I loved the uniform, the cap and badge covered sweater. I even liked ironing my neckerchief every week and hunting for my woggle (Ooer Matron!
I was part of The 7th Clydebank Wolf Cub Scout Pack who met each week in the local school hall.
I enjoyed the singing and the games and all the rough and tumble. It wasn’t all harmless fun though as I saw one cub accidently crash his hand through the swing glass door of the hall….and pull it back out causing horrendous lacerations and a lot of blood!
I also really enjoyed the annual sports day and playing football against the other local Cub Packs. The only time we went ‘camping’ we slept in wooden huts with real beds!….Result!
However, I certainly didn’t enjoy waiting in the rain with hundreds of fellow cubs, scouts and girl guides to ‘see’ the Queen at Glasgow Green! After two hours of sitting on the wet grass a large black limo sped past and we saw a tiny gloved hand wave briefly from the window! WTF!
But I digress…..
I also mostly enjoyed the annual Bob-A-Job week. Every year we visited local houses and offered to do household jobs for them for payment of a Bob…One Shilling….Five Shiny New Pence!
Myself and my pal Michael had been knocking on doors for about 4 hours and had been pretty successful. Most of my neighbours were friendly and happily gave their Bob and sometimes more, and maybe even a biscuit, then gave us an easy to perform. In return they got a ‘Job Done’ sticker for their front window.
We decided we’d try the ‘big house’ at the top of the street. It had a large gate and grounds leading to an imposing dwelling.
Our confidence was high so we marched up to the front door and rang the bell.
Our chirpy ‘Bob-A-Job!’ stuck in our throats as a very tall, Rees Mogg like, figure opened the door and glowered at us!…….’Bob-A-Job’ I squeaked……
‘Aaah Yesssss. Verree well then’ the tall man said and led us through the porch into a dark square hall.
Michael and I exchanged an ‘Anaw whit huv we dun!?’ look as the tall man pointed to the open door of a very large living room and said ‘Clean out the fire ashes and then fetch coal and wood to build a fresh one. Then I’ll see what else can be done!’
Eager to escape his looming presence we half ran towards the fire place. ‘The quicker we do this the quicker we can get away’ whispered Michael.
We didn’t have a clue what to do, then I spotted an old metal bucket and decided that’s where the ashes should go.
We made a hell of a mess which of course we had to clean up then we were shown outside to collect the coal and wood. We worked there for well over an hour and at the end we were tired, sweaty and very dirty!
Rees Mogg finally dipped into his leather purse and gave us a shilling each and I gave him a sticker for his front window.
To ensure no other unsuspecting Cubs would approach this slave driver’s house I stuck a few more on the outer storm door as we left!
Full disclosure Number Two….
When I was 10/11 I had a massive crush on our Akela, the leader of the Wolf Cub pack. She was probably in her early thirties and worshipped her from afar!
When I was promoted to a Sixer (there were 6 Sixers in the pack of 36) and then to flag bearer I was overjoyed as it meant I was ‘closer’ to her.
One Cubs’ night, just as we were finishing, Akela asked me if I could come to her house on the following Saturday!
I was to cook breakfast for Akela and her Mum as part of my Home Proficiency Badge or something……I wasn’t really listening after she said ‘Come to my house!’
I couldn’t sleep for three nights and I badgered my Mum into a crash course on how to fry eggs, bacon and sausage! And how to make tea! I’d never even boiled a kettle!
Saturday morning arrived and wearing my Cub uniform, I nervously walked the half mile to her house.
Akela and her Mum were very nice to me and I kinda overcame my fear and nervousness. They didn’t even complain that I burst the fried eggs’ yolks, undercooked the bacon and ‘stewed’ the tea.
After I’d washed the breakfast dishes Akela told me I had attained my merit badge and I was ecstatic as I floated home on cloud nine. Or…..
‘Riding Along On The Crest Of A Wave’
if you prefer.
I left the Cubs a few months later but the wonderful memories remain with me even after 50+ years
New hip or new car? Unfortunately the former. Root cause analysis: a phenomenon in Scotland in the 70s.
Bruce Lee films and the Scottish climate conspired to spawn an explosion in participation of the indoor pastime (not sport) of Karate.
Further: my general uselessness at any sport involving a ball drew me to the Bearsden Primary located Shotokan Karate club in 1973, thence to the Allander club, Strathclyde University club and a number of dojos in Hong Kong and London.
Scotland was recognised as the most successful small nation in international competition karate during the 70s. The Glasgow Shukokai based Kobe Osaka club produced good competition fighters. At its peak Glaswegian Tommy Morris’ Kobe Osaka had hundreds of students across the world.
