Tag Archives: 60s

fairground attraction – it’s got to be-ee-ee perfect!

(Post by Mark Arbuckle of Glasgow – November 2021)

Like most people I have a rather complicated relationship with Fairgrounds, The Shows, Amusement Parks, whatever you like to call them.

Excited, scared and bravado in equal measures.

My earliest memory is being taken to the Kelvin Hall Circus and Carnival in the early 60’s where the smell of the  elephants left an olfactory impression on me for many, many years!

Clydebank had it’s own annual fairground on the waste ground where St. Andrew’s HS would be built in the 80’s and then  demolished 20 years later.

I was taken to there in 1967 at age of nine by my grandparents. I thought I’d start with something gentle and build up to the more fearsome looking rides.

I chose a sedate looking motorcycle merry go round. Off it went with myself and a few other kids grinning at their family members.

After a few laps the leather clad, carny thought he’d have a bit of fun and cranked up the speed! The motorcycle had a purple velvet seat and I started to slide off it.

No seatbelts or H&S in those days!

The carny continued to increase the speed until my torso was now at right angles to the bike!I was holding on grimly to the handlebars.

The other kids were screaming and so was my Gran as she saw me whizzing round with my head barely 6″ from the ground! A man rushed up to the carny and grabbed him, shouting ‘Stop the Bloody Machine!’
It began to slow down and another man helped me to regain my seat!

My Gran was crying and very, very angry as she accosted the now sheepish looking carny with a few expletive deletives!!

I did return the following year but avoided THAT ride!

In the late 60’s my family’s annual holiday was two weeks in a small hotel in Whitley Bay.

Four kids, my parents and stacks of luggage all packed into a car for what seemed like an eight hour journey!
Are we there yet?…

The main attraction of Whitley Bay was The Spanish City!

An amusement park which at the time boasted Europe’s Biggest & Fastest Rollercoaster.

I LOVED IT!

I went every day with my siblings. There was a machine with a manical laughing clown just inside the main entrance.

Maybe that’s where Stephen King got his idea for IT!

I was initially a bit scared of the ‘Biggest Rollercoaster in Europe’ but once I’d experienced it for the first time I excitedly jumped off and rejoined the queue to go again!

There was also a Ghost Train which I thought was very tame until  somebody in the dark shadows, dressed all in black touched my face as the train slowed down at a corner! I nearly jumped out of my seat!
Again no seatbelts!

Local lad Mark Knopfler wrote a song about this magical place in 1980.

Tunnel of Love‘ by Dire Straits

Yeah, now I am searchin’ through these carousels and the carnival arcade
Searching everywhere, from steeplechase to balustrades
In any shooting galleries where promises are made
To rockaway, rockaway
Rockaway, rockaway
From Cullercoats to Whitley Bay. And to Rockaway

‘And girl it looks so pretty to me like it always did
Like the Spanish city to me when we were kids
Girl it looks so pretty to me like it always did
Like the Spanish city to me when we were kids.’

Sadly, after 93 years as an amusement Park, The Spanish City closed in 1999.

However it reopened in 2018 as a spectacular wedding and conference venue! Both Mark Knopfler and Sting attended the Grand Reopening!
I will visit it very soon!

Our last family holiday was in 1972 in Blackpool.

The obvious attraction was The Pleasure Beach and yes I visited it a couple of times over the fortnight. To be honest I was more attracted to a much smaller showground in the north of the town.

I was nearly 15 and was captivated by everything about it! 
My every sense was on overload!

The smell of grease, both from the rides and burger stands.
The sweet scents of Candy Floss and Popcorn.
The intoxicating aromas of perfume, perspiration and peanuts!

The sounds of laughter, squeals of delight and tantrums….and that was just me!

And the sights!

OH MY THE SIGHTS!

Pulsating lights, brightly painted rides, the strutting exotic carnys and, most memorable of all, the pretty girls in denim jackets and short skirts! Giggling in packs!

