First Picture:Radio Times from 1961
Second Picture:A face from early TV Friar Tuck (Alexander Gauge) from the Adventures of Robin Hood Series
Part two of last week’s article’
Christmas Eve and Beyond
These were the most exciting days of the year for all children. The presents had been bought and the local shops had delivered the Christmas groceries which were paid for from the weekly contributions to the shop’s Christmas club.
The postman frequently brought the electricity bill on Christmas Eve and my mother and some neighbours always commented that they thought this was done on purpose to spoil Christmas. Despite this the presents from the grandparents, aunts, uncles, distant relatives and friends had arrived and were put near the Christmas tree. I remember I always tried to put my fingers through the wrapping paper then the guessing game started, “Will I get slippers from my grandmother again this year?”; “How much money has grandfather put in the Christmas card?” Money always came with some Christmas cards until the late 1950’s when it suddenly changed to the newly introduced premium bonds.
On the same day all the goodies that had been bought for Christmas were taken out of the cupboard: packets of dates and figs, candied lemon and oranges, crystallised ginger, nuts, oranges and bananas, a large coconut, exotic Turkish delight and various kinds of chocolates and sweets.
Christmas Eve for those still young enough to believe in Father Christmas was an exciting occasion. I would put one of Mum’s best mince pies on a plate next to a glass of brandy for Father Christmas. I was told that Father Christmas was on his way around the world to visit all the children. After a cup of Bournville I went to bed with an empty pillow case left at the bottom of my bed in the hope that it might be full the next morning. Up to school age all boys and girls were taught by their parents that Father Christmas really existed, it was not until we went to Primary School that we were told by the older children that Father Christmas was in fact our parents.
Piles of coal and logs were put on the fire and I remember my parents and grandparents always said that Christmas was a time when they returned to their childhood, when life was easier and simpler before the problems of the adult life arrived.
Presents were modest for boys maybe a train set, model ships and aeroplanes, tinker toys, jigsaw puzzles, cap guns, roller skates, games and annuals as well as well sealed envelopes that not only contained a Christmas card but also a ten shilling or one pound note. Then families had time to play board or card play games together.
As far as I remember everyone was satisfied with their presents. There was no present swapping that nowadays often turns into a round of “let us see how much we can collect for the car-boot sale”. Socks and handkerchiefs were unpacked, accompanied by a genuine chorus of “Oh, that’s just what I wanted”. We were celebrating Christmas in an age when society was more contented. Presents for our parents in the included Lily of the Valley, Max Factor or Rubenstein’s perfume, fifty cigarettes in a presentation box or a packet of Manikin cigars. Items to wear were popular, especially slippers, pullovers, shirts, blouses and white “under-things”.
Christmas morning was a busy time for Mum cooking the bird, putting the vegetables on, making gravy and getting the table ready. She had a lot of work and would say from time to time that the oven was slow - not surprising as nearly every housewife in the nation was cooking the same meal at the same time that day. While my mother was in the kitchen we played with our new toys and games, read our annuals and counted our Christmas money over and over again. This was the one day in the year when we felt rich. There was plenty of time for playing as we did not have a telephone and no one could disturb us. On Christmas Day the neighbours would come in for a Christmas drink and we would also visit them. Dinner was ready at about 1 o’clock. The bird was carved and the vegetables were put onto the table. We had sage and onion stuffing, sausages wrapped in bacon, the well-done Brussels sprouts, the fresh carrots and parsnips from the garden tasted better after a frost, the boiled and roasted potatoes, thick dark-brown onion gravy and cranberry sauce and then the wish-bone had to be pulled. After the main course we would all declare that we were completely full but always seemed to have room for Christmas pudding.
After washing up our parents would plunge into a chair and just sit until 3.00 pm for the Queens Christmas message. For 15 minutes we all sat silent and listened to Her Majesty address the nation. This was an indelible part of Christmas Day. After the Queen’s speech my grandparents uncles and aunts always reminisced and told us about their lives as a child and that Christmas had changed since then.
As the afternoon wore on and the effects of the Christmas dinner wore off, we were in the mood for some fun and games. Games included “hunt the thimble” and “charades”. When father declared that it was time for some walnuts we all had to think now where did we put the nutcrackers last year?
5 o’clock and time for tea, chicken or turkey sandwiches, jelly, trifle, fruit salad etc. and Mum’s Christmas cake. Christmas in England without Christmas crackers would not be Christmas. At home my mother normally opened the box of 12 crackers at around tea time. They contained a paper hat, a small rather useless toy and a motto or corny joke. I remember one year making my own crackers by using the empty tubes of toilet rolls.
