Category Archives: Social life

game of phones.

(Post by George Cheyne, of Glasgow – February 2021)

Another glance at my watch, an anxious look around to see if the coast was clear, wipe my clammy hands on my school trousers, take a deep breath…it’s time to make that call.

Phoning a girl for the first time from your house was a nerve-wracking experience in the Seventies. You had to get an alignment-of-the-planets moment for things to go smoothly.

Sure, you may have arranged to call her at 7pm, but that didn’t mean everything would go as planned. There were too many imponderables for that.

First, from your end, you had to secure the rights to the phone. This usually meant pacing around the area where it was situated in the minutes before the agreed time. In my case our phone was in the hall, presumably put there for maximum embarrassment as the rest of the family walked past when you were trying to hold one of those deep, meaningful conversations that teenage boys have.

Also, you had to rely on not being gazumped by your mum or dad choosing that particular moment to make a call. Even worse, because you had no control over it, you had to hope no-one picked that exact time to call your house because that would make you well late for your big phone date.

Then, of course, there was the other end. You were making that all-important first call with no real intel to go on.

Where was the phone in her house? Would there be an older brother hovering over her? What was her dad like? How big was he? All important questions which, sadly, you wouldn’t find answers to before you made the call.

So you took that deep breath, dialled that number and tried to ignore the stomach churns. It was a lottery, of course, because you didn’t know who would answer. It could be the angry 6ft 5in dad, the sneering older brother, the sympathetic mum or the girl you were calling.

Even the most confident, cocky kids could crumble when faced with such a pure beamer. But you had to grapple with your innermost fears otherwise you didn’t get the girl. Simple as.

You had to front up whether you were getting the girl or splitting up with her. Teenagers in the Seventies didn’t have the luxury of being able to swipe right or ghost someone from the safety of a bedroom bunker.

It had to be done face to face and could be pretty brutal. I remember walking in the playground with a pal one day when his long-term girlfriend – well, they had been going out for at least a month – approached with a grim expression on her face.

She ignored my presence, looked my pal straight in the eye and blurted: “I don’t want to go out any more.”

“What do you mean,” he mumbled, looking as if he’d rather be anywhere else than in such a public place.

“You’re chucked!” she replied with barely a glimmer of emotion.

Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. I felt his pain…and still do if I can remember it so clearly after all these years. 

That humiliation wouldn’t have happened to my pal if he was a Generation Z teenager instead of a Baby Boomer. A simple unfriending on Facebook and he would be history. No real harm done.

Today’s teens may think they have first dibs on all the gadgetry that helps shape relationships these days – but they’d be wrong. The Seventies kids were pioneers when it came to things like:

MOBILE PHONES 

Not exactly mobile, of course, but everyone back then knew where the nearest working phone box was in their neighbourhood. Could be used to make and receive calls and so avoid the pure beamer scenario as described above. Texting was still in its infancy, however, and was restricted to cards, graffiti and messages left in the phone box

GOOGLE

This was covered off by two platforms – encyclopedias and the Yellow Pages. If you wanted to help your girlfriend/boyfriend with their homework you would bone up on any subject by scouring the myriad of sections in Encyclopedia Brittanica. If you wanted to check out the latest music, shops, bars or restaurants, all you had to was let your fingers do the walking – and look them up in Yellow Pages, a streamlined version of the old phone book.

GOOGLE MAPS

No need to punch in postcodes in the Seventies. If you didn’t know where you were going on that first date all you had to do was dig out the A to Z, memorise the route and drive.

TIK TOK

The Super 8mm cine cameras of the day were perfect to capture all those carefully-rehearsed zany dances and songs. Just point the camera at family and friends and watch them perform. Ideal for those with short attention span because the film only lasted about two minutes.

SNAPCHAT

This was when scribbled notes were passed about the classroom covering such in-depth subjects like who fancies who, playtime football games, help with homework or what was for school dinners. If the teacher turned round, those bits of paper soon disappeared.

SPOTIFY

Seventies kids could amass loads of music to listen to – without having to pay any fees. All you did was get together with other music lovers catering for all tastes and swap over albums for listening and recording purposes. This was probably the first What’s App group of its time.

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

Mix tapes were put together with loving care and attention to detail. Specific song choices – usually singles or individual album tracks – were recorded on cassettes and handed over to girlfriends/boyfriends.

INSTAGRAM

The Seventies version of this was a Polaroid Instamatic camera. You lined up your picture, clicked the button and out popped an instant photo. Ideal for teenage parties and, just like its modern-day equivalent, the compromising evidence soon vanished. Nothing to do with any algorithm, the prints just faded in time.

All of which goes to show that us Seventies kids were pretty tech savvy and way ahead of our time…we just didn’t know it!

strictly not p.e.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)

‘Physical Education,’ it was called, back in the day. Football; hockey; netball; cross-country running, gym work; and to a lesser extent in my time, rugby. It was an eagerly awaited break from the mind-crushing monotony of Mr Methven’s Physics class. (I’m still bitter he chucked myself and Tony Everett out of his Higher class – can you tell? Presumably that was to ensure his teaching reflected a better pass rate.)

