Remembrance of Things Past

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


[115] Just Fade Away

It’s over a year since I finished this blog and I wanted to remind old readers of my memories and inform new readers.

There is a Full List that will take you to any of the over a hundred posts covering everything you always wanted to know about the Fifties and Sixties. If you like them, please share them with your friends.


I have added a few more thoughts and I have picked some of the things that have disappeared gradually – things that we just assumed kept going but then suddenly we may notice that they have gone.

Of course the main things that we oldsters will reminisce about are the intangible things like respect for authority; the innocence that came from not knowing about the World, and children being able to walk to school.

Just a few years after I started this blog, I note now that there were things that would have been recognized ten or twenty years ago as very old-fashioned but that the younger generation now would not even understand – things like: cameras with films and negatives; typewriters with keys; carbon paper; films in cinemas with projectors; landline telephones that were fixed to the wall; cathode ray tube televisions; printing presses; fountain pens and radios.

But here are some things that we had everywhere in the Fifties, things that people of my age will remember, but things we don’t have any more. They disappeared gradually. We didn’t notice them going but now they have become unfashionable or unnecessary – or are obsolete because of technology – or for some reasons are just not the way we do things any more. They may still exist but be much less common than they used to be. Some will be listed below with comments and some without. Some may have been mentioned in earlier blogs. The order is very random. (Yes, I know, ‘random’ can’t be qualified like this. Language is not as precise as it used to be!)


Cheese Rind

It must be the way they make cheese now.

Bacon Rind

Cream on the top of Milk

Car Bumpers

Cars were always very similar, generally black. They had chrome bumpers at the front and rear. First the chrome went – becoming plastic. Then the bumpers got smaller and smaller. Now they have gone altogether.

Hub Caps on Cars

They used to be chrome like the bumpers. People don’t have time to polish chrome now.

Back Doors

The milkman and baker always came to the ‘back door.’ It may have been at the side of the house but all houses had a front door and a back door. (We never locked the back door in the daytime.) New houses don’t have a back door but they probably have French windows [or French doors or conservatory doors. I won’t go into the language.]


I don’t think there is a word for them but bedrooms had a small window at the top that was always open to let in the fresh air. Modern houses don’t have them upstairs or downstairs. It’s all to do with central heating.


This is related. Cars used to have small windows, especially one beside the driver to get some air circulating – before cars had such good heaters with air-conditioning. Many drivers smoked and it was not unknown to have cigarette ends thrown out through the quarter-light. Of course we did not have electric windows in cars. [OK, cars used to have ash-trays as well – not any more.]

Shop Windows

No, I’m not obsessed by windows but almost every shop used to have a shop window displaying some of the things they were selling. These have gradually disappeared.

Net Curtains

It must be a fashion thing.

Privet Hedges

Tin Openers and Potato Peelers

I suppose I could also put hand whisks here.


Repairing shoes used to be common.

Street Cleaners

Men used to go round pushing their trolleys on wheels with a broom to sweep up litter. Now it’s hard to find anywhere without litter.


The End of the Central Line from Epping to Ongar

I suppose if I still lived in Ilford I would have noticed but it came as a surprise when I did find out.

Telephone Kiosks

Most of those that are left are listed buildings used for defibrillators or cash machines.

Ticket Sales and Ticket Collectors on Railways

Fixed Prices for Trains – or Coaches or Aeroplane Flights

You used to be able to know the price of a ticket from one station to another. Now you need to book online and give the exact date and time and then you may still have a choice of various ticket types. If you check the next day you may get different options or different prices.

Fireworks at Home

Cap Guns

Luminous Watches

I think this another ‘Health and Safety’ thing. It was radioactivity that made them luminous. Even watches are disappearing now. We have mobile phones or Fitbits that tell us the time. [You don’t see many large clocks out now either.]


Policemen’s Helmets

Ice-cream Vans


They would play their familiar jingles. You could get wafers or lollies or choc-ices.



Short trousers for boys

Skirts for schoolgirls

Public Conveniences

Perhaps the number of shops providing toilets have made these buildings obsolete. They must be expensive and difficult to maintain. I can think of several locally that have been demolished or turned into restaurants or just closed.

Deck Chairs

I suppose the week long English seaside holiday on the beach has gone too.


Most have closed or become restaurants.