Later that evening it would be time for a hot mince pie. While the adults indulged in a glass of wine, port or sherry we children were given hot chocolate or a cold drink and continued to play with our new toys and games while Mum admired her Christmas cards and ask why a aunt so-and-so had not sent her one this year. Frequently the missing card arrived after Christmas and the second class postage stamp was not to blame as there was only one class of postage in the 1950’s.
Soon it was time for bed and to look forward to Boxing Day when we had visits from relatives or we visited them. Boxing Day was more or less a continuation of Christmas Day when a present or two was received from an aunt or uncle or friend who had forgotten to send it before Christmas.
I remember we bought our first television just before Christmas in the late 1950’s. This changed our lives in the evenings, when we could actually watch the broadcast of the Queen’s Christmas message. In the 1950’s there were three BBC Radio stations. Before we had a TV we listened to the "Light Programme" which broadcasted popular music and light entertainment such as variety shows, comedy, and drama. The "Home Service" was the main channel for news, features, and drama although it did have some entertainment of a more demanding kind. The "Third Programme" broadcasted in the evenings only - mainly classical music and concerts as well as talks. For us “Children's Hour’ was the classic. This was listened to by most children and was designed to meet children's wants and needs in the 1950’s. “Children’s Hour” was broadcast from 5-6 pm on weekdays. Those who had a television all watched the “Andy Pandy” etc. As children we loved Christmas TV party shows with the stars like Tommy Cooper, Harry Secombe, Wilfred Pickles and Bob Monkhouse. We all waited for the seasonal TV pantomimes such as “Dick Whittington” or “The Babes in the Wood”, there were always well know celebrities in these such as Hattie Jacques, Spike Milligan, Frankie Howard or Charlie Drake and Boxing Day was not complete without the Chipperfield Circus show.
New Year’s Eve at home was very quiet in the 1950’s. Most people stayed at home and listened to the wireless or watched television. It should not be forgotten that 1st January was a normal working day in England until the 1980’s. On New Year’s Sunday we always spent the afternoon and evening with my grandparents. For us it was like Christmas Day again with the exception that we received no more presents. There was an abundance of food and drinks and we played games and talked for hours. As soon as New Year’s Day was over, I often heard my mother talking to the neighbours about new ideas to loose the weight that she had put on over Christmas. My mother always insisted that we took down the Christmas decorations and the tree on 6 January as on this day, the twelve days of Christmas finished.
Looking forward to another New Year, yours
Jonathon sent me this-
SCHOOL -- 1960 vs. 2010
Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.
1960 - Crowd gathers egging them on "fight, fight, fight". Johnny wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best mates for life.
2010 - Police called, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Mark started it. Both children go to anger management programs for 3 months. School board hold meeting to impliment bullying prevention programs
Robbie won't Keep still in class, disrupts other students.
1960 - Robbie sent to office and given 6 of the best by the Headmaster. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2010 - Robbie given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. Robbie's parents get fortnightly disability payments and School gets extra funding from state because Robbie has a disability.
Billy breaks a window in his neighbour's car and his Dad gives him a whopping with his slipper.
1960 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2010 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. Billy's sister tells Government psychologist that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison.
Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.
1960 - Mark gets glass of water from Teacher to take aspirin with.
2010 - Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.
Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from Guy Fawkes, puts them in a model airfix paint bottle, blows up an ants nest.
1960 - Ants die.
2010- Police, Armed Forces, & Anti-terrorism Squad called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, MI5 investigate parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated. Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.
Johnny falls while running during break and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary . Mary hugs him to comfort him.
1960 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.
2010 - Mary is accused of being a predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.
News and Views
Ivor the engine found in pig shed. A collection of Ivor the Engine episodes from the 1960’s have been found gathering dust in a pig shed. Almost 40 rusty reels of videotape were discovered under a "large pile of steaming mess" in the disused sty. The 16mm footage is understood to have been stashed by the late Oliver Postgate, the creator of both Ivor the Engine and Bagpuss, who died in 2008. But they lay undiscovered for more than 40 years until they were found by his former business partner, Peter Firmin, on his property in Kent. There are now plans for the animations, which are black and white, to be digitalised and re-released.
On this day 12th December 1960-1965
On 12/12/1960 the number one single was It's Now Or Never - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was The Army Game (Granada) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was Bootsie & Snudge (granada).
On 12/12/1961 the number one single was Tower of Strength - Frankie Vaughan and the number one album was Another Black & White Minstrel Show - George Mitchell Minstrels. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 12/12/1962 the number one single was Lovesick Blues - Frank Ifield and the number one album was On Stage with the Black & White Minstrels - George Mitchell Minstrels. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 12/12/1963 the number one single was I Want to Hold Your hand - The Beatles and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 12/12/1964 the number one single was I Feel Fine - The Beatles and the number one album was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 12/12/1965 the number one single was The Carnival is Over - Seekers and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.