And of course the music of the early 1970’s pounding out from huge speakers on every stall and ride!

‘Lola,’ ‘Layla,’ ‘Let’s Work Together’ (and other songs’ names that begin with L!)

Three Dog Night‘s ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come
Whenever I hear this song I’m instantly transported back to that show ground!

Black Night‘ by Deep Purple, ‘All Right Now ‘by Free.’ In The Summer Time‘ by Mungo Jerry ‘Son of My Father ‘by Chicory Tip, ‘Blockbuster’ by Sweet and the glorious anthem of 1972, ‘Schools Out’ by the inimitable Alice Cooper!

I was totally in my element!

Every day I endured walks along the promenade,  shopping or a bit of sunbathing, (where I actually got burned!… Yes in Blackpool!?!) but the whole time I was anticipating the delicious excitement of the evening to come! 

By December 1974 I was going steady. My great friend Rab was going on a first date with a girl and I suggested we go as a foursome to The Kelvin Hall Carnival.

In preparation for his date, Rab bought new jeans and shoes and a trendy short beige raincoat. The kind that is back in fashion now!

I have to confess that I can’t remember his date’s name….
(I don’t think I ever knew it) only that everyone knew her as Duck!?!…..

We excitedly browsed the stalls and bought hot dogs slathered in onions and mustard. Then we had Candy Floss, Cola and Chocolate.

Rab’s date was going very well.

We’d already gone on the obligatory (for courting couples) Ghost Train and Dodgems where you were allowed, nay encouraged, to smash into each other’s cars!

And we’d all tried to win a prize at the clearly rigged shooting gallery and throw the ring over the jam jar to win a goldfish.

Rab then said that we should have a go on The Waltzer.

He went on first followed by Duck, then myself and my girlfriend.
We settled in, pulled the safety bar up to our laps and off we went.

It immediately accelerated and a carny (maybe a relative of my torturor in 1967) jumped onto the back of our car and started to violently spin it, to our initial delight.
After about two minutes I glanced to my right and saw that Duck’s face had totally drained of colour and she was rocking forward over the safety bar. She suddenly sat back upright and started to retch, turning towards me…..

At the last second I gently but firmly guided her head in the other direction.

She then vomited spectacularly all over Rab!

And remember our waltzer carriage was still spinning at top speed!

Rab was covered in undigested hot dog, candy floss and a brownish bile from his head to his knees! So too was poor Duck and she was still vomiting but now into the carriage at our feet!

Mercifully the ride finally slowed down and came to a stop. Unbelievably the carny was shouting at us that we owed him money to clean the carriage.
Big Rab with vomit still dripping from his hair told him to go forth and multiply!

We all headed to the toilets.
I helped Rab to clean up and my girlfriend attempted to perform a miracle on Duck!

Rab used hot water to clean his hair, face, coat and jeans and then used every toilet roll and paper towel in a vain attempt to dry off.

The girls finally emerged from the Ladies about 45 minutes later. Duck was still very pale,  disheveled looking and, to be honest, still a bit smelly.

We unanimously decided to call it a night. So we headed out on to a chilly Argyle Street to catch the bus home to Clydebank.

Nobody spoke much on the journey home.

Sadly we never ever saw Duck again! (Maybe for the best…)

Hopefully she is now a loving grandmother and entertains her grandchildren with stories of her past….

But maybe NOT this particular one!!

Poster Boy

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, November 2021

April 1967. Just another day spent in the drudgery of the Primary 7 class in Westerton School.
My eyes drifted to the classroom window as I gazed longingly towards the football pitch at the bottom of the hill, wishing I was out there instead of listening to Mrs Smith’s dreary drone and then…bang!

The headmaster, J. Jeffrey Thomson as he liked to present himself, Tommy Gun as he was known to the pupils, came barging through the classroom door.

Tommy Gun never walked. He just barged like a thundering elephant everywhere he went and after a brief consultation with Mrs Smith he announced to the class that one of the school’s pupils, Alan Fairley (i.e., me), had come third in the National ‘Learn to Swim’ poster competition.

