Tag Archives: Wolf Cubs

Age of Innocence – 1965, Motorway Speed Limits, Woodbine Cigarettes and Exams

1965 was the hundredth anniversary of the end of the American Civil War and to celebrate appropriately the United States started a new one in Vietnam.   American troops had been there for some time of course but on March 2nd, following an attack on a United States Marine barracks, Operation Flaming Dart and Operation Rolling Thunder commenced and the war was official.

An estimated six hundred and twenty thousand soldiers died in the American Civil War and one million one hundred thousand in Vietnam.  There were many more unaccounted civilian casualties in addition to that.

civil war soldiers

In politics Edward Heath became leader of the Conservative Party and began the period when he and Harold Wilson alternated occupancy of 10, Downing Street.  Although these two party leaders certainly didn’t have the stature of Gladstone and Disraeli it is just about the last time in British politics when the two party leaders were almost evenly matched and this generated an interest in politics that has been sadly lacking since.

Around about 1970 I even joined the Young Conservatives but this was nowhere near as exciting as the Boy Scouts and I didn’t renew my subscription when it ran out at the end of the first year.

In the early winter of 1965 there was a lot of fog and a series of multiple crashes on Britain’s new motorways, and in December as a bit of a panic measure an experimental speed limit of seventy miles per hour was introduced.  This really hadn’t been a problem when motorways were first opened because most cars prior to the 1960s would have had difficulty getting up to seventy miles an hour in the first place let alone maintaining this speed for any distance without blowing the engine to kingdom come but by mid-decade they were starting to get more powerful and faster.

It is an interesting fact that car designers and racing car drivers were also using the M1 motorway to conduct speed trials and in June 1964 a man called Jack Sears drove an AC Cobra Coupé at 185 miles an hour in a test drive on the northern carriageway of the motorway.  The press picked the story up and soon there was a crusade for a speed limit.

M1 Motorway

The history of the speed limit is interesting, the first speed limit was the ten miles per hour limit introduced by the Locomotive Act, or Red Flag Act, of 1861 but in 1865, the revised Locomotive Act reduced the speed limit still further to four miles per hour in the country and two miles per hour in towns, which, lets be honest is slower than average walking speed and sort of missed the point of automotive power.  This Act additionally required a man with a red flag or a lantern to walk sixty yards ahead of each vehicle, effectively enforcing a walking pace, and warning horse drawn traffic of the approach of a self-propelled machine.

In 1896 a new Locomotive Act replaced that of 1865 and the increase of the speed limit to a positively reckless fourteen miles per hour has been commemorated each year since 1927 by the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.  The motorway speed limit of seventy miles per hour was made permanent in 1970.

Genevieve_LC2

Speed limits didn’t make any difference at all to Jim Clark who was one of Britain’s greatest Formula One racing stars and in 1965 he won both the Formula One championship and the Indianoplois 500.  He was regarded as the greatest driver of his time and won twenty-five of his seventy-three grand prix starts but sadly died prematurely in an accident at Hockenheim in Germany in 1968 when his car left the track and crashed into trees.  This was a time when motorsport was a lot more dangerous and the life expectancy of a driver was a great deal less than it is today.

A significant event of 1965 was the banning of cigarette advertising on television.  I am thankful for that because at eleven years old I was at my most impressionable and I am quite convinced that I might otherwise have been seduced by the macho image that cigarette advertisements used to lure teenagers into tobacco dependency.

It was about this time that I enjoyed, or perhaps more correctly endured, my first cigarette.  My friend David Newman had slipped some woodbines from his dad’s half empty packet and we went into the fields behind his house for a smoke.  David’s dad, Harry, wouldn’t have noticed a few fags going missing because he used to smoke about sixty a day and that certainly helped towards a premature death.

Woodbines were untipped and maximum strength and we lit up and I can clearly remember trying to adopt an adult demeanour and puffing away but without inhaling until an unfortunate combination of sucking in and speaking at the same time involuntarily drew the foul vapour into my lungs, filled my brain with noxious gasses and made me giddy and unsteady.  I literally fell over as though someone had punched me in the head, turned an unpleasant shade of green that matched the Woodbine packet and was violently sick.  Much to the amusement of my pals.

I tried cigarette smoking a few more times, as we all did, but I have never forgotten that thoroughly unpleasant experience and gladly never became a real cigarette smoker at any time ever after that.  In 1968 Lotus started advertising tobacco on their Formula One racing cars.  That didn’t do Jim Clark any good did it!

