When I arrived in this world in 1947 from what I can gather things were tough. Once my memory kicked in by the mid 1950s things weren’t too bad. Although very few families had refrigerators or telephones nearly everyone had electric washing machines although I do remember my granny while she didn´t have a poss tub had a huge mangle with wooden rollers where I trapped my fingers.
If you bought a major appliance, (I was about five when my parents bought a TV for the Coronation) you invited the neighbours round to admire it. It took pride of place and sat in the corner of the living room like an honoured guest. I vaguely remember sweet rationing and my granddad taking me to the shops for a quarter of Black Bullets yet despite some hardships no one had ever been quite this happy for such a long time. Suddenly they were able to have things they had only ever seen in the films and never dreamed they could own.
I was mostly bored at school and didn’t really get into my stride until I had passed the 11 plus and felt the cats whiskers as I walked to school each day with a canvas backpack slung over my shoulder. Even then the school desks had ink well holes and tops that lifted up for your stuff. I remember one of my favourite things was getting a Parker pen with an ink cartridge, until then pens had to be filled from bottles and I always managed to get it over my hands, on my cuffs and down the front of my uniform. My mother was so prim and proper she must have despaired of having this child who looked like something from the cast of St Tinian’s. Whilst she tried dressing me with ribbons and bows I couldn´t wait to escape as playing outside was the place to be. When I think of the things we took chances on, that of course we never told our parents about, it is a wonder we survived. No one cared where we went as long as we came home for dinner and the streets and almost deserted park became one huge playground. How none of us were badly hurt I don’t know I suppose if we did get hurt but we just picked ourselves up and continued playing and the things that entertained us the most came from the use of our imaginations.
Looking back on those exciting and sometimes turbulent times when the big news included the assassination of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and men landing on the moon, my own day-to-day experiences although modest were to me just as meaningful. I came of age during the mid ‘60’s and music governed my daily existence. Rock and roll was relatively young and dominated by pop music. It wasn’t until the 70s that my music of choice shifted to more hard rock.
This was the time when you could go into a record shop and listen to the latest music in booths before buying it. I used to go each weekend to Radio Rentals with my two best friends Eileen Wilson and Carole King and after spending the whole afternoon listening to our favourites we may just buy a 45rpm record for 6/8d something romantic like “Poetry in Motion”. I was around 16 when I skipped school in 1963 to buy tickets for the Beatles as they were appearing at the Globe in Stockton and once I had heard them, saved for weeks for their first LP ‘Please Please Me’.
The summers of the 1960’s always seemed sunny. I would visit the local park with a whole gang of boys and girls where our entertainment was listening to Pick of the Pops or Radio Caroline on our transistor radios. Summers were also for visiting the beach. In one of the arcades on the seafront they had a vending machine where we would get a carton of frozen juice, Jubbly, which we used to cool our burning skins after using oil and vinegar to get a nice deep tan while lying on the sand. In the winter months we would spend our time in Rossi’s ice cream bar where we felt ‘hot’ drinking milkshakes and playing the juke box. There was no hanging around McDonalds and eating burgers, there weren’t any, our take-away food was restricted to fish and chips.
By the late sixties we spent longer periods of time hanging out in basement clubs listening to live music. The walls of our bedrooms were covered with posters, we drank gallons of coffee and the air was filled with smoke while the ever present music continued to spin on our Dansette turntables.
We had summer jobs, which allow us to earn our own money and taught us how to get up in the morning, not be late and how to work without complaining no matter how boring we found it. I was on piece work sewing men’s trousers for Burtons the Taylors, which was a joke as before that summer I had never even replaced a button.
I never called myself a feminist, a trailblazer or promiscuous and I never felt that sleeping around would be empowering. I was never afraid to speak my mind, I attended anti-anything demonstrations, was a member of Greenpeace and marched on Canada House in protest of the slaughter of baby seals and told anyone who would listen that I was for nuclear disarmament. I didn´t actually become a hippie until the 1970s when disappointingly they were beginning to thin out but by then I was also married to a guy I fell for at first sight and the only thing I had in common with feminists was my belief that I was free to choose to do whatever I wanted.
So while times were very different from today, do I feel I missed out? While we didn’t have the possessions the youth have today, times were simpler and we created our own fun, so I emphatically think there is something to be said for innocence.