(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)
I’m straying outside my ‘70s comfort zone here to Primary school in the sixties to recall two traumatic but interlinked episodes that for some reason have stayed with me for life.
I don’t recall Christmas in the ‘60s being as commercial as it is now, but the toy brands still found a way to ‘get to us’ even though there was only one commercial TV station back then.
Also, I don’t remember seeing adverts for toys in the UK comics of the day (although I may be wrong there) in the same way that the American comics advertised lots of cool stuff to buy on their inside covers.
Anyway, the object of my desire in 1966 was a Johnny Seven (O.M.A) One Man Army Gun. It was the Rolls Royce of toy guns with count them Seven different actions, as follows…
- Grenade Launcher
- Anti-Tank Rocket
- Anti-Bunker Missile
- Armour Piercing Shell
- Repeating Rifle
- Tommy Gun
- Automatic Pistol
It was the coolest thing in my universe at the time and to ensure its safe delivery I was happy to forsake quantity for quality and made a list of only one item for Santa that year.
It was all I could think about and I couldn’t wait to wake up on Xmas morning and take delivery of this plastic weapon of mass destruction.
I actually don’t think I slept that Xmas eve, giddy with anticipation about the lashings of street cred that were about to come my way.
Imagine my distress and utter shock then, when I discovered upon ripping the Xmas wrapping off the box like a demented Tasmanian Devil, that no Johnny Seven Gun lay await, but instead, something called a ‘Gun That Shoots Around the Corner’
How could Santa have got it so wrong? Was he mocking me? Did he want me to be a laughingstock? Had I been such a bad boy that year???
My Mum, upon seeing the crushed look on my face tried to rally me round. “What a lovely gift from Santa”, “Ooh it can shoot round corners, that’s good”,
“I bet no one else has a gun like that!” blah, blah, blah.
She obviously didn’t get it. In the urban warzone, shooting around corners wasn’t a thing, whilst Grenade Launchers, Tommy Guns and Anti-Bunker Missiles definitely were.
Of course, I look back now and realise that my poor parents probably visited every toy shop and department store in Glasgow in search of this best-selling toy and were only trying their best with the back-up option.
To them it was just another novelty gun and to be fair shooting around a corner may be lame, but it is pretty novel.
They say you don’t know a man till you walk in his shoes and having been under similar pressure to buy my own kids the bestselling and rarely available ‘toys of the year’ I now understand the strain they were under and I forgive them.
I don’t remember any drama in 1967 but by 1968 I was a bit more worldly wise. I now knew all about the big Santa swindle and had decided to focus my attentions on my Mum for future Christmas gifts.
My Dad was a busy man, plus he’d had a pretty tough upbringing, so he was from the “you’ll get what you’re given and be happy with it” school of presents, so no point in wasting my efforts there.
I was Ten in 1968 and had just started getting into football so I desperately wanted a football kit for Christmas.
Strangely, and this may shock some people who know me, but I was quite happy to get either a Celtic strip or a Rangers strip in 1968.
The reason for this was that my biggest football influence at the time was my Grandpa, my Mum’s Dad.
He was a big football fan and Celtic were his team. He regaled me with stories about legendary Celtic, Scotland and Old Firm games/teams/players, and of course in 1968 the Lisbon Lions, were still at their peak.
On the flip side 80% of my friends were Rangers fans, my Dad’s family were all Rangers fans, and the blue half of Glasgow had a pretty good team at the time as well.
So, the honest truth is, that at the time I liked both teams and didn’t feel any pressure to choose one over another – cute, but strange, I know!
So, I started the charm offensive early on my Mum that year to get a head start, but unfortunately my Dad was wary of a 10-year-old strutting about in a Celtic or Rangers jersey and vetoed the idea.
I countered with something I thought was perfectly reasonable, “how about a Scotland kit?” This was met pretty positively so I was content that by Xmas day I’d be the proud owner of my first football kit and I’d soon be out playing with my mates in the street or the park looking and performing like Denis Law
They say lightning doesn’t strike twice but it did in my house.
Two years to the day of Johnny Seven-Gate, came Scotland-Gate.
Once again, I ripped off the Xmas wrapping in eager anticipation and once again I was left aghast. There was no dark blue jersey with a big red lion emblem but instead a plain light blue long sleeved t-shirt.
I was incredulous or maybe more accurately I was as sick as a parrot.
My football knowledge was pretty good for a 10-year-old and I knew straight away I’d been duped. When I asked my Mum what team it was, she said “it’s some English team”, and also added that “I’d really suit the colour”.
In reality it was a t-shirt from DH Hoey’s, the well-known Glasgow school outfitter who to be fair did sell football kits, but this wasn’t one of them.
Joining my mates in their Rangers, Celtic, Scotland and Partick Thistle kits, I fielded the inevitable question, “what kit is that Paul?”
“Manchester City” I replied using my knowledge of the English first division.
This seemed to placate them till an older lad turned up and blew my cover by spotting that my top was plain, whereas the City jersey had white collars and cuffs.
Let the mockery begin….
Now I realise in the grand scheme of things that I had a lot to be thankful for and that getting any present was a blessing, but I’d really had enough of the humiliation by this point.
Looking back, we tell ourselves that it’s cool to be a bit different, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. I wanted to be the kid in the Scotland kit with the Johnny Seven Gun not the outcast in the sky-blue t-shirt with a wonky gun.
I never did get a Rangers, Celtic or Scotland kit and my last attempt was in 1969 when for my Christmas I got a plain bright orange t-shirt instead of the conciliatory Dundee United kit I’d asked for.
I finally realised I was flogging a dead horse when my Mum once again uttered the immortal words “Oh, you’ll look lovely in that colour son” with obvious reference to my sallow skin courtesy of our Italian forefathers.
What she didn’t realise however, was that thanks to her and Dad, most of the time my face was bright red.