Another Scot, Gene Dunnett, a member of the GB team that defeated the Japanese National team in the 70s, took a guest training session at the Allander club fairly soon after his achievement. A hard session I recall; training was harder in the 70s. Alumni arthritis a consequence. Press ups on knuckles, punching wooden boards, over extended stretches to enable high kicks……..
However, competition karate is not really karate.
I parlayed modest skill and a limited number of combinations into a couple of silver medals at the Scottish University Championships in 1978. Later, in 1980, as a member of the Royal Hong Kong Police Tai Kwan Do squad I was beaten by a 16 year old Chinese member of the Police Youth Club team.
High participation numbers in Scotland drew top Japanese masters, such as Enoeda and Tomita, to give training sessions and grade students in local sport centres. Enoeda graded me green belt at an East Kilbride sports centre in 1975. His eagle eye missed my shoddy round house kick. Perhaps the other 120 students distracted him.
Glaswegian Dan Docherty died last December aged 67. I met him in 1980 in Hong Kong, when he was a Shotokan practitioner. He switched to Tai Chi and won the 1980 SE Asia full contact knockdown championship, beating the much larger ( 21 stone) Roy Pink by a knockout.
The Chinese master of the Wudang Tai Chi style made Dan, a fluent Chinese speaker, his successor. Dan had hundreds of students worldwide and was an influential, controversial figure. RIP Dan!
Saturday nights, are the best of the week; always have been – always will be. But although still special, as grumpy, cynical old grown-ups, we know what to expect. What we do in 2030 will be much the same as we did in 2020 albeit probably a lot slower and involving more aches, pains, groans and complaining.
Growing up in the ‘70s, though, it was all that bit more exciting:
1970 (aged 12): Saturday nights would be special for parents too. My sister and I would often be dropped off at grandparents for the night while mum and dad went to some fancy-dan Dinner Dance at the Albany Hotel. Suited us: a Beano comic; a Lucky Bag; Dr Who and Dixon of Dock Green on TV; home-made (powdered) ice cream and a glass of Lucozade – even if we weren’t feeling poorly.
1971 (aged 13): Dad would treat us all to his tea-time speciality – spam and beetroot fritters! Mmmmnn! Yummy!
The ice-cream van would pass down our street and we’d get a copy of the Pink Times which carried all that day’s football results. I’d then spend ages meticulously updating my Shoot! League Ladders, copying the positions from the evening paper. It was a pretty pointless exercise, I’ll grant you, but that’s just what we did for entertainment back then. With hindsight though, it’s perhaps easy to see why I struggled to find a girlfriend!
1972 (aged 14): At 5pm, my dad and I would gather round the radio, waiting for the tune that still excites me to this day.
James Alexander Gordon would read the Classified Football Results and we’d always try to guess the away team’s score from the intonation in his voice.
(I’d then get my bloody Shoot! League ladders ready, in anticipation of the ice-cream van’s chimes.)
Really though, not a lot changed from 1971. Still too young for even under-aged drinking in the tunnel under the railway at the back of our house, I’d settle for dad’s new Saturday tea-time treat – mashed corned beef and beetroot toasties. Mmmmnn! Yummy!
(Beetroot to our family were as turnips would be to Baldrick in Blackadder, some eleven years later.)
1973 (aged 15): I enjoyed going to watch football with my pals – not so much for the sport, as my team had been a bit sporadic in their success those past eight years, but because I had an excuse to pass on the ‘something and beetroot,’ Saturday Special! My pals and I would stop off at the chippy outside the Underground station and I’d have just the best black pudding supper and a couple of pickled onions the size of golf balls.
“Oh Dad – I’d love to try one, but really, honestly … I’m stuffed.”
And that’s about as exciting as it got. Saturday nights for fifteen year olds in Boresville, Suburbia could be a bit on the mundane side.
1974 (aged 16): Now Saturdays became a bit more exciting. We’d somehow blag copious amounts of beer and fortified wine from unscrupulous Off Sales proprietors and stash it in the local woods. Later that evening, we’d retrieve it, neck it, and quickly head off to the local disco.
It now all became a bit of a race against time. We’d have to time our arrival (often at the town’s Ski Club) before the alcohol got the better of us and we’d be refused entry – which did happen from time to time, I’m afraid to say.
1975 (aged 17): 1975 called for a bit of consolidation before we turned 18. We were however, sufficiently confident to blag a beer or two at the local hostelry – The Burnbrae.
We had become bored with the stale local disco scene though, and would instead venture into Glasgow’s fashionable West End to crash the disco nights held by some of the city’s private schools.
The all-girl schools were pretty discerning about who they let in, so we generally stuck to the all-boys schools. These events were hosted by the schools’ rugby clubs and so there were plenty of burly bouncers to evade / deceive before entry.
