In February of 1962 along came my little brother Richard to complete the Petcher family.
This came as a bit of a surprise because this was in the days when women disguised their pregnancy under an expansive flowing smock for fear that anyone noticed. It certainly wasn’t discussed in the house and the first I knew of this was when a midwife greeted me home from school, announced the news and introduced me to my new brother. At eight years old I had no idea where he had come from, I would have preferred a train set, but it looked like from now on I would have to be sharing my bedroom.
Parents who had grown up in the 1930s and 1940s were rather prim and shy about sex and this certainly went for my mum and dad neither of whom ever provided me with any useful sex education lessons, except for dad carelessly leaving ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ lying about that is.
We had to find out about this for ourselves through playground talk with better informed school pals, watching the girls in their navy blue knickers in P.E. lessons and putting two and two together for ourselves after looking up the dirty words in a dictionary. There were some hard lessons to be learned and I can remember one friend fell out with us all because he refused to believe that his parents could ever have conceived him through having sex and thinking about his mum now I can fully understand the difficulty he must have had in coming to terms with this piece of information.
In 1962 world news broadcasting took a giant step forward with the launch of Telstar, which was the first active satellite designed to transmit telephone and high-speed data communications around the World.
Technical stuff. It was launched by NASA from Cape Canaveral on 10th July and was the first privately sponsored space launch. Telstar was a medium altitude satellite and was placed in an elliptical orbit that was completed once every two hours and thirty-seven minutes, revolving at a forty-five degree angle above the equator. The first trans-Atlantic television signal was ground breaking space age stuff but because of its orbit there were enormous operating restrictions and transmission availability for transatlantic signals was only about twenty minutes in each orbit.
Telstar inspired the composition of a number one hit for the instrumental pop group, The Tornados, which was the first United States number one by a British group. Up to that point there had only been three British solo artists that topped the US chart: ‘Stranger on the Shore’ by Acker Bilk; ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’ by Laurie London and ‘Auf Wiedersein Sweetheart’, the first, by Vera Lynn in 1952.
I liked The Tornados but they split up soon after this and my favourites then became the Shadows and the very first long playing record that I owned was ‘The Shadows Greatest Hits’, and I’ve still got it in what is now my redundant vinyl collection.
The biggest tragedy of 1962 was probably the death of the film star Marilyn Monroe who died prematurely when she committed suicide at her Beverly Hills Mansion. Or perhaps she was murdered by the United States secret service because of embarrassing rumours that she was having an affair with President Kennedy?
This story is a bit like the ongoing speculation into the death of Princess Diana and in both cases it is doubtful that we will ever be absolutely sure. One thing that is certain however is that her death launched her as an iconic image of the 1960s and an enduring representation of perhaps the World’s most desirable woman since Helen of Troy.
I unexpectedly came across Marilyn once in Haugesund in Norway and I discovered that the reason she should surprisingly turn up here is that her father, Martin Mortensen, came from the village of Skjold, just twenty kilometres away and lived in Haugesund before emigrating to America in about 1880. After abandoning his family after only six months of marriage, he was killed in a motorcycle crash without ever seeing his daughter – Norma Jean Mortensen.