Pub Signs

We used to play Pub Cricket on long journeys. I won’t give the full rules but you counted the number of legs to get runs in cricket. The ‘Dog and Duck’ would be six runs, four for the dog and two for the duck. With plurals like the ‘Fox and Hounds’ you had to see the sign to see how many hounds there were. Now those pubs that are left have either changed their names to sound like restaurants or have given up the pub sign. The very few remaining signs are almost all just a name with no picture. (Of course you can’t play Pub Cricket on motorways anyway.)

Football Pools

Holiday Camps

Free Meals on Aeroplanes

Tea Cosies and Tea Strainers

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[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.



[110] Dedicated Follower

I’m nearly done. Next on my diminishing list is the subject of Clothes and Fashion and we need a bit of a background summary first.

In the post-war situation of austerity people were relatively poor and choice of clothing was quite limited. It was more a matter of buying clothes than anything to do with fashion. (Of course there was fashion and it may have appeared in the news and the newspapers but it was for the rich. Remember that my blogs are mostly sweeping generalizations about my upbringing.)

I will make my usual comment that the pictures I find are generally too modern but they are the best I can do.

There is always the danger that this could be quite a large list of what we didn’t have then – but I won’t let that put me off. I’ve done it before!


Before I start, this may be difficult for those from the US. I may miss out some but here are some examples of UK clothing terms.

Trousers are pants. Pants are underpants.

Waistcoats are vests. Vests are A-shirts.

Braces are suspenders. Suspenders are … no exact equivalence but suspender belts are garter belts;

Tights are pantyhose;

A Dinner Jacket is a tuxedo (although it generally means a suit not just the jacket.) A tuxedo may be a white Dinner Jacket.

Y-fronts are jockey shorts.

Knickers are panties. French knickers are tap pants.

[Of course Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other countries may use other terms.]


I will start with clothing for men. You will remember way back at Blog [5], which looked at winter clothing. People in general dressed in similar clothes.

For men, we had grey trousers with turn-ups and creases and shirts – often plain white. That was about it. Outside the house men always wore jackets and ties. (I think many men always wore them inside as well.) Jackets were plain and greyish and ties were simple designs, often stripes.

pullover  sleeveless

When it was colder we had pullovers – long-sleeved or sleeveless knitted woollen tops that went over our shirts. We used the terms jumper, woolly or pullover interchangeably. They all looked much the same. Quite a lot of them were actually knitted by housewives. [You will note in one picture that smoking a pipe was a positive feature in advertisements, portraying a relaxed feeling.]

Shoes were black leather laced shoes – what we would now call brogues. Men might have been seen with black or brown leather brogues but never any other styles.

Summer Clothes

As a sort of diversion I do remember sometimes wearing T-shirts and (brown leather) sandals bought for when we went on holiday. I’m pretty sure only children wore T-shirts and my father only ever wore sandals on holiday.

Work Clothes

Everyone dressed much more formally all of the time so suits were more common. You did sometimes see three-piece suits that included a waistcoat. There was a less formal jacket called a sports jacket, maybe a bit thicker and warmer than an ordinary jacket.

(I worked in the Civil Service. Even in the Seventies and Eighties we were still more or less expected to wear a jacket and tie to work and this was true for clerical and similar jobs. Higher grades always wore formal suits and professional men such as doctors and lawyers always wore suits. Dress codes began to collapse in the Nineties and I started to go to work without a tie. I still used to put on a suit and tie when meeting people from other organisations.)

Rain and Weather

There was a thing called a raincoat. It was a long, straight dark grey (or very dark navy blue) coat that stopped the rain. We may have called them waterproof but under modern rules for more accurate labelling they might be considered water resistant. If you had a group of men wearing raincoats they would all look the same.

raincoat overcoat

There was also an overcoat, much the same shape as a raincoat but thicker and warmer (and not waterproof,) generally brown.

As people walked more (or used the busses) it was much more common to see umbrellas. An umbrella was a long, black rolled up device. (Don’t be silly, there was no choice!) For office workers a rolled up umbrella was almost part of the ‘uniform.’ From what I sometimes saw on early television I think that workers in the City of London routinely wore bowler hats but the fashion for hats more or less disappeared around the sixties.


For men, pants meant Y-fronts and there were matching vests, which we all wore. We had never heard of boxer shorts.


(It’s old money. 6s 6d became 32p on decimalization.)