‘Physical Education,’ in the month of December, however, was none of the above. Not because the ground was dangerously frozen – old Mr Graham, a.k.a. ‘Boot,” would have us out playing in the winter snow, while I might add, he slurped his coffee in the store room. No. Some sadist considered it would be more character building, and stand us all in good future stead, to teach us the dark art of country dancing.

In the weeks leading up to ‘The Dance,’ boys and girls of each class in their Year, would be told to line up opposite each other in one of the gyms, backs to the wall-bars, and await the dreaded instruction:
“Gentlemen – take your partners for the Saint Bernard’s Waltz.”

The what?!

This is 1971 for goodness sake. The year of T.Rex, Rod Stewart and Atomic Rooster. And we have to dance to a  … what’s it called?

(See these old folk? See what they’re doing? THIS is what we were expected to learn as thirteen / fourteen year olds!)

Usually, two classes were amalgamated and twenty, sweaty-palmed lads would look up and down the line, watching to see who’d make the first move. Of course, there was always that one kid who was officially ‘going out’ with one of the girls stood across the games hall. His move towards the other side would instantly be mirrored by his ‘burd,’ (it’s ok – you could say these things back in the day) and the two would meet in the centre circle of the basketball court.

The pressure is now on.

Decision time. Move quickly before somebody else asks the girl you fancy. Or – actually, do you even ask her at all? What if she says “no thanks.” Or words to that effect. But she might be happy to ‘St Bernard’s Waltz’ with you. Wouldn’t that be brilliant? That would surely mean she likes you, wouldn’t it? Look – she’s whispering and giggling with her friends. Go on. Don’t be such a chicken.

But the fear of rejection is debilitating.

Aaaaargh! Too damn slow! She accepted that offer far too quickly. And she’s smiling. She must fancy ….

Very quickly, your options dwindle and everyone else starts pairing up – reluctantly or otherwise. So you make your move. The approach does not impress, however, as your path deviates when a pal overtakes you for the hand of your intended. Sheepishly, you are forced to ask your now third choice. Fully expecting a sharp rebuke, you ask the question.

Boot and Mrs McLeod (Horsey) who obviously frequented the world of Jane Austen, had dictated the correct manner of asking a young lady to dance is to politely say:
“May I have the pleasure of this dance?” But, partly because you’re a rebel and nobody tells you what to do, though mainly because your nervous brain has gone to mush, you grudgingly mumble the words:
“You wanna dance?”

Realising by now that it’s a straight choice between the short-arse stood in front of her; the weird introvert, or the kid with a plague of plooks and halitosis – the short arse wins. You – ok, I – have a partner.

Boot would then crank up the dansette and drop the needle on track one, side one of Jimmy Shand and His Band, Greatest Hits (Volume 1) and quickly retreat to the arms of Horsey. A short demonstration was followed by carnage and mayhem, the like of which had never been seen on the hockey or football pitches.

Of course, the rumours would fly for the next few weeks leading up to the Christmas Dance as to who fancied who – all based upon the rather random selection process of the practice sessions.

Then came the big night. The night when all the skills learned from Boot and Horsey would be displayed. Or not.

See, back then, there was no plush limousine; no pre-dance celebration meal; no hired photographers. Nope. Instead, groups of lads would rush out their homes an hour or so before the scheduled start time, meet up at the pre-determined ‘secret’ rendezvous point (for us, it was ‘The Woods,’ for others, ‘Hungry Hill’) and unearth the illicit booze that had somehow been procured earlier.

 The tipple of choice for my group was El Dorado and Lanliq fortified wine and a couple cans of Carlsberg Special Brew or Newcastle Brown Ale.

Timing now became critical, and being so young and inexperienced, it was pretty much down to trial and error … error frequently winning out.

The challenge was to get to the festively adorned Assembly Hall and, standing up straight whilst holding your breath, hand over your ticket to the poor teacher who would much rather have been spending the evening with a good book. Those pupils who still had to perfect the art of timing and sported puke stains down the front of their paisley-patterned kipper ties, were instantly rejected, being sent to the ‘sick room’ to await collection by their affronted parents.

Once in, you could relax. But not too much. It was best to keep moving. Dancing. Any period of inactivity would invariably induce a deep sleep on the spartan chairs that lined the Hall. Game over. Sick room and a phone call to your parents coupled by an instant grounding over Christmas would be the resultant consequence.

So, dance you did. And it wasn’t too bad, as it happened. And even if it was Dutch courage, you did ask the girl you fancied to dance. And maybe she was happy that you did.

Everyone was happy. Even the kid with the plague of plooks and halitosis.

It was Christmas, after all.