it!


Pirate Radio

After the effective monopoly of Radio Luxembourg Pirate Radio sprang up in the mid-Sixties, notably Radio Caroline. These channels broadcast pop music from ships moored in the North Sea in an attempt to evade legislation. Unlike Luxembourg they could broadcast in the daytime.

The Marine Broadcasting Offences Act of 1967 removed the other pirate stations from the air and soon after that the BBC bowed to the demand for pop. Radio 1 started to broadcast pop music from 1967. (At the same time the other channels were renamed as 2, 3 and 4.)


Early television did not add much to our opportunities to hear pop music. I have covered Sixties television including Juke Box Jury, the Six-Five Special and Top of the Pops. In those days, as you will read below, pop music was just the sound of the music from records. Accompanying video performances did not exist.


Recording Moving Pictures

There was nothing like the ability to record or play videos then. Your only realistic options were to see Television live or go to the cinema. (A few programmes were repeated a day or two later but most were just broadcast once.) When video recording did come in we had a war between the different emerging standard formats. Betamax and VHS both came in the mid-seventies and they kept on in parallel through the nineties. (It’s Video Home System according to Wikipedia but I have never heard of this. It was known as VHS.) Both were cumbersome systems using tape reels much bigger than cassettes. Betamax was generally considered to be a better standard but VHS won the war. Betamax disappeared.

As well as using these tape systems to record from television you could hire pre-recorded tapes of films sometime after their general release in cinemas. This was a more common use and video hire shops sprang up in most towns. These have now disappeared with Internet downloading as the easier method.

VHS continued into the Twenty-First Century but was itself made obsolete by another new system – Video CD. (Compact Discs) Then we had DVD, Blu-ray and eventually modern systems and mobile phones!

The ability to record your own video came a bit later with camcorders. Again there were various recording systems, generally using cassette tapes later transferred to VHS so that you could actually display them on your TV screen. Camcorders were originally much larger than cameras but I won’t go into details. They are obsolete now with mobile phone apps producing excellent quality video recording.


There are a few more unrelated topics I want to cover in this blog, which is more or less the last one.


Please note that I am not attempting to say what is right or wrong. I’m just saying what it was like then. Standards were different. I am making the usual sweeping generalizations based on what little I saw of the world then.

We see people with disabilities all the time now and in sport the Paralympics covers many disabilities. But to consider the Fifties and Sixties we have to put things into perspective. Medical technology and expertise then did not provide much in the way of helping those with disabilities. Their quality of life was worse and their life expectancy was much worse. Babies with severe disabilities simply did not survive at birth – or were not particularly encouraged to survive the first few hours.


It won’t surprise you that we talked about things differently. Those with Down’s Syndrome were called mongols (the term used originally by John Langdon Down) until 1965. [Since 1975 the term Down Syndrome is also used.] Those with Cerebral Palsy were called spastic, a word generally used among children as an insult, but it was not until the mid-Nineties that the Spastic Society renamed itself as the charity Scope. Those with Learning Difficulties (also known as Intellectual Disabilities) were mentally subnormal or mentally deficient or Educationally Sub-Normal. (ESN)

[Words such as idiot, imbecile, cretin and moron, previously used for severe intellectual disabilities, had already descended to use as general playground insults.]

We had never heard of Dyslexia or ADHD.



Wheelchairs were simple and cumbersome – and not electric! They could be pushed or the occupant could turn the large wheels by hand. One of the reasons we didn’t have wheelchair athletics was that we didn’t have athletic wheelchairs. Crutches were not much more than wooden sticks. They were made to fit under the shoulders and aid walking.

That was about all the technology to help those with physical disabilities. But in general you didn’t see disabled people out and about or in work environments.

Homes and Education

This is, of course, an over-simplification but children born (and surviving) with severe disabilities were not considered the responsibility of their parents. They were taken away to various Homes (institutions under health or social security authorities) and we didn’t see them. Their only education came from such institutions. There was no attempt to educate them in the general school system.

claybury_mental_hospital_or_london_county_lunatic_asylum claybury-hospital-tower-from-claybury-park


Mental Health

Mental health problems were largely treated in psychiatric hospitals and the severely affected were held in old Victorian asylums. There was one at Claybury, shown above. All we ever saw of it from school (Ilford County High School) was a distant view of its tower.

Wikipedia tells me that it was the fifth London County Council Asylum, opened in 1893 when they were still called Lunatic Asylums. From 1893 to 1918 it was called Claybury Asylum, from 1918 to 1937 Claybury Mental Hospital, and from 1937 to its closure in 1995 Claybury Hospital. As schoolboys we had less complimentary names for it with visions of lots of ‘mad’ people being locked up.

[‘Mad’ is another word that has virtually disappeared because of its pejorative connotations. Now we talk of mental disorder, mental illness or psychiatric disorder.]

The word ‘asylum’ implies that the patients were there for their own protection and that was partly true. To a large extent we didn’t know how to treat those with mental problems so they were kept in institutions. There was also an element of protecting society at large from the actions of mental patients.

It was not until the Eighties that we moved to a system of community care and most of the old mental hospitals were eventually closed. At the same time Homes for children disappeared with increasing use of foster care and the education system moved to including most children with disabilities.

(You will have read about Dr Barnado’s and the Home near to ICHS at Barkingside when I talked about Wimbledon.)

It is not always easy to survive without the care provided by these psychiatric hospitals and we now have the situation where a large proportion of our prison population have mental problems. (Yes, I know, it’s a sweeping generalization. I am not an expert.)


We had a similar hospital near Gloucester, Coney Hill formerly the Gloucester Second County Lunatic Asylum. It also had a tower, which could be seen from a distance. It opened in 1883 and closed in 1994.


Just a few things I missed out when looking at Holidays [US: Vacations] earlier.

We also had some holidays at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp at Clacton. It was very similar to the fictional Maplins as portrayed in the Eighties sitcom ‘Hi-de-Hi!’ The Clacton camp was open until 1983 when due to package holidays and changing tastes, it was closed and sold. It was reopened as a theme park called Atlas Park, which lasted a year. The land was then sold and redeveloped with housing.


When I was a little older we sometimes went to Southend-on-sea for the day. It was (and presumably still is) a typical seaside resort with its promenade, fruit machines and ice-cream. From Ilford station it was the only such place near enough for a day-trip. Its main attraction was its pier, still the longest in the World. There is a train running the length of the pier – over a mile!