And the students of these schools didn’t take too kindly to us usurpers from Comprehensive schools chatting up their girlfriends. Frequently the evening would end in fights – and a girl’s false phone number scribbled onto your arm.
(Oh – just me, then?)
1976 (aged 18): By August ’76, I may still have been a daft wee boy, but I’d left school, turned eighteen and started my first job. I dared bar staff in town to question my age. Which they did, of course – for the next five years or so. See, that’s the trouble with being a daft wee boy!
Naturally, Saturday nights became pub centric. Generally they’d be spent with old school pals at Macintosh’s Bar in Glasgow, followed by a few hours at The White Elephant discotheque.
1977 (aged 19): I was now dating a girl I’d met at The White Elephant, so most Saturdays were still being spent in there – maybe with a pre-disco Stakis Steakhouse meal thrown in. Boy, I knew how to show the ladies a real good time!
Some Saturdays though, my mate, Derek, would sign me in to the Strathclyde University Students’ Union Bar. The beer was so much cheaper in there than the standard 38p pub pint, and bands were booked every week. One of the best, and one I had to pester him to get me in to, was The Ramones. Yeah, The Ramones! 21st May 1977 it was, and they co-headlined with another little known band of the time, Talking Heads.
Not a bad night for, I reckon, about a fiver all in!
1978 (aged 20): I had met another girl in the autumn of the previous year – we’d be together two years – and her best pal was going out with my best mate. (They had introduced us on a blind date.) We would still head uptown from time to time, but the girls weren’t that keen. Looking back, we had almost instantly morphed into two boring ‘married’ couples, sitting around one of our homes listening to records and watching crap television with a Chinese takeaway meal on our laps.
1979 (aged 21): This was much the same as the previous year until after our second holiday away together, my girlfriend and I decided enough was enough. Come September, Saturday nights were then mainly spent in the company of my athletics club pals, either in the bars or Indian / Greek restaurants of Glasgow’s Kelvinbridge area, or at The Peel pub in Drumchapel, playing darts, Space Invaders, Galaxian and Asteroids.
We would also enjoy playing ‘the puggy’ – until it was stolen! Yes, really!
Six months into the next decade and I’d go on holiday to the South of France with some of those athletics pals. There, I’d meet our Diane, a Geordie lass. Saturday evenings for the next couple of years would be spent at her local Social Club, playing bingo, watching some really ropey ‘turn’ and drinking warm, flat lager (Hansa?)
Either that, or with pals and their partners, we’d revisit some of those old, Glasgow haunts from the late ‘70s.
And so the excitement of Saturday nights continue into my sixty-fifth year – at the beginning of June, Diane and I have organised a big party to celebrate our 40th Anniversary! (But not before I’ve updated my end-of-season Shoot! League Ladders.)
“Gonna keep on dancing To the rock and roll On Saturday night, Saturday night.”
(Post by Coin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2022)
(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – April 2022)
It’s funny how hair styles can define an era and popular culture.
The war-time 1940s were synonymous with austerity: pin-curls, victory rolls and snoods for women which kept their hair out of harm’s way when they worked in munitions factories.
The 1950s saw a younger, more rebellious generation sweep away utilitarian styles in favour of more glamour: from bouffant to the poodle-cut made popular by film stars such as Lucille Ball. Men kept their hair short throughout the post-war era until the 1950s, when rock and roll introduced more textured styles such as the quiff and pompadour.
Then came the ’60s with its Flower Power, anything-goes zeitgeist; but not at my house.
My parents were far more conventional when I was growing up in America’s Deep South in the ’60s. Not one to “let it all hang out” my mother kept her long, black hair scraped up in a large bun rolled over a foam doughnut-shaped hair form; held aloft by hundreds of hair pins and a cloud of Elnet hairspray which seemed to follow her around; like the cloud of dust around Pig-Pen in the Peanuts cartoon.
I can still smell it. As for that hair form – it had a life of its own and seemed to crop up in unexpected places. I was scared of it.
Dad was old-school and favoured short back and sides, slicked down with a dab of Brylcreem, which gave it a high glossy sheen and controlled his unruly, curly forelock. He looked like Frank Sinatra (his musical hero), or one of those guys in Madmen.
Dad and I would sing along to the Brylcreem ad on TV, “A Little Dab’ll Do Ya,” which became our special song for the rest of his life.
My grandmother kept her beautiful white hair in a permanent wave during her weekly trips to the beauty parlour and sometimes her hair changed colour from white to mauve, which kept us all on our toes.
