Posts Tagged ‘1960s’

I-Spy – on the farm.

July 18, 2016

We have not one, but two of these books.


One belonged to my family – it has my brother’s name in it. The other belonged to my wife.

The book was produced in the 1950s and gives a taste of what might have been seen on farms back then. I remain really pleased that we saw Dick Freeman who operated on the farm where we camped, spreading seed by hand. My brother has it filled in.


It seems we saw this highly prized, 50 point winning scene on 15th August 1957. My wife, much less rural than us, never saw such a thing. From her book let’s see milk collection.


My wife saw these on 22/23rd August 1962. She must have been on holiday in Dorset. She got 10 points for a roadside churn platform and another 10 for the lorry.

These days, of course, it is all bulk tank so the scenes depicted have now passed into history.

The old I-Spy books are a wonderful reminder of times past and in their day provided enough factual information to keep kids interested.

Some childhood memories

February 16, 2016

As I write this I have just seen a couple of postcards for sale on Ebay which have brought back childhood memories. I have no intention of buying the cards so you won’t see them here. I can’t collect other folks family history.

One of the cards is addressed to Mrs H Reed of Alma Cottage in Ifield.

I knew Mrs Reed well in my childhood. She was a nice, kindly lady and her husband, Harry, was a lovely man. Harry was an avid gardener – as people were in those days. I’ll return to that. Mrs Reed never knew it but she was a leading member of a club we invented. It was the ‘Ifield Wobbly Cyclist Club’. I can picture her now, riding slowly on her old bike with her face always cheerful and smiling. But due mainly to lack of speed she never kept a straight course.

Her bike was something like this one.


I have memories of that curved strut and the little join between it and the straight strut. In my memory Mrs Reed had a handlebar mounted basket.

But returning to Harry Reed and his love of gardening. I actually have a hoe which belonged to him and here it is.


The head of the hoe has an unusual shape.


It is a plain triangle in shape.

Both Harry and my dad reckoned this was the best possible shape for a hoe but I reckon that was because Ifield was on heavy clay. Here, on light sandy soil we don’t find it so good and prefer a wing shaped hoe and they are hard to find at a sensible price. So Harry’s old how doesn’t get used which is a bit of a shame.

Amazingly, another postcard on Ebay brought to mind a very near neighbour of Harry’s and this was Amos Flint. Amos, born I now know in 1874 was amongst the oldest people I ever knew as a child. He’d have been 80 at the dawning of my memory. He was an old, bow legged chap who smoked a curving pipe and spoke with a wonderful local accent. Like Harry he was mad keen on gardening. He died in 1962.

He had obviously played boy’s cricket as a youngster. There was a tree on the Green which he said had been a good width for a wicket when he was a lad. Sadly Amos’s tree was blown down by that infamous 1987 storm – by that time it was a mature tree, far too big for a cricket wicket.

Happy memories!

An Octascope

December 29, 2015

The octascope seems to have just about vanished from the world. What a pity! The principle is simple enough for it is like a kaleidoscope where you view pieces of coloured plastic in a tube, with mirrors to produce a lovely repeating rotating pattern. Now take away the plastic pieces and replace them with a lens which enables you to focus on whatever you want and turn it into the same kinds of rotational pattern. You have an octascope and they are lovely.

I think, in my family, we first saw one at the home of our rather Bohemian friends. I know my dad was captivated and set about finding cheap examples for his family – or at any rate, for me and him. I still have mine and here it is, in its box.

image002 This came from The Early Learning Centre and it still has a price label.


That price tag is useful since it is a decimal price but I suspect it may have been priced decimal just prior to 1971. If we take the octascope from the box it has something of a psychedelic look to it.


I’d love to be able to show you a pattern made with this, but I can’t attach a camera and I haven’t (to my surprise) even got a simple way of cheating one with software at the moment. But take it from me, some very beautiful images can be obtained.

I suppose the need for a reasonable lens made them more expensive than the kaleidoscope, but I still can’t really understand why they have vanished from the scene.

