I always associated Wimbledon with school summer holidays. I never played tennis. There was what I assumed an ancient tennis racket hanging up in my Dad’s garage (it could have been a snow shoe come to think of it.). We would dislodge it from it’s rusty nail and blow off the cobwebs. As there was only one (from a one legged Inuit perhaps ?) we were more likely to use it in our improvised interpretation of rounders than tennis. It was also too heavy to lift above our heads (unleashing the huskies might have helped !)
Tennis wasn’t for the likes of us anyway. It was for posh Laurel Bank girls called Catriona and Ffiona who wouldn’t look at comprehensive school adolescent boys sideways. There was a tennis club hidden in a leafy lane near Bearsden Cross but they would set the dogs on you if they thought you were an outsider from Courthill or Castlehill.
Tennis was the telly for us so in the summer in 1971 I sat there watching as two Australians were competing in the Wimbledon ladies final. One was the dour faced Margaret Court (now Pentecostal minister and public homophobe) and the other, 19 year old Aboriginal girl Evonne Goolagong.
I wasn’t sure what an ‘Aboriginal’ was back then but I thought she looked quite cute and I must admit, had a bit of a teenage crush on her. The rest is history and ‘my girl’ took the trophy.
She was prominent in finals and semifinals for the rest of the decade and won her second Wimbledon in 1980. Six years later I was to land in the country of Ms Goolagong’s ancestors and I’ve lived here ever since.
This week Australians celebrate NAIDOC. For those of you north of Darwin, it stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It has its roots in the 1938 Day of Mourning, becoming a week long event in 1975. If I was cynical I would say it’s a week were privileged white folk pretend to be concerned about the plight of the first nations’ people and then ignore their issues for the next 51 weeks but the official line is it celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island peoples.
It’s fitting that Ash Barty, a proud Ngaragu woman should pick up the mantle from Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a proud Wikadjuri woman, some fifty years later.
……….and haven’t snow shoes improved over the last half century !
One of my early memories is of being in a cool motel room with my parents and two older brothers, David and Dale, when I was very little – perhaps four or five years old in 1964 or ’65 – padding across the tiled floor in bare feet drinking an ice cold glass bottle of cola from a vending machine through a straw. We were in America’s Deep South, in Savannah, GA en-route to visit my grandparents, who lived on a semi-tropical island off the coast of Georgia.
Dad drove the near five hundred mile trip from our home in Virginia to Jekyll Island through the night to avoid the midday sultry, humid 100+ degrees Fahrenheit heat which made the back of my bare legs stick to the vinyl seats. The boys and I would ask to stop for a cold drink before we’d even left the end of our street – “are we there yet?” The seven or eight hour drive was still ahead. As night wore on, we’d settle to sleep on the back seat of the Oldsmobile in our cotton pyjamas, leaning against the side of the car doors on pillows; our heads wet with sweat as Mom and Dad talked quietly and listened to the radio. On and on through the night, through the high passes of the Smokey Mountains of North and South Carolina: Johnson City, Asheville before dropping down along the Eastern seaboard past Hilton Head to Savannah.
By nine o’clock the following morning as the searing heat was already beginning to climb, Mom and Dad would check us all into a motel room near Savannah, so Dad could sleep through the day. Mom took me and my brothers swimming in the motel pool before we too had a nap in the air-conditioned room. Later that afternoon after lunch – and probably an ice-cream – we’d pile back into the old Oldsmobile and continue the last hundred miles or so of the trip until we could see the famous and terrifying Sidney Lanier vertical lift bridge across the Brunswick River
We reached our grandparent’s beach-front house during the early evening. I can remember stepping from the intense humidity and sound of crickets into their air-conditioned home which felt like stepping into a fridge.
In the autumn of 1970, my parents upped-sticks from rural Virginia and moved our family to the UK, alighting a train at New Street Station in Birmingham, West Midlands on a cold, wet , grey September morning to follow their romantic dream of English life.
As an historian with a special interest in English history, Dad looked forward to walking in the footsteps of his boyhood hero’s: Robin Hood, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table or Elizabethan explorer, statesman and poet Sir Walter Raleigh.
Mom had notions of finding adventure like the heroines of the romantic novels of her youth: Daphne Du Maurier’s protagonist and narrator Mrs. De Winter in ‘Rebecca’, Emily Bronte’s gothic and ethereal Cathy Earnshaw in ‘Wuthering Heights’ or Jane Austen’s bright, intelligent Elizabeth Bennett in ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
The fact that they had three children in tow didn’t seem to cross their minds.
With no home to go to and twelve pieces of good luggage (Mom had insisted on “quality luggage for international travel”- and one suitcase was just for my dolls), our first port of call as aliens was an Edwardian house B & B in Birmingham city centre. The handsome Victorian pile was now faded – its halcyon days long gone. Mom was hoping for the charm of an English country hotel, but the reality was cold and sparse; more Jamaica Inn than Brown’s Hotel.
David and Dale shared a bedroom on the landing and I shared another with Mom and Dad further along the corridor. My parents imagined we would quickly find a house to rent, but being so alien to this new metropolis, they didn’t know how or where to start. So here we found ourselves, embarking on this madcap adventure with no home on the horizon.
Dad embraced our plight with good humour and his pipe as the B&B became our home for the next nine weeks; Mom was less enthusiastic. The boys and I started school and Dad began his new teaching post as Head of History in a grammar school, all in opposite ends of the city. I quote now from my diary, which I kept during that fateful year:
SEPTEMBER 24TH, 1970
“Seven months ago today Daddy rezined from the college in Bristol, VA. Now we are in a bread and breakfast waiting for a house.”
Let me explain about B&B’s in the 1970s. Unlike American motels which boasted air conditioning, a TV in every room, king sized beds, en-suite bathrooms, vending machines and a pool; they offered somewhat more spartan accommodation.
Typical of their ilk, this one only had one toilet on the landing with a wooden seat that scratched your arse. In fact my brother’s named it ‘Scratch’ (father to several ‘Sons of Scratch.’) The chain was so high I couldn’t reach it and believe me – having to shout for help down the landing at ten years old was so just too embarrassing! Whoever heard of a chain to flush the toilet? We had handles where I came from.
Our rooms had an old fashioned washstand and bowl in the corner where we carried out our daily toilette; despite there being an old, stained, communal cast iron bathtub in a small room off the landing. Mom was worried about us taking a bath in it, fearing for our health,
“You never know what you might catch in there!”
I thought that toilet seats had paper already on them because Mom would always get in there ahead of me and wrap carefully lain sheets of Izal over the seat – especially if we were caught short anywhere in public. The only exception to this was in the large department store Ladies Cloak Room on the Sixth Floor, where – according to Mom “attendants clean the sanitary ware after each flush.” (How do mothers know this kind of thing?)
The waxed Izal toilet paper was an anathema to us because a) it was so slippery it would slide straight off the toilet seat and b), it was so thin, you had to use a wadge of it. We were used to four-ply in the States.
The toilet door had a sign on it which said, W.C. What on earth was this? The Manager explained to Dad that it meant Water Closet.
“Water Closet? What the hell is a Goddamn Water Closet?” Dad laughed, “A closet where you keep water? Son-of-a-gun! Did ya ever hear of such a thing kids?” Dad laughed so hard he had to stoop and grab his knees. The Manager put his shoulders back and stiffened his upper lip.
