(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – December 2021)
Saturdays were always special for us kids in the late ‘60s and through the ‘70s.
Before we were old enough or good enough to represent our school in the sporting arena, we’d possibly go swimming at the local ‘baths.’ Or maybe, with only the occasional Hanna- Barbera cartoon screened on television to entertain us, we’d be allowed to catch a train to the Saturday Club at the local pictures house. There, we’d join the throng of similarly aged kids getting high on what would later be recognised as the ‘e numbers’ hidden in cartons of Kia Ora and ice cream as we watched some swashbuckling, black and white movie produced by The Children’s Film Foundation.
That would all change mid-Seventies.
For a start, I would by then have been seventeen years old and regarded with some suspicion had I attempted admission to The Saturday Club. That aside, television companies recognised the audience potential and began to expand their model of importing cartoons and reruns of Gerry Anderson gems.
The ITV network initially trialled programmes by linking cartoons, sketches, pop music and mini-series into one long, ‘umbrella show.’
Several regionalised ITV stations ran with the idea from 1974 onwards. Over time though, they all succumbed to the show inaugurated by the Midlands station, ATV, and by 1976 children of the three TV-channel generation, benefitted from a heavyweight ratings war between the ITV network and the BBC equivalent.
As you were once ‘Stones’ or ‘Beatles;’ as you were once ‘Donny’ or ‘David,’ you were now either ‘TISWAS’ or ‘Swap Shop.’
OK, so I wasn’t a ‘kid’ anymore but there’s nothing says an eighteen year old can’t enjoy these type programmes, right? So the choice came down to watching someone on BBC have a serious discussion with David Bellamy about conservation …. or watch some Brummie lad dressed in outsize khaki shorts and sporting a ginger coloured stick-on, Bellamy-esque false beard, repeating the innuendo loaded phrase, “Well – gwapple me gwapenuts!”
It was a no-bwainer!
It wasn’t until 1977 though, that we in Scotland, served by STV, got to see the programme regularly and in its entirety. By then, Sally James had been enlisted as co-presenter with Chris Tarrant. With some sporadic appearances under his belt, comedian Lenny Henry became a regular presenter in the following year, as did former member of The Scaffold, John Gorman. It would a further year down the line before Bob Carolgees & Spit the Dog joined up, completing the team I remember most fondly.
Comedians Jasper Carrot, Frank ‘it’s the way I tell ‘em’ Carson and Jim Davidson would also pop in to the show now and then.
Reflecting the music of the time, TISWAS (This Is Saturday – Watch and Smile) was chaotic and anarchic. It was slapstick. It was infectious. Whether it be in the school playground or the office workspace, the show’s catchphrases were repeated incessantly:
“O-o-o-o-o-k-a-a-a-ay!” we’d gargle in the voice of Lenny Henry’s character, Algernon Razzmatazz.
“Com-post Cor-ner!” we’d shout in a Crackerjack style.
“This is what they want!” we’d joyously proclaim when doing something fun.
“Ccchhhhrrrrt ….Spit!” we’d mimic when something met our disapproval.
“It’s Telly Selly Time,” we’d sing, annoying our parents any time there was an advert break in Coronation Street etc..
“Wuwal retweats, wuwal retweats, where wobin wedbweast goes tweet tweet,” we’d pwance and sing in the public pawk. (Oh – just me, then …?)
Initially inspired by Jasper Carrot and encouraged by Sally James, we’d all roll on our backs ‘dancing’ the ‘Dying Fly;’ the Phantom Flan Flinger would push ‘custard pies’ into the faces of the children in the studio audience and big-name guests alike; kids, and in later series’, their parents, would happily be enclosed in a cage and have buckets of water / gunge / goo poured all over them.
Distinguished TV newsreader Trevor McDonald would laugh and laugh at the sketches featuring Lenny Henry’s hilarious send-up, Trevor McDoughnut.