A few weeks earlier, I and the other six members of the school’s special art group had been informed that the Scottish Health Authority were promoting a Learn to Swim campaign and that all schools in the country were to submit entries for the poster design. We were each handed poster sized sheets of paper, given access to all sorts of artistic materials, and told to get drawing.

My design featured a girl standing at a zebra crossing (remember them) with the swimming baths at the other side of the road.  My caption was ‘Don’t just stand there, go over and Learn to Swim.’

Mr Lovely Biscuits himselfJimmy Logan

The announcement that I had come third in the whole of Scotland made me something a of a mini celebrity among my classmates, especially when it was revealed that the prize would be presented by Jimmy Logan, a renowned comedian, actor, and impresario (whatever that is).

Logan’s main claim to fame was that he appeared in a couple of the legendary, if politically questionable, Carry-On films and any child of that era who had ever attended a pantomime at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre would have encountered him in some capacity.

The admiration of my classmates paled into insignificance however when the prettiest girl in the class (if the not the entire school), Alison McDougall, gave me her autograph book and asked me to get Jimmy Logan to sign it for her. Even at that pre-pubescent stage of my life, I was acutely aware of the brownie points which could be gained with a girl like Alison by acceding to her request.

The prize for third place was a ten-pound record token (sorry, this Taiwanese keyboard doesn’t have a pound sign) which doesn’t sound like much but back then it would have bought you 30 singles or 6 albums. Interestingly that ten pound is valued at 154 quid in today’s money so it was a tidy sum for a 12 year old.

The prize giving was to be held in the function room on the top floor of Lewis’s department store in Argyle Street, so off I trotted with my proud parents in tow and as we stood in the assembled gathering the announcement was made that Jimmy Logan had been called away and wouldn’t be attending. But not to worry folks, we’ve lined up a replacement -international singing star Eve Boswell – at which stage virtually everyone in the hall turned to each other and said ‘Eve who?’

Lewis’s Argyle St
Alan & Eve, it’s got a ring to it…

Everyone except me that was. I was more concerned about having to break the news to the lovely Alison that I hadn’t been able to come up with the goods.

Anyway, I was called forward to receive my prize and the mysterious Ms Boswell shook my hand and said ‘well done’ in an east European accent as she handed me the envelope.

Gola Speedsters

The problem was, I just wasn’t into music at the time so giving me a record token was akin to giving a McDonalds voucher to a vegan. All I cared about at 12 was football and a pair of Gola Speedsters would have been a far more amenable reward for my creative efforts.

My music loving elder sister, Jean, had been uncharacteristically nice to me in the run up to the presentation as she eyed a share of the prize and I was happy enough to let her have her pick from the top twenty as the two of us later wandered about the record department in Woolworths, Drumchapel. 

Meanwhile I came away with one of my favourite novelty songs – Three Wheels on my Wagon by the New Christy Minstrels along with a couple of football related records I’d managed to excavate from the bulging album racks.

So what, I hear you say, became of Eve Boswell? To be honest, I never gave her a second thought after our brief encounter but amazingly, about eight years ago I was enjoying a relaxing pint on a Saturday afternoon in the Sheep’s Heid Pub in Edinburgh when, among the plethora of retro pop music memorabilia on the wall, I noticed a poster announcing the release of Eve Boswell’s new single ‘Pickin’ a Chicken.’

It was the first time I’d heard her name mentioned for 46 years and a quick glance at Wikipedia told me that, in 1955, she had reached number 9 in the UK charts with the said single.

I left the pub content in the knowledge that I had once shaken hands with a Top Ten artist.

I did get her autograph that day back in 67 but, perhaps predictably, Alison McDougall was suitably underwhelmed at the absence of Jimmy Logan’s signature in her book and, even more predictably, my brownie point score came in at a resounding zero. 

so beer, so far.