The trend has moved to not wearing vests. This may be a function of warmer temperatures, warmer outer clothing or less walking outside but I think it was supposedly triggered by a film [US: movie] in which the romantic lead male was shown without a vest. I can’t find the reference.

Everything Else

OK, think of some of the things you wear today. These are some things that were unknown in the Fifties.

Jeans were not seen until the sixties and then just for adolescents. I have worn jeans most of my life but I never see anyone older than me wearing them. (Of course we didn’t have denim jackets either.)

Track suits were worn by athletes and you might see them on television. They were plain (definitely without any trace of adverts) and were taken off just before the start of a race. They were not worn by the general public or seen in shops.

Running shoes were presumably worn by athletes. I am not sure what they looked like. They had spikes to help the grip as athletes ran on cinder tracks. They were not fashion items and not available to us. We had those black tennis shoes (plimsoles) from China you could buy at Woolworths – just for PE at school.


Anoraks, parkas and all forms of zipped jackets – no. Just plain woollen button jackets.

[I am struggling with zips. I think there were some but they were not common. None of our clothes had zips. Jackets had buttons. Trousers had button flies.]

Forget most decoration or colour and especially writing on clothing. Clothes were plainly designed, perhaps just stripes or check.


There were fashion shops and I earlier to list the local Ilford shops that I remembered. But we bought basic clothes from department stores.


Women spent much less money on clothes than now and less time in shopping for clothes. There was no such thing as ‘retail therapy’. It has to be remembered that married women did not possess their own money. Most women were housewives. [As far as Income Tax was concerned a married man included any income of his wife as if it was his income. Joint assessment from about the Seventies was gradually replaced by the modern system.] For their clothing women could save and accumulate money left over from a housekeeping allowance, or ask their husbands for money to buy clothes, or rely on occasional birthday or Christmas presents.

So choice for women’s clothes was much less than now. There were fewer shops selling a narrower range of clothing, mostly utilitarian rather than fashionable. Even in the Fifties most of the fashion shops dealt with women’s clothes rather than for men.


As a man I couldn’t tell you much about fashion for women now and I’m even more lost back in the Fifties and Sixties when I have to go on early memories. I do know that Mum wore fairly ordinary clothes at home, often covered with a protective apron or pinafore. Nan mostly wore a housedress, which was far more plain and basic than anything I can find in a picture. She had a red one and a blue one so that she always had one while the other was ‘in the wash.’

Women wore fairly plain dresses or skirts.

For women, trousers were unheard of in the Fifties, except for some slacks for informal wear. Trouser suits for women for formal occasions started to creep in from the Sixties, when they were considered very daring. After a long transitional period, by the late Nineties it was unusual to see women in the streets in skirts or dresses. Those still not wearing trousers were either over about fifty (wearing long skirts) or under about twenty (in attractive short skirts) or obviously in formal attire dictated by their work. Since the turn of the Century most dress codes for working women have changed to allow trousers.

The last to change has been uniforms for schoolgirls. Even around 2000 they wore short skirts but now trousers are usual.

Underclothes and Lingerie

I am doing women’s clothes in a different order because I think some changes in outerwear may have been associated with changes in underclothes. I knew little of this subject as a young boy but I can generalize mostly from advertisements in the newspapers but also from my mother and sisters.


Women wore something called a girdle. Wikipedia is failing me because they no longer seem to exist. Modern girdles are not the same. The nearest equivalent is a corset but they were far removed from Victorian corsets. They were foundation garments that controlled and shaped in a way that must have been tight and uncomfortable – but they were not designed to be seen. As you can see in the picture above the bra could be equally unattractive and uncomfortable and sometimes the two were combined into one garment.

You can also see in the picture that these girdles had suspenders – to hold up stockings. Women wore stockings and in the fifties they were still often those with a seam. Without intimate knowledge of adolescent girls of the time I’m guessing here that those who didn’t need the control of a girdle wore suspender belts instead.

I am sure tights were available but they were not generally worn or cheap. Tights rapidly replaced stockings from around the Sixties with the advent of mini-skirts.


Sometime after tights other variations appeared in various lengths such as pop sox and self-supporting stockings. The picture above is included purely for academic information.

