Category Archives: Religion

Age of Innocence – 1968, Shootings and Assassinations

If 1967 had been a quiet year, much without incident, 1968 turned out to be an especially violent year and the news was dominated by assassinations and shootings.  I turned fourteen years old in June and I was becoming more aware of news events around the World.

In the far-east there was a war that was going from bad to worse for the United States as they tried to support South Vietnam and prevent the spread of communism from the north, but the war was not popular with many people there and in February there was a watershed event that became a public relations disaster for the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidency.

Nguyễn Văn Lém was a member of the Viet Cong who on 1st February was shot dead in Saigon during a major Viet Cong offensive. The execution was captured on film by a photojournalist called Eddie Adams and the momentous image became a symbol of the brutality of war.

During the fighting Lém was captured and brought to Brigadier General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, the Chief of National Police of the Republic of Vietnam. Using his handgun, General Loan summarily executed Lém in front of Adams and an NBC television cameraman.  The photograph and the footage were broadcast worldwide, everyone who saw it witnessed Lém’s brains being blown from his skull and decorating the pavement and it galvanized the anti-war movement in the United States.

Adams won a 1969 Pulitzer Prize for his photograph.  What he captures there in the faces is exceptional, the matter of fact look expression of the executioner, the exhiliration and encouragement from the soldier in the left of picture and the look of expectation and certain impending death in the face of the victim.

In April there was another high profile shooting.  Martin Luther King Jr. was an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African American civil rights movement.  In 1964 he became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and by opposing the Vietnam War.

He was assassinated on April 4th 1968 in Memphis Tennessee by James Earl Ray.

In late March King went to Memphis in support of the black sanitary public works employees who had been on strike for higher wages and better treatment. King was booked in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel and just after six o’clock he was standing on the balcony of his room when a single shot rang out from a sniper’s rifle. The bullet entered through his right cheek, smashing his jaw, then travelled down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder.  He was pronounced dead just over an hour later.

The assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in more than one hundred cities. Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was on his way to Indianapolis for a campaign rally when he was informed of King’s death. He gave a short speech to the gathering of supporters informing them of the tragedy and asking them to continue King’s idea of non-violence. President Johnson declared April 7th a national day of mourning for the civil rights leader

Just four days later he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which was meant as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and expanded on previous acts by prohibiting discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion or national origin.

And gun violence wasn’t restricted to war and politics because in early June it spilled over into the world of art when a radical American feminist, Valerie Jean Solanas, attempted to murder the artist Andy Warhol.  When he arrived at his studio called ‘the Factory’ with a couple of friends, she was waiting for him and produced a handgun and shot three times, hitting him once. She then shot art critic Mario Amaya and also tried to shoot Warhol’s manager, Fred Hughes, but her gun jammed as the elevator arrived and she escaped.  Warhol was seriously wounded but survived the assassination attempt and Solanas was arrested the following day.

All of these events were shocking enough but on June 5th they were eclipsed by the biggest shooting of the year.  Robert Francis Kennedy, affectionately known as Bobby, was a prominent and popular politician, a Democratic Senator from New York and a noted civil rights activist.  An icon of modern American liberalism, he was a younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and acted as one of his advisers during his presidency when from 1961 to 1964 he was the United States Attorney General.

Following his brother John’s assassination in 1963, Kennedy continued to serve as Attorney General under President Lyndon B. Johnson for nine months but in September 1964 he resigned to seek the U.S. Senate seat for New York which he won in November and within a few years he publicly split with Johnson over the issue of the Vietnam War.

In March 1968 Kennedy began a campaign for the presidency and was a front running candidate of the Democratic Party. In the California presidential primary he defeated Eugene McCarthy, a fellow U.S. Senator from Minnesota. Following a brief victory speech delivered just past midnight in the ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Kennedy was assassinated.

Leaving the ballroom, he went through the hotel kitchen after being told it was a shortcut, despite being advised to avoid the kitchen by his FBI bodyguard. In a crowded passageway, Sirhan Sirhan, a twenty-four year-old Christian Palestinian-American (who felt betrayed by Kennedy’s support for Israel in the June 1967 Six-Day War), opened fire and shot Kennedy three times.  Following the shooting, Kennedy was rushed to Los Angeles’s Good Samaritan Hospital where he died early the next morning.  He was forty-three years old and America was poorer for his passing.

Later in the year the Republican Richard M. Nixon was elected thirty-seventh President of the United States.

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Age of Innocence – 1964, Paper Rounds, Rugby Granada Cinema and School Reports

paperboy

Paper Rounds…

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 fork lift 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.

Cory Environmental Contract Manager

Rugby Granada Cinema…

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.

School Reports…

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 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.

Scrap Book Project – A Story for Easter

This is the story of Mary Jones from my Bible Studies exercise book when I was about six years old.

