Monday 11 February 2013

When You And I Were Young.

The winter months with the cold days and poor light has restricted filming this year.   However it is a good time to research and review the projects in hand.  To do this I have been reading a lot of local history books which has highlighted many of the changes that earlier generations had to cope with.  It seems the rate of change was much slower for our ancestors until the mid nineteenth century when Britain changed from an agricultural economy into an industrial power. 

Of late, I have become acutely aware of how quickly things have changed in my life time mainly due to advances in technology.
Growing up in the austerity of "post war" Britain was character building to say the least.  For us kids, a "bombed site" was our playground and it was only the better-off kids who didn't have a patch sewn into the seat of their trousers.

Post war bomb site.
 Instead of computer games and iPods we had catapults and tin cans and I can't ever remember school being closed because of bad weather.  In hail, rain or snow we would walk to school, the tops of our Wellington boots chafing red weals on our skinny little legs.  At school, thirty or so nine year olds would heap their wet coats in front of a luke warm radiator and pretend they would be dry by "home time".
After school mum would often send one of us to the corner shop to get a shilling for two sixpences to feed the electricity meter.  Heroically we would plead with the grumpy shopkeeper who would not let us have the shilling unless we were buying something.  Sometimes it was necessary to try two or three shops in order to get the shilling that would restore power to the house and save Father's evening meal by the time he got home from work.

Our family's first black and white TV set had a nine inch screen that flickered continually - just one channel to watch and that closed down for an hour in the early evening.  Programmes then resumed until about ten pm.  At the end of transmission the tv was turned off and we would sit msmerised until the little white dot had completely disappeared.

Courtesy Paul Townsend CC licence.

The excitement that was generated when the first commercial TV channel opened some years later and wonder of wonders, the arrival of colour television.  

To hear the latest popular music most youngsters listened to Radio Luxembourg which always seemed to fade when the best records were playing.  An alternative was "Two Way Family Favourites" at Sunday lunch time with Jean Metcalf and Cliff Michelmore.  BFPO's - Frankie Lane - Lita Rosa - Anne Shelton such wonderful memories.

At nineteen years old I became the first one in our family to own a car  -  a 1937 Y-Type Ford which cost me twentyseven pounds ten shillings.
An eight horse power engine that would drain the six volt battery on a frosty morning in no time at all.  No heater and windscreen wipers that went ever slower as the car went faster.  Screen washers did not exist. To clean the windscreen an old bottle of washing up liquid filled with water was held out of the drivers window and squirted onto the screen - most of which was propelled back up the drivers arm by the slipstream.      Before the days of filling stations we went to the the local garage for our petrol,  At the garage a man would clean the windscreen and and ask how much fuel you required.  He would then pump in the usual two gallons (approx nine litres) of National Benzole which cost seven shillings (thirty five pence).

1937 Y-type Ford (Courtesy Charles 01 CC licence)

Around this time I became a bus conductor.  Every bus had a driver at the front and a conductor at the back.   There was a bus every six minutes on most city routes.
On Saturday nights we would queue round the block for the cinema, the cheapest seats cost one and ninepence (eight pence). The uniformed commissionaire would call out when seats became available. There were no defined performances just a continuous programme running all day until it ended with the national anthem at about ten fifteen in the evening. The smart folk would make for the exits before the National anthem was played and before everyone in the theatre stopped and stood to attention, otherwise you would miss the last bus home.

Queuing round the block for the cinema.

Health and safety tended to be left to God and providence, staying sharp was essential.
This was true of my time spent in a coal yard - the loaded railway trucks were free-wheeled down an incline into the yard where we would shovel the coal by the hundredweight into sacks and load them onto lorries.    The railway trucks would be set in motion with a pinch bar and they would run silently down the gradient amid lots of shouting and whistles.  To stop the truck we would push a brake stick onto the brake handle and bounce up an down on it to stop the truck - a lightweight like me would have to do a lot of bouncing to slow the waggon.

Coal Train (Courtesy Ben Brooksbank CC licence)

Soon after this England won the World Cup and computers began to confuse the entire nation.
Our reliable old red telephone boxes were abandoned for mobile phones.  The modern age had arrived - for a little while at least.