[I can’t speak with any real knowledge of lingerie in the Fifties as opposed to everyday underclothes. I am sure it existed. I think it is much more of a significant market now. Now it is advertised to men to buy for their loved ones at Christmas and other occasions. In many large stores the lingerie department is next to menswear and not by the womenswear. It is also true now that what women wear all the time is designed to look attractive and sexy (perhaps to make them feel more attractive and sexy) and more like lingerie. Of course I only know this because of extensive research done for my blogs! I found the picture below in my research.]


Miniskirts and Hot Pants

Miniskirts appeared in the early sixties and soon became popular, at least for the younger generation who felt able to wear them. It was presumably necessary to wear tights rather stockings for mini-skirts so the change to tights continued in parallel with fashion changes. As with many fashions, more mature women tended to stick with what they knew rather than adopting new fashions. (See above for jeans and trousers for women.)

Dorchester Debs


Short shorts for women also made a brief appearance in the seventies, known as hot pants. Since then shops seem to be selling all sorts of alternative womenswear all the time. Fashions now change more rapidly.


The picture above is from a fashion show. These were reported a little in television, newspapers and glossy magazines (not as early as the Fifties.) Actual clothes available in shops came a little after the fashion shows and were generally less outlandish – but fashions did change.


You will not be surprised to learn that fashion in clothing is much more relevant for women than for men. I still belong to the old school of thought that when I buy new clothes (a rare occurrence) I avoid anything fashionable. I don’t want something that will be out of fashion in a few years and I would never discard old clothing just because it is no longer fashionable. Women are different. They like to be fashionable.

(I think that men believe women dress to make themselves attractive to men. It’s more probable that they dress to be seen as fashionable by other women.)

Since the seventies as women have obtained more equality and more spending power they have become a target for consumerization. There are more shops selling women’s clothes than anything else – and far more than those catering for men.

A quick look at Wikipedia has given me several terms for clothing fashions that have come and gone – and some that are still relevant. But none of these existed in the Fifties. (Not all are for women exclusively – and: Sweeping Generalization alert!)

Boob tube, crop top, hoody, chinos, leggings, leg-warmers, ra-ra skirt, sarong, cagoule, anorak, parka, Duffel Coat (Sixties), gilet, poncho, shrug, flip-flops, crocs.

Finally on the subject of womenswear I am pretty sure that slips and petticoats used to be much more common. I think there is something about clothing technology that has rendered them obsolete.


The picture for children was similar, with reliance on housekeeping funds and the Family Allowance paid by the government as a benefit for children (usually collected by the mother). Children’s clothes were bought by their mothers. They were utilitarian rather than fashionable. With the age of majority at twenty-one, even 18 to 21-year-olds may not have had their own income. The idea of fashion did not exist for children (or babies.)

The other big difference in the Fifties was that boys used to wear short trousers up the age of about eleven or twelve. Nobody would have considered putting a boy or a young baby in full-length trousers.

Black Tie

A final little diversion about formal wear. There have long been the two standards of formal wear for special occasions.

White Tie with a long tailcoat has been reserved for very formal occasions (including the groom and best man at some weddings) and is now even more rarely seen than in the Fifties.

Black Tie goes with a formal Dinner Jacket and is normally reserved for formal evening dinner functions and some weddings. It remains the most formal attire on cruise ships that still have formal dining. I can only comment on Black Tie as I have occasionally attended such functions since the Sixties. (In those days I went to Dinner Dances once or twice a year with my father under the auspices of Freemasonry. More recently I have enjoyed cruises in my retirement.)

Wikipedia gives the standard for Black Tie as: a black dinner jacket of very specific design; an optional evening waistcoat or cummerbund; a white dress shirt; a black bow tie and black dress shoes (sometimes patent leather).

While this remains the standard various alternatives have crept in. I believe that changes started in the early Sixties when Anthony Armstrong-Jones, The Earl of Snowdon was seen to attend a black tie occasion with a heavy woollen roll-neck white jumper instead of a shirt, tie and jacket.

Perhaps the biggest changes are in the tie. Actual tied bow-ties are long obsolete but the tie no longer even looks as if it could be tied. There are various simpler shapes, some with wing-collar style shirts. Often the tie is not black but a dark red or blue. Dress shirts are not always white. And it is now common to see a white dinner jacket (but the trousers remain black.)

I won’t attempt to comment on women’s Black Tie dress codes, which used to include very formal long dresses, except to say that from around the Sixties formal trouser suits are considered acceptable.