Mary Jones was from a poor family who lived at the foot of the Cader Idris mountains in the village of Llanfihangel-y-pennant near Dolgellau in wales.  She was born  into a family of devout Methodists and she herself professed the Christian faith at eight years of age.

Having learned to read in the circulating schools organised by a man called Thomas Charles it became her ambition to possess a Bible but there was no copy on sale nearer than Bala – twenty-five miles away. Having saved for six years until she had enough money to pay for a copy the story goes that she started out one morning in 1800 and walked barefoot all the way to obtain a copy from the Reverend Charles who was the only man with Bibles for sale in the entire area.

According to one version of the story Thomas Charles told her that all of the copies which he had received were sold or already spoken for and Mary was so distraught that Charles spared her one of the copies already promised to another.  In another version, she had to wait two days for a supply of Bibles to arrive, and was able to purchase a copy for herself and two other copies for members of her family.

According to tradition, it was the impression that this visit by Mary Jones left upon him that impelled Charles to propose to the Council of the Religious Tract Society the formation of a Society to supply Wales with Bibles.

Her Bible is now kept at the British and Foreign Bible Society’s Archives in Cambridge University Library. It is a copy of the 1799 edition of the Welsh Bible, ten thousand copies of which were printed at Oxford for the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge.

How much of the story is true will probably never be known.  However, Thomas Charles undoubtedly used the story to persuade the Religious Tract Society to establish a new organisation, the British and Foreign Bible Society.  This came into existence in 1804 and over the next two hundred years years distributed thousands of Bibles to people across the world.

The society – often known simply as The Bible Society – still distributes Bibles to places like India and Africa and is an ecumenical and non-sectarian organisation and the story of Mary Jones and her determination to own a Bible was central to its creation, its continuing ethos and to its work.

mary Jones Bible

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Related Articles:

Hillmorton Chapel and St John The Baptist Church, Hillmorton

Childhood and Religion

Picture Stories From The Bible

The Miracle of the Feeding of the 5,000

Scrap Book Project – Noah’s Ark

When I was a young boy I used to like bible stories and when I was quite young my parents gave me a book called ‘Picture Stories From The Bible’.  It was appropriately heavy with a burgundy cover with its title in gold letters and inside it contained water colour comic strip style stories of the scriptures.  God was depicted as a booming voice from heaven, angels would swoop about in the sky and occasionally descend to earth to give helpful advice or deliver messages and the stories were full of sagely old men with kind faces, white beards and flowing robes.

  

I read the stories over and over again, for me some of the best were David and the slaying of Goliath, Moses and the parting of the Red Sea and then, there was Samson who used his tremendous strength to defeat his enemies and perform other heroic feats such as wrestling a lion, killing an entire army with nothing more than a donkey’s jawbone, and tearing down an entire building with his bare hands.

At the time my favourite was always the story of Noah and his Ark and I can remember being slightly sceptical to read that he allegedly lived until he was nine hundred and fifty years old which even at seven years old seemed a bit farfetched to me.  Adam, the first man, did nearly as well but only lived until he was nine hundred and thirty.

My favourite story about Noah now however, is not the Ark, but the fact that after the great flood he settled down and became a farmer, experimented by planting some vines and invented wine.  We should all be eternally grateful to him for that!

Inside the front cover, on the copyright page it says that the book was produced in 1943 and was the work of M C Gaines and was published by Bible Pictures Incorporated Ltd of East Street, Oadby, Leicester.  It turns out that this was in fact an American publication and that Maxwell Charles Gaines was a pioneering figure in the creation of the modern comic book. He was co-publisher of All-American Publications, a comic-book company that introduced fictional characters as Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Hawkman. He went on to found Educational Comics and reproductions of the classics in picture format and ‘Picture Stories from the Bible’ was a collection of individual comic style weeklies.

The Old Testament and the New Testament were sold as separate books but my volume has them both in the same book.  I imagined that it might be rare and valuable but research shows that there are a lot of them for sale on ebay and other auction sites so sadly I am not going to make my fortune by selling it!

M C Gaines died in a motorboat accident on Lake Placid on 20th August 1947.

If you like Bible Stories then take a look at this:

The Miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

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Related Articles:

Mary Jones’ Bible

Hillmorton Chapel and St John The Baptist Church, Hillmorton

Childhood and Religion

Picture Stories From The Bible

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Scrap Book Project – Hillmorton Chapel and St. John The Babtist Church

Wesley Road Chapel Hillmorton

When I was a boy I used to like stories from the Bible and  although a lot of the learning bits about going to school I found thoroughly uninteresting and a bit of a chore I did enjoy religious education and especially used to look forward to morning assembly when once a week the Minister from the Methodist Chapel, the Reverend Brian Keene, nearby used to attend and tell a story or two in a short sermon.