We soon became aware that people here spoke in another, strange tongue called Brummie:
“Can Oi cum in? Can Oi cum in?” asked the chambermaid, as she tapped on my brothers’ door to make the beds. I’m sure she heard the strains of stifled mirth and peals of laughter from under the blankets on the other side of the door. And of course the staff couldn’t understand our Virginia accents either which led to some funny exchanges.
Our first encounter with 1970s English fast food had disastrous results. Remember – we had come from the home of the hamburger: coke with crushed ice, side-orders of coleslaw and great fries – and great service, “Have a nice day!”
Our hopes ran high when we discovered a burger joint in the city centre near our B&B but were soon dashed when we became acquainted with the lukewarm beef burgers, room temperature flat cola and slow service. It was just our luck that a well-known burger chain didn’t open its doors in the UK for another four years in 1974. Our position in the UK as aliens was assured.
Well, of course my brother got sick with a terrible bout of diarrhoea, blocking the toilet; which Mom blamed on the ‘germs’ in the meat. (To be fair, our family had a history of blocking toilets; Dad always said he was ‘a-roll-time-man’.)
Finding that it just wouldn’t shift, Dad resorted to his time-honoured solution: he rolled up his shirt sleeves, flexed his hand, crouched down on all fours to get a purchase on the bowl and, with a quick flourish of his fingers just plunged his arm in there! After pulling out wads of paper, Dad shouted down the public hallway:
“Someone get me a wire coat hanger, would ya?”
“Shh! Someone might hear you!” whispered Mom, as she looked nervously up and down the hallway.
“I don’t give a Goddamn who hears me – I’ve got this honey – just get me the hanger please.”
Mom trotted away furtively down the hall and returned; miraculously producing said hanger, at which Dad deftly unwound the hook and began scraping the bottom of the toilet bowl (he had done this before),
“Dadggumit! Son-of-a-bitch, cheap toilet paper! How much did ya use Son? Honey – can you get me a bucket? Whhaat? There isn’t one? Goddammit!” Sweat was trickling down his sideburns.
“Shhh!” Mom suppressed a giggle.
Dad then did something which has long remained a family secret. Looking around for a suitable receptacle, but finding none, he put all the waste material – handfuls of it – into a little wastepaper bin and put it out on a window ledge outside the boy’s bedroom window. Mom was now giggling hysterically.
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021
Our parents would often demand it, but soon as they got it, they became suspicious. Worried, maybe.
And so it would be. I’d be playing quietly and thoughtfully in my bedroom on a wet and miserable day, and Mum would poke her around the door:
“You’re awful quiet,” she’d say, the distrust in her tone strikingly obvious even to a ten year old. “What are you doing?”
“Building a fort,” I’d reply in all innocence, draping a bedsheet over the two stools I’d earlier hauled up from the kitchen. Another blanket would be hanging over a couple of empty boxes, retrieved from the garage. “So’s I can repel the hordes of marauding raiders who are trying to steal my pots of gold.”
My vocabulary and imagination were infinitely better than my construction skills.
“That sounds like fun, dear.”
And it was.
For that’s how we rolled in the late Sixties and Seventies. It was the era of making our own fun.
It was the era for making everything.
From a very early age, my sister and I were encouraged by our parents to become involved with tending the garden.’ Modern day slavery,’ is how I think it’s now referred to.
We’d each be allocated a little plot to tend. We’d have to plant seeds, grow flowers and vegetables and learn the ethos and rewards of hard work.
I hated it! Rona’s plot always looked way tidier than mine. ‘Outside’ was for playing in, not working, was how I looked at it. I was rubbish.
Our garden wasn’t all that big, but my dad had it organised to maximise the space, and so we had a few rows of redcurrant bushes. These produced loads of fruit every year and of course my sister and I would be roped into the ‘harvest.’
With the berries collected, mum would then boil them and add ‘stuff’ then pour the mix into what looked like an old sock hung from the washing pulley in the kitchen. The smell was so sickly sweet, I wanted to barf for days on end. Gradually though, over the next day or so, the liquid would drip into a bowl, then scooped into jars onto which a handwritten sticker was adhered.
‘Redcurrent jelly’ it said – as if we needed reminding.
To get away from the smell, I’d try to spend as much time as possible in the living room. But that wasn’t easy either. I’d have to tip toe through acres of tracing paper spread over the floor. And listening to the television was well nigh impossible. The volume controls back then barely went to ‘five’ never mind ‘eleven’ and so offered no competition to the constant ‘takka takka takka’ of the Singer sewing machine as mum rattled out another bloody home-made trouser suit for wearing to the neighbour’s Pot Luck / fondue party that coming weekend.
Crimplene was the favoured material, I believe.
I think I’m right in saying that girls at my school were offered sewing, if not dress making as part of their Home Economics course. Us blokes weren’t given the option – just as at that time, girls were not thought to be interested in woodwork and metalwork.
My four year old cousin, Karen, certainly wasn’t interested in my woodwork, that’s for sure. I made her a boat, all lovingly painted and everything. It sank in her bath. Sank! It was made of balsa wood for goodness sake!
It takes a special type of cretin to make a balsa wood boat that sinks.
And metalwork! Whose whizz-bang idea was it to have several classes of fourteen year old boys make metal hammers to take home at the end of term? The playground crowds quickly scattered that afternoon, I can tell you.
My effort was dismal.
“Thanks very much,” said my dad, in a voice just a little too condescending for my liking as I presented it to him. But that was okay. We both knew I was total pants at making things.
Having evidenced my cack-handed attempts at simply gluing together several pieces of labelled and numbered bits of plastic to form the shape of a Lancaster Bomber, his expectations were naturally low.
I know – how hard can it be to assemble an Airfix model? To be honest, while I enjoyed looking at those my dad made on my behalf, I had more fun from letting the glue harden on my fingers and then spend ages peeling it back off to examine my fingerprints.
Yup – THAT’S how much I enjoyed making things.
It came as no surprise then, that Santa never brought me a Meccano set. By the age of ten, it had become obvious spanners and me would never get along – no need for me to screw the nut.
For a while, I did consider there was something wrong with me. Every other kid I knew was into making stuff. It was The Seventies – it’s what children did; it’s what they (I’d say ‘we’ but I’d be lying) were actively encouraged to do.
The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.
The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.
I tried that once. A Christmas decoration it was. A decoration to hang over the Christmas table; made from coat-hangers; and candles. And you’d light the candles. It would be joyous.
“Hark!” The herald angels would sing.
“FIRE!” The herald angels actually screamed.
I know NOW I should have used fire-proof tinsel. I’m almost sixty-three. I’m not stupid. But then I was ten. And impatient. Ten year old boys cut corners. And anyway, how was I supposed to make a surprise for the family if I was to give the game away by asking my folks if they had / could get some fire retardant tinsel?
At least they still got a surprise of sorts.
Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves had a lot to answer for.
Other than pyrotechnic Christmas decorations, they encouraged us to make models with Lego; less structured and more wobbly ones with plasticine; scrap books; hammocks for dolls; cakes for birds; puppets from old socks; pencil cases from washing up liquid bottles and even cat beds from washing-up bowls.
I did try, truly I did. But I was hopeless. A lost cause. Never has anyone said to me,
“Wow! That’s awesome!” when I’ve showcased my handiwork.