Later still, in the mid-Sixties, I had some walking holidays using Youth Hostels. We walked across Dartmoor one year and did Mid-Wales another year. In those days their bedrooms were primitive dormitories with bunks. You were expected to use your own sheet sleeping-bag. You had to cook your own meals in a shared kitchen and you might be asked to do chores such as cleaning before leaving the next day. Some were more primitive than others and one or two in Wales did not have electricity.


Professional Wrestling

Somehow, in all my blogs about Television and Sport I have missed out Professional Wrestling. I have been saving it for later.

Let me start with Kent Walton, who used to be a disc-jockey on Radio Luxembourg. His voice was known to us all from his commentaries of professional wrestling on ITV from 1955 to the late Eighties. At its peak in the Seventies it was shown on Saturdays between the half-time and full-time football results and had viewing figure over ten million.

(That was when we had no football coverage on radio or television and all the league matches took place at the same time.)

There were rules but some wrestlers managed to get away with a lot of cheating out of sight of the referee. There were many familiar figures. Some were ‘goodies’ and some were ‘baddies’. It was entertainment and it was never quite clear how much the results were ‘fixed’ but the general opinion was that most bouts were fixed in some way.

The biggest of the heavyweights were Big Daddy, (Shirley Crabtree, 1930-97) definitely one of the goodies, and Giant Haystacks. (Martin Austin Ruane, 1947-98) shown in the two pictures above.


Here are two more – Mick McManus (William George Matthews, 1920-2013) and Jackie Pallo (Jack Ernest Gutteridge, 1926–2006) who often fought each other. McManus was the typical baddy.


Not quite finished. Two more to come.




[109] Growing Up

In an attempt to get things finished I am sorting out what’s left into (probably) six more posts, which I will try to write at the same time. (But, of course, it may be five or seven before I end!) This one will look at some of the things that entertained me – from early childhood to late adolescence. It’s roughly (only roughly) in chronological order.

At Home

I will start with what I remember as a young child at home. Toys were very much what we would now call gender biased so boys played Cowboys and Indians and had cap guns. Girls had dolls.

The two things I remember liking most were jigsaw puzzles and colouring books. Jigsaws came in different sizes and levels of difficulty and I worked my way up. I still like them and generally do a 1000-piece one at Christmas.


I think I must have appreciated precise two-dimensional shapes in a way that combined these two interests. For colouring books I had Lakeland pencils in a set with far more colours than the picture above. I would fill the shapes precisely to their edges.

(I am not what you would call artistic. I can copy, not very well, and I can colour in precisely. I used to love the idea of Painting by Numbers but I never had a set – maybe one day I will buy myself one.)

I also remember Airfix models and it looks as if they are still available. They were models of aeroplanes made by assembling lots of tiny injection moulded plastic parts with glue. I have said so often that we did not have plastic – so Airfix were setting new standards in the late Fifties. Wikipedia makes it clear that as the range grew in the Sixties it included vintage and modern cars, motorcycles, figures, trains, model railway accessories, military vehicles, famous ships, rockets and spaceships, as well as an ever-increasing range of aircraft.

Early School Games


As a very young child the game I remember playing was what we called ‘Gobs.’ After years of failure to find them, the picture above has appeared at last on the Internet. It was a version of the game of ‘Fivestones’ and we used small cubes with toothed edges like these. Basically you had to pick them up from the floor with one hand and catch some of them on the back of the hand.

As we grew older I saw other groups using what we called ‘Jacks.’

1024px-jacks  jacks

These pictures are modern versions. Jacks were metal and there was a single ball, probably made of rubber. I never learned this more modern version.


We also played Hopscotch. Chalk was much more common. Teaching was done in chalk on a blackboard. You just needed a layout something like this chalked out on the pavement or playground at school. You hopped forwards and backwards – I can’t remember the details.

Mostly in the playground we ran around and played what I know now as ‘Tag.’ We just called it ‘It.’

conkersfruit  conkestrung

In the autumn we played ‘Conkers.’ You must know what conkers are – the fruit of the Horse-Chestnut tree. I suppose some of the fun was in finding and preparing you own. You had to drill a hole through them, after taking off the outer shell, using a long metal skewer and then thread a string into them. We knew and talked about methods of hardening conkers, either with vinegar or by baking in the oven, but I’m not sure that anyone actually did this. Modern ‘Health and Safety’ regulations seemed to have banned this game in many schools.


At home we used to have a dark wooden combined bureau and bookcase. Dark stained wood like mahogany used to be fashionable. I can’t remember a time before we had it and it is the only piece of furniture still in the family. The bookcase was always full of books that Dad must have acquired when he was quite young. They never changed.

There was a large chunky dictionary – Funk and Wagnells. I don’t think we used it much because it was American.

I remember a paperback book ‘One, Two, Three … Infinity’ by George Gamow about Mathematics and Science. Wikipedia says it was printed in 1947 aimed at intelligent laymen. There were others probably in the same series in astronomy and basic nuclear physics.

There were some large general books on anthropology and a five-part encyclopaedia. I can’t remember the name of the encyclopaedia but I remember its components. They were called: ‘A-Eng’, ’Eng-Hor’, ‘Hor-New’, ‘New-Sal’ and ‘Sal-Zyr.’

And there were the books Hoyle’s Card Games for One and Hoyle’s Card Games for Two.

[I remember these two books but we must have had a book with card games for four players. You will read further on about Solo Whist and Bridge.]

I probably read all of these, not all at once, but not all of the Encyclopaedia.

Early Card Games

As a family we grew up with cards. Mum must have taught us the early games. (I didn’t read the Hoyle’s books until much later.)

We started with Beggar-my-Neighbour but we didn’t call it that. I think we called it Beat my Neighbour. This is the sort of card game that depends entirely on luck – a two-player game that always finishes. (I remember this game from Great Expectations, where they called one of the cards the Knave. Even my memories don’t go far enough to remember when people used this word. It’s the Jack. But I do now know some older people who still call it a Knave!)

We also played Snap and we learned Patience. (As far as our family was concerned Patience meant the solitaire game known as Klondike. We never called it anything other than patience although later we sometimes played a type of Clock Patience.)

When we needed a game for more than two players we started playing Sevens and then simple versions of Rummy (not Canasta). These were games that had a bit more of a skill element and we learned about tactics. Sometimes going for what you want is not the best tactic. You have to prevent others from getting what they want.

bezique  beziquepair

Mum’s favourite game was Bezique, which she taught us. It’s a game for two players that came in a little box with its own set of cards.