TISWAS catered for all – boy or girl, even young-at-heart Mums …. and with Sally James as presenter, quite a few Dads too, I can imagine!
It was just genius!
What else would a youngster now want to do on a Saturday morning? Go ingest some wee-infused, heavily chlorinated water at the swimming pool where you got shouted at for ‘bombing’ your pals?
Or spend the afternoon feeling sick from eating too many sherbet dabs and Spangles as you once again watched Lassie successfully navigate her way home in those days before Google Maps?
Nope – for me and millions like me, it was a bacon roll; a plate piled high with toast and jam; several cups of coffee; turn on the telly, allowing it plenty time to ‘warm up,’ sit back in the comfy chair and completely switch off from the world of school, study and exams.
It was Saturday after all, and boy, did I indeed watch and smile!
(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.
Pavlovian catch phrases. Class and race/ethnicity stereotypical themes. Telegraphed slapstick routines. Sexual innuendo from leering, creepy old goats.
Benny Hill, On the Buses…………….
The odd gem: Reginald Perrin, Dad’s Army and Fawlty Towers…. excellent although all fell back on lazy 70s comedy devices on occasion.
I live near a showbiz retirement home in Twickenham… I see odd 70s era characters venturing out to exercise their gums on Werther’s originals.
Mad Frankie Fraser was a resident. Probably the funniest guy there. He must have had an equity card to get in (from appearing in some sycophantic gangster worshipping TV show). My pal, ex mayor of Richmond borough, encountered Frankie during an official visit. Frankie eyed up his mayoral bling.
Contrast to US comedy of the 70s era. The Odd Couple, MASH, Taxi, Mork & Mindy, All in the Family, SOAP……..
US comedy had sharper dialogue, more nuanced themes and juxtapositions of pathos / humour. They had a phalanx of writers on each script and hence 3.5 jokes per iambic pentameter.
One imagines the typical two man UK comedy writing team collaborating, in their diamond Pringle pullovers, eying their watches for their afternoon golf appointment with Tarby, and hence agreeing to pad out a script with a prat fall and an unfunny one liner so they can meet the submission deadline and the tee off time.
A key characteristic of US comedy writing is sharp dialogue, which in turn is probably influenced by the strong Jewish presence in US showbiz. I have noticed it in US literature too.
For example: I can re-read works by Philip Roth, James Elroy, Elmore Leonard and Michael Connolly due to the wit, menace and rich content of the dialogue.
On the music front Steely Dan lyrics are as evocative as the music.
I digress again… On balance there are some British gems. Reginald Perrin hit the spot, genuinely sad and funny, albeit occasionally reverting to the catch phrase and the “catch image” (the hippo mother in-law was actually funny on repetition).
Even Fawlty Towers could not resist the catch phrase and use of the ethnic comedy device, with the Man(uel) from Barcelona as the foil.
The brilliance of Capt Mainwairing and Sgt Wilson’s exchanges, in Dads Army, were often interrupted by irritating repetitions of “we’re doomed” and “don’t panic”.
UK comedy has evolved, in the context of so many great, current comedians. Steve Coogan, Paul Whitehouse and Ricky Gervais are the homo sapiens that have evolved from the primordial swamp that produced Bernard Manning, Mike Reid et al.
The Office is a work of genius, albeit descended from Rob Reiner’s Spinal Tap.
Some say there are many funny UK sitcoms. I don’t believe it….
“We’re ready for your close-up now”…the words any telly wannabe longs to hear.
And, as it turns out, the very phrase that was NEVER uttered in my direction thanks to two monumental cock-ups.
I’m holding my hands up for one of them, it was my bad. But I was totally blameless for the other.
To get the first one out the way, I was offered the chance to do a screen test at Scottish Television for a continuity announcer.
Remember them? They were the on-screen presenters who sat there, usually late at night, and gave you the cheesy link between one programme and another.
The date for the screen test, my golden ticket to the big time, came through the post – but it clashed with a midweek cup tie I was due to play in.