Just the other day, I prepared a meal. I threw some leftover corned beef, potatoes and onions into a pan and fried them through. I didn’t think it was burnt as such, but my wife screwed up her face and stared at it rather disapprovingly.
Without even the merest hint of irony she looked up and said …. well, I think you probably know what she said!
The Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, Batman, Dorothy… fictional characters I grant you, but all universally feted and admired.
But they didn’t do it alone, and although we all know who their sidekicks were, no one talks much about them, because at the end of the day, they’re the flunky’s, and who’s really interested in the support act? Unless its Queen supporting Mott the Hoople at the Apollo…. and that was nearly 50 years ago!
The sidekick’s are the perennial betas to the main event’s alpha’s… the show-stoppers who always seem to have greater powers, more charisma, and most importantly, bigger ego’s, than the supporting cast. Like a beloved pet the sidekick’s greatest attributes are typically noted as being devotion and loyalty.
Spare a thought then for the Tonto’s, Doctor Watson’s, Robin boy wonder’s and Scarecrow’s. In other words, the Diddy Kong’s of the world…..
There’s an old (and now probably, un-PC) saying that ‘behind every great man there’s a great woman’ and the same can be said with sidekick’s, think about it for a second…. as great as he was, would Bowie have been as good and as cocksure in the Ziggy era without Mick Ronson? Likewise, would Ricardo Montalban’s, Mr Roarke have been as suave and sophisticated without Herve Villechaize’s Tattoo ringing the bell tower whilst bellowing “The Plane, The Plane!” in Fantasy Island?
As this is predominantly a 70s blog the aim of the exercise is to identify the most impressive 70s sidekick, fictional or otherwise, so I’ve listed 5 nominees below which you can vote for on our Facebook page as well as putting forward any of your own nominations….. https://www.facebook.com/groups/onceuponatimeinthe70s
1) Kenickie Murdoch (Jeff Conaway) –Grease, (sidekick to Danny Zuko)
In Grease, the movie, Kenickie was played by Jeff Conaway of Taxi fame and was part of the original Broadway cast of Grease – where incidentally he played the lead role of Danny Zuko whilst his good mate Travolta played Doody, one of the putzy T-Birds.
Although Kenickie was cast as the sidekick it could be argued that he was cooler than Zuko… borne by the fact that not only was he the proud owner of Greased Lightnin’, but he also didn’t mope about a kids swing-park greeting about getting chucked by someone who must have repeated 4th year 5 times!
Plus with a name like Murdoch he obviously came from good Scottish stock!
2) Igor (Marty Feldman)– Young Frankenstein (sidekick to Dr Frederick Von Frankenstein)
Played by the brilliant Marty Feldman, Igor was the hunchbacked, bug-eyed servant who when asked by the good doctor why his hump kept changing sides, answered “what hump?”.
‘Eye-gore’ as he liked to be known was Dr ‘Fronkenshteen’s’ hapless assistant and was responsible for the mayhem that ensued by collecting a brain labelled ‘Abnormal’ rather than the brain of the revered and brilliant historian, he was sent to secure.
If his star turn in one of the funniest movies of the 70s wasn’t enough, Feldman’s further claim to fame was that his ‘Walk this way’ line from the film was adopted by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who saw the movie, went back to the studio and wrote a song…. the rest as they say is history.
3) John Oates– Singer/musician in Hall & Oates (sidekick to Daryl Hall)
Hall & Oates were often described as….. ‘the tall, blonde, good looking one with the unbelievable vocal range and the wee guy with the curly hair and moustache’.
There’s no doubt then that Oates played second fiddle to Daryl Hall, but as sidekick’s go it was a pretty decent fiddle.
Oates wrote or co-wrote many of the pairs big hits including She’s Gone, Sara Smile, You Make my Dreams and I Can’t Go for That, and whilst he didn’t have Hall’s vocal range or stage presence, his harmonies, co-vocals and guitar playing were key to the band’s success (see clip below).
Hall & Oates may not have been equals in terms of talent and their partnership wasn’t as egalitarian as Lennon & McCartney, but Oates was certainly no Art Garfunkel.
4) Dennis Waterman– Perennial sidekick: to Jack Regan in The Sweeney and Arthur Daley in Minder.
A seasoned thespian who performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company at 13. Waterman was 27 when he appeared in The Sweeney as Detective George Carter, the hard-drinking, brawling, womanising, good-cop to John Thaw’s caustic Regan.
Waterman’s next big role in Minder, as a brawling, womanising ex-con who becomes a personal bodyguard wasn’t too much of a stretch then.
In a cruel twist of fate, Minder was actually devised post-Sweeney as a star vehicle for Waterman who relished the chance to shine after three seasons of playing the sidekick in The Sweeney. Cole’s part as Arthur Daly was meant to be a secondary/supporting role, however after a few episodes it was evident that Daly’s character was playing big with the audience, so the scripts and storylines were revised, leaving poor Dennis to fall back into his customary role as a sidekick once again.
5) Chewbacca– Wookie (sidekick to Han Solo)
Enforcer, body guard and loyal soldier, Chewie is Han Solo’s co-pilot and best buddy.
The character was inspired by George Lucas’ dog so it’s no surprise that one of Chewie’s greatest attributes is the talent most associated with sidekick’s – loyalty. Although he enjoys bringing the cocksure Solo down a peg or two every now and then, prompting the “Laugh it up fuzzball” retort, he is a faithful companion and would lay down his life for Solo…. a true sidekick!
Why are there no female sidekicks on the list?? I tried really hard to think of some but in almost all cases…. Sonny & Cher, Ike & Tina Turner, The Krankies, it was the bloke who was the sidekick!
I did think of one….. Peter Pan’s Tinker Bell but that was made in 1924.
As I look forward to tonights match between Scotland and England I realise that some years just seem to stick in your memory more than others. It’s probably no coincidence therefore that some of my most vivid memories come from years when the football World Cup was being held.
As a kid the first football match I ever watched on TV was the 1966 World Cup Final.
By the time the next World Cup rocked up in Mexico 1970 I was a football obsessive spending all my spare time kicking a ball around with my mates.
By 1974 I was training a couple of times a week, playing Saturday mornings for the school, Saturday afternoons for the local boys-club and Sundays for the youth club.
Truth be told my club allegiances in those days were probably secondary to my support for the national team. I watched Scotland religiously in my youth, but I had never seen us beat England.
That was all about to change in 1974.
1974 is one of those years that’s etched in my memory…. Apart from leaving school, starting work and going on my first ‘lads holiday’… 74 was the year that Scotland were making their first World Cup appearance since the year I was born (1958).
A big part of social life back then was the Youth Club….. a bi-weekly haven of sport, music and social interaction. Approaching 16 I was now old enough to go on some of the organised youth club trips, the first one being a day trip to Butlins in Ayr on Saturday May 18th, 1974.
I remember the date because it was the day I finally got to see Scotland beat England and oh yeah, the day I got chased by a bam-pot with a sword and beat Alberto Juantorena’s 800 metre record.
The day started off well enough with an early morning coach ride to Ayr and was followed by time spent at the Butlins amusement park, a mini-pleasure beach, before we followed some of the older lads into the spectacular Beachcomber Bar.