Nan liked Cribbage, an older two person game that I think used to be the only card game that could legally be played in pubs. We had the scoring board that went with it.


At Boar Close we played outside because it was an open green without any traffic. I think we knew the other children but I can’t remember much from those days.

When we moved to the next house it was not practical to play in the street. (There was still virtually no traffic.) We were allowed to go to the park – Wanstead Recreation Ground next to Ilford Golf Club. The park is still there on the map and I don’t think it has changed much but the North Circular Road was not in the way then! Wanstead Park Road was a quiet road and we just walked to the park as we walked to school. We were unlikely to be troubled by any traffic. At the age of about eight I went there with my two brothers and sometimes stayed for hours. We went across the open grass, crossed the river and would just wander along the Roding in the woods.


Sometimes we took little fishing nets on bamboo poles fishing for tiddlers. I don’t remember ever catching anything. We didn’t have watches but were expected to be back in time for tea.

When we were older we went to Valentines Park, which is slightly more difficult to reach. We had to cross Cranbrook Road. This is a much larger park with ornamental lakes, a café and it even includes a cricket ground. I remember seeing squirrels there and we played at the children’s play area.


They just had swings and a rocking-horse and roundabout similar to the picture above. I suspect that modern Health and Safety regulations have seen the end of these!

Prior to 1967 Essex County Cricket did not have its own grounds. They used several cricket pitches in the county in rotation including the one at Valentines Park. [Yes, an early series of the Great British Bake Off was filmed at Valentines Mansion in the park.]


Here is something else Health and Safety would not have liked. When it snowed and we found somewhere where the snow had been trodden into ice we could make a slide. I am sure we used to have something like this outside Highlands School.

Board Games

As young children we played Ludo and Snakes and Ladders but I don’t think they were very popular. We also had Chess and Draughts [US: Chequers] sets but these didn’t get used much either.

The one we did like was Monopoly, which we must have acquired somewhere around 1960. It lasted a lot longer than the others and could cope with any number of players in our family. The family did also try Cluedo a bit later.

More Reading

I think I read quite a lot and I read some of the children’s classics like Robinson Crusoe, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Alice in Wonderland, the Wind in the Willows, the Water Babies and Treasure Island. But there were some that escaped me.

Once I reached Ilford County High School I made use of their library and read a lot.

I liked Edgar Rice Burroughs, especially his Tarzan books but also read the Mars series starting with a Princess of Mars. I must have also liked Science Fiction from an early age. I found the C S Lewis trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Voyage to Venus and That Hideous Strength but somehow I was not aware of the Narnia series.

I won’t list all the Science Fiction I read but much of it dates from the Fifties and Sixties. I remember John Wyndham – The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes, The Midwich Cuckoos, the Chrysalids and the Trouble with Lichen. The Death of Grass by John Christopher was another similar post-apocalyptic novel. I also read a lot by AE Van Vogt and Kurt Vonnegut of which the most famous is Slaughterhouse-Five. It was the era of Science Fiction, much of which in the form of collected short stories.

[Now some of what was Science Fiction has become science fact but much of it has been proved impossible or unlikely. We can no longer write about human-like civilizations on the Moon or Mars. We are left with endless Science Fantasy series set in semi-magical alternative realities.]

I read stories by Agatha Christie including And Then There were None. (I dare not give the original title, which is unacceptable now, but at the time I don’t think anyone considered it to be offensive.) I think my favourite author was PG Wodehouse, not only his Jeeves stories, also the Blandings Castle ones and Psmith. (I think I read some Bunter stories by Frank Smith but the character is much more linked in my mind to the television series.)

Later Books

I still have a lot of reading to consider from the late Sixties. Certainly from the Sixth Form and through University I aimed to read at least one paperback book every week.


Many of these were the black paperback Penguin Classics – The Canterbury Tales, Pilgrim’s Progress, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Gulliver’s Travels, Crime and Punishment, Revelations of Divine Love … and many more.

I particularly remember four blue paperback books that I read from cover to cover. Animals Without Backbones in two volumes introduced me to the science of animal life – and Man and the Vertebrates also in two volumes completed the elementary introduction. Both were written in the Thirties so my knowledge of taxonomy isn’t completely up-to-date.

More Cards

As we grew older we moved to the varieties of Whist games. For several players there was Knockout Whist – starting with seven cards each. You had to get at least one trick to go on to the next round and it went down each time – six cards down to one. Crazy Whist started with eight cards and again went down each round – but this game was scored. Before each round you said how many tricks you hoped to make. You scored one for each trick with a bonus of ten if your prediction was right.

We learned Solo Whist played with four players and using all 52 cards each round. You had to bid to make things like Abundance (nine or more tricks) or Misere (no tricks!)

There was also a game called Napoleon a bit like a five card version of Solo Whist.

Later as a family we learned to play Bridge, a game I now still play several times a week. Dad taught us and sometimes we played until one or two o’clock at night round the snooker table. With three brothers and two sisters we usually had enough to play. I think we started with Auction Bridge, learned from a book, but very soon changed to the more modern Contract Bridge. The game has changes a bit but I always enjoyed it.


I can’t complete this blog without a few words about films. The ones I remember from the cinema were the Carry On series but from earlier I still remember the old films that were shown on television on Sunday afternoons.

There were some that seemed to come up again and again.

I Remember Mama, from 1948, was a melodramatic film about bringing up a family in hard times, remembered for the scenes where Mama counted the pennies and announced, “We won’t have to go to the bank.” (We learn at the end that there is no bank. But they survived.)

Mr Blandings Dream House, also 1948, was a comedy starring Cary Grant.


My favourite was Bringing up Baby from 1938, described by Wikipedia as a screwball comedy, starred Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. I still class this as the second best film ever made (after It’s a Wonderful Life.) Just to give you an idea of it, you have to know that ‘Baby’ is someone else’s pet leopard, which at some time escapes and gets confused with a really wild escaped leopard. To recapture Baby Katherine Hepburn sings I Can’t Give You Anything But Love to it. And the film ends with the hero and heroine on top of the skeleton of a brontosaurus as it collapses.

I suppose I should mention Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers but I think this has been long enough already.