Some of my school reports from this time revealed quite stunning results in religious education and at the same time as I was without fail picking up a disappointing sequence of Ds and Es for the important subjects like arithmetic and English I was consistently being awarded As and Bs in religion.  In 1963 I scored an unbeatable 100% in the end of year exams.

Strictly speaking we were a Church of England family but the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist in Hillmorton was in a sorry state of neglect and significant disrepair on account of the fact that the Vicar had little interest in his parish or his congregation because he preferred his drink.  People use to say that you always knew when he was coming because the beer bottles used to rattle in the whicker basket that he had attached to the handlebars of his bike.   He didn’t hold many services in the Church, well, certainly not as many as he was supposed to, and there was definitely no Sunday school.

For this reason I was sent to the Methodist Chapel where the Reverend Keene and the Sunday school teacher Christine Herrington made us feel most welcome.  I liked the Reverend Keene, he was down to earth and amusing and later he used to come to secondary school to teach religious studies and take a weekly assembly there as well.  I remember that he smiled permanently and had a most pleasant disposition that was appropriate to a minister of the church.  One morning in 1969 without any warning the Headmaster announced at morning assembly that following an operation he had died suddenly and I was really sad about that.

I don’t suppose so many children go to Sunday school any more but I used to really enjoy it.  The origin of the Sunday school is attributed to the philanthropist and author Hannah More who opened the first one in 1789 in Cheddar in Somerset and for the next two hundred years parents right across the country must have been grateful to her for getting the kids out of the way on a Sunday morning and giving them some peace and quiet and a chance of a lie in.

In contrast to the Hillmorton County Junior School I seemed to be learning something at Chapel and what’s more I was being really successful.  Every year we used to take an exam, well, more of a little test really, and if you passed there was a colourful certificate with a picture of Jesus and signed by absolutely everyone who was anyone in the Methodist Church hierarchy.  I was awarded a first class pass three years running and even though the school headmaster had written me of as an educational no-hoper I wasn’t in the slightest bit concerned because I was becoming convinced that I was going to be a vicar.

The Wesley Road Chapel is a place with fond memories and I was disappointed and sad when I discovered last year that it no longer functions as a church and was to be demolished and the land sold for housing development and another little piece of my childhood will be swept away by the wrecking ball and the bulldozer.

I had heard it said that people went into the clergy after getting a calling from God and I used to lie awake at night straining out listening for it.  It never came.  I also understood that it might alternatively come as a sign and I used to walk around looking for anything unusual but this never happened either.

One night, some time in 1966, I think God dialed a wrong number and got dad instead because overnight he suddenly got religion in a very big way and we all started going to St John the Baptist which by now had got a new vicar.  His name was Peter Bennett and he was starting to deal with the problems left behind by the previous man who had retired somewhere into an alcoholic stupor.

At twelve years old I was too old for Sunday school and went to church now instead, I was confirmed in 1967 and joined first Pathfinders and then the Christian Youth Fellowship Association or CYFA for short which was (and still is) a national Christian youth club.  The good thing about CYFA was that I got to go away to youth conferences and camps and there were lots of girls there too.

Left to right – Reverend Peter Bennett, ?, Heather Salisbury, Elizabeth Salisbury, ?, Andrew Petcher, Katherine Bennett, ?.

I auditioned for the choir with my friend David Newman but whilst he was accepted on account of the fact that he had a good singing voice I was rejected on account of being tone deaf but to compensate for this disappointment the Vicar appointed me a server which meant that instead of choir boy blue I got to wear a scarlet cassock and had the important job of carrying the cross down the aisle at the beginning of evensong and putting the candles out at the end.

In 1969 there was a new face at the church when the Vicar got a Curate, a sort of assistant, called Haydn Smart and I liked him immediately. He was only about thirty and brought a new youthful dimension to St. John’s.  With Haydn as a role model I became even more convinced that I was destined to a life in Holy Orders.

Reverend Haydn Smart Hillmorton

None of this could last of course and with no sign of the calling, and with dad’s religious fervour waning, my attention began to drift off in other directions such as pop music, girls and woodpecker cider and gradually I just stopped going to Church and to CYFA, left the bell ringing group and all of my scripture exam certificates were put away in an envelope in the family memory box and simply forgotten.

Footnote:

In 2012 I visited the city of Padova in Northern Italy and dropped in to the Basilica of Saint Anthony (A Basilica is technically a double Cathedral because it has two naves) and inside there was a pile of postcards in different languages with an invitation to write to the Saint with a request.  I assume this could be like writing to Jim’ll Fix It Father Christmas or to ask for a cure for a gammy leg or something but I thought that I might use the opportunity to enquire why that elusive call never came?

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Related Articles:

Mary Jones’ Bible

Hillmorton Chapel and St John The Baptist Church, Hillmorton

Childhood and Religion

Picture Stories From The Bible

The Miracle of the Feeding of the 5,000

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