Another gramophone

November 23, 2015

If I was asked if I needed another gramophone then the answer would undoubtedly have been, ‘no’.

But one was gifted to me and I reckon it is actually useful so I’m pleased to have it.

By my standards this is a modern gramophone – perhaps of the type more usually called a record player. It is electrically powered, rather than by a clockwork motor. It has a light weight tone arm and uses long life sapphire tipped styli (Is that the plural of stylus?).

But this ‘modern’ device is probably fifty years old – maybe a bit more. When I started gathering old gramophones, also more than fifty years ago, the old machines I collected were in the region of thirty or forty years old so this one is certainly a fairly vintage device. Here it is.


This is a Phillips Diamond model. The speaker forms a lid for when the machine is not in use. It has four speeds – 16, 33, 45 and 78. It also has an auto-changer which allows eight or maybe ten records to be stacked up on the spindle. These drop, one by one, onto the deck to be played. That works fine with 7 inch 45s. Because of the age of 78 rpm record I have, the auto-changer is not so suitable. Most of my records don’t have a lead in groove so the needle drops onto the outer rim and just stops there until gently pushed into the groove. Many of the records have no lead out and that is needed to start the mechanism that gets the next disc ready to play. But it was, of course, a clever system in its day.

This model is AG4025/W15. But I can’t find much about it.



October 24, 2015

We married and set up home in 1971. Ladderax was a popular style of furniture at the time. It consisted of ‘ladder’ on which you could fit a variety of shelves and cupboards and arrange them as you wanted.

I think we’d have liked some back in those early 1970s but frankly we couldn’t afford it. It was just that bit more than we could justify. However, a liking for the style has persisted and recently we decided to make better space of a wall in our entrance hall by getting a mix of storage and display furniture. But we had a problem in that the presence of doors limited us to a depth of furniture of 14 inches. Anything deeper than that would foul doors. We searched in vain for something that suited us. Well, it was in vain apart from Ladderax itself, now available only (as far as we found) on the second hand market. A four ladder system was going to suit us with some of the shelves/cupboards two feet wide and some three feet.

We found what we were looking for on eBay. Actually, it was a five ladder set up so we have a spare but we have still used all of the cupboards and shelves we bought.

It was, of course, a ‘buyer collect’ item and it was about 140 miles from our home. We hired a van big enough to take all of the cupboards and also the two metre long ladders and set out on quite a lengthy day trip.

We’d have liked to have had more time but can I say that Uppingham in Rutland where we purchased our furniture is a lovely little market town and just down the road, Rockingham is a delightful estate village.

Our Ladderax is now assembled and looks like this.


It’s in amazing condition for something more than 40 years old. You can see in the photo that the end ladder reaches across to the architrave around a door. We just couldn’t have gone wider.

We have a bureau, a glass fronted cabinet, a chest of drawers, a so called drinks cabinet (just a cupboard for us) and another sliding door cupboard.  We have some seven shelves of various lengths and widths

By the way, the edge on curtain which you can see has been in use by us in more than one house since the early 70s, so it all fits together in style and period.

Francoise Hardy

September 28, 2015

As I write this I am listening to Francoise Hardy singing her wonderful songs from the 1960s and reliving those angst ridden young teenage years when I (like loads of others) was madly in love with Francoise – an unattainable dream.

You really wondered why all the boys and girls were together in pairs, except her. Were the boys of France mad? Surely, given a chance they’d be out with Mme. Hardy.

Buying new records was not my thing back in those days. My family were still escaping from very low level finances and we were well inculcated with not wasting money on fripperies. But inevitable over the years Francoise records came my way. Or should I say we, for when we married and my wife endowed all her worldly goods on me, it included a Francoise Hardy EP.

And at this stage I remember I’m talking a foreign language to today’s generation of angst ridden young teenagers. So let’s explain Francoise Hardy first, starting with the image on a record sleeve.