Dedicated Follower of Fashion is a 1966 single from The Kinks. It lampooned the contemporary British fashion scene of the Sixties and mod culture in general. It starts like this.


They seek him here, they seek him there

His clothes are loud, but never square

It will make or break him so he’s got to buy the best

‘Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion.



[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.



[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.]



[96] “The Wisdom to Know …”

Continuing the theme of alcohol, after a look at pubs in [57] A Pint of Bitter. I come next to how you could buy alcoholic drinks for home consumption.

Off Licences

As I said in the last blog about alcohol, the places you could buy drinks used to be very limited – just pubs and some restaurants (only when with food.) There has been a similar widening in places from which alcohol can be bought for drinking at home. In the fifties, this was only possible from Off-Licences, which were relatively rare. I think there was one in Beehive Lane. Some (but not all) pubs also had a small Off-Licence operating from their premises. People didn’t use them much – most alcohol was consumed in pubs.

Now you can buy bottled beer, wine and spirits from most supermarkets and lots of smaller shops. In my original notes I said newsagents, but now they are all general stores or mini-supermarkets.

Bottle and Cans

You could buy beer only in bottles – a pint or half a pint. (Cider also came in two-pint bottles.) I know that some soft drinks had a 3d returnable deposit on the bottle buy I’m not sure whether this applied to beer.

As explained in the last blog, light ale sold in bottles was not quite the same as draft bitter.


From the late sixties, bitter brewed in wooden barrels was gradually replaced by a similar produced in metal kegs, sometimes known as keg bitter. The purists fought a long battle to retain ‘real ale’ from wooden barrels with the establishment of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, founded in 1971. (CAMRA is still active and various Beer Festivals continue to provide many different types of beer for the aficionados.)

The trend towards drinking more beer at home started around the late sixties with the Party Seven from Watneys, a large can of draught type bitter. It was not easy to open and you had to drink all seven pints quite soon after opening but it started the trend.


One other change of the sixties and seventies was in the consumption of lager. It used to be an expensive drink sold in small bottles and usually drunk by women – often with a dash of lime juice (or lime cordial). I think brands then were German or French and it was seen as not really an English drink, certainly not a drink for men.

Somehow it became more fashionable for men to drink lager – to the extent that it became more popular than bitter. It became available in cans.


The mechanism for opening cans has become easier with the modern ring-pull, shown above, coming in the eighties. (The use of cans has continued now also for many other drinks.)

After the general adoption of lager as a drink we had had the advent of several Australian brands of ‘amber nectar’ and also some American brands. We still have the familiar French Stella Artois and the German Kronenbourg (now part of the Danish Carlsberg brewery.)

beaujolais  blue-nun


Wine only came in bottles and always with proper corks. The volume of a ‘bottle’ of wine was not specified but was always a sixth of a gallon.

People didn’t drink wine much at home. What there was came generally from France of Spain and there were just a few well-known names. Red wine was probably Beaujolais from France and white wine might be Riesling, Liebfraumilch or Blue Nun from Germany. (Of course then it was West Germany.)


There was also Mateus Rose from Portugal and perhaps one or two from Spain and Italy but in the fifties and early sixties we did not see wine produced from further afield. Now we see wine from Hungary, Romania and other countries that were hidden behind the Iron Curtain -also Australia, the USA and South America particularly Chile.


[As for all pictures, it’s best to assume that they are modern equivalents. They are for illustration only and can’t show exactly what things were like in the sixties.]

Somewhere in the sixties wine boxes appeared, a cheap way of buying wine in draught form. You could in theory leave the wine box for a few days once opened but the temptation was there to finish it! Cheaper wine was becoming more available. (To the wine experts it was cheap wine not to be compared to expensive bottled wine. But soon cheap bottled wines became available.)

Drinking at Home

Alcoholic drinks come and go in fashions. In the fifties, sherry was a popular pre-dinner drink, which has now virtually disappeared. People were much more likely to have a sherry before Sunday lunch than wine with lunch. (It was usually very sweet sherry such as Bristol Cream. Sherry has always come in varieties as very sweet, sweet, medium, dry and very dry – cream, pale cream, oloroso, amontillado and fino.)

I think that because home drinking was at such a low level there were the drinks like sherry that would keep indefinitely once a bottle was opened. You saw advertised drinks like Dubonnet, Martini and other aperitifs. We probably had one or two bottles in the dining room sideboard but I don’t remember seeing then ever used. I always considered they were available as something to offer to an unexpected relative visiting.