[101] Barley Water and Barnado’s

I have a few more things to say about sport in the fifties and sixties but I have to start with a Grumpy Old Man rant about amateurism. That’s after a gentle reminder about [61] Sport (1) and [64] Sport (2), which I am you have already read.


Back in the Good Old Days most sport, including football, cricket, rugby, tennis – and the Olympic Games – used to be amateur and that meant that sportsmen were not paid for what they did. When they were paid it was for relatively small amounts. They were not paid to take part in sporting events and they were certainly not paid to train. [Sorry but I use the word sportsmen to include men and women. That was the way we talked in the sixties.]

Now virtually nothing remains amateur. Footballers and others are paid vast amounts and have celebrity status. (Even WAGs – wives and girlfriends – have celebrity status!) Watching sport, either live or on television has become expensive and events are timed to meet television schedules. Most sporting events are steeped in advertising.

(Some of this may be connected with the rise of television. When it was just the BBC, its strict rules of impartiality prevented any forms of advertising. If footballers had advertising logos on their football shirts they would not have been televised.)


Women in Sport

As another diversion, women then had relatively minor roles in major sports events. Of course their roles in most things were minor and many of them were housewives. There were no forms of football or rugby for women and it was only in the late sixties that the name Rachael Heyhoe (now Baroness Heyhoe Flint) was sometimes heard as captain of the English women’s cricket team. (It made the news but I think it was seen as a novelty rather than a serious sport.) Show Jumping (equestrian) has always been an exception with men and women competing together and the women generally doing better!

There were women in some sports such as tennis and athletics – sometimes seen as a sort of annexe to the main event, the men. There were no women jockeys.

Perhaps the invention of the sports bra in 1975 has helped women towards gradual equality – a process which is still not yet complete.


Athletics has been run by the AAA of England since 1991, following a merger between the AAA and the Women’s AAA. The acronym stands for Amateur Athletic Association and it used to be amateur in the true sense of the word.

There were other differences back in 1954 when Roger Bannister ran the first mile in under four minutes. Tracks, 440 yards in circumference, before athletics went metric, were just laid with cinders and shoes were little more than plimsolls. Timing was done with clockwork stopwatches and starting guns were guns (with blank ammunition!). But athletics was very definitely amateur. Athletes were not paid for competing.

You used to have many judges at the finish line, each with a stopwatch for each competitor. With a close finish there was a photo-finish but you had to wait for the picture to be developed. Times were given to the nearest tenth of a second but were not actually that accurate. It would take a few minutes for any result to emerge after all the timers and judges conferred. Now it’s all done automatically to a hundredth of a second and shown on big screens instantly.

It was many years later that money began to creep in. At first it was veiled in subtle wording that allowed expenses, or payments towards a pension but now athletes are openly paid – sometimes in prizes but also just appearance money. They have sponsorship agreements and wear colourful sports kit and fashions. Athletics events are sponsored and advertising logos are seen on athletes’ kit and on their racing numbers.

The AAA has not changed its name but it doesn’t worry itself about the definition of amateurism.

There is now much less distinction between men and women. Marathon, 10 000 metres and 5 000 metres (and their pre-metric versions) used to be for men only and the same was true for throwing the hammer. Now it is only the decathlon (for men) and heptathlon (for women) that seem to be different.



Throughout the fifties, the sixties and the seventies, tennis, as far as I was concerned, meant Wimbledon. As for other sports, televised tennis had no chance of showing anything abroad. The television News would mention the result at Queens, always described as a warm-up for Wimbledon. I don’t think I was aware of any other tennis.

Wimbledon tennis was amateur and more low-key. Entrance to the ground (not to Centre Court) was free without too much queueing. Once or twice I went on the tube (the London Underground trains) from Redbridge station and spent a day watching tennis on outside courts.

Names I remember included Rod Laver, Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall. Wikipedia has details of their successes in the modern major tournaments (in France, Australia and the USA as well as Wimbledon.) To be honest in those days I didn’t know that these other tournaments existed. For those who won Wimbledon there was always talk of whether they would turn professional. If they did they disappeared from Wimbledon and effectively disappeared from tennis as I saw it.

In 1968 the sport turned professional and they began to pay prize money. The amounts paid have risen dramatically and now winners get prizes over a million dollars.


(As for many sports, men and women play in separate events. The men play the best of five sets and women play best of three. In spite of this difference, it was for a long time argued that women should receive equal prize money – something that was achieved in 2009.)

The basic rules of tennis are much as they used to be but I have to note at least three significant differences.

  • There were no such things as tie-breakers. Every set continued until one player was two games ahead. So it was not unknown for scores like 6-3; 6-8; 17-15; 4-6; 14-12. There were instances of much longer matches! Various pressures on time led to the gradual spread of the current tie-breaker system.
  • There were no sit-down timed breaks when the players changed ends. They had a few seconds for a quick drink and a towel down and went to the next game.
  • There was no system of challenges to calls because there was nothing like Hawkeye to read the lines. All decisions were made by linesmen watching – but the central umpire could always over-ride a decision.


Robinsons Lemon Barley Water was a form of fruit squash available since the fifties. It was apparently produced after a visit to Wimbledon specifically for the players and umpires. It was always visible on the umpire’s chair – almost as a symbol of Wimbledon – and it used to be the only drink available. (Don’t be fooled by the more modern picture above showing plastic bottles. We only had glass then.)

Of course in those days, bottled water was virtually non-existent, canned drinks did not exist and cola drinks had not spread so ubiquitously from America. Robinsons have maintained the link in many advertising campaigns.

Wimbledon used to be very formal in the way it addressed its players, even more archaic than general usage. Until quite recently female players were always noted as Miss or Mrs on scoreboards and married women were referred to by their husband’s names. So, for example Chris Evert-Lloyd appeared on scoreboards as “Mrs. J. M. Lloyd” during her marriage to John Lloyd.


Dr Barnado’s was a charity founded in the Nineteenth Century to look after homeless, orphaned children. It used to have several homes looking after children including a large area at Barkingside. (It was very near to where the bus took us on the way to school but was tucked away behind the shops where we could not see it. We just knew that it was there.)

From 1947 to 1969 ball boys at Wimbledon came from a Dr Barnado’s school. They were very familiar on televised matches. (Before that they had come from another children’s home.)

Changes in child care, with increasing use of adoption and fostering meant that gradually such care homes disappeared.

Since 1969 local schools in Merton, Sutton, Kingston, Wandsworth and Surrey have provided ball boys and, in a move towards equality, ball girls.