Francoise epitomised 1960s beauty with her long flowing hair and simple looks – not over made up. Her songs were simple and easy to hum along to. One might not understand the words for she was French and sang in her native language, The meaning of the songs was plain though. All her songs meant she was waiting for me!

But it isn’t only the singer who might need explanation. The whole method of playing music does as well. You see we used to have these flat black discs – 7 inches across with a spiral groove on each side. That groove was wobbly and the wobbles were felt by a needle resting in it and converted to the sound. You got one song on each side – unless it was an EP or Extended Play record in which case you got two songs on each side.

And as I still listen to Francoise, I have to confess I am listening to MP3s on my computer.

Happy memories!

A Mother’s Day card

September 27, 2015

We did not celebrate Mother’s Day in my family. Mothering Sunday, a church festival, was accepted as appropriate for members of the established church, but the commercial Mother’s Day was utterly derided. I never bought my mother a mother’s day card and I was surprised when looking through old documents to find that my brother had. Mind you, brother and wife married at age 17 (and it lasted until death parted them) and this card was sent by brother and wife. I’m going to guess at around 1965 or 66.


It speaks of that era – colourful, yet cheaply printed with a minimum of colours.

The message seems a bit weak and weedy – ‘To someone nice!’

Inside the card has been signed.


Whether mother had her happiest mother’s day, I doubt. She was already wracked with cancer and I’m sure she knew what we didn’t, that her life expectation was already severely limited.

It is signed by brother and wife, not forgetting their baby son.


Train Spotting Days

July 29, 2015

Now I’m the first to admit that collecting train numbers is entirely pointless. But I go on to say that it isn’t any more pointless than kicking a leather airbag around a field or collecting used postage stamps. Hobbies are hobbies and do not need any other purpose. But train spotters get a bad name and are deemed odd.

Let’s say that when I took up the hobby, back in 1959, it wasn’t odd or unusual although it was almost exclusively male. Platform ends up and down the country had gaggles of boys, avidly noting the numbers written on trains. It may seem pointless, but knowledge and skills were being honed all the time.

Let’s take a typical day out train spotting for me. I lived in Crawley, thirty miles south of central London. As an under 14 year old I could buy what was called a shopping ticket to London which cost me half a crown (12½p). So a day would start by walking to my local station and purchasing a ticket. It wasn’t valid before 9.30 so I’d have caught the first train after that. I’d have hoped for an empty compartment, but I definitely wanted a seat on the right hand side facing forwards. This gave me the best chance to spot any unusual steamers on Three Bridges or Redhill shed but as these were fairly local, the chances would be that I’d see only old familiars. Memory needed to be good for you didn’t want to spend time recording numbers of engines you’d already seen.

On arrival at Victoria I’d have bought an underground ticket and taken the circle line round to Paddington and then gone one stop on the Metropolitan to a station called Royal Oak. This was out in the open and within sight of the ends of the main line platforms at Paddington. It had the advantage of a steam engine servicing depot just opposite the platforms and an easy view of all trains going in and out of Paddington. I was never alone there. Here were always other youngsters to chat to. If I felt inclined, I might take the underground again and get to Stratford in East London. This was a station where the underground reached the surface and shared the station with the main line trains out of Liverpool Street. Sometimes I might alight at Kings Cross where I could visit the three main line termini of Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston which were all within walking distance. The hazard here was that I had to hold a valid ticket since this meant leaving the underground network.

Euston and St Pancras I found very dull. The stations may have been magnificent and they had an air of expectation  about them. But that expectation never seemed to be fulfilled. Trains were so few and far between. Kings Cross seemed much more lively.

As one got a bit bolder further London adventures could take place. There were sheds to ‘bunk’. Bunking a shed was to visit it without permission. So sometimes I’d get to Willesden Junction station from where I could take in Willesden shed where I could cop a load of ex LMSR engines and then I could walk to Old Oak Common and see the GWR engines. Old Oak Common was ‘easy’.  You bribed the gate man by purchasing a staff magazine which cost 3d. Willesden was more of a nightmare but worth the risk of a telling off from a shed foreman to see the range of engines there.