The Beachcomber Bar at Butlins was probably the most exotic and glamorous place I’d ever seen, it was like something from South Pacific. Of course, looking back now it was a mishmash of bamboo furniture and plastic plants with a few paper lanterns, paper-mache artefacts and hanging baskets thrown in for good measure, however it seemed very avant garde in 1974.
The game was being shown on a tv in the bar and even allowing for the watered-down lager…. the combination of event, location and community spirit, made for an intoxicating atmosphere.
Every year we approached the big game against the auld enemy with ambition and hope, usually to be left in despair, but in 74 there was cause for optimism. Unlike England we had qualified for the 74 World Cup plus our team was full of top players and big personalities.
One of those big personalities was wee Jimmy (Jinky) Johnstone fresh from his ‘Largs Boat Incident’.
For those that don’t know… wee Jinky and a few teammates went out for a refreshment in Largs three days before the England game and whilst staggering back to the team hotel wee Jinky decided to jump in a boat that got pushed out to sea by Sandy Jardine for a laugh, there was only one problem, there were no oars on the boat. Knowing Jinky couldn’t swim, Davie Hay a teammate tried to help by setting sail on another boat, which duly sprung a leak and sank!
With Jimmy sailing into the distance and heading for the North Star the coastguards were called by his beleaguered teammates and Jinky’s exploits were splashed all over the front pages of the Scottish press, with most pundits calling for him to be sanctioned and dropped.
In the end Jinky had the last laugh. 95,000 fans watched Scotland win 2-0 that day. Jinky gave a man of the match performance and famously gave the V sign to the press after the game.
The punters in the Beachcomber went mental at the final whistle and nobody wanted to leave that bar except the coach driver.
On the way home I sat beside a girl I’d known since I was 7 years old who was not in the best form as she was having major boyfriend trouble. He was a few years older than us and a renowned psycho. As far as her friends and family were concerned she’d finally come to her senses as she wanted to break up with him, but she knew it wouldn’t be that simple. I tried to take her mind off things, talking about goofy stuff from our past 8 years as friends and classmates, however, when we got back to Westerton the guy was waiting and her face just dropped.
On a high from the day’s events I hung out with my mates for a bit, reliving the highlights of the day before I decided to head home, I was about half a mile from my house when I heard this guy shouting and running towards me, he was about 200 yards away but I could still see the huge blade he was brandishing, it was the mental boyfriend…. I’ve never ran so fast in my life.
My friend had attempted to split up with him again that night, which he didn’t take well. He’d heard that I’d spent the coach journey home with her, put 2 and 2 together… and decided I was dead!
Cut forward 6 weeks…. Scotland had been knocked out of the World Cup in Germany despite their valiant effort in remaining unbeaten during the tournament.
With the World Cup over, and proof if needed that German efficiency trumps everything…. even Johan Cruyff and total football, I headed off on holiday with my family to Majorca.
We were staying at a quiet part of the island so I thought I was seeing things, when on the beach, I spotted Dennis Law, one of my footballing hero’s, fresh from his participation in the World Cup with Scotland.
Law was footballing royalty; he’d been a member of the all-conquering Man United team along with George Best and Bobby Charlton and was jokingly referred to as having the reflexes of a mongoose, ‘and the haircut to match’. Indeed, with his spiky feather cut and gallus approach Law was footballs answer to Rod Stewart… who also idolised the ‘Lawman’.
I had never asked anyone for an autograph before, but I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass, no matter how starstruck I was
Before I approached the Lawman however I had to do one thing… I nipped back to my room and in the absence of a Scotland top I put on my ‘Roary Super Scot’ t-shirt, like some weird fanboy. Roary, for the uninitiated was the rather juvenile mascot of the Scotland 74 World Cup team.
Looking back now I’m embarrassed that I disturbed the guy on his holiday when he was probably just looking for a bit of peace and quiet after a tough season, but he was really friendly and approachable and made a point of coming over to talk to me and my Dad whenever he saw us. He was staying in the hotel next door to ours, and even asked me to mind his son on the beach a few times whilst him and his missus went for lunch.
Despite being an Aberdonian he was a good tipper and always gave me a couple of hundred Pesetas, which in 74 was enough for a couple of beers and a few plays on the jukebox where Santana’s Samba Pa Ti and Oye Como Va were on heavy rotation….. unfortunately or perhaps fortunately the 1974 Scotland World Cup song wasn’t on there .
I remember a lot about 1974 as I do with 1978 and 1982, something big always happened for me in those World Cup years, 2021 isn’t a World Cup year but I hope I can remember it as the year we beat England and got through to the group stages of the Euros for the first time (along with our English cousins of course).
After the 1821 census, Glasgow’s population was greater than Edinburgh and so it appointed itself the moniker “Second City of the Empire”. Statements of it’s great power, wealth and confidence could be seen all over the city in it’s fine Georgian and Victorian architecture. No more so than at Charing Cross, about a mile from the city centre.
In the 1960s the wise men of the Glasgow City Council and/or the Roads department thought it would be prudent to obliterate the Grand Hotel to the left and all the buildings to the right to dig a gigantic pit so that a major roadway could plough it’s way through the centre of the city. Thankfully Charing Cross Mansions (circa 1891) and the fountain were spared and are still standing today (below).
In the mid 1970s, I would stroll up Sauchiehall Street from my workplace at Cuthbertsons in Cambridge Street to visit a school chum of mine, Colin, who worked in a hi-fi shop. This wasn’t your cheap and cheery discount warehouse sort of place. This was a top end salon for the discerning of supreme sound quality who had big spondulix to throw around. All woofers and tweeters and I’m not talking nature lovers. Think Bang & Olufsen and the like. This meant that Colin only saw one or two customers a day and welcomed my visits and wee chats. We might even slip out for a pint of real ale at the Bon Accord along the road. A warm and cosy little hostelry until you staggered outside to look down into the abyss as six lanes of motorway trundled by under your feet.
What were the planners thinking ? Surely some sort of ring road around the city centre like other UK towns and cities would be preferable to the near destruction of an architectural gem a mere mile from the city’s heart ! “All those in favour of changing the motto from ‘dear green place’ to ‘trust in tarmac’ say aye.”
They even constructed an overpass which just halted mid air in front of some tenement buildings. Decades later ‘The Bridge to Nowhere’ was converted into offices but it still doesn’t disguise the folly.
Compare that to another of my 70s haunts about 10 miles away (and less than 5 from the family home) on the A809 to Drymen. The Carbeth Inn stood alone by the road in what I suppose was the gateway to rural Scotland even being that close to the city. Opened in 1816 and mentioned in Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Rob Roy’ in 1817 it was a favourite with both bikers and hill walkers.
Every weekend it was wall to wall leathers or cagoules. Abercrombie and Kent versus Harley Davidson. A juke box tussle between ‘Get your motor runnin’….’ and ‘I love to go a wandering….’. I think I fitted into the latter category – I certainly wasn’t a biker as I couldn’t drive back then.
When I say bikers, it wasn’t gangs of tattooed knuckle dragging mouth breathers with matching sleeveless denim jackets…. no, it was more quantity surveyors and tax accountants called Torquil and Farquhar who squeezed themselves into tight leathers and revved up for the weekend. As some sort of right of passage motorbikes would scream pass the pub, some doing wheelies, before back tracking to the car park. There would be a lot of engine envy going on. I remember one poser running alongside his bike, hands on handle bar about to jump on when the bike stalled and he flipped over his machine much to the cheers and laughs of those congregated. He ‘tummled his wilkies’ as they may say in these parts.
