Posts Tagged ‘1958’

Mum and Dad – 1958

August 16, 2015

In 1958 my dad borrowed a 35mm camera and then experimented with colour film. I don’t know whether it even occurred to my dad that he might buy film with the processing price included. Dad always processed his own black and white photos and so he did (to start with) his colour ones. And here’s one which somebody else, presumably, took of Mum and Dad walking up the path of the house we lived in. Or, of course, Dad set up the camera on a tripod and used a shutter delay.


My parents had clearly got dressed up for this occasion. Dad has a suit and a bow tie. Suits he wore. The bow tie comes as a bit of a surprise. Mum has a lovely summer frock and a neat, small handbag.

It isn’t the sharpest of images but it gives me a memory of my mum in colour. She looks happy. Well both of them do.

And that inconveniently designed semi (on the left) was the house I spent most of my childhood in.

My childhood

June 5, 2015

Yesterday I wrote about my mother’s childhood which was certainly not all happy. Today I shall say a few words about my own childhood. And I’ll get a negative out of the way early. I wasn’t always happy at school. But I was always happy at home and by the age of seven my dislike of a school was sorted. I think I had a\ great childhood.

I had two parents who certainly appeared to want the best for me. Finance was much more limited than I ever realised but there was always food on the table and at least one room in the house was kept warm. We always had clothes and shoes were deemed very important. We always had feet measured and new shoes.

I had an older brother and sister and I won’t pretend I had an easy relationship with them – until I reached more or less adulthood. I was nearly five years younger than my sister and it always seemed to me that she regarded me as beneath even her contempt. But this was no problem since I could happily ignore her. And we became the best of friends as adults. My brother, less than two years older was more of a problem as we had to share a bedroom. He was bigger and stronger than me and inclined to use that advantage to get what he wanted. Once again, we became the best of friends as adults.

But I’ll say again – despite that pretty normal sibling rivalry – I had a fantastic childhood. And even the sibling rivalry vanished when we were ‘at camp’. For those magical three weeks each year we were isolated, in our field and largely reliant on each other for company. But I was always lucky in being quite happy with my own company and this photo, one of the earliest colour images of me, shows just me although I think my dad was making us pose in turn. I’d have been 9 at the time.


Behind me is the bell tent which had to serve as the bedroom for all three of us. You might notice the top of the tent is a different colour. One day we returned from a day out (on our bikes for we had no car) to find that a young bullock in the field had tried to climb up the tent and had ripped it right round the pole. Undaunted dad found his tent repair kit and set to, patching in a new piece of canvas.

A year or so after this dad got a job with enough money for us to become car owners. Camp became different – that bit less isolated although my brother and I insisted we would have our bikes still. So a free and easy and very happy childhood continued.

I certainly feel I have been one of the lucky ones.

What a peach

February 14, 2015

My childhood home had a peach tree growing against a wall which faced more or less due south. My memory, probably false, is that we used to get a good crop of peaches off it. This is me gathering some in 1958.


That’s me up the Ladder with a little basket of peaches. I’m wearing my junior school tie. This was my third junior school. For various reasons I hadn’t much enjoyed my first two schools but number three found me happy and keen and proud to be a member of it. My brother, standing at the door behind me was older than me and I see he has the secondary school uniform on.

The ladder I am on had been home made by my dad. This was the first year in which he had experimented with colour slide film. I believe he had borrowed a camera from a teacher at the secondary school.

This brings back happy childhood memories and then that little sadness creeps in. I am still not used to the idea that I am now the only survivor from that happy home.

Veteran car

November 27, 2014

Nearly all of my childhood was spent about a mile from the route of the London to Brighton veteran car rally; This offered us free entertainment on the first Sunday in November as the ancient cars trundled down to the Sussex coast. Photographs certainly weren’t taken all that often, but in 1958 my dad took a few of which this is about the sharpest and clearest.


Presumably the car was in some kind of difficulty, for it seems to have pulled off the road

The car is a 1904 De Dion Bouton – a two seater with a six horsepower engine. It was 54 years old at the time.

My feel is that the overtaking car is a Humber but someone will let me know if I’m wrong. As this was taken in 1958, that car is now (if perchance it survives) at least 56 years old – so older than the De Dion was then.

I have commented on my liking for the browsability of encyclopaedia in book form but identifying the old car was a simple job for the web and we find that auctioneers Bonhams sold the very same care in 2009 (for close on £70000).image004

This image of the same car – reverted to an original registration – comes from their gallery.