When my brother was about twelve and hitting new pubescent strides, he did something radical and grew out his crew-cut which my dad had insisted on, into a longer style inspired by the Beatles. My grandmother gave him five dollars to “get a decent hair cut” which he spent on records and came home with his mop intact. Having survived our grandmother’s scorn, he had a narrow escape outside the local ice-cream parlour when some kid threatened to cut his hair off with a knife! Life in Appalachia could be tough.
If we were going to church, Mom would slick our hair down with a dash of spit on the palm of her hand; she was even known to wheel out the Elnet for that perfect, sleek finish. I can see my brother now, ducking and diving with a mischievous grin as he tried to dodge the spit.
As a very young child, my mother kept my hair short with a fringe but as I grew, Mom let my hair grow and had fun styling it. I had low bunches, high bunches, ponytails, pigtails, plaits across my head or rolled in coils above my ears like Heidi – and buns for ballet! And don’t get me started on French Braids! They HAD to be just like Dorothy Gale’s in The Wizard of Oz (MGM 1939).
When Mom washed my hair she would twist it – stiff with shampoo – into ‘sheep horns’, ‘dog ears’, ‘rabbit ears’, ‘kitten ears’ and ‘unicorn horns,’ which I thought was funny but I’m sure was a ploy to get me to sit still long enough to have my hair washed.
My grandpa used to say, “Why sugar – you look just like Minnie Pearl with your hair in pigtails.” Minnie Pearl was a comedienne and star of the Grand Ol’ Opry; who to my knowledge did not wear her hair in plaits. Mom insisted that I looked nothing like Minnie Pearl, despite the fact that we were vaguely related to her. Minnie Pearl (real name Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon) was my mother’s father’s brother’s wife’s niece. Work that one out!
By the time I was nine, my hair was waist length and to my mother’s despair, “tangled at the drop of a hat.” She called them “rat’s tails.” Exasperated with my fine, knotted hair, she once took me to her hairdresser, where he held the crown of my head with one hand (getting a purchase on my scalp) and raked a fine comb through the wet tangles, at which point I screamed and Mom marched me out, telling him that he had “absolutely no understanding whatever of how to tackle tangles – or children!”
The point was, my hair was in my mother’s hands, quite literally. The length and style were her choice. She even rinsed my hair in warm vinegar to make it squeaky clean, but boy did it stink! The only hair conditioner you could buy then was Creme Rinse which Mom considered an extravagance.
One of the first records I bought was ‘Hair’ by The Cowsills (1969), written by Galt MacDermot with lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni; a cover of the original song from the musical ‘Hair’. I thought it was really “groovy” and “far out man”, as I sang along swinging my “shining, gleaming, flaxen, waxen” locks. It was the dawning of the age Aquarius and my first and only foray into psychedelia. Cool.
As the ’60s gave way to the ’70s and my family moved to Birmingham, West Midlands, I became aware, for the first time, of how hair could get you noticed. Watching Top of the Pops one Thursday evening in 1971, I was mesmerised by Rod Stewart’s feather-cut as he strutted around on stage singing Maggie May. Dad said Rod’s hair looked like a cockerel: well, that was the whole point! And we all knew that David Essex’s trademark dark, shaggy curls were going to make him a star.
I begged Mom to let me have a feather cut – or a Lion Cut, like Jayne Bolton’s at school – but I was met with near hysteria from my mother who said these “fancy hair-dos were just plain ugly.” Good job she had a set of Carmen rollers; I spent hours in front of the bathroom mirror trying to perfect the Farrah Fawcett flick a la Charlie’s Angels – and half a canister of Elnet. My flick was nothing compared to Rachel Sadler’s, whose blonde tresses were sprayed into magnificent, solid waves.
One day, aged fifteen, I decided to take matters into my own hands and get my hair cut – only shoulder-length mind – but it was a significant moment. My dad greeted me in the hallway and burst into tears, “My little girl has cut off her beautiful hair! She’s all grown up!” Embarrassed beyond belief, I marched through the house swinging my new shiny bob tied back with a cotton bandana.
“Oh Dad, of course I’m grown up! Duh!”
A trip to the cinema in 1976 to see ‘A Star is Born’ starring Barbra Streisand changed my hairstyle for the next decade. In the film, she wore her blonde tresses in a soft curly-perm which I thought was the most exciting, sexy looking hair I’d ever seen. Luckily for me, Steiner hair salon in Birmingham city centre were advertising for perm models, so I took a seat, lit a cigarette and strutted out four hours later with a halo of tight curls and an afro comb. I looked perfectly ridiculous and nothing like beautiful Barbra.
On a trip back to the States with my dad to visit my grandparents in the summer of ’78, I stepped from the plane in my high-heeled sandals and perm, which immediately caught the attention of my conservative, Southern grandmother.