Many years later as a student nurse in orthopaedics, I looked after a lad who took the bike bravado a bit too far and mistimed a corner near Carbeth. He carried a macabre folder of photographs and x-rays taken whilst in casualty. If you think part of a femur can’t pierce leather and stick out at 90° from the hip then I can assure you I’ve seen the grizzly evidence. And that was the leg the doctors managed to save. The other was amputated just below the knee.
I think I was part of the Venture Scouts although I don’t remember any initiation ceremony or sewing patches onto any uniforms. We did various activities including hill walking and sailing but inevitably ended up 6 to 8 of us crushed into the back of expedition leader Alan’s Jaguar XJ screaming along the A809 at breakneck speed (maybe that was the initiation ceremony). I remember the nervous laughter as I watched the trail of sparks as Alan launched his Jag over yet another bump in the road and the feeling of relief as we cruised into the Carbeth to take our place among the throng.
There were another group who mainly kept to themselves. The Hutters. After WW1 the local landowner Allan Barnes Graham permitted campers to set up on his land. Huts were developed after WW2 mainly for displaced people after the Clydebank Blitz and these were passed down to family members. Although very basic without electricity or running water these must have been havens for the working people of Glasgow and surrounds. I wonder what they thought of this intrusion to their local.
I hear now that the Carbeth Inn is no longer and has been replaced by a drive thru coffee shop. What with a clamp down on drink driving it was inevitable that such an iconic country pub would be a casualty.
I continued my walking into the 80s and would often traverse close to Carbeth. I’d like to think my love for the countryside (and real ale) was fostered on some of those walks now that I’ve got my own little bit of acreage far from the madding crowd – and a lifetime away from any motorway !
(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – June 2021)
I was lucky to grow up in 1960s America during the space age where technology was developing fast and some household gadgets embodied futuristic designs.
Take the humble telephone, for instance. One of my early childhood memories was being in my next door neighbour’s kitchen, where my friend’s mum had a white wall-mounted telephone, with a curly flex. I wasn’t yet tall enough to reach the phone (nor would have been allowed to use it) but I remember clearly thinking that this was the very by-word in modernity. Better still, I had a friend whose older sister had a telephone in her bedroom!
Of course Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise had ‘communicators’ which looked just like modern flip phones. My first mobile phone was a pink Motorola flip phone in the mid 2000s which made me feel uber futuristic. It got nicked at a party and I mourned its loss for weeks.
When I was nine years old in 1969, I heard about a swanky space-age phone that also had a screen where you could actually see the person you were talking to – just like they had in the Jetsons! Dad thought it was merely science fiction but I fantasised about having one so that I could see and talk to my cousin who lived three hundred miles away near Atlanta, GA.
It only took another thirty years before Skype technology was invented. (Dad never got to grips with technology.)
As an aside – I walked into our study one evening back in about 2003, where our son was listening to iTunes (or so I thought.). Harry looked up at me and said,
“Mum, you know my friend can see you in your dressing gown.”
I was horrified and dropped to the floor, thinking he must have a friend secreted under the desk! Harry laughed and said,
“No mum, he’s not in the room – he’s on the Skype camera on the PC!”
I didn’t even know we had a camera on the computer – never mind one which allowed my son’s friends to see me in my own home.
By 1970, my neighbour’s mum had a cream Ericsson Ericofon ‘Cobra’ phone that was ultra cool: it had one plastic handpiece which stood upright with the dial on the bottom. I longed for my parents to get one but they were ‘old school’ and had a standard black shiny phone with a rotary dial.
Other than hand written letters, the phone was central to sharing family information during my childhood. It is where my twelve year old brother sat for two agonising hours in the hallway one Saturday afternoon in 1969, trying to pluck up the courage to ask Loretta Hart on a date. Each time he reached for the phone, he would practice what he would say, then hang up. I got into trouble with Mom for spying on him from behind the bathroom door at the end of the hall and teasing him,
“Ooh Loretta, I love you,” followed by peals of laughter and sniggering.
He finally asked her on a date, where they sat in the living room on the sofa together listening to records and holding hands. Loretta’s kid sister Stella and I hid behind the sofa and kept up a running commentary before being found out.
After we moved to the UK in 1970, my parents had an old Bakelite phone in the narrow hallway of our semi. It sat on a small Half Moon ‘telephone’ table which only had three legs. The telephone book and Yellow Pages were placed reverentially next to it, with well-worn pages and thumb marks on the cover from the countless times my dad had to find the number for an electrician or plumber.
Remember, there was no internet and as far back as 1962 in America you were encouraged to “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking.” These days we still do via swiping and scrolling. Phone books had other useful functions, such as propping up wobbly tables or balancing the ‘rabbit ear’ antennae on top of the TV.
Mom and Dad would only allow us to make phone calls after six o’clock in the evening when the call rate was cheaper. I used to ring the Speaking Clock just for the fun of hearing the person say, “At the first stroke, it will be eleven fifty- four and thirty seconds…” but even more fun was listening-in on the shared party line. I would regularly hear a neighbourhood woman chatting with a friend:
“And I said to ‘im, I said, I won’t ‘ave ‘is mother telling me ‘ow to roast a joint of pork. I’ve been married twenty-six years so I think I know sommat about it. “
“Goo on Bab – what did she say?”
“Well, she said she didn’t mean no offence so I said none taken.”
If I really wanted to have a laugh, I’d interject into their conversation:
“Goo on – clear off!”
One of the happy side effects of the move between Virginia and Birmingham, West Midlands were the often hilarious long distance phone calls we would occasionally receive from my grandfather, Papa. Remember, this was before the digital age, so a long distance call had to be put through an operator. Papa never did get used to the time difference of some five or six hours between Georgia and the UK, so he would phone us at two or three in the morning, which would have been between eight or nine o’clock in the evening for him – probably after he and my grandmother had just finished their dinner.
Dad would jump out of bed, startled by the “ring, ring” from the hall downstairs. Standing in his BVDs in the cold hallway, I would hear him shouting down the receiver:
“Who? Yes, I am Dewey Scarboro. SCARBORO – B.O.R.O. No – not Scraberry!”
The operator would ask for a Mr D.D. Scraberry, Scarburgh, Scarry-Dewborough – anyone but Scarboro. Once Dad had established who he was and to whom he was speaking, the conversation would commence, complete with time-lag. Both Papa and Dad shouted (well, it was long distance) which made it all the more enthralling as a listener.
“Hey there Dewey!”
“Son. is that you?”
“Yes Dad, it’s me, Dewey.”
“Hey there Son!”
“How are you Dad?”
“Dewey, I want you to know that I love you Son.”
“I love you too Dad; how’s Mother?”
“Your Mother? Hello? Dewey? I’ve lost you Son!”
“Dad? Hello, Dad? I say, how’s Mother?”
At this point, the operator might say:
“You have one minute remaining Mr Scarberry.”
“I know it! Dadgummit! Dad? Give Mother my love!”
“I love you too Son. How’s the family?”
“Dad – you’re breaking up!”
By now Dad had woken the whole house.
“Click, click, click”.