(Post by George Cheyne of Glasgow – October 2021)

Be Prepared. The motto that has stood The Scouting movement in good stead for more than 100 years.

And while Boy Scouts founder Baden Powell would have been impressed with the high level of preparation put in by me and two pals one summer camp, he would have been less than chuffed if he knew what we were planning.

This was 1974 and our Troop had headed to Keswick in the Lake District for a week-long adventure doing stuff like putting up tents, collecting firewood, building campfires, digging latrines and, er, under-age drinking.

That last activity was why three 15-year-olds were standing in a car park just off Keswick’s high street a few blocks away from the Dog and Duck pub, or whatever it was called.

And the rehearsals going on there were as intense as anything you’d see at a run-through for a Broadway blockbuster.

There had been a lot of plotting and scheming before we got to this point – this sort of stuff isn’t just thrown together, you know.

With all the precision of planning a military manoeuvre, we had used the hike into town from the campsite to discuss ‘Operation Getting Served’ over and over again.

The devil is in the details so we talked through who would go first when we walked in the pub, who would ask for the drinks and exactly what we’d order.

Now, just like George Peppard’s Colonel Hannibal Smith character in the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together so a lot of preparation went into these three seemingly simple points.

In hindsight, maybe we over-thought it – but this was a big step-up from getting a few cans from an off-sales. Been there, done that…now it was time to play in the big leagues.

And as the in-form striker – well, I had been served in a dive of a pub back in Glasgow a few weeks before – the other two decided I was first name on the team-sheet.

This meant I was to be first in the door and the one who would be ordering the drinks.

Two down, one to go. What were we going to drink? We immediately ruled out three pints of lager and lime as being a dead giveaway for under-age drinkers and the same went for three snakebites.

So, and this is where the first bit of over-thinking came in, we plumped for a pint of heavy, a pint of light (well, we were in the Lake District) and a pint of lager with definitely no lime.

Three windswept and interesting young men with their own cultivated taste in beer. What could possibly go wrong?

To make sure the answer to that was nothing, we were holding our car park rehearsal.

One more time with feeling…

“Okay, we walk through the door as we agreed,” says I, “Then I order a pint of heavy and a pint of light and then what?”

“You ask me what I want,” says the baby-faced one of our trio.

If there was to be any suspicion about whether we were the right age, then surely it would fall upon the youngest-looking. That’s why he had a speaking part. 

“And you say?”, I prodded.

“I’ll have a pint of lager this time,” says Baby Face.

This time…genius that. It gives the barman the assurance you’ve been served before.

Anyway, the first part of Operation Getting Served goes exactly as planned and I’m face to face with mine host across the beer taps ordering a pint of heavy and a pint of light.

So far, so good. I turn to a nervous-looking Baby Face and – just as we’d rehearsed loads of times – ask him: “What do you want?”

Silence, nothing but silence.

I try to keep cool with a prompt: “Erm, so that’s a heavy, a light and a…”

“Medium,” blurts Baby Face.

Game over. Don’t you just hate it when a plan comes to…nothing?

trick or treating

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

As I navigate my seventh decade on this planet, I’ve reluctantly come to accept most things must change with Time. Generally speaking, that change is for the good: advances in medical science for example; touch-screen access to all the information in the world and of course you can now have pizza delivered to your front door.

There is one change however, I just cannot accept.

Halloween!

With due deference to our readers from USA, I’m not a fan of the Halloween we limeys seem to have adopted from your fair land.

“Trick or Treat?”

Is that it?

Oh no – I forgot the bit where you suddenly and most unexpectedly give my house the appearance of a runny omelette.

You see, this whole premise of ‘Trick or Treat’ is grossly misleading to an ageing traditionalist. I was first presented with this dilemma a few years back. I took a few moments to consider the options carefully and replied ‘Trick.’ I presumed the young whippersnapper before me, rather amateurishly dressed as Super Mario, would produce a magic wand, mumble some words of a memorised spell and produce a line of knotted handkerchiefs from sleeves of his red pullover.