“Your shoes are just tacky and your hair – well, there’s nothin’ I can do about your hair!”
She had a point.
As disco stirred-up a veritable Night Fever on dance floors in the late ’70s, my curly-perm took on even greater, pretentious proportions; it even had its own routine! Beneath the mirror balls and strobing lights of Birmingham’s clubs and wine bars, my hair held centre stage, glistening with gold spray. As I sashayed along Corporation Street one afternoon to the bus stop – my perm radiating sophistication – I was approached by a sleazy photographer offering me work as a model for ladies underwear. My perm bubble was burst.
The ’70s gave way to the ’80s, heralding my Liza Minelli era with a short crop which went to my head and announced my arrival at university to study Performance Arts, where I felt emboldened to take to the stage as a jazz singer with a new, sassy confidence.
By the mid 1980s trends were changing as the age of BIG hair arrived, influenced by TV shows such as Dynasty and executed with a tonne of mousse and attitude. With hair as wide as my huge shoulder pads, I strutted around the office in power suits and towering heels that Alexis Carrington Colby would have been proud of; until my hair caught fire as I lit a cigarette.
A pixie crop followed – it was a lot safer.
These days, I keep my fine, grey hair short and think of my mother as it still tangles at the drop of a hat.
(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2022.)
Last February fellow regular collaborator George Cheyne wrote the splendid article Wall Of Fame for this excellent blog. He explored the numerous posters we had back in the 70s (disguising the embarrassing Winnie The Pooh wallpaper in my case). A great article but I fear he missed one important iconic image.
The Che Guevara poster.
Mine, if I remember correctly, was handed down to me by my eldest brother when he flew the nest. To me it was some Cuban revolutionary guy in a cool beret. That was the extent of my knowledge and the lack of interest for further research as a pubescent adolescent.
With the advent of time and the emergence of easy use internet search engines, I now know differently.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara (14 June 1928– 9 October 1967) was from a wealthy Argentinian family. He was a Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist.
His nickname che is a common filler or interjection used in Argentine Spanish a bit like eh in Canadian English or ken in some Scots dialects.
Whether he was on the side of good or evil, I’ll let his biographer, Dr Peter McLaren have his say.
The current court of opinion places Che on a continuum that teeters between viewing him as a misguided rebel, a coruscatingly brilliant guerrilla philosopher, a poet-warrior jousting at windmills, a brazen warrior who threw down the gauntlet to the bourgeoisie, the object of fervent paeans to his sainthood, or a mass murderer clothed in the guise of an avenging angel whose every action is imbricated in violence—the archetypal Fanatical Terrorist.
As a quasi rebellious teenager, I may have had slight left leaning world views not like the watermelon I have now become in old age – green on the outside and red in the middle ! – but since this is an apolitical platform I’ll leave it at that !
It’s the iconic poster I want to concentrate on.
Guerrillero Heroico was the original photograph taken by Alberto Korda in Havana, Cuba on the 5 March 1960 at a memorial service. Another figure and a palm tree were cropped out to give the image an ageless quality.
Che’s image remained in Cuba for the next 7 years used in newspapers occasionally advertising conferences he was to speak at. In 1967 wealthy Italian newspaper publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli while trying to negotiate the release of a French journalist captured as a part of Guevara’s guerilla operations in Bolivia, asked the Cuban government for a suitable image of Che. Because he was a friend of the revolution, Korda gave him 2 prints for free. Feltrinelli then distributed thousands of images to bring awareness to Guevara’s precarious situation and ultimate demise.
In 1967 Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick printed the image in it’s now familiar black and red adding a subtle ‘F’ on the shoulder. It was used as a symbol in the May 1968 Paris student riots. In 2008 Fitzpatrick signed over copyright to a paediatric cardiology hospital in Havana.
One of the great icons of the 20th century evolved into a popular and heavily commercialised icon that often strayed far from Che’s hard-line Marxist message.
So, a bit more than some Cuban revolutionary guy in a cool beret.
For the record, I did also have a beret that was commandeered by my girlfriend (now wife) in the 80s. I blame Bananarama – a different kind of revolution perhaps !
I wonder if in years to come teenagers will have a stylised poster of Volodymyr Zelenskyy on their bedroom walls – Some cool Ukrainian warhero dude.
(Header image from Bettman Archive / Baseball America.)
Back in the Twenties, my grandfather and his brother who were both professional fighters, boxed out of New York for some time. My Grandpa returned home to Glasgow after a while but my great uncle saw a better future in the States and brought his wife out to join him. They were young, not very well off and started their family life in Brooklyn.