The one occasion when Papa telephoned me was on my eighteenth birthday in 1978.
“Hey there, Honey!”
“You’ll be getting married soon Sugar!”
“No, Papa, I won’t be getting married soon!”
“Sure you will Honey! Why, your grandmother married me when she was just nineteen!”
“Well, I won’t.”
“He he he , sure you will Honey, he he. You precious thing. You know I love you Andrea.”
Time lag pause…
“I love you too Papa.”
“Click, click, click.”
Amongst the plethora of ’60s and ’70s songs which featured telephones – Wilson Pickett’ s “634-5789”, City Boy‘s “5-7-0-5” and E.L.O’s ‘Telephone Line’ to name but three – Meri Wilson‘s 1978 hit ‘Telephone Man’, which reached Number 6 in the UK charts, sent me and my school friends into paroxysms of laughter with its double entendre. Naturally we would burst into the chorus every time we walked past a person in a public phone box: You can show me where to put it…”
It took the dream team of composer Jimmy Webb and singer-guitarist Glen Campbell to produce two of the era’s greatest, most beautifully crafted songs (in my humble opinion) which used phones to convey the drama of their poignant love stories: ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ in 1967 and ‘Wichita Lineman’ in 1968. Webb’s lyrics still make me cry when I think of my grandparents who we left behind in America; I didn’t see them for eight years and when I did – aged eighteen – they didn’t recognise me and walked straight past me at the airport.
Albuquerque may as well have been Atlanta, GA.
One evening as I was doing my homework, Dad was watching the Western movie ‘Shane’ on TV. ‘Shane’ happened to be Papa’s favourite movie and Dad was reminiscing;
“Boy, I sure wish I could watch ‘Shane’ with Papa, honey. You know it’s his favourite movie.”
Suddenly, the phone rang, but as it was at a normal time during the evening, neither of us suspected that it could be Papa. The operator told me that she had a “person to person long distance call for a Mr. D.D.Scraberry.” Dad was dumbstruck. He and Papa shared tears down the wire.
Dad never forgot that ‘uncanny’ occurrence; or the time when he was listening to Ray Charles’ ‘Georgia On My Mind’ on the radio; one of his favourite songs. Once again, Papa phoned in the middle of the song which sent Dad reaching for the Kleenex. Maybe there was more to it than coincidence?
Today I’m surrounded by technology: smart phones that do everything and AI technology smart assistant in the kitchen which can tell me recipes, weather forecasts, the news, play music and provide me with a shopping list – all the futuristic features I never dreamed I could realise – and yet nothing can replace the anticipation and thrill of that sudden long distance phone call from Papa.
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021)
“MUM! I’M GOING OUT TO PLAY!”
“Hold on dear,” the call would come back down the stairs.
So you’d wait, sat on the bottom step, fretting your pals outside wouldn’t be so patient and have moved on before you got out.
“You’re not going out like that, are you?” your mum would ask when she finally appeared. “It’s far too cold, and it might rain later. Go to your room and put on a sweater. You’ll catch your death ….”
You’d sigh. Resistance would be futile, and time was critical if you were to catch your friends. Humour her – it can be tied around your waist soon as you’re around the corner, or used as a goalpost when you play football later, as you inevitably will.
“And remember to be back before it gets dark. And don’t talk to any strangers.”
“Yes mum. No mum.”
“What are you playing today?”
“Cowboys and Indians.”
“That’s nice. Let’s hope the Indians win, then,” she’d say with a smile.
“Of course they will,” you’d reply with the knowing, evil smirk of a James Bond villain.
“Just be careful, though, you could have someone’s eye out with that,” she’d casually offer as you picked up the home-made bow and arrows from the porch floor.
Perhaps she wasn’t unduly worried because you’d be an ‘Indian’ for the day. Being targeted by a ‘Cowboy’s cap-loaded pistol was not going to cause her little darling any grief. Maybe the mothers of those designated ‘cowboys,’ would have been more concerned.
But I doubt it.
The bow and arrows would have been made, very possibly, with the help and advice of your dad. From experience, he’d have known where to find the best, the sturdiest and yet the most willowy kind of stick to use for the bow; he’d have known the most durable twine to use and how best to thread and knot it onto the carefully selected twig or branch; he’s have known the optimum length of garden cane to use as arrows; he’d have known how to notch one end of the cane, without accidentally splitting it full length, so that it could be nocked onto the bow, ready for loosing.
Boy, could those canes fly! Swift and true, they were capable of travelling quite some distance, and leaving a mark on any unwary ‘cowboy.’
In truth though, the bow and arrow just looked more likely to cause human harm than they generally did.
Catapults, however …
Contrary to the romantic notion of Oor Wullie knocking PC Murdoch’s hat off with a well-aimed stone then scampering away, these things were properly dangerous!
Looking back, I have no idea how these could be sold as ‘toys.’ But they were, and when the little newsagent type shop in our village took in a supply during the late Sixties, there was a race down the hill from the primary school at lunchtime to get hold of one. The dining hall was a lonely place that afternoon.
The fad didn’t last long though, as the ensuing battles and damage to property (accidental or otherwise) led to Headmaster Thomson banning them from school and Janitor ‘Janny’ Mckay confiscating any he could get hold of.
Of course, by reverting to your dad’s impeccable knowledge of trees and twigs, and raiding your mum’s sewing basket for a length of elastic, you could still make a pretty effective one at home.
I don’t recollect Valerie Singleton or John Noakes giving any advice on this subject, though.
It wasn’t just boys who risked life and limb in pursuit of entertainment. How many young girls skinned their knees and elbows after falling to the pavement, ankles entangled in linked elastic bands, having attempted to jump some impossible height while playing Chinese Ropes?
Neither was it just dads who encouraged dangerous play. Mothers were at it too. They’d dig out an old stocking and suggest their daughter place a tennis ball or the like in the closed end and tie the other around an ankle. They could then spend endless hours of fun rotating the ball like a helicopter blade and hopping / jumping over it.
Endless hours at A&E, more like. I can’t believe this was actually fashioned into a proper toy
I’d be really interested in the A&E stats for the late Sixties and Seventies, regards children being treated for ankle injuries. How many times did you fall off these?
They may only be a few inches in height, but if you weren’t so good coordinating lifting the string and your foot at the same time (more difficult than it sounds if I remember correctly) you’d happily settle for a twist rather than a break.
In fact, the cans were really just a training aid to wooden stilts. I had a pair made for me by my Grandfather. I eventually mastered them, but not after slipping and impaling my ribs on them several times.
And our parents allowed, nay, actively encouraged all this?
Cans had infinitely more dangerous uses, though. Especially those like Cremola Foam that had press-on lids. Our parents, in all fairness, may have been a bit suspicious and wary had we asked if there was any spare petrol, or more likely, paraffin, lying about the shed. So a little bit subterfuge was required if we fancied experimenting with our own firebomb.
It wasn’t exactly rocket science, though it may have ultimately given that impression – fill the can with paraffin; replace the tin lid; draw straws to see what muppet was going to place the tin in the bonfire; retreat and wait.
And run like Gump when you heard the sound of sirens.
I know – fire. It holds some weird, primitive fascination for blokes, I have no idea why. But just watch at the next barbeque you attend. It’s sad, really.