Dr Barnado’s, now renamed simply Barnado’s, is still an active charity caring for children, but it no longer has residential homes for them.

Olympic Games

I remember the games of 1956 at Melbourne, Australia, then 1960 (Rome), 1964 (Tokyo), 1968 (Mexico City) and all the more modern ones.

With a bit of help from Wikipedia, here are some names I remember as UK medal winners at MelbourneChris Brasher, Derek Johnson and Gordon Pirie (Athletics); Terry Spinks and Dick McTaggart (Boxing); and Judy Grinham (Swimming.) In those days news was not instantaneous and newspapers did well to have pictures transported by jet plane to arrive in Britain within 24 hours of the event.

From Rome in 1960 I remember Don Thompson (50km Walk,) Brian Phelps (Diving,) and Anita Lonsbrough (Swimming.) We were beginning to get some limited television coverage.

1964 (Tokyo) has more familiar memories including Lynn Davies (Long Jump,) Ann Packer (400m,) and Mary Rand (Pentathlon.)

(The UK continues to compete as Great Britain in the Olympics, or sometimes GB and Northern Ireland.)

The Mexico Olympics of 1968 is famous for two things. Its high altitude made comparison with other World records difficult and Bob Beamon set a Long Jump Record which stood for many years afterwards. It also brought to public view the Fosbury flop for High Jump, where the jumper goes head first while rolling over the bar. (Previously the landing surface had been sandpits or low piles of matting, and so jumpers had to land on their feet or at least land carefully to prevent injury. With the advent of deep foam matting Dick Fosbury was able to be more adventurous in landing styles and style of jumping.)

(I was going to talk about the Mexican wave – the metachronal rhythm in the stadium but Wikipedia says it was much later.)

It won’t surprise you when I say the Olympics used to be totally amateur. With changes to professionalism in all sports they have gradually become more or less open to professional sportsmen. The Olympic governing body leaves it up to the international governing bodies of the various sports and (at the time of writing) only Boxing remains truly amateur

I can’t say I have any memories of early Winter Olympics although Wikipedia suggests that those of 1956 in Italy were the first to be televised. They used to come in the same years as summer Olympics until the mid-nineties.

The same is true of Paralympics, which used to be a much more low profile event.


That’s about it for sport. But just sneaking in from the late sixties we have the continuing quiz show, A Question of Sport.






[99] … Where no Man has Gone Before

I normally try to keep topics apart but I want to finish my final coverage of television, started in the last blog, [98] ‘Evening, All.’ Just to recap, after several blogs about Television, from its origins and Children’s Television and some early heroes and a whole list of famous characters from television and radio I still had a few people and television programmes that I couldn’t fit them into [84] Yarroo. Here are the rest, still fairly random in no particular order. I am going to finish my list so this one may still be very long!


Dad’s Army

Dad’s Army was a television sitcom about the British Home Guard during the Second World War. It was broadcast from 1968 to 1977, running for nine series – plus a radio version based on the television scripts, a feature film and a stage show. The Home Guard were local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, either because of age or by being in professions exempt from conscription. This series dealt almost exclusively with over age men, and featured older British actors, including Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier. Younger cast members included Ian Lavender, Clive Dunn (who played the oldest guardsman, Lance Corporal Jones), Frank Williams and air raid warden Bill Pertwee.

It came very high in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, and has influenced popular culture, with the series’ catchphrases and characters being well known.

Pop Music


Juke Box Jury ran on BBC television from 1959 to 1967, a panel show based on a similar American programme. It was chaired by David Jacobs who first played records about to be released before asking a panel of four to comment on them. The jury would then vote each tune a ‘hit’ or ‘miss.’ As an early Saturday evening programme it attracted high viewing figures. (There were revivals in the late seventies and eighties.) Generally one of the performers would be hidden behind a screen and emerge after the verdict.

The panel, generally two men and two women, varied from week to week but often included the disc jockeys Pete Murray, Jimmy Savile, Alan Freeman and Simon Dee. Also fairly common were Katie Boyle, Lulu, Cilla Black and Eric Sykes. [I am fairly sure that the picture above has Frankie Vaughan, Lady Isobel Barnet, Pete Murray and Barbara Kelly.]

The Six-Five Special (which started at 6:05 every Saturday evening) started in 1957, soon after the start of rock ‘n roll music. It was presented by Josephine Douglas and Pete Murray. It opened with film of a steam train accompanied by the theme song, played and sung by the Frantic Five, which began with the words “The Six-Five Special’s comin’ down the line, The Six-Five Special’s right on time …”

It was shown live with a studio filled with performers and audience, running to an impromptu format with live music.

Top of the Pops was a weekly television programme shown on BBC One from 1964 (continuing until the Twenty-first Century.) It was traditionally shown every Thursday evening, except for a short period on Fridays. Each weekly programme consisted of performances from some of that week’s best-selling popular music artists, with a rundown of that week’s singles chart. For the first three years Alan Freeman, David Jacobs, Pete Murray and Jimmy Savile rotated as presenters.

It featured live music (although it was never quite clear how much of it was mimed.) It always ended with the number one record, which was the only record that could appear in consecutive weeks. The show would include the highest new entry and (if not featured in the previous week) the highest climber on the charts, and omit any song going down in the chart.


When I was at University in the late sixties, Top of the Pops was the one television programme guaranteed to fill the Common Room with students watching its communal television set. (In those days this was the only way we could see television at University.) One reason was our love of pop music but another feature which attracted the all-male audience was the one song almost every week presented to the accompaniment of some vigorous dancing by Pan’s People. They replaced an earlier group, The Go-Jos, and danced to the only song where the singers were not in the studio.

[By modern standards, Pan’s People would not raise an eyebrow. But in the sixties and seventies the opportunity to see scantily clad young ladies on television were few and far between. As students we were sometimes disappointed when they kept to more voluminous clothing. In later programmes they were replaced by other dancing girls, such as Legs & Co in the late seventies.]


[Yes, I know, there is absolutely no reason to include the above picture as it’s far too late for my blog.]

Ready, Steady Go was the early ITV pop show on Friday evenings from 1963 to 1966. It was live, initially just broadcast in the London area but later shown nationally. It show went out early on Friday evenings with the line “The weekend starts here!”, and was introduced by the Surfaris’ “Wipe Out”, later by Manfred Mann’s “5-4-3-2-1” and later still two other tunes. It was more youth-orientated and informal than Top of the Pops and was notable for featuring the audience as dancers and for the interaction of artists and audience. The producers chose the audience in London clubs, picking out the best or the most fashionably dressed dancers.

