Monday, 10 October 2011

The Teenage Years - Entertainment

Aged 14

Life as a teenager in the late 40s and early 50s, with a secure family background and an increasingly stable economy, was generally good.  Father had a good job, Betty was working locally, I was enjoying school and Mother seemed happy looking after us all and taking advantage of the social life afforded by the British Sugar Corporation and the local Caledonian Society which must have still been in Father's blood.

Recreation and entertainment consisted of occasional visits to the 'pictures' and the local Repertory Theatre.  As I became older I enjoyed low budget French, Italian and Swedish films such as La Ronde, Jour de Fete, Bicycle Thieves and The Little World of Don Camillo.  I also enjoyed slapstick comedy including Laurel and Hardy classics and Abbott and Costello.

Like most kids of my age I was brought up on radio programmes and records. We had a huge 4'6" high radiogram which had been specially made in a wooden cabinet with a record deck in the top.  Radios, of course, were large to accommodate a number of valves and thick wires.  The records were 78rpm, made of breakable shellac resin.  We had a good record collection mostly covering the tastes of the older generation but I became a big fan of George Formby from an early age. Popular music of the day mostly consisted of dance bands and ballad singers (crooners), which didn't particularly appeal to me.

Television was the one invention which came to revolutionise leisure time in the home but in the ealry years the sets were expensive and very limited in providing entertainment.  I remember the first set I ever saw belonged to Uncle Jim and Auntie Doris who must have bought the first one in Ely.  We often went over there so I was soon to experience the thrill of watching the test card, demonstration programmes, Interludes, like the potter's wheel, on a 12" black and white screen which you could only see properly with the curtains drawn.  It had 425 horizontal lines which were so visible you could almost count them.  To improve the image you could buy a huge perspex magnifying glass to stick over the screen, but you had to be sitting right in front of the set to obtain any benefit.  Quality gradually improved as screens with 625 lines came onto the market.  Programmes improved and extended to daytime as well as evening viewing.  Transmissions were mostly live until the early sixties.

Although television was a draw, I remember we also had a wealth of books in the house, mainly due to my father's love of reading. His favourite author was Charles Dickens whose books he read many times over.  He was also keen on history. By the time I was 16, the study of English Literature forced me to read not only the classics like Shakespeare but also more modern authors like George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh.

Like many other families we also had a piano in the house and music lessons automatically went with it. Betty and I both had piano lessons but sadly neither of us kept it up.  I did have an interest in music as a child, perhaps taking after my mother who enjoyed singing in chapel and at the local operatic society.  I had sung Christopher Robin on stage in Ely where I forgot the words and had to run across the stage to check with the pianist before continuing.  I later played the piano at a concert organised by my teacher, Mr Stimpson.  There were two pieces; The Bee's Wedding by Mendelssohn and Rosemunde Ballet Music by Schubert.  Unfortunately I got lost in the middle of the Schubert so returned to the beginning to start again. I never took to the stage again!


  1. What a wonderful tribute to your Dad. Vx

  2. @Paula - Thank you!

    @Vegemitevix - Should have done it a few years ago, really, when he was still alive, but these things don't occur to you at the time. But at least I'm getting such a lot of comfort from it - I have quite a chuckle at his stories.

  3. My mother remembers learning the piano and practising in a room so cold that her chilblains roared. She never took to the piano really...