Once every couple of years or so, they’d return to Scotland for a few weeks to catch up with family and friends. I eagerly awaited these visits, not least because they’d bring with them a selection of Archie Comics and Harvey Comics (Little Audrey, Richie Rich and Casper) and of course…. ‘candy.’ Peanut Brittle especially!
Growing up in Glasgow / Clydebank, they were no different to my other aunts and uncles, and were big football fans. But with none to watch in New York (‘soccer’ football that is) they had followed the fortunes of their local baseball team – The Dodgers. That is, until the year of my birth, 1958, when the franchise was rather contentiously moved to Los Angeles.
I can’t recollect if they switched allegiance, but the tales they were so keen on relating to me, centred around their times spent at the iconic Ebetts Field, calling opposition pitchers ‘bums,’ and singing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ during the 7th inning stretch.
They’d tell me of players to have worn the famous shirt: Sandy Koufax and Pee Wee Reese I remember them talking of. And of course, Jackie Robinson.
Admittedly, being only a kid, I was more interested in the latter because his name was the same as my nickname. Racism was not something this innocent wee boy from Glasgow was familiar with. (Robinson was the first black player to play Major League since Moses Fleetwood Walker joined the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884, thereby breaking for good, baseball’s shameful sixty-three year old ‘color line’ in 1947.)
Then one year, it would have been around the late ‘60s when I was nine or ten years old, they brought me a present that would shape my sporting choices many years down the line – a spring-loaded baseball tee with plastic bat and ball.
The object was to place the ball on the tee, slam your foot down on the pedal built into the base, making the ball shoot up into the air, and then simply swing the bat and hit the ball. Dawdle!
Well, not really! Practice does make perfect though, and eventually I more or less mastered it.
I was also given a book – a First Edition, paperback from 1954: ‘The Dodger Way To Play Baseball,’ by Al Campanis, a Dodger player in 1943 and at time of publication, Vice President of the Dodgers organisation.
It obviously meant nothing to me then, but fifty-five or so years later, I still have it. Several pages have been ‘dog-eared’ so I assume I did refer to it later in life.
And that was about the extent of it. There was no obvious interest in baseball in the UK at that time, though it had been popular when played as ‘exhibition’ games and between American servicemen stationed here during the wars.
(The sport had also been played at Everton Football Club, amongst others, and a Liverpool based League was formed in 1933 by Everton Chairman John Moores. In fact, Everton’s legendary goalscorer Dixie Dean was an avid fan and played for the Liverpool Caledonians.)
Sadly, by great uncle passed away at a relatively young age and my aunt returned to Clydebank. Though their children and grandchildren remained Stateside, contact was infrequent and baseball chat diminished. The only contact I had with the sport for the next nineteen years was restricted to tuning in to the United States Armed Forces Network on the ancient valve radio I had picked up at a Scout jumble sale.
Again, I couldn’t understand all the terms and expressions, but still managed to gain an almost romantic feel for this game which was relayed through my mind in grainy black and white, as all the images I’d seen of the sport were that way.
In 1986 though, I moved to England (Stockport.) Having left behind my football team and athletics club as well as all my social pals, I thought a good way of meeting folk and making new friends would be …. to form a baseball club!
I checked, and the British Baseball Federation actually had a North West League! Nothing in Manchester, but established clubs existed in Liverpool, Skelmersdale, Burtonwood US Airbase and Preston.
I could write a book on what happened next – but fear not dear reader, I’ll skip through the salient points:
. I formed STRETFORD A’s in Manchester. Other new teams followed, but it was The A’s that were awarded the inaugural ‘Rookie Team of The Year’ trophy. Baseball is still played in the city to this day, not the same team, I understand, but the current Manchester club have retained the A’s moniker.
. When I moved back to Glasgow three years later, the British Baseball federation asked I liaise with the existing three teams that had been formed and bring them under the Federation’s umbrella. I did, and so the Scottish Regional League was formalised.
. I was playing for Glasgow Diamonds (nobody liked us, we didn’t care) and BBF asked if I could help develop the sport and league. We went from three to eight teams as a result!
. With the help of some other enthusiasts, national media became interested and coverage became quite common in the national press (Dailies and Sundays) and interviews were sought by BBC Radio and commercial radio. Both regional BBC and STV television stations ran features.
. THEN came the crash! I’ll save the details for my book or maybe even the film, but there comes a time when a hobby, a love, a sport, becomes ‘work.’ There were lots of other factors playing in too, but I’d done my bit, and bowed out from both playing and administering baseball around 1995.
It had been an exciting time, that’s for sure. And playing / helping develop a sport that had been so enthusiastically described to me as a nine year old, really was such fun.
I’ll bet my Great Aunt Winnie and Great Uncle Dan would have been delighted, and well chuffed, to see all THAT came from just THIS
…and The Brooklyn Dodgers.