Other Changes

There is a lot to this blog that comes from my memories and a lot of sweeping generalizations that may be inaccurate – but that won’t stop me saying it all! It’s not helped by being from a time before I knew much of alcohol. I was young and innocent.

The only memories I have of alcohol from the fifties and early sixties are that my parents may have had the odd Bristol Cream sherry before Sunday lunch and a bottle of wine at Christmas. Later on we may have had occasional bottles of beer and, of course, Nan had her regular Guinness.

Alcohol had a more positive (or perhaps neutral) image and people were generally more restrained in their consumption of alcohol. This is all linked to the period of post-war austerity when people could not have afforded to drink anyway.

On the other hand routine drinking at pubs was common with no attempt to control intake just because of their driving. There was no real stigma associated with being drunk while driving. There were laws about being drunk in charge of a vehicle but no scientific means of establishing drunkenness. The decrease in popularity of drinking beer at pubs came with the breathalyzer in the late sixties. There has been a continued drive to reduce drinking under the influence of alcohol with television advertising especially in the weeks before Christmas.

From the late sixties alcohol has become cheaper in relative terms and more freely available. It is now easy to buy alcopops (which did not exist) or single cans of gin and tonic or other mixed drinks in supermarkets. So consumption is much higher. Cynics among you may blame increasing consumption on advertising. There have been many extensive advertising campaigns for various alcoholic drinks – both on television and in cinemas. [As for cigarettes, such advertising has now largely disappeared.]

The younger population have adopted binge drinking as a culture and have opportunities for late night drinking in night clubs (or late opening pubs) which we did not have.

It is worth noting that in the sixties a ‘stag night’ was a few drinks with the boys the evening before the wedding. The best man would make sure that the groom did not drink too much. Now there are week long stag events involving much alcohol – not the night before the wedding to allow some recovery time! In our time there were no ‘hen’ equivalents for women. It was very rare for a woman to become drunk in public.

The trend towards pubs selling food started with decreasing consumption from those who drove. Also other social changes have led to the trend towards eating out much more, and pubs have filled the gap in the market. Now perhaps ninety percent of pubs have closed, with those remaining becoming combined pub/ restaurants or just restaurants.

It is also worth noting that then no-one was ever seen drinking straight from a bottle (or can – but of course canned drinks did not exist). There was no general problem of drinking in public places.

[Yes, people did drink. Some got themselves drunk. Many drove home very drunk. But the overall way of life was different.]


I ought to end with some words of advice. If you have any concerns about your drinking there are many organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous. If you have a friend or relative with drinking problems you may want to look at Al-anon.

The Serenity Prayer comes from the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971).

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Niebuhr used it widely in sermons as early as 1934 and published it in 1951. It spread both through his sermons and church groups and was later adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs.



[92] “To Boldly Go …”

I am going to talk about Astronomy and Space exploration but also about literature and Science Fiction in a fairly rambling sort of way. There can only be one way to start such a treatise.

PKT5802-427642 PATRICK MOORE ASTROLOGY Patrick Moore at the Armagh planetariam.

Patrick Moore

Many will remember Patrick from his years presenting The Sky at Night (from 1957 to 2012). He was a prominent and well-known amateur astronomer, well known for his monocle and rapid speech, and also a self-taught xylophonist. He was a prolific author of books about astronomy and his contribution to the science in the fifties and sixties is illustrated by his early books.

They started with A Guide to the Moon (1953) followed by Mission to Mars (1955), The Voices of Mars (1957), A Guide to the Planets (1960) and Stars and Space (1960) – all produced when we knew virtually nothing about the Solar System from actual observations. I am sure that I read some of these as I have always been interested in the Solar System.

The Solar System

In the fifties, compared with today we knew very little about the planets of our Solar System, in fact almost nothing. Perhaps it’s surprising how much we did know. All we knew was what we could observe with telescopes.


[The picture above is taken recently during an eclipse]

The Moon

The Moon turns exactly once every month. So we can only see one side of it. (Nearly all the large satellites of planets do this. It’s caused by the effects of tidal forces from Earth.) In the fifties and sixties we knew nothing about the far side of the Moon. We might have expected it to be similar to the side we know – but it isn’t.