Well – that was a lesson well learned, I can tell you!

The upshot is I now don’t entertain the wee scamps at all. Come the night itself, my house is enveloped in darkness from 6pm, and an intricate series of hidden trip wires and bear pits do the ‘trick.’

Of course, I’ve not always been a grumpy old git. As a nipper I looked forward to Halloween immensely.

The build-up began in earnest when the local village shops took stock of the traditional masks. This would be mid-October at earliest and not the week after Easter, by the way.

In the early to mid-Sixties, the masks I had, were made of cardboard imbued with the same dusty aroma as egg cartons. Traditionally, they depicted mildly spooky or mystical presences like the faces of ghosts or gypsy women, for example. Nothing sinister. But with an old bed sheet or grannie’s colourful woollen shawl draped over your shoulders, you really did feel you could walk through walls or cast a hex. Until you tried.

Another lesson well learned.

In the latter half of the decade, there was a move to plastic shell masks. By now, Superhero guises were all the rage. Batman was my favourite (still is) and I vividly remember not so much the smell of these guises, but the slightly rough texture to the matt blue colouring of the head and eye section.

(Oh – just me, then?)

The Halloween parties hosted by local Cub Scouts / Brownie packs were eagerly awaited. The normal routine of knot tying / dancing badge work was put aside. Instead, for Cubs at least, games such as ‘dookin’ for apples’ or ‘treacle bun eating’ offered different challenges. With sharp, metallic forks held in our mouths, we’d attempt to spear apples bobbing in a basin of water, before partially stripping off to take bites from a dangling bun covered in gooey, dripping treacle.

Hmmnn! Akela may have some explaining to do these days.

‘Guising’ on the evening of 31st October was the highlight. With friends, also in full disguise, we’d walk excitedly from house to house along the street. In one hand we’d swing a candle-wax-dripping, hand-carved turnip lantern (yes – turnip) and in the other, our mum’s shopping bag. We’d hope the latter would be filled with masses of delicious, treats by the evening’s end.

We had to be good, though. The neighbours were brutal judges, and kids would be rewarded in accordance with their standard of performance. Whether it be a poem, song, jokes or a magic trick, our ‘piece’ required days, possibly even weeks of fastidious rehearsal.

So here’s my message to kids today: if apples, monkey nuts, Parma Violets and assorted toffees are to bulge your trendy little tote bag (nobody would be seen dead, even at Halloween, with their mum’s shopping bag nowadays) then you must learn that THE TRICK IS IN TREATING your neighbours.

Not bloody terrorizing them.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

****

(What was your first, or favourite, Halloween outfit? Do you remember any of your guising ‘performances? Let us know in the Comments section below.)

aliens

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.

Andrea swimming at Jekyll Island 1969.

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. 

1960s Oldsmobile.

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.

***

View of the Smokey Mountains from our old home town of Bristol, VA, (1969)

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), 

Make that twenty-TWO uses!

“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.

“We can’t do that – somebody will find out!”

 “Ah – nobody’ll see it honey.” 

We checked out. 

***

(Copyright: Andrea Burn 1st July, 2021)

You Can’t Judge A Song By Its Cover….

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, July 2021

From the Beatles to Bowie every great artist has recorded a cover version of someone else’s songs.

In many cases you won’t even know it’s a cover, it usually depends on your musical knowledge and whether you’ve heard the original before.

For instance, until recently I had no idea that Adele’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ was a Bob Dylan track and had previously been released by Billy Joel and Garth Brooks, well before Adele’s version attained over 200 million hits on streaming services.

Dylan’s song is now deemed to be a ‘Modern Standard’ and has been recorded by over 460 different artists, and all the while I thought it was an Adele original.

Nowadays of course I want to know every detail about the music I’m invested in, but when I was younger I couldn’t tell you if a song was a cover version or an original and to be honest it didn’t matter.
I loved Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da by the Marmalade and cared not that it was a cover and the Beatles version had come before it.