Footnote: Much as I’m excited to watch the Major League games (I have them all streamed throughout the season) I’m still fascinated and drawn to the black and white photo era of the sport.
I also read and watch as much of the Minor Leagues I can. Those teams form such an integral part of their local communities and offer a wonderful sense of romanticism to the sport.
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – March 2022)
And where better to start than the song that inspired the series title?
Eighteen With A Bullet by Pete Wingfield
A soulful homage to singers of the doo-wop era, ‘Eighteen With a Bullet’ lived up to its name when it entered the American Billboard HOT 100 charts at number 18 (with a bullet) in 1975.
A hit on both sides of the Atlantic, the protagonist endeavours to woo his love interest with a series of double entendres, using hip music industry lingo to seal the deal.
“Be my A-side, baby, be beside me”
“So let me check your playlist Mama“
A lover of soul music, Hampshire born Wingfield was an in-demand session keyboard player who also played live with BB King, The Hollies and Van Morrison.
Spotting his potential, Island Records gave him the opportunity to cut an album in 1975, sadly, it would be the only solo album album Wingfield would release but it spawned this classic track.
After his dalliance as a solo artist Wingfield went on to become a renowned producer and developer of talent, manning the boards for Dexys Midnight Runners debut album, ‘Searching for the Young Soul Rebels’ as well as the ‘Sunshine on Leith’ album for The Proclaimers.
Wingfield worked on numerous projects throughout the 80’s and 90’s including the Paul McCartney ‘Run Devil Run’ album, playing alongside McCartney, Dave Gilmour and Ian Paice.
I confess to having nostalgic memories and a soft spot for this song.
I passed my driving test and got my first car in the summer of 75 and ‘Eighteen With a Bullet’ was part of a treasured mix-tape alongside other 1975 goodies like… Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’, 10cc’s ‘I’m Not in Love’, Bee Gees ‘Jive Talking’ and ‘One of These Nights’ by The Eagles.
Hearing it now still takes me back to that summer and the freedom of being mobile for the first time.
Largely forgotten and rarely mentioned, ‘Eighteen With a Bullet’ made a comeback of sorts when it featured in the 1998 movie soundtrack for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and has more than earned its moniker as a bona fide ‘one hit wonder’
(*a little bit fact; a bit more fiction; much exaggerated.*)
Wednesday 31st May 1972 – (aged 13, end of 2nd year)
Everyone today is talking about a band from Holland called Focus. They were on the Old Grey Whistle Test last night. Most in the Smokers Union shelter say how amazing that yodeling guy was. Some though, those I see wearing the ex-RAF great coats with an LP by the band stuck under their armpit, have a smug ‘told you’ smile and ignore our conversation.
It was very wet at PE time. Old Boot (gym teacher) decided it was too wet to play football. What?! This is Glasgow. Rangers, Celtic, Thistle, Clyde and Queens Park all manage to play ok.
Anyway – PE was switched indoors to the gym. Everyone has football boots – only a few also brought gym shoes. Those of us who hadn’t were lined up to get two of the belt! Old Boot got more exercise than any of us.
Buses were late to pick us up at 4 o’clock. Had to stand out in the rain till they arrived. Trip home was a bit smelly.
Rain stops but did some studying for exams till teatime then out to the clearing in the woods for a game of football. Get chased by Mr McIlwham who says we shouldn’t be using trees as goalposts because they can feel the ball hitting against them. (Cuckoo!)
Lucky we weren’t using a Mitre Mouldmaster, then is all I can say.
Well, that’s it – game’s a bogey! We tell Mr McIlwham that we’re off now to break some windows and scrawl graffiti.
See us kids, eh?!
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – March 2022)
(*a little bit fact; a bit more fiction; much exaggerated.*)
Monday 10th August 1970 (aged 12 – only just.)
Didn’t finish my Ready Brek this morning – first day at big school, so tummy churning a bit. Been told all sorts of stories of what the 2nd Years would do to welcome us.
Excited about getting a bus to school. (You can read Paul’s wonderful account of this, here.) Met pals at The Cooperative Shop in the village. Lots of the older boys from the village gang were there. I know several of them so it was ok even though they were a bit boisterous.
Tried to get on the top deck of the bus but seems there is some kind of hyer highera order about where you are meant to sit. Got bundled down to the lower deck. The conductress seemed a bit stressed. “Sit down! No standing upstairs! Keep away from the open platform! Have you tickets and bus passes ready! I SAID NO STANDING UPSTAIRS!”
Stood around the main entrance with my pals until we were put into our classes. A few from my primary school are also in 1A. Boys and girls from four other schools are in my class. They look OK.