The picture above shows the near and far sides (with false colours) showing very different surfaces. The far side has many more craters without the flat areas we call ‘seas.’



We may not think of the Earth as a foreign planet but before the age of space we had not seen what it looked like. We had maps in books, constructed by a painstaking process of surveying and trigonometry. We didn’t know much about the atmosphere and weather forecasting was fairly primitive. Even before the fifties, the Meteorological Office (then part of government) needed complex and lengthy calculations and it was one of the earliest users of relatively high powered computers.


We have so many satellites now that we take them for granted. At first we called them artificial satellites to distinguish them from the Moon. In the early fifties we had none. Let’s go back a bit.

Early Space Travel

It’s worth considering what the economic and political situation was back in the fifties. You will remember, from [51] Two Way Family Favourites, that the USSR then was in a Cold War with America. The two countries were competitive and Space was a particular area of competition. The technology was developed from Inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM) designed to carry nuclear weapons.


Sputnik (1957)

As space travel developed we defined new words from those involved. (US always had astronauts where the USSR had cosmonauts!) Sputnik became the word for satellites, at least for the early Soviet ones.

The USSR were first with a satellite they called Sputnik from what is now Kazakhstan. (The Russian word means something like: fellow traveller.) They launched Sputnik 1 on 5 October 1957, the first artificial satellite. It was small and had no scientific instruments but it began the long ‘Space Race’ between the US and the USSR, with associated technological developments.

In the World today, where satellites are taken for granted, it’s hard to explain the importance of Sputnik 1. It was a major news event (and a disappointment to the Americans, who of course wanted to be first to prove their superiority.) It orbited the Earth every 90 minutes and sent out radio signals which could be picked up by amateur radio enthusiasts around the world. The signals, just blips of sound, only lasted for 21 day until transmitter batteries ran out and Sputnik 1 fell to earth in January 1958.

Sputnik 2, launched in November 1957, carried a dog, ‘Laika.’ She died within hours but started the developments which enabled humans to travel in space. (The secrecy within the USSR meant that it was not until many years later that we learned that Laika had not survived her experience.)


Yuri Gagarin (1961)

The USSR continued to develop their space technology ahead of the USA and in 1961 they successfully launched a Vostok spacecraft carrying a human cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, who achieved fame worldwide instantaneously.

When he visited England soon afterwards he paraded the streets of London in an open car with the registration number YG 1. This number actually belonged to a relatively unknown singer, Yana (Yana Guard) who was at the time away on holiday and unable to give permission for its use!

Several other cosmonauts followed, including the first woman in space, Valentina Tereschkova, in 1963. [It has been technically more difficult to cope with female astronauts because of what we might call plumbing. Valentina was rushed into the USSR programme because she was about to marry an earlier male cosmonaut and the USSR thought it was might be an opportunity to study the effects of space on any possible offspring.]

Early US Space Flights (1961-2)

America was considerable behind and their first astronaut, Alan Shepard in 1961 did not even complete a single orbit. They had to wait until John Glenn in February 1962 for the first full orbit.


Telstar (1962)

The first two Telstar satellites were experimental and nearly identical. Telstar 1 launched in July 1962 and successfully relayed through space the first television pictures, telephone calls, and fax images, and provided the first live transatlantic television feed. Telstar 2 launched in May 1963. Both satellites, though no longer functional, still orbit the Earth.

Things like this made the News. You will also remember, from [34] Music 3, one of my first records was called Telstar, by the Tornados. In those days, electronic music was very new and the sound had some associations with developing space technology (and the earlier blips from Sputnik.)

The advent of telecommunications satellites made significant changes to society. Like so much of what I have to write about, it is hard for those today to appreciate how significant the change was. Back in 1956 the Olympic Games were held in Melbourne. News was not instantaneous. With the use of jet planes (which were then modern) we had fuzzy black and white pictures for the newspapers rushed to us within about twenty-four hours – and we wondered about how things had improved. Now we expect full, high quality colour immediately throughout the World.

Satellites today

There are so many things we now take for granted, that depend on satellites. There are, literally, hundreds of satellites. We have almost instantaneous telephone communication around the World; mobile phones; hundreds of satellite television channels; automatic location by GPSS; overhead maps of the World; accurate weather forecasting and the Internet.