Cars and DIY command similar allure in the male psyche. (Well, I discount myself from that assertion – I’m not like other guys, as Michael Jackson said in the video for ‘Thriller.’)
“Darling, don’t you think we should clear out the garage, so we can get the car in? That pram can go for a start – Junior’s eight years old now!”
“No, no no! We can’t get rid of the pram! He’ll need the wheels for his first bogey.”
“’He’ll need them? Or you? OK – but the stroller can go then.”
“Most definitely not – everyone knows that a class bogey has smaller wheels at the front than the back!”
“Yes, dear…..” Sigh!
Bogey racing. You were sat in a seat, less than a foot off the ground, and steered the wooden contraption with your feet in the front axle. Or maybe you tied a bit of plastic washing line to the axle instead and pulled on it for direction change.
You’d swear you were travelling at ‘a hundred miles an hour’ and your ‘brake’ was whatever immoveable object lay in your path.
And our parents encouraged this?!
I was never very good at stopping, hence my bogeys would always have a very short shelf life. It was the same with roller skates – several neighbours’ garden hedges had small, boy-sized holes in them!
The most fearsome toy though, has to be these.
What idiot thought it’d be a wizard idea to fit heavy springs to a base of metal and expect some daft kid who’d been reading too many Beano comics, strap their feet onto them, believing they could jump high enough to see over the wall and watch the football match for free?
Mine didn’t even have a wooden base as shown in the picture. The metal springs contacted directly onto the tarmac of the pavement.
Spring-heeled Jackson? I don’t think so.
There was only ever going to be one outcome. However the spirit and determination of youth meant it was two boxes of Band Aid and a tube of Germoline before it dawned there was no point fighting the un-fightable.
None of the above struck me at the time as being dangerous or a hazard to health – well, maybe the firebomb. But then neither did my parents. Unless of course, the just didn’t actually care.
Yet, I’ll wager most, if not all, those activities are either barred or at best actively discouraged nowadays.
“MUM! I’M GOING ONLINE NOW!”
“That’s nice dear – what are you playing?”
“Apocalypse of Hate.”
“You know your dad has an old bow, arrows and catapult you can play with ….?”
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021)
Did you know that collectors of badges are called badgers?
Probably not – because they aren’t. I just made that up because it was a quick, rather obvious and, most likely, futile attempt at raising a smile.
No – collectors of patches or badges are actually called ‘scutelliphiles.’ This is distinct from those whose collections lean more to pin and button badges, and are referred to as ‘falerists.’
Who knew? Who cares?
I’ll bet I’m not the only one who, as kid in the mid to late Sixties was excited to wear badge that defined a love of something. It was a case of wearing your heart on your lapel.
Or perhaps the badges worn were a display of pride; acknowledgement of some achievement or other.
Whether we pinned them on, or peeled off the paper and stuck them on; whether our Mums sewed them on, or ironed them on, badges were a reflection of our personality.
They were talking points – conversation starters. And as we grew older and bolder and into the mid-Seventies, they became funny. Cheeky. And ultimately with the Punk revolution, they became controversial, political and offensive.
Whether it proved you could ride a bike, had joined the Brownies or sought anarchy and chaos, a simple badge became a cheap, colourful fashion accessory that could possibly lead to a date … or get your head kicked in.
Oh how we loved our buttons, pins, patches and stickers.
I think this would have been the first button badge I owned.
It was given to Primary One pupils, along with a toothbrush, by the local Health Authority, sponsored by a leading toothpaste brand . (I’m guessing Colgate judging by the colour scheme on the badge.)
Then again, perhaps this was first. I don’t know how I cam about the badge, but apparently the Tingha and Tucker Club at one point had over 750,000 members and ultimately had to close down because it was unable to cope with the demand!
The show ran from 1962 through the decade until 1970.
This Tufty Club badge, I’ll bet, will be the one most readers will have been awarded early on in their Primary education.
Watching the video below took me right back to the dining hall at Westerton Primary, with throw-down zebra crossings and little pedal cars.
Book-ending The Tufty Club, in our mid to late primary years, we were awarded this enamel badge of honour if we could ride our bike with no hands and while lighting a fag.
Ah – maybe that’s why I never got one of these little beauties.
This one is the antithesis of the Happy Smile Club! Bazooka Joe Bubblegum – and wrapped in a waxed paper cartoon, that also advertised some amazing American toys … in dollars, even here in UK.
If you joined Club (I think you sent away so many wrappers in an SAE – stamped, addressed envelope) you were rewarded with the badge and some, on the face of it, extra special offers.
This was another popular one from my schooldays. I remember loads of kids wearing these.
These next two were most definitely among my childhood favourites:
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was one of my favourite TV series, without a doubt.
Though I was a fan of the Ilya Kuryakin character, I preferred this badge – the one that identified Napoleon Solo.
“Holy Button Badge, Batman!” I still watch the DVDs and buy the books to this day. I think there were variants of this badge, some featuring the characters from the TV series. I just wish I’d kept hold of them.
Between them, Brownies, Guides, Cubs and Scouts pretty much covered al bases when it came to ‘award badges.’ Collecting; dancing; cooking; painting; first aid; camping; performing; football; netball; map reading ….
I was hopeless. I think I must have had the least decorated arms in the pack / troop. I remember having the Fireman’s badge and …. yeah, the Fireman’s badge.
Television programmes aimed specifically at children became an increasingly influential part of our lives and these three badges, which need no introduction were very prominent on lapels and jumpers up and down the country:
By the time I arrived at secondary school, music was vying with sport for my time and attention, as it was for many others. In the early Seventies, I’d say from memory that girls sported more badges than boys, displaying their ‘teenybopper,’ devotion to heartthrob popstars, these badges, and hundreds of similar nature, being the most prominent:
At the other end of the musical spectrum, older rockers of both sexes opted for the sew-on / iron-on patches that adorned their denim jackets and jeans:
… and then it became very exciting indeed, as far as the fashion of badges was concerned. The advent of Punk spawned innovation in music and dress, and accessories.
Bands and fans alike embraced the whole DIY culture, and small button badges were produced in their thousands to show allegiance to groups big and small. Many focused on political views and others simply set out to annoy and agitate the older generation.
So there you have it. Our lives in the late Sixties and through the Seventies can be tracked by the badges we displayed and collected.
Badges these days don’t seem quite so exciting. Badgers still exist, of course, But perhaps they are more sett in their ways than back in my day.
The next badge I’m likely to display, will be a blue parking one.
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021)
“Well done … how would you like to come and train with our athletics club?”
I looked over my shoulder to see who the tall, lean blonde haired and bespectacled gentleman was talking to. There was nobody close by. He was indeed talking to me and my three similarly aged, fourteen year old school friends.
We had just been beaten in the schools 4 x 100m relay race at the 1972 local Highland Games. Soundly beaten, as I recall. So why would anyone ask us to join their Club, I wondered?
This was actually the second invitation we’d had since the race ended ten minutes previous. I could only think the coach from Clydesdale Harriers and the gentleman before us now had missed out on signing the race winners and didn’t want to go back to their committees empty handed.
“I think you’re better than that. I’d like to see you lads come down and train with us at Garscube Harriers.”
As a ten / eleven year old, wearing the regulation, no-tech, basic, slip-on gym shoes, I’d enjoyed racing my pals ‘around the block.’ Like many kids my age in West of Scotland though, I was obsessed with football and never gave a second thought to taking up running as a hobby. Then again, never had two football coaches asked me to join their team. Ever.