Encyclopaedia – book form

November 25, 2014

I love the internet. It is oh so brilliant when you want information. I love it for helping me identify plants, birds, butterflies and so on. It is just great that you can look up just about anything and be just about certain of finding what you want. These days I’d hate to be without it.


Yes, there is a but! Some might not regard it as a serious drawback but I see paper books as having an advantage. A web encyclopaedia, like the one we all use (Wikipedia) may work hard at making links from one area to another but by and large the links are ignored. People using on line encyclopaedia really have to know what they are looking for. They don’t provide the page turning opportunity of a real book. The on-liners are a bit like Sat-nav. They get you efficiently to a destination but don’t offer the opportunity to be truly inspired by the journey.

I remain eternally grateful to parents and grandparents because one year they provided for me the Odhams Young People’s Encyclopaedia.


This set was published in 1958 and I reckon it was 1958 when I was given them. They probably had coloured dust jackets, but if so, I don’t remember them. Even without them, they are quite a tight fit in the purpose made stand. If dust covers existed they are bound to have got damaged.

The great thing with a book is that you can browse, or just read from cover to cover, as well as look things up alphabetically. I was able to absorb information about things I may not have been specifically interested in. How did I learn about woodwind instruments? Why, from the encyclopaedia of course.


And heraldry? Yes, the encyclopaedia again.


Of course, the books have plenty of text but line drawings, like those musical instruments are found on just about every page. There are plenty of black and white photos and a goodly sprinkling of colour plates.

It was a great gift in 1958 – and still appreciated today.

The waggoners

July 24, 2014

Camp for us, when we were children meant all sorts of things. The word ‘camp’ defined, for us, a location and a way of life. It was a life of simplicity, far from the madding crowd. It was a life style, set against a backdrop of the South Downs that we all enjoyed.

And here are four of the family enjoying a rest on a waggon on our home farm.


The year is 1958 when my dad first tried colour.

My mother is on the left and on the right we have my sister, me and my brother. I’d have been 9 at the time. My brother was 11 and my sister would have been close on 14. Dad is not in the picture. He was pressing the shutter on the camera.

The waggon has clearly brought harvest to the barn and I dare say it was all pitchforked through that high door. Back then an awful lot of crop handling was done manually.

The barn is clearly flint built. Those flints must have taken some finding but they produce a beautiful building. The roof material has probably replaced thatch at some date.

The barn and yard made a wonderful playground for me and my brother. There was much to enjoy and a waggon, with imagination, was whatever we wanted it to be.

Happy memories!


Classic Camp

June 27, 2014

Classic Camp

It is 1958. We are camping at the spot we always camped at. It is not a camp site. It is merely a ledge on the South Downs, not far from a water supply and with a friendly farmer. For the first time my dad is trying out colour photography. He has borrowed a suitable 35 mm camera. The scene, as you can see, was beautiful and we have our classic camp set up.


Let’s start with the tents. The pyramid at the left hand end was our toilet tent. I suspect that by this time we had a chemical loo which, when full, was emptied down a rabbit hole! The tent had been a polar tent and originally it would have been held in place by snow piled on large horizontal flaps on the outside. Dad had equipped it with guy ropes and peg downs.

The little brown tent was used as a store. That had been a US Army bivouac tent.

The square tent coloured green was a hefty wooden frame tent. It served as living room and parents’ bedroom. By this time it sported a lean-to extension for further storage space. The square bell tent in brown, with a fetching green top was home for us children.

And of course, we had no car. We had been driven there in a lorry and there was a return date fixed, some three weeks ahead.


The backdrop of our view was the wonderful Mount Caburn – the highpoint on a little break-away section of South Downs. Being children, we saw shapes in things, so that chalk pit had green areas which were a galloping horse and a duck. Further round and on the extreme left of this photo there’s an area of woodland which appeared to be a letter P to us. These features all still exist but shapes change and the horse and duck probably aren’t recognisable as such any more.

At the left end of the photo and below Mount Caburn there’s a line of seven elm trees and these have gone. Actually, they weren’t a line for five of them were on the nearside of the A27 road and two were on the far side. Being of simple pleasures, we liked watching the Eastbourne bus threading its way between those trees.

Also between us and Caburn there was the railway line and it happened that every hour the up and down London to Eastbourne trains passed each other in that view. That was always a sight to enjoy.

Of course, this was a part of the Southern Electric railway system so even back in the late 1950s most trains were electric. But there were still steam hauled goods trains and also some cross country trains which were steam hauled. There was a daily train we called the Birkenhead Express for it was heading for that Merseyside town. Bits from various Sussex and Kent towns were joined up at Redhill and made their way up to the Wirral in Cheshire. This train caused me to think Birkenhead must be a wonderful place.