I remember I went to Plaistow shed once – on the old London Tilbury and Southend network, especially to see a loco now preserved and called Thundersley.

Despite what people might think, train spotting was a social activity. I had friends who were also spotters and we went to places together and then you met people who had the same interest. There was always company, chatter and general excitement. Most of us stuck fairly well to the rules and certainly we were all big supporters of the railways and truly wished them well at a time when the whole network  seemed under threat.

I’m glad I was a spotter. I learned so much from doing it. My geography and history really improved because I could see the reasons for things. I became a regular reader of the Railway Magazine which did much for world geography, economics, engineering etc.


This May 1962 issue – when I still travelled legally for half fare, has a wonderful Isle of Wight train on the cover. The loco was over 60 by then and carriages were not far short of that, certainly in style.

I still buy a copy from time to time.

A 2-HAP at Gatwick

July 19, 2015

Whilst rummaging in our loft recently I came across a few negatives which I had taken back in the early 1960s. This one shows a train with a 2-HAP unit leading. The location is Gatwick Airport station.


It isn’t the best photo ever and the negative is certainly dusty. But it takes me back those fifty years.

What was amazing was that these trains, which hark back to Victorian practices, were still being built new at this time. The HAP name to these 2 coach units referred to half of them (one coach) being equipped with a lavatory like the earlier 2 HAL units. But the P ion the end indicated that these had an updated pneumatic braking system. So yes, trains in the 1960s were still being built with compartments and an entire absence of loo facilities for 50% of the passengers (75% of those not travelling First Class).

The other thing that baffled me is the route number. This train is on a route 10. Now I’d have said I knew all the route numbers for that area in the 1960s, but I certainly didn’t know that one. And when I looked it up I wasn’t surprised for route 10 was from Holborn Viaduct in London to Littlehampton via Herne Hill, Streatham Common, Selhurst, Quarry and Horsham. This was no ordinary service train but a weekend special to take Londoners to the Coast. That might explain why a type of train normally used in Kent was heading to the Sussex coast.

Dr Beeching and his political master got rid of such trains. They said it was stupid to keep trains that only found occasional use on summer weekends and spent the rest of the week stored on valuable land which could be sold off. My reasoning at the time said he was wrong for many of the special trains that used to go down to the coast were composed of trains which were used for weekday rush hour services. If you needed the trains for that it seemed a good idea to use them for other purposes. And we used to watch a near continuous stream of these trains, all packed to the limit with people off for a day at the seaside.

But of course, the politics of the time dictated that railways were ‘of the past’. With trains like the “ HAPs I suppose they were. The trains stopped and each 2 coach train (they were mostly 12 coaches long) was replaced by up to 50 more cars.

I still feel convinced it was a mistake to stop them.

So I apologise for a lousy photo – but maybe some of you will agree with me that it was a mistake to abandon well used trains and force people to use cars instead.

Harvest at Furlongs

June 25, 2015

Yesterday I wrote about my model little grey Fergie tractor. Today I thought I’d show one of these beasts at work. And here it is. The harvest is being gathered at Furlongs in Sussex.


This photo would have been taken by my dad some 60 years ago and in truth I can’t be 100% certain this is a grey Fergie but it certainly looks like one. Who knows – somebody might be able to tell me about it, if the painted on registration means anything. It appears to say FPM 321. The PM part of the registration indicates the tractor was first registered in the Guildford area.

The scene is, of course, from the past. The tractor is pulling what we always called a binder although it should really be called a reaper-binder for it did both jobs.

Perched on the little seat on the binder and controlling that device is Dick Freeman. His nephew Julian Freeman is on the tractor.

The same team of men were still doing the same job in 1964 when colour photography was in use. The tractor is different though.


An expert might be able to tell me more about this tractor. Oh, this method of harvesting was really well on the way out by the time dad took this picture.

This is all very happy memory time for me.