Initially, most performances were mimed but by the mid-sixties some performed live and the show switched to all-live performances in 1965. The programme was never broadcast in the United States, perhaps because it was still in black and white.


The best known presenters were Keith Fordyce and Cathy McGowan, though early shows were introduced by Dusty Springfield.

[There will be more about pop music in a later blog.]


A Diversion about Soft Skin

Lady Saunders (born Caterina Irene Elena Maria Imperiali di Francavilla) better known as Katie Boyle was an Italian-born British actress, television personality, and game-show panelist, a former agony aunt, best known for two things. She presented the Eurovision Song Contest (of which more in a minute) in the sixties and seventies. And she featured in a long-running series of adverts for Camay Soap, always presented as a luxury soap with a rich, creamy lather. (Too expensive for us!) She did also appear often in What’s My Line and Juke Box Jury.

Eurovision Song Contest

I haven’t included this annual extravaganza within Pop Music because I’m not sure it used to be really anything like UK pop music. It has been broadcast every year since 1956. Early programmes were fraught with technical difficulties – at a time when television rarely ventured outside its studios in London. (It continues now as one of the most watched non-sport events in the World.)

I remember it from 1959 with Sing Little Birdie by Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson. In the late sixties Sandie Shaw (Puppet on a String,) Cliff Richard (Congratulations) and Lulu (Boom Bang-a-Bang) were more memorable.

Each country sings its entry to the competition in a live television show. After the performance of each song, there is a long process of voting for the winner that used to be much slower and more complicated. Now we have telephone voting. Back in the sixties each country had a panel of musical experts in their own country deciding on the votes. So we needed international telephone calls to each country – at a time when telephones had difficulty making connections over just a few miles. Often lines were unobtainable and so they went to the next country and came back later.

Now they read out just the top few entries. Then, they would list them all, with each being repeated, slowly and clearly, in English and French. Our compere when the programme came from England was Katie Boyle, always impressive in her multi-lingual conversations. She provided television commentary for the annual Eurovision BBC programme through the sixties until Terry Wogan took over.

In the early years singers always had to use their native language for the competition – but winners often had an English language version ready for release the next day!


Doctor Who

I said it was going to be random. We come to Science Fiction next and in particular, Doctor Who. For its first incarnation it ran for 26 seasons from 1963 to 1989, usually in stories which ran to about six episodes. It ran early on Saturday evenings, was aimed at younger viewers with the intention of being educational. It alternated between stories about the past and others about the future or in outer space. For the first series the Doctor’s companions were a science teacher, a history teacher and his own granddaughter. (He has always been ‘The Doctor.’ In spite of the name of the programme his name is never Doctor Who!)

I never liked the historical episodes and gradually they have become more Science Fiction in nature.

Sadly in the late sixties and early seventies large amounts of early BBC recorded programmes were lost or wiped and much of Doctor Who from the first two Doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, has been lost.

I can remember a much more low profile Doctor without his now ubiquitous sonic screwdriver but there was also amazing cliff-hangers at the end of each episode, leaving the fate of the World on a knife edge. But something always turned up at the beginning of the next episode!

The concept of regeneration was a masterstroke of invention, enabling the recasting of the main character, first prompted by William Hartnell’s poor health. (The term “regeneration” was not initially conceived of until the Doctor’s third on-screen regeneration however; the first Doctor had a “renewal,” and the Second Doctor underwent a “change of appearance”.) It allowed the older Doctor to be replaced by characters with different personalities. He also managed to keep a constant stream of changing companions. I don’t think they ever explained why the Doctor abandoned his granddaughter or how he came to have one in the first place.

After William Hartnell for three years we had Patrick Troughton. Then Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker continued into the seventies. Series from the nineties onwards have presented a very different image of the Doctor and his activities aimed at an older audience and with more of an element of horror.

I have to admit that technology of the sixties and seventies was not as it is now. Just as Children’s Television relied on puppets, sometimes with very visible strings, so the prosthetics that made alien creatures from outer space were far from realistic. We knew they were people dressed in complex structures with little ability to show facial expressions but we accepted them as they were.

What was impressive for the times was the opening music produced by Ron Grainger and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It was way ahead of any form of electronic music available at the time when we relied on orchestral instruments. I loved it.


Star Trek

The other Science Fiction from the late sixties was Star Trek and I mean, of course, just what is now known as the Original Series. It was an American television series created by Gene Roddenberry that followed the adventures of the star-ship USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) and its crew. I think that programmes were shown in Britain on BBC very soon after their US release.

Each episode started with the spoken introduction: “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the star-ship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

It was set in the Milky Way in the relatively near future – so it suffered some of the faults of trying to predict how technology would advance. Their communicators are way behind modern mobile phones but warp speed travel, instant transporters and voice activated food replicators still look far beyond our capabilities.

With low ratings it was cancelled after three seasons but it was repeated often and became a cult classic. (Many years later we had several major Star Trek films and four new series – The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise.)


The ship was led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner); first officer (i.e. second-in-command) and science officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who was half Vulcan; and chief medical officer Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) normally called ‘Bones.’ Other significant crew members were Lieutenant Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, chief engineer and second officer (James Doohan); Communications officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols); helmsman Sulu (George Takei); Ensign Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett who also voiced the ship’s computer.)

[While Sulu, Chekov and Uhura had first names that rarely appeared, Spock because he was half-Vulcan only had one name. Female Vulcan characters had names like T’Pau or T’Pol.]

I have to admit to being a Star Trek fan through all of its incarnations although at times the plots are not quite believable. They were never surprised that on all other planets everyone spoke perfect (US) English and the rules of physics would be bent so that any event, even if planet wide would be instantaneous.


Other People

I am going to end with some short notes about five more people who deserve a mention. If you know them you will remember them as fondly as I do. I will take two of them together – Frank Muir and Dennis Norden. They worked together from before my time writing for the radio programme Take it From Here (featuring Jimmy Edwards and June Whitfield) and continued to appear together for decades in radio and television programmes together such as My Word! And My Music!

Percy Thrower was a British gardener, horticulturist, broadcaster and writer born, known nationally through presenting various gardening programmes, sometimes described as “Britain’s first celebrity gardener”.