Ah! Happy memories!

The Electric Fence

August 20, 2013

Now come on! Hands up if you took an electric fence camping with you? That, of course, assumes that you come from that branch of society which holds that living in a tent, without too much in the way of luxury, can be classed as enjoyable.

I can never overstate the influence that childhood camping had on me. The experience, for forteen years of going to the same spot – which wasn’t a camp site but just a ledge in a large field below the scarp of the South Downs – had a huge impact on me. We did and still do just refer to ‘camp’ and it means that special, magical, wonderful place and life.

But of course there were odd downers. We were not the only occupants of this enormous field although photos may make it look like it.


That was our camp with no car. We came by lorry and having dumped us and our gear off, away it went, to return on a day about three weeks later. As far as people go, we were alone, but I can see, across the valley and on the slope of the downs, the sheep. Now they were harmless. And the few bullocks in the field probably meant no harm ever, but on a couple of occasions they caused damage to tents. You will notice that the nearest square bell tent is mostly brown but has a green bit at the top. That was because one evening a young cow decided to try to climb up the tent and it ripped. My resourceful dad effected a repair, there and then with what he had to hand. As a lesson in self-reliance this was wonderful – watching dad working away with the hefty needle and a sail maker’s palm, getting the tent fit for us kids to sleep in was truly wonderful.

The other bit of cattle damage was more severe. That third green ‘wigwam’ tent actually contained our toilet. It was a replacement for an old and rather flimsy white ridge tent. One day, when I was perched on the throne, a cow put its horn through and ripped the tent badly. Dad was able to make a temporary repair but the time was up for it and the wigwam, a much sturdier affair was acquired.


It was clear that with all this camping gear, protection was needed and the answer was to have a single strand electric fence around the tents. It was such a lightweight affair, that you don’t see it in the photos but it was there. It was purpose made for our use and had three exits where a spring allowed a rubber tubed skewer to be disconnected easily. The original fencer unit was made by dad from a car coil, but by the time of these photos – 1958 – he’d acquired a proper one which also housed the battery. And here we see my brother switching it on or off.


Doesn’t brother look like a wonderfully typical boy of the era with his cheeky grin, shorts and fallen down socks. I still miss him some 33 years after his sadly early death.

All three pictures, by the way, show my mum between the tents. No doubt she was preparing food which can’t have been so easy when all we had was one primus stove. I know the pressure cooker was vital and I know that we basically ate well, although the meal we might remember was inadvertent earwig soup!

A large part of my heart is on that ledge. I loved the place so.

This was the first colour film ever used by dad. His self-processed and mounted slides are a bit of a nightmare, but I am really pleased to have them.

Gatwick Airport

November 19, 2012

I was raised in a village called Ifield which became a part of Crawley New Town. During my childhood, the new Gatwick Airport was built. Our house ended up about a mile and a quarter from one end of the runway.

The new airport opened in 1958. During construction, our quiet, child friendly village street had become a thoroughfare for an endless stream of lorries carrying spoil from the new site. What a shame not to have recorded that stream of 1950s lorries.

Then came the excitement of aircraft spotting. The severed end of Bonnetts Lane was close enough to the runway to be able to collect aircraft registrations. Sadly, I gave my books away so I have no record written down of the planes I saw in a brief career as a plane spotter.

Actually, it really wasn’t too exciting because aircraft movements were few and far between. What there were would have been classed as tiny by today’s standards. Dakotas formed the backbone of any operations but we also saw De Havilland Doves and Herons. My favourite was the Vickers Viscount and I still have my ‘Dinky; from that era.

I was disappointed at the time that the Viscount was not made in BEA livery, for that was what I saw. This was Air France livery and I never saw anything that exotic.

The Viscount has the proper legends on its wings.

I recall one occasion when a Viscount came in to land and we could see one engine wasn’t working. Suddenly, the landing was aborted and the plane climbed, unsteadily and veered away from the runway towards we spotters at the end of Bonnetts Lane. This was scary for we didn’t have a clue what was happening. About 5 minutes later the same plane made another runway approach and did precisely the same thing. We learned, somehow, that this was crew training. There were so few flights in and out of Gatwick that the facilities could be used for such purposes.

Standing at the end of the lane and seeing no aircraft movements began to wane as a field of fun. I gave up the hobby of spotting, but still kept myself aware of the aircraft scene. In 1969 I had a chance to visit the British United Airways facilities at Gatwick and was delighted to find a Dakota – by then a local rarity – taxiing around.

But despite interest, to this day my only flying experience has been in a glider.