In the early 70s, Bowie with Pinups and Bryan Ferry with Those Foolish Things brought credibility to the concept of ‘cover albums’, sharing their musical influences and displaying their penchant for covers like a badge of honour.

The topic of cover versions came into my mind recently when I was listening to ‘California Dreaming’ by Bobby Womack.
I wondered how many people knew about this version and it got me thinking about my favourite ‘cover versions’ and how I categorise them.

So here’s a ‘not so deep-dive’ into the concept….

When you think the cover is the original:

I think the first time I was caught out like this was with Rod Stewart’s ‘Reason to Believe’, the B side to Maggie May.

It was one of those singles where the B side got almost as much needle-time as the A side (in fact as you can see from the image, it was the original A side, and Maggie May was the B side), but I had no idea that it was a cover version that had been released previously by Tim Hardin.

Rod went on to become quite the cover specialist…. Cat Steven’s ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’, Hendrix’s ‘Angel’ the Sutherland Bros ‘Sailing’ and Carole King’s ‘Oh No not my Baby’ were all big hits for Rod with most of his legion of fans unaware of the original versions.

Similarly, for several years I had no idea that ‘All Along the Watchtower’ by Hendrix was a Dylan song or that ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ was a traditional Irish folk song recorded by The Dubliners before Thin Lizzy made it their own.
Ditto the Isley Bros ‘Summer Breeze’, a Seals & Croft recording and Nilsson’s ‘Without You’, a Badfinger track.

The common thread here is that from Hendrix to Adele there are always tracks that I’m shocked to discover are covers. I’m not suggesting the fact that they’re covers devalues them in any way, indeed, you can argue that there’s a great skill in identifying a ‘hit’ that nobody knows about and making it your own.

When the cover is better than the original:

This is a subjective point and totally in the ear of the beholder.
There’s obviously lots of examples where a cover version is more popular than the original (see Adele above), but I wanted to shine a light on a select band of elite songwriters who are great performers in their own right but for some reason or another there’s a pattern of other artists consistently improving upon some their material….

Bob Dylan: All Along the Watchtower by Hendrix, A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall by Bryan Ferry, George Harrison’s version of ‘If Not For you’ and The Byrds classic, “Mr Tambourine Man’,
just a small selection of tracks that other artists have borrowed and updated from Dylan.

Bruce Springsteen: Patti Smith’s ‘Because the Night’, Manfred Mann’s ‘Blinded by the Light’ and ‘Fire’ by the Pointer Sisters. Three tracks buried beneath Boss anthems that became defining tracks for the artists who covered them

Leon Russell: Donny Hathaway’s ‘A Song for You’, George Benson’s ‘This Masquerade’, Joe Cocker’s ‘Delta Lady’ and The Carpenter’s ‘Superstar’.
Not one of these tracks charted for Leon but they were huge hits for the acts who covered them.

These are all great songs, written by iconic artists so it’s strange that the definitive versions of all of these classics are by other acts and not the original artist.

In some cases it seems that artists can come along, pick up a gem, give it a polish and make it shine even brighter.

Artists who make covers their own:

When Mick Jagger was asked about his favourite Stones cover he said it was Otis Redding’s version of ‘Satisfaction’, which is not a surprise as artists tend to compliment acts that reinterpret their music with a different take on the original… and this is what Otis Redding did, utilising Booker T and the MG’s and the Memphis Horns to give ‘Satisfaction’ the full Stax treatment.

Otherwise, it’s just karaoke….


It’s logical then to be able to love two divergent versions of the same song, particularly if the act covering does it in a manner that breathes new life into it.

Joe Cocker’s ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’ would be a prime example but to be fair there’s lots of candidates…

For instance, Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ is a classic but Billy Paul’s jazzy, Philly-infused rendition completely updates it and takes it to a different level.
It’s well worth a listen if you haven’t heard it before….