Athletics it was, then.
I knew of Garscube Harriers. They were a long established club, well known for producing quality athletes … and had their headquarters in my village of Westerton, part of the leafy Glasgow suburb of Bearsden.
But I’ll come back to that!
I learned a lot in my early times with Garscube Harriers, much of which remains with me to this day.
My school relay pal, Ronnie, bailed out on that planned initial session, so I had to walk into a large group of kids, mainly older, definitely taller, and introduce myself. While I was made to feel welcome, it was at the cost of having the pure ‘proverbial’ ripped out of me.!
Perhaps some of what went on would be frowned upon these days, but it did me no harm at all that first night. I just had to knuckle down and prove myself to the existing members.
I remember finding the training hard, as I’d never done anything like it before. But I don’t recall struggling too badly.
And I loved it! Even the mickey taking. I was the butt of it all that night and the following few … until Ronnie eventually decided to show up one evening.
I was no longer ‘new boy.’
I was a Garscube Harrier.
Little did I know that evening, but most of these guys would be like a ‘band of brothers’ some forty-nine years later.
I would learn the value of friendship.
The Club’s summer base was not their clubhouse in my village. It was a red blaes (shale) track at Blairdardie. Taking the direct route via the canal underpass and following the towpath, it was a two mile cycle or run away. Of course, it being summer, those not given to sporting pursuit would congregate along the canal bank with cans of cider, lager and spray paint.
In the four summers of track training before I could drive, I had several eventful journeys to / from training, I can tell you.
I kind of looked upon it as a non-chargeable add-on to that evening’s training session.
I learned that a good turn of speed and stamina were useful physical attributes to nurture.
Although I knew next to nothing about athletics as such, I was aware that I was joining a ‘famous’ club – one of tradition and a reputation for producing not only international, but World Class athletes. And right on my doorstep.
I would discover that the coach who had initially invited me to the club, Donnie McDonald, was a former Scottish 880yds champion and international. My other coach when I first started, Gordon Dunn, had represented Scotland at the World Cross Country Championships.
Only a few years before I joined, ‘Ming’ Campbell (the Lib Dem politician) had been a member and represented Great Britain and Scotland in the sprint events. And over the summer I first trained with the club, another sprinter, Les Piggot, was representing Great Britain at his second Olympic Games, this time in Munich.
Garscube Harriers at that time also had a sprinkling of others who had attracted national attention at various age levels. Thinking back, none of us youngsters being were struck in the slightest. Everyone was completely grounded and subjected to the same mickey taking as the next person.
Ours was a humble club.
And I learned the value of humility.
Track training was hard. Very hard. Our coaches, I’d say, were even then and in the nicest sense, ‘old school.’ Their methods I’m reasonably sure, did not come from any text book. Rather, they passed on the benefits of their experiences. And because they had our utmost respect, we appreciated that.
The drove us hard. Ten x 200m in 26 seconds with a 200m jog recovery is one session I remember vividly. It would frequently result in me scraping a hole in the red blaes with my spikes, puking into it, covering it back up, and running to rejoin the pack.
Time and Garscube Harriers wait for no man.
I learned the mantra ‘no pain, no gain.’
My first race for the Club came at Westerlands, home track of Glasgow University. I hadn’t yet received my club vest, so checked in for my invitational 800m race wearing my favourite dog-chewed mustard coloured vest. I surveyed the opposition as we warmed up and decided the two taller lads who looked well sharp in their neat track suits and top range spikes, were the ones to tag on to. They’d pull me through to a good finish.
Did they heck, as like! I sat with them for the first lap. They had the style; they had the gear. What they didn’t have was either pace or stamina. I waited for them to make their move, but of course it never came.
It quickly dawned I’d made a bit of a schoolboy error and a fast last two hundred metres brought me home to a mid-field placing.
I learned never to judge a book by its cover. Don’t pre-judge people one way or another.
During the late Seventies, the Club suffered a dip in membership as the ‘old guard’ moved away from the area for various family, work or study reasons. I don’t know why, but we were unable to draft in replacements. There just didn’t seem to be any interest.
Those athletes that remained were still good, but we now lacked the depth in our squad. This meant several of us would run various distances at the National Track and Field League meetings. It wasn’t unknown for a middle distance runner to compete not only in the 1500m, but also the 110m hurdles and possibly the shot put.
Once at Meadowbank, I ran 200m, 400m and then very rashly, entered the 5000m. The distance itself was not the issue, as I’d train over 5 – 10 miles. But the concentration was. As was the quality of opposition, with some of Scotland’s best in the field. I was lapped twice by the leaders, and though I was mortified I persevered. In doing so, I managed to finish a few from the back.
I learned to never give in. One point is better than none. Something is better than nothing.
Throughout the ‘70s, athletics was strictly amateur. The rules were vigorously enforced. No cash or ‘cash exchangeable’ prizes could be awarded. Not even book / record tokens as I recall.
No, no, no. On a couple occasions I travelled all the way to London (representing Bank of Scotland) won my race, and returned home the proud owner of a butter dish or something equally crass.!
The Highland Games circuit was no better. We would win the likes of salt and pepper cruet sets; cake stands; crappy framed pictures and plastic ice buckets (one of which was donated to the Club raffle, only for the raffle winner to re-donate it the following year.)
I learned that success need not be measured in monetary value.
Ah yes … the ‘headquarters.’ How could I forget.
Our base up until the mid-Eighties was ‘The Hut.’ A corrugated iron construction that was unbearably hot in the summer months and unbelievably cold in winter.
It was used predominately during the road racing / cross country months of autumn and winter, when we’d meet twice / three times a week to go on pack runs varying from 1.5 to 10 miles.
Over the years it became more and more dilapidated, and a health and safety hazard.
To say it was spartan would be an understatement, but to many of us it was a second home.
And I learned that indeed, ‘home’ is where the heart is.
My active years in athletics spanned only ten years. I never took it too seriously. I trained hard, of course. And I competed hard. But I took very few photographs; I didn’t formally record my Personal Bests. It was an excuse to go for a beer!
At the time, I also played football – to an adequate-not-spectacular standard. This meant for a few years around age nineteen to twenty-one, I was unavailable for many races on the roads and over the country – the latter being my best and favoured.
Of the two, athletics would have been my stronger sport, but I was young and had plenty years of running ahead of me. Play football now when you can, concentrate on running later.
It didn’t work that way, did it?
Injury at age twenty-two put paid to both sports!
I learned to live for today and take nothing for granted.
Just before my injury, I went on holiday to the South of France with a couple of the Garscube team. It was there that I met our Diane, my wife of thirty-nine years. (Thirty-nine years tomorrow, 5th June, as it happens.)
I learned Fate dealt me a pretty good hand!
I sometimes wonder how my life would have been shaped, had my school relay team actually won that race all these years ago?
The value of friendship; speed and stamina are handy; humility; no pain, no gain; don’t pre-judge; never give in; success needn’t equate to monetary value; home is where the heart is; take nothing for granted and yeah, overall, I’ve done alright.
Joining Garscube Harriers has certainly taught me a lot over the years, possibly the most important being that sometimes you don’t actually have to be a winner to win.