In class, we have to copy down our timetable. When did I sign up for Latin?! Mum! Dad! What?!
It could be worse, I suppose – double English to start the week on a Monday morning. And double PE on Wednesday afternoon to finish – that’s good.
I am in Endrick House – I have to go to the annex for registration each morning before class.
Break-time and many pals are welcomed into Bearsden Academy by having their heads stuck down the toilet pan which is then flushed. There are some fights. Most just give in. I escape attention until afternoon break for some reason. The suspense is terrible.
Eventually, I’m picked out, but my captors don’t drag me to the toilets. Instead, I’m carried to a drinking fountain and held over it by my arms and legs. I then had my trousers soaked, front and back, before a teacher chased the boys away.
First Latin lesson next – infectum bum I think is the translation.
Trousers still damp when I get home, so place them over the clothes horse in front of the fire.
Pilchards on toast for tea. Blech! Out to play and swap footy cards with pals and tales of first day at big school.
(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2022.)
I have a strange love/hate relationship with water. Don’t get me wrong, I drink copious amounts of the stuff both still and sparkling, I infuse teas and coffee in it and ingest it in it’s frozen form in many a rum and coke.
I love the sound of it. I have three garden water features and enjoy the constant chorus of bubbling, cascading and babbling. I have sounds of the oceans on my playlists and have recorded tunes with the crashing of waves as a background.
I shower daily in it. I am not like the Peanuts character Pig-Pen surrounded in a swirl of dust and grime.
I hanker for the autumn petrichor, that welcoming earthy, musty aroma of the first rains after a long hot, dry summer.
My problem is emerging myself in it or more specifically staying afloat.
I’m about an hour and a half from some of the most pristine beaches in the world and I barely manage a paddle. I know there are some scary creatures in the sea (a stinger up the nose was an experience I will not ever forget) it’s just that I’m not and never have been a good swimmer.
I thought I was well prepared. As a child I read ‘The Water Babies’ by Charles Kingsley. I was an avid viewer of ‘Flipper’ but I was just not one of the worlds natural swimmers – a Nirvana album cover baby with my genitalia gently wafting in the ebb and flow……………….although there was that unfortunate misunderstanding some decades later. That’s one aquatic centre I won’t be invited back to !
No, I was destined to clutch to my slab of styrofoam in the shallow end, mortified by my bright orange blow up arm floaties while the cool kids, ignoring piercing whistles, did dive bombs at the deep end.
I had my literal sink or swim moment one summer holiday on a family camping trip to the north of France when I was about 8 or 9. I was in shallow waters, one foot firmly on the sands beneath, my other leg and arms spread out shouting to my parents ‘Look ! I’m swimming’. The fact I was still remaining in the one spot should have been a giveaway until the tide picked me up and swept me out a good six foot into the deepening sea. With my foot no longer connected to the sea floor, survival mode kicked in and I made my first proper (and life saving) strokes towards the shore.
Buoyed by my life affirming moment and my new aquatic confidence, I could now hold my head up high (and my body afloat) at school trips to Bruce Street baths, Clydebank and the Cub Scouts outings to Church Street, off Byres Road.
Although only being able to accomplish a width of the baths in a flailing turtle style breast stroke, a whole new world opened up to me. I attempted the Australian crawl or freestyle as they say here in Oz. (Australian Crawl is a seventies rock band, fair dinkum !) I couldn’t quite co-ordinate the breathing side of things so would glide like a torpedo for about ten feet with arms and legs akimbo and then bob up spluttering before reverting to an embarrassing doggy paddle.
Tuesdays nights now were something to look forward to as the Cub troop descended on Church Street baths. A couple of hours of splashing around then squeezing into your tiny cubicle to dry off. (Harry Houdini had more real estate in a straitjacket !)
The entrance to your dressing area was like the half size swing doors to a western cowboy bar room. You were always conscious of one of your mates breezing into your space with a ‘Howdy partner’ or worse still, you stumbling backwards, bare arsed as you tried to pull up your y-fronts over wet legs.
Fully clothed with damp hair freezing to our brows, we’d make our way up Byres Road staring at the halos around every street light. A bag of chips and a pickled onion at the chippy next to the bus stop purchased, the Duntocher bus was upon us before we could make out the number 118. (How much chlorine must have gone into that water ?) Upstairs to devour the chips and generally steam up the top deck. The trick was to savour the onion by sucking it through the paper bag until your Courthill stop, allowing you to chomp down proper on the short walk home.
A quick acknowledgement to your parents, your damp swimming kit stowed under your bed to stagnate for a few days then into your kip stinking of greasy food and cleaning fluids. Eyes streaming whether from toxic chemicals or tears of joy.