In September 1964 the Sun newspaper was first published to replace the old fashioned Daily Herald. At about this time I had my first paper round and earned fifteen shillings (.75p) a week in return for getting up at six o’clock, six days a week, to lug a bag of newspapers around the village before going to school. Thursday was a bad day because of the Radio and TV Times magazines but Friday was by far the worst because the addition of the Rugby Advertiser doubled the weight of the bag.
Later I had a Sunday round as well and that paid fifteen shillings for the one day but that stared an hour later so that thankfully meant a bit of a lie in. One of the occupational hazards of being a paper boy was dogs, and as I have explained I really don’t like dogs! One I can remember used to scare me witless when it would jump at the letterbox and pull the newspaper through whilst I was delivering it. One day I hung on to the other end and the dog shredded the outer pages. I think it must have got a kick up the arse or something because it didn’t do it again for a while. I would be surprised if Sunday paper rounds exist anymore because to deliver to fifty houses or so would need a dumper truck to replace the old canvas bag on account of the size of the newspapers and the weight of all of the colour supplements.
The paper round was important because towards the end of my career I used to assist the newsagent, Mr Dalton, to sort out the rounds and this taught me new skills that I was able to put to good use later in life when it was my job at the council to organise the refuse collection rounds.
Before this year going to the pictures had been restricted to Saturday morning children’s picture club at the Rugby Granada Cinema but by 1964 I was old enough to be taken to see proper films in the evening. I am sure that we went to see Mary Poppins that year but the two films that I remember most were 633 Squadron and Zulu. 633 Squadron was a war film where the Royal air Force carried out a daring bombing mission to destroy a Nazi armaments factory in occupied Norway. The planes they used for the raid were De Haviland fighter/bomber Mosquitoes and this quickly became my favourite Airfix model after seeing the film.
Zulu was much more important. These are the facts: On 22nd January 1879 the Imperial British army suffered one of its worst ever defeats when Zulu forces massacred one thousand five hundred of its troops at Isandlhwana in South Africa. A short time after the main battle a Zulu force numbering over four thousand warriors advanced on a British hospital and supply garrison guarded by one hundred and thirty nine infantrymen at Rorkes Drift.
The film tells the true story of the battle during which the British force gallantly defended the hospital and in doing so won eleven Victoria Crosses, which is the most ever awarded for one single engagement. Dad liked military history and tales of heroic deeds and he took me to see the film and then probably watched it every year after when it popped up on television at Christmas. The film takes a few historical liberties but it remains one of my favourites and of course I have a copy of it in my own DVD collection.
What else is interesting is that the if you buy the DVD now, Michael Caine is billed as the star but if you watch it Stanley Baker had top billing and he was the film’s producer as well, the film simply introduces Michael Caine in his first big film role. That’s how easily history is rewritten.
Later that year dad bought the theme tune to 633 Squadron single and I got the Zulu soundtrack LP for Christmas to play on our new record player. I’ve still got it but I don’t play it any more. I’ve also got dad’s book on the Zulu wars and his favourite Royal Doulton water colour painting of the defence of Rorkes Drift.
After the summer holidays I went back to school for my final year at Hillmorton County Junior School which was going to include preparing for the eleven-plus exam next year. No one was very optimistic about my chances of success because to be fair I wasn’t the most gifted child at the school. My reports consistently informed my parents how I didn’t try hard enough, didn’t show interest and could do better. I am sure they were right and I can see now that I must have severely tested their patience, some of them thought that I had potential but at eleven years old I was reluctant to use it. I blame the school because they simply didn’t make it interesting enough.
By contrast, going to Sunday morning Chapel on the other hand was quite stimulating, I enjoyed that and this year, with the helpful guidance of the Reverend Keen and Sunday school teacher Christine Herrington, I was awarded a First Class pass in the Methodist Youth Department Scripture Examination for the third year running. I wasn’t worried about working in a factory because I was more certain than ever I was going to be a vicar.