There was only one thing for it. I called them up, explained about the game and said I could come along another time – as long as it didn’t interfere with my football, obviously. Forty years later and I’m still waiting on them calling me back.
So, yeah, lesson learned with that opportunity being knocked out the park. But the other epic fail wasn’t down to me, not in the slightest.
The chance came during my eight-week journalism block-release course at Edinburgh’s Napier College in 1978 when we teamed up with the students who were studying TV and film.
The idea, I seem to remember, was to mix both classes in “a positive way to showcase the respective skill sets”. In reality, we were thrown together for two back-to-back projects more in hope than expectation.
We had a scenario where would-be reporters were asking questions of would-be drama students while being filmed by would-be camera operators.
There were two drama students – one male, one female – who posed as police inspectors to read out statements about imaginary crimes and then we got to question them about it.
Readers of Part 1 of this post will be somehow reassured to know that these make-believe offences also took place in poor old Oxgangs, the crime capital of the western world.
It’s fair to say there was a lukewarm response to this shiny, bright initiative so the college hierarchy fell back on the one thing guaranteed to get everyone’s attention – a juicy bribe.
We were told the videos of the top two interviews would be sent away to be assessed by STV and the best one would be…cue drum roll here…selected for a screen test.
That did the trick. You couldn’t get near the mirror in the toilets as everyone got ready for their big interviews.
When it came to mine, I found myself face to face with a Juliet Bravo-type who was pretty confident with the cameras rolling a few feet away.
She read out the bare statement – about a drugs bust in Oxgangs – in a professional manner and stepped back, in character, to await my questions.
Okay, Juliet, there’s something you’re not telling me here. “You say a quantity of drugs were recovered from the house,” I venture, “What kind of drugs and what was the quantity?”
“It was 10 kg of heroin,” she replies.
Now we’re motoring. “And what’s the street value for that amount,” I ask.
“You must be pleased. Now, you mentioned the two arrests made at the scene came at the end of a lengthy operation. How long?”
“It was nine months.”
“Would it be fair to say there was an undercover element to the operation?”
There was a flicker across Juliet’s face before she replied: “Yes, that’s correct.”
I was on to something, I just didn’t know what, so I asked: “How many officers were involved in that?”
“There was one at our end.” Now the flicker on Juliet’s face has been replaced by a deep red beamer.
I’m all over it now. “You say ‘our end’…where was the other end and how many were undercover there?”
“Erm, it was in Amsterdam and two officers were involved there. But I’m not at liberty…”
“How many arrests were made in Holland?”
“There were three, at two different locations, but I can’t really…”
“So it would be fair to say this joint operation has smashed an international drugs ring?”
“Erm, yes it would.”
Boom! Job done. A few more questions for Juliet and then I went off to write my story.
It turned out I was the only one to get the scoop on the Holland angle and was told on the QT that I was in pole position for the screen test prize if I did a decent job in the second assignment. Bring it on. But if I caught a break with Inspector Bravo helping me with my enquiries for the first interview, then my luck ran out when I landed an Inspector Clouseau clone for the second one.
Inept doesn’t begin to cover it. The hungover drama student forgot to bring his crib sheet with him, so there was no further information forthcoming about an imaginary armed bank robbery in Oxgangs.
I tried my damndest with a scatter-gun interrogation technique which started with me asking: “Was it sawn-off shotguns or revolvers?”
“I just know it was guns.”
“Okay, how much was taken in the robbery?”
“Err, I don’t know…I mean, I can’t say.”
“What about the make and colour of the getaway car?”
“Erm, it was light – or maybe dark – and probably foreign. Or not.”
“How many robbers were involved?”
“Just what I told you earlier in the statement.”
“You didn’t give a number.”
“Ah, well, there you go.”
I gave up right there. I’d been left with a story which had all the clarity of a man puffing on a giant Castella in the middle of a pea-souper and, needless to say, there was no screen test prize for me.
Probably for the best. You know what they say about having the perfect face for radio…