Likewise in the early 70s Isaac Hayes went through a phase of taking middle of the road classics like ‘Walk on by’ and ‘Close to You’ transforming them into big orchestral masterpieces lasting up to 12 minutes long.
His versions weren’t necessarily better than the originals, but they were just as good in their own way and they were unmistakably Isaac Hayes. Listen to them and you’ll see where Barry White got his schtick.

In a similar vein, Wilson Pickett’s version of Hey Jude, featuring Duane Allman’s first recording session on guitar, is also a bit special and worth checking out on the playlist.

Of course, you can also add Clapton’s version of Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ and the Hendrix versions of All Along the Watchtower and Hey Joe to this list.

Nowadays of course we’re awash with tribute albums and cover versions and songs with samples that sound like old songs, so it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, but if you dig deep enough there are always some diamonds.

As is my wont, I have made up a playlist of some classic 70s based covers, many of them mentioned in this piece which you’re welcome to dip into.

It would also be good to hear about some of your favourite covers on the FB page….

making a hash of things.

Silence.

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.

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!



**********

teen heartthrobs – the page niners.

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

Views expressed in this article are of the author himself, founded more on observation alone and with no forensic analysis of statistics whatsoever. Please don’t send abusive letters and dog poo through the post, should you be offended by the non-inclusion of your favourite ‘Page Niner’- or indeed by the inclusion of one you consider a Front Pager.


(Other Teen Heartthrobs are – or at least, were – available.)

From what I read in my sister’s copies of Jackie magazine, my sister told me about Jackie magazine, I believe the most popular teen heartthrobs of the early to mid Seventies would have been, in no particular order: Donny Osmond; David Cassidy; David Essex, Marc Bolan, Rod Stewart, David Bowie and each of the individual Bay City Rollers.

A weekly magazine featuring only those stars would still have sold in tens of thousands.

Who, though, were the others? Who were the stars that didn’t make the front, back on centre pages so often? Who were more likely, the Page 9 ‘fillers?’

OK – so we’re almost fifty years too late, but let’s show some love for the Teen Heartthrob ‘also rans.’

You can comment and vote for your favourite from the following list of ‘second division stars’ in the poll which features on the

Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s Facebook Group

DAVID SOUL

Attracting fame for his starring role in the hit Seventies TV series ‘Starsky & Hutch,’ he actually set out to be a musician. He first came to the attention of American TV audiences as ‘The Covered Man’ – a 1966 ‘Masked Singer’ feature on The Merv Griffin Show.

The TV detective series quickly established itself in USA and UK, and his partner in (anti) crime, Paul Michael Glaser also became a bit of a pin-up in girls’ magazines.

However, it’s David Soul’s additional musical output that sees him make our poll.

In total, David Soul spent fifty-six weeks in the UK music charts, hitting Number One in both the UK and US with ‘Don’t Give Up On Us’  and matching that in the UK with ‘Silver Lady.’ Both were released in 1977. In the same year, ‘Going In With My Eyes Open’ reached number two, and ‘Let’s Have a Quiet Night In’ managed number eight. The following year, ’It Sure Brings Out The Love In Your Eyes’ was held up just outside the Top Ten at number twelve.

PETE DUEL & BEN MURPHY

Ben Murphy (Kid Curry) (left) and Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes.)

Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes) and Ben Murphy (Jedediah ‘Kid’ Curry) were the stars of the hit TV comedy / western, Alias Smith & Jones. The series ran to fifty episodes over three series, though the final seventeen saw the character Hannibal Heyes recast after Pete Dual had sadly taken his own life at the end of 1971.

Merely watching the introduction in the following video reminded how much I loved this programme – I still knew it almost word for word.

Like ‘Starsky & Hutch’ and ‘Happy Days,’ ‘Alias Smith & Jones’ succeeded in harnessing cute looking actors to a dynamic and entertaining story-line, thereby appealing not only to teenage girls but to action focussed boys and adults alike.

Pictures of both actors will have adorned the bedroom wall of many a young girl. I may be wrong here, but my perception was that Ben Murphy slightly edged it in the ‘hot’ stakes?