Percy Edwards was an English animal impersonator, ornithologist, and entertainer. He became a household name after his animal imitations in the radio shows Ray’s a Laugh with Ted Ray, and playing Psyche the dog in the radio series A Life of Bliss. It was said that at the height of his career he could accurately imitate over 600 birds, as well as many other animals. Among other things, he provided the voices for the killer whales in Orca (1977), the Reindeer in Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), sheep and bird sounds on Kate Bush’s song The Dreaming, and the alien in the film of the same name. He appeared occasionally on BBC TV’s pre-school series Play School as a storyteller, in 1967 and from 1973 through 1980.

Finally, Stanley Unwin, sometimes billed as “Professor” Stanley Unwin, was a British comedian, actor and comic writer, and the inventor of his own language, “Unwinese”, a corrupted form of English in which many of the words were altered in playful and humorous ways, as in its description of Elvis Presley and his contemporaries as being “wasp-waist and swivel-hippy”. Unwin claimed that the inspiration came from his mother, who once told him that on the way home that she had “falolloped (fallen) over” and “grazed her kneeclabbers”.


I knew this was going to be a long post. I think that’s about all for television … but I may think of some more later. [Although most of this post comes from my memories I have used Wikipedia to check dates and add some background material.]



[98] ‘Evening, All’

I have done several blogs about Television, from its origins and Children’s Television. I have so many memories of television. After looking at some early heroes and a whole list of famous characters from television and radio I still had a few people and television programmes that I had kept back. I couldn’t fit them into my last television blog so here are the rest – it may still be too many for one more post! It’s a fairly random bunch left, in no particular order. (I have not attempted to be chronological.)

Dixon  dixonDockGreen

Dixon of Dock Green

This television series ran from 1955 to 1976 and like so much early television most of the episodes have been lost. It was about petty crime and the police at a police station in the fictional London area of Dock Green (based on Paddington Green.) Central to the series was its eponymous hero PC George Dixon played by Jack Warner in all of its 432 episodes. In those days it was all live television.

Dixon was a typical ‘bobby’ patrolling the streets and knowing everyone sympathetically. Policing used to be mainly done on foot in contrast to later series such as Z Cars from the mid-sixties, which reflected more violent crime and more aggressive police culture.

(Jack Warner was a well-known comedian and actor from before the War and was sixty when Dixon started. In later series he was too old for an active PC and the character Dixon became a desk sergeant as shown in the picture above.)

It was a very popular series and was well received by police forces for the way it portrayed police life. Another character was PC Andy Crawford, a new recruit at the beginning but soon to become a member of the family by marrying Dixon’s daughter – so in many ways Dixon was a paternal figure.

Every episode started with Jack Warner saluting and saying ‘Evening, all.’ (At first it was ‘Good evening, all’) And they would end with a few words of wisdom from Dixon and a final ‘Goodnight, all.’ He was so much seen as a real policeman that he would end each series saying that he would be on holiday for a few weeks.

I could say that we never missed an episode but in those days there were no other channels to watch.


The Lone Ranger (and other Westerns)

I suspect they all came from America but in the fifties and sixties Westerns formed a major genre for films and television programmes. They were about the early years when everyone carried and used a six-shooter and the Sheriff was the only law enforcement. As children we played ‘Cowboys and Indians.’ (It was long before political correctness and the ‘Indians’ – or ‘Redskins’ were always the baddies, routinely killing and scalping the cowboys. Nowadays we call them Native Americans – or at least that’s what they are called in the USA. We don’t have cause to talk about them here now that we don’t have Westerns.)

In particular, the Lone Ranger was a regular series on Children’s Television. The Lone Ranger was a character associated with books and films but mostly from television, running through the fifties on US television and repeated in the UK. It starred Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as his faithful Indian companion Tonto.

Every episode started with the hero on his white stallion, Silver, dashing off to the cry of “Hi-yo Silver!” And every episode ended with someone asking, “Who was that masked man?” with the reply, “He’s the Lone Ranger,” while the two galloped off into the distance. Other catch-phrases were Tonto calling his companion, “Kemo-sabe,” which meant something like ‘faithful friend’ in the fictional Indian dialect of Tonto; the use of silver bullets; and Rossini’s William Tell Overture as signature tune.

The Lone Ranger was supposed to be the only survivor from a group of Texas Rangers. To conceal his identity he wore a mask and was never unmasked. (Sometimes he used disguises without the mask.) The Lone Ranger kept to a strict moral and behavioural code: He used perfect grammar without slang; he never shot to kill, just to disarm; he never called himself the Lone Range but might sometimes present a silver bullet; he never drank or smoked – saloons looked more like cafes and he would drink a ‘sarsaparilla with a dash of cherry.’ [Wikipedia associates this with another Western series but I think it was the Lone Ranger.]


That Was the Week That Was

Known more often as TWTWTW or just TW3, this programme was a landmark in television with its satirical look at politics and World affairs – often aimed at the Prime Minister (Harold Macmillan) and his cabinet. Until then the Establishment was largely uncriticised. TW3 was not afraid to criticize politics, the monarchy, racism, the class system and even the BBC. It relied on up-to-the-minute news and ran live. It ran for just two years in 1962 and 1963 but introduced many familiar figures, especially David Frost.

I remember Bernard Levin, once punched by the person he was interviewing; Lance Percival with his improvised calypsos; Willie Rushton, Roy Kinnear and the singer Millicent Martin (local with Ilford connections.) The programme opened and closed with Millicent singing the theme tune with words about the news of the week and that particular broadcast.

It ran on Saturdays, late in the evening, and would over-run or under-run as the cast more or less improvised. Despite large viewing figures it was not continued after 1963 as the BBC feared it was affecting its impartial status.



Fondly remembered for its two main characters, Steptoe and Son was a comedy series of the mid-sixties (with a few more in the early seventies) about a father and son team of rag-and-bone men, perhaps a little after such employment was common. It was often dramatic and tragic in parts but the overall impression was of comedy. It was the first UK situation comedy to use actors rather than comedians.

(It originated from a single half-hour comedy in the Comedy Playhouse series of 1962, which was so well received that it generated the series later.)

