Web Page 2078
10th August 2014
Top Picture: A typical Merit Chemistry Set
Second Picture: Jars and other glass items which were needed.
A chemistry set, we were told, was an essential educational toy allowing the user (typically a young male teenager) to perform simple, non-dangerous, chemistry experiments at home by himself or with his friends. Mind you in our case the aim always was to make something that smelt terrible, went bang or changed the properties of something. It was much more fun than study!
A typical Chemistry set of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s consisted of a small collection of chemicals in little glass phials or test tubes and some of the associated scientific apparatus usually made of glass (no plastic for us!), which was designed for the user to perform their own, unsupervised experiments. Usually the recipient of a gift of a Chemistry set was a young man, and often came as a birthday or Christmas gift from a well meaning Uncle or Aunt (very rarely the Parents) and the intention was that the child should have some educational fun and hopefully learn some of the mysteries of the world of science. However adults also sometimes enjoyed playing with chemistry sets or other scientific kits but this never happened in my case.
The best known Chemistry sets were produced by a company called Thomas Salter Science and they were manufactured in Scotland, this company later became Salters Science. Then come the 1960’s another firm, MERIT, started to produce the sets that most of us remember. Dekkertoys was another make and they also created a range of sets which were similar to the others mentioned and like them they came complete with glass test tubes of dry chemicals.
For the serious student a GCSE equipment set was specially produced offering students much better quality equipment and a greater range of chemicals and equipment.
By far the biggest complaint in modern times about chemistry sets from people of our age is that they are now only a shadow of what they were only a couple of decades or so ago - the contents are now so safe that the range of interesting or spectacular experiments has been drastically curtailed - some would say, beyond the point of all reason. Several social commentators noted that from the 1980’s onwards, concerns were started to be raised about them being used to produce illegal drugs at home and this has led to the chemistry sets becoming increasing bland and very unexciting.
But for many of us who had a chemistry set and we wanted to either extend our range of equipment or chemicals it was onto our bikes and pedal down through North End to Glanvilles, the chemist, on the corner at 160 Kingston Road. This dispensing chemist stocked all sorts of scientific equipment, chemicals, crystals and powders in small jars much of which was on display in the right hand shop window. As the customer entered the shop, on the right hand side was a myriad of glass wear and tubing, more than you were ever likely to need or want. The shop also sold retorts, gauzes and spirit and Bunsen Burners. However under a glass-topped counter were all kinds of jars and packets of different chemicals and ingredients already to be bought, taken home in the saddle bag and put to work in the shed laboratory.
A typical schoolboys shopping list would include: beakers, conical flasks, filters and funnels, glass tubing and rubber bungs, pipettes, test tubes and racks, litmus paper and to clean all that special equipment special small brushes.
The choice of chemicals was almost endless Copper Sulphate, Alum, Cobalt Chloride, Ferrous Sulphate, Iron Filings, Magnesium, Potassium, all the Sulphur and Sodium derivatives and Zinc plus many, many more.
Now I bet there are some things on the lists above, which has made your mind travel back through the decades and you are saying “I had forgotten that!”
We all played around with these chemistry sets and as far as I am aware none of us was ever seriously hurt whilst conducting our experiments. But whether it was just by luck or chance I don’t know. All I have to say is that I never did succeed in blowing up my fathers garden shed, big holes in the mud on Farlington Marshes yes, but our shed always stayed in tact!
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I liked your article on the Gentleman of the Road which brought back a memory of a tramp who was admitted to my hospital ward in Chichester back in the late 70s, this man was admitted directly to a side ward as he was suffering from an unknown chest complaint and he was also infested with lice and other creepy crawlies. So we nursed him in isolation to protect the other patients.
When I and another nurse started to remove his very dirty grubby and smelly clothes we found over £8000 in various locations within his clothing. The hospital bosses decided to destroy his clothing by burning them.
On his discharge from hospital this gentleman was very annoyed that the hospital used some of his money to purchase new clothes, the ungrateful old sod threatened to sue the hospital but reluctantly accepted the situation. He then went onhis merry way never to be seen again.
Did enjoy last weeks blog as I remember seeing tramps walking along the Havant Road at Farlington. My mother would give them something to buy a cup of tea and she would tell us that these men weren`t not to be frightened of. Many years later I was living in Devon and sometimes tramps would come through the village where I lived. I was told that they walked to Buckfastleigh where they spent the night under shelter. I had an Austrian student staying in my house and one morning there was a knock at the door. It was a tramp, so following my mothers example, I made some tea and hastily made sandwiches. He had a Billycan and poured the tea in it. I grabbed some fruit and chocolate biscuits and handed it over. He seemed pleased and was extremely polite. Off he went and my daughters were quite surprised but even more amazed was my Austrian student who said he was going to tell my husband that I had a boyfriend! I did come in for a bit of criticism from two of the neighbours who said we`d be inundated by tramps but we weren`t. I was supported by another neighbour who said these people ask for nothing really and don`t cost the country anything. There was a tramp who lived in a cave up Haldon Hill near Exeter and he was there for some years. People would leave stuff for him in a quarry type place where he lived. Eventually he was taken ill and went into hospital. After that he went into care quite happily, apparently enjoying his food, central heating , clean clothes and a hot bath! He was very popular with the staff who doted on him. He spent his remaining time with them.
Chris responds to my query about Colyers Pit.
I remember that guy in the chalk pit too. I can recall a waft of smoke coming out of the chimney in cold weather. No idea what his name was, but he used to scare me and my mates off as well! In those days Upper Drayton Lane was open at the top too, not a dead end as it is today.
I wonder if we ever met years ago, in the area of that chalk pit was one of the main places I used to go. I was quite fond of catching lizards and slow worms on that part of the hill, a little farther up and to the east, near the fort, we used to catch adders too. Wonder we never got bitten!!
I had a mate Michael Harrison who used to live in Hilltop Crescent in those days, his Father was a woodwork teacher. Would love to know where he is now, we lost touch early 1960s sadly.
News and Views:
On this Day 10th August 1960-1965
On 10/08/1960 the number one single was Please Don't Tease - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Rawhide (ITV) 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 First communications satellite launched.
On 10/08/1961 the number one single was You Don't Know - Helen Shapiro and the number one album was Black & White Minstrel Show - George Mitchell Minstrels. The top rated TV show was Top Secret (AR) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Ipswich were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 10/08/1962 the number one single was I Remember You - Frank Ifield and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. 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 10/08/1963 the number one single was Sweets For My Sweet - Searchers and the number one album was Please Please Me - 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 10/08/1964 the number one single was A Hard Day's Night - 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. The big news story of the day was Novelist Ian Fleming dies.
On 10/08/1965 the number one single was Help - The Beatles and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Riviera Police (AR) 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. The big news story of the day was First woman High Court Judge.