SCOTT BAIO

Having already played the lead role (alongside Jodie Foster) in the film version of the hit kids’ musical, ‘Bugsy Malone,’ the now sixteen year old Scott was introduced to fans of the fantastic ‘Happy Days’ television series as Chachi Arcola, the young cousin of The Fonz. He then went on to star in the spin-off series, ‘Joanie Loves Chachi,’ in the early 80s.

It’s for the former role that I remember Scott … and why his Jackie or Look-in magazine photo adorned the bedroom wall of many a young girl in the Seventies.

PAUL NICHOLAS

Straight outta left field, this one! Although he had toured with Rocky Horror Show and appeared in ‘Tommy’ as Tommy’s vicious cousin, ‘Cousin Kevin,’ Paul Nicholas was largely unknown in UK … until he set out to conquer the UK music charts in 1976 with three single releases: ‘Reggae Like It Used To Be,’ ‘Dancing With The Captain’ and ‘Grandma’s Party.’

I suspect it was more his smiling, cheeky-boy looks than delivery of cheezy Seventies pop songs that prompted the swooning and cut-out photos stuck onto school jotters. For eight months in 1976 though, Paul Nicholas owned the pre-mid / post-mid pages of Teen magazines everywhere.

(Greater fame was of course to follow though, in the Eighties, when he concentrated on acting, starring first in the short-lived TV sitcom ‘Two Up, Two Down,’ and two years later in the hugely popular ‘Just Good Friends.’ And more recently, of course, ‘Eastenders.’)

BARRY BLUE

It’s very easy to be dismissive of Barry Green (real name) as a bit of a watered down version of ‘he that shall not be named.’ His two biggest hits, ‘(Dancing) On A Saturday Night’ and ‘Do You Wanna Dance’ were both from 1973, his three other lesser successes coming the following year. Resultantly, he would have hovered around Page Nine of Jackie etc, for only a short period of time.

However, prior to that he had co-written ‘Sugar Me’ with Lyndsey de Paul and played bass in the rock band Spice … which later morphed into legends, Uriah Heep! And then, subsequent to all that, he wrote a million seller for Brotherhood of Man and penned hits for artists as diverse as Diana Ross and Andrea Bocelli.

ALVIN STARDUST

He may have been a good deal older than your average Teen Heartthrob of the time (thirty-one, when he scored his debut hit ‘My Coo-Ca-Choo’ in 1973) but as I recall, he was all over the popular magazines throughout 1973 and ’74.

There’s a lot to be said for the leather and studs look, I guess.

SLIK

Formed initially as Salvation in 1970, they played the local clubs and bars of Glasgow, before changing some personnel and name to Slik around four years later.  I’ll bet I’m not the only one reading this who saw them play a least once in the famous Clouds Disco, above The Apollo venue.

Probably more famous now for being Midge Ure’s first band of note, they never-the-less scored a Number One hit with ‘Forever And Ever’ in 1976, followed later in the year by ‘Requiem.’

They were quite obviously targeted for the teenage girls market, but though I didn’t stare longingly and doe-eyed at a poster on my bedroom wall, like many lads of my age, I harboured a grudging admiration for Slik.

And there you have it – the Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s list of Teen Heartthrob also-rans. Is your second, third or even fourth favourite in there?

**JOIN OUR FACEBOOK GROUP TO VOTE IN THE POLL FOR YOUR FAVOURITE, ALMOST-FAVOURITE.**


(POLL CLOSES MIDNIGHT WEDNESDAY 23rd JUNE.)

talking at cross purposes.

(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.

DIGITAL CAMERA

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:

“Hello!”

“Who’s that?”

“Hello!”

“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!” 

“Dad? Hello!” 

“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!” 

 “Hi Papa!” 

“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.

(Copyright: Andrea Burn June 8th 2021)

careful! you’ll have someone’s eye out with that!

(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 ….?”

*****