The father, Albert Steptoe was a ‘dirty old man,’ in many senses, while his son, Harold had social aspirations and wanted greater things. [Wikipedia says of Albert: ‘He is lazy, stubborn, narrow-minded and foul-mouthed, and has revolting personal habits. He is content with his place in the world, utterly unpretentious and downright cynical. He can be extremely vindictive and does everything he can to prevent Harold, his son, from improving himself.’ Of Harold, it has: ‘He wants to move up in the world — most of all to escape from the family home and his stifling relationship with his father … He likes to see his business as antiques rather than junk.’]

The episodes generally revolved around disagreements between the two, Harold’s attempts to bed women and momentary interest over things found on his round. Much of the humour derives from pathos, especially Harold’s continually thwarted attempts to better himself and the love/hate relationship between the pair.

Albert almost always comes out on top, and routinely and effortlessly proves himself easily superior to his son whenever they compete, for example in their frequent game-playing, such as snooker, Scrabble and badminton. Harold takes them desperately seriously and sees them as symbols of his desire to improve himself, but his efforts come to nothing every time. His father’s success is partly down to superior talent but is aided by cynical gamesmanship and undermining of his son’s confidence. In addition, Albert habitually has better judgement than his son, who blunders into all sorts of con tricks and blind alleys as a result of his unrealistic, straw-clutching ideas.

The Good Old Days

This light entertainment show, which ran from the early fifties to the eighties, modelled itself on Victorian Music Hall. It recreated an authentic atmosphere with the audience dressing in period costume. Leonard Sachs was the compere and the audience joined in the singing, especially the closing song, ‘Down at the Old Bull and Bush.’ Over its long run it featured so many famous singers and comedians that it would be impossible to list a significant subset.


The Goons and the Goodies

The Goon Show was a radio comedy show of the fifties broadcast on the Home Service (which became Radio Four) with occasional repeats on the Light Programme (later Radio Two.) It was created by its main writer Spike Milligan, who was also one of its main characters. The others were Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe. (All three continued long after the Goons, Milligan as a comic, Sellers mainly as an actor and Secombe mainly as a singer.)

Its humour was surreal, often with bizarre sound effects, and it affected much of later British comedy.

There were regular character roles such as Neddie Seagoon, Eccles, Bluebottle, Jim Moriarty and Major Denis Bloodnok, each with their own contrived voices and several regular catchphrases which quickly moved into the popular speech – such as: “He’s fallen in the water!” “You dirty, rotten swine, you! You have deaded me!” and variations of “Ying Tong Iddle I Po.” You will, of course remember the novelty hit song “The Ying Tong Song,” from my blog about holidays and the third one about Music.

The Goodies, a television series of the seventies, was equally zany and surreal. (Yes, I know, it shouldn’t be here if it was seventies, but it’s my blog.) It was written by its three stars Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie.

The series’ basic structure revolved around the trio, always short of money, offering themselves for hire — with the tagline “We Do Anything, Anytime, Anywhere” — to perform all sorts of ridiculous but generally benevolent tasks. Under this loose pretext, the show explored all sorts of off-the-wall scenarios for comedic potential. The show featured extensive use of slapstick, often performed using sped-up photography and clever, low-budget, visual effects.

Royal Command Performance

I remember this annual event as a spectacular variety show from early times. Wikipedia is not clear when it changed its name to the Royal Variety Performance or when it started being televised. It has always had major international stars performing there and the television presentation starts with the arrival of HM the Queen (or her representative from the Royal Family.) After the show we see the cast being presented to her before she departs. Of course it used to be live but now we have it the week after and its significance has diminished.

Sunday Night at the London Palladium

This was a British television variety show that was hosted from the London Palladium theatre in London’s West End, originally produced for the ITV network, from 1955 to 1969. The name was changed to The London Palladium Show in 1966. (There have been revivals in the seventies and this Century.)

Regular hosts included Tommy Trinder, Bruce Forsyth, Norman Vaughan, Jimmy Tarbuck, Jim Dale and Ted Rogers but it is mostly remembered for Bruce Forsyth. There were many other guest comperes for one or more shows

I remember it as a bit like the Royal Variety Show as it featured various acts, generally with a very well-known finale. It started with the Tiller Girls (glamourous synchronized dancers in the style of Busby Berkeley) and lesser acts in the first part and then there was the game show, Beat the Clock, the format of which was rather like Bruce Forsyth’s later programme, The Generation Game.

Current Affairs and Science

Panorama is a BBC Television current affairs documentary programme first broadcast in 1953 (and still running.) It has been presented by many presenters, but I remember mainly Richard Dimbleby, from 1955 until his death in 1965.

Tonight was a BBC television current affairs programme presented by Cliff Michelmore and broadcast live on weekday evenings from 1957 to 1965. It covered the arts and sciences as well as topical matters and current affairs with some light-hearted items. Reporters included Alan Whicker, Fyfe Robertson, Kenneth Allsop, Chris Brasher, Julian Pettifer, Brian Redhead and Polly Elwes.

The style was informal with no attempt to hide studio equipment. Sometimes Cliff Michelmore perched on the edge of his desk, unfazed by his desk telephone letting him know about technical problems. There were regular appearances from Cy Grant, singing a topical calypso (Like Lance Percival in TW3,) and folk singers Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor. Cliff Michelmore was known for his catchphrase when closing the show, “That’s all for tonight, the next ‘Tonight’ will be tomorrow night. Until then, good night!”

It was during an edition of Tonight broadcast on the evening of Friday 22 November 1963 that BBC television broke the news of the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy to UK viewers.

Horizon is an ongoing and long-running British documentary television series on BBC, running since 1964, covering topics in science and philosophy.

Tomorrow’s World was a BBC television series on new developments in science and technology, transmitted from the mid-sixties until 2003. In its early days it was hosted by the former Spitfire pilot Raymond Baxter. (Raymond, who also gave radio commentary at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the funerals of King George VI, Winston Churchill and Lord Mountbatten of Burma, and the first flight of Concorde, was born in Ilford and educated at Ilford County High School, from which he was expelled after being caught smoking. He did not go on to a college or university. He was the only famous Old Parkonian I ever heard about while at school.)

Ok, I give in. I will split here; still more to come …


1 Comment

Match of the Day

I have to mention another great television personality, the one and only Jimmy Hill who died today.


He was a football player and manager but remembered for his many television appearances, particularly Match of the Day.

He was, of course, also remembered for his beard (in earlier appearances) and prominent chin (seen after the beard went.)

As I say for so many of these obituaries, fondly remembered.

RIP Jimmy Hill (1928-2015)