The Americans were disappointed (to say the least) when Soviet technology had shown their superiority in space with Sputnik and men in space. At the beginning of the sixties President John Kennedy made what was then a very rash promise. He said that the US would put a man on the Moon and bring him back successfully by the end of the sixties. Remember that in those days, computers were very primitive by modern standards.

NASA started the Apollo program in 1961 with new Saturn rockets. (The USSR remained silent about its plans and continued with orbital spaceflights.) Large amounts of money, technology and effort went into the Apollo program because of the public declaration made by Kennedy and the competitive nature of the Cold War.


Apollo 8 in 1968 sent three men into Moon orbit, safely returning to Earth. Then Apollo 11 in July 1969 placed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. There were further successful Apollo flights but the dramatic events of Apollo 13, as shown in the film, did actually happen.

(One reason that some conspiracy theories consider that Apollo was a hoax is that it was a very difficult task, challenging to the limits the technology of the day. We didn’t get high quality pictures, just fuzzy black and white images. But it did happen. Believe me.)

The USSR did eventually get to the moon and there have been many more successful ventures in space since then.



I am surprised at the time of writing to see that we now have five spacecraft in orbit round Mars. As shown in the picture above we have now put vehicles on the surface and brought back good pictures. Until the mid-sixties we just had what we could see from telescopes on Earth.

Other Planets

In the fifties, just as we had no knowledge of the other side of the moon, we knew virtually nothing of atmospheric or surface conditions on other planets. Some of what we ‘knew’ has turned out to be wrong. For some planets we didn’t even know the length of the ‘day.’ We knew about their larger satellites (moons) but many smaller ones have since been discovered.

The Voyager 2 mission launched in 1977 a spacecraft that passed Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus before reaching Neptune in 1989.


Since 2015 we even have pictures of Pluto.


With no sophisticated computers to work things out, there were alternative theories about the creation of the Universe. Some supported what we now call the Big Bang theory, but the eminent astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle rejected this in the sixties with his own theory of continuous creation. Now the Big Bang is universal accepted and its time line is described and defined in detail. (We also know so much more about sub-atomic particles, quantum mechanics, general relativity and black holes – but this is not the place for a degree course in astrophysics!)

Science Fiction

I have always been keen on astronomy and other sciences but I have also been an avid reader of Science Fiction literature. When it comes to astronomy and life on other planets Science Fiction has always been far from realistic.

If we start with some views of the planet Mars we can go back as far as H G Wells in 1989 with War of the Worlds, a story in which Martians escape from a dying planet and try to invade the Earth. This story had been famously adapted for radio in 1938 and was notorious for causing public panic when presented as if a live broadcast!

As a fan of the Tarzan stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, I also read his Martian series starting with A Princess of Mars. Books such as these routinely described the planet as remarkably similar to Earth, inhabited by similar people. There were differences and these differences were part of what made the Science Fiction genre, but the reader never had to think that the gravity or atmosphere or food might be different. We took for granted that alien races would walk like us and talk like us.

Generally science fiction stories about other worlds have always glossed over such minor problems. They generally assume that the gravity, atmosphere, weather and other conditions are so near to our own that they are hardly worth mentioning – and they assume that the people will act more or less like us and speak perfect English.



Doctor Who and Star Trek

I will say something about these two as television later but I have put them here as examples of two things about space travel in Science Fiction. Firstly, in the fifties and sixties all the problems mentioned above were ignored. In particular, wherever the first Doctor went – or the early Star Trek – everyone spoke English without question. In later series, both developed complex technological methods to enable automatic and invisible language translation.

Of course both, by amazing coincidence, only seem to pick places where the temperature, gravity and atmosphere are remarkably similar to ours. Their inhabitants differ slightly from humans – but only as far as we can manage with prosthetic make-up etc.

The other thing that fascinates me about science fiction, illustrated by Star Trek, is how far they can predict the future. Star Trek predicted communicators that foreshadowed mobile phones. But they did not do it very well. They were more like updated versions of old-fashioned walkie-talkies without even an easy way to specify who to talk to! Mobile phones of today make those predicted for hundreds of years in the future look very primitive.

The original Star Trek also had something a bit like a very primitive modern tablet. Captain Kirk could take a quite bulky pad and sign off the orders of the day. Again the prediction is already vastly out-of-date.

More modern science fiction tries to be more realistic in its predictions. Sadly, most of it nowadays is more fantasy based on magic.