1965 was a mixed year for me when it came to passing exams.  As predicted I failed my eleven-plus in Spring and was sent to secondary school in September in the bottom grade at Dunsmore (or Duncemore in my case) but to compensate for that I did get my Leaping Wolf certificate in the Wolf Cubs and passed my Elementary Test for swimming a whole length of the swimming baths and that was quite something let me tell you, the certificate was signed by the examiner, Mrs Dick, who was a fearsome creature, Councillor Pattinson, the Chairman of the Baths Committee and Jim Duffy, the Town Clerk no less!  Who needed the eleven-plus? Not Me!

Scrap Book Project – The Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts movement began in 1907. Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant General in the British Army who had served in India and Africa in the late nineteenth century published ‘Scouting for Boys’ and held the first Scout camp at Brownsea Island in Dorset.

Since his boyhood, he had been fond of woodcraft and military scouting, and therefore, as part of soldiers training he showed his men how to survive in the wilderness.  He believed that it taught them to develop independence and to think for themselves, rather than just blindly follow orders and so towards the end of his military career he wrote the principles of Scouting in his book  and in so doing started the Scouting movement.

I joined the Wolf Cubs when I was seven years old and after I had passed all the tests, had a sleeve full of badges and received my Leaping Wolf Certificate moved up to the Scouts on 25th May 1965 when I was eleven.  At first I was in the Paddox Troop but later transferred to the Hillmorton, which was good for me because dad was the Scoutmaster, which gave me a bit of an advantage when it came to passing tests and getting more badges.

I liked the Scouts and the quasi-military organisation that came with it with the uniforms and the kit inspections, ‘Bob-a-Job‘ week when you could go around intimidating people for money, the law book and solemn promise and the fact that I could legitimately carry a hunting knife on my belt without being challenged; it was a bit like the Hitler Youth Movement but without the nastiness!   My only regret about the uniform was that by the time I was in the scouts that old pointy khaki hat had been replaced by the green beret; I always lamented the passing of that hat.

Being in the Scouts was genuinely good preparation for later life because it taught discipline, purpose and respect and some truly useful skills like first aid and survival, using an axe and a compass and lighting fires without the aid of a cigarette lighter.  Looking now at the Scout progress card however there is one thing I’m not so sure about and that is stalking.  In the Scouts you got a badge for being good at that but these days that sort of thing is likely to land you in a whole lot of trouble!

And it wasn’t just stalking because lots of things about the 1960s were more casual than they are now and whilst it seemed normal at the time I suppose today this might be interpreted as naïve.  No one questioned the motives of people who gave up their time to be Arkela or Baghera in the Wolf Cubs, Skip or Bosun in the Scouts because these were decent people who gave up their time for the benefit of others.

They certainly didn’t have to have checks by the Criminal Records Bureau and there was no sex offender’s register to refer to before they were allowed to do it, they were just good men and women, like my dad, who volunteered because they had a sense of duty and because they enjoyed doing it.

Robert Baden-Powell

Even Robert Baden-Powell’s sexuality has been brought into question by modern biographers, who claim to have found evidence indicating he was attracted to boys but this has never been proven and was probably just a mischievous attempt to discredit a genuine British boys’ hero. After all, no one is perfect, Winston Churchill wasn’t perfect, Nelson Mandela wasn’t perfect.

Maybe however Mahatma Ghandi was?

More recently, following BLM, Baden-Powell has been accused of being a racist and some want his statue removed.  These are people from overseas who chose to live in UK and are welcomed here but then seek to change our heritage and history.  Baden-Powell is as important to us as Cecil Rhodes, Edward Colston and Winston Churchill and if people don’t like it then then they are just as welcome to leave.

In 1899 during the second Boer War Baden-Powell was promoted to be the youngest colonel in the British Army and became famous for resisting the siege of Mafeking when the town was surrounded and outnumbered by a Boer army of eight thousand men but which, under his command, withstood the siege for two hundred and seventeen days until relieved.

Other interesting badges were backwoodsman, explorer (but our troop never got sent to the Amazon or anywhere else remotely interesting) and a woodcraftsman, but I don’t think I managed any of those.  I’m fairly sure that I didn’t manage the aircraft modeller either and it didn’t help that my dad was giving out the badges and he had obviously seen my hamfisted attempts at assembling the Avro Lancaster Airfix kit!

When you weren’t getting badges scouting was good for toughing you up.  I can recall my first camp in 1965 when I was eleven when I spent my first time away from home and my parents.  By the second day I was so desperately home sick that I was feeling really ill with what felt like a big groaning hole in my stomach.

The Scoutmaster, Mr Pointon, or Skip, took me aside and gave me a good talking to about growing up, not behaving like a girl and enjoying the experience and I don’t know how he did it but in a matter of just a few minutes he removed my anxiety and my tears and I was back with the rest of the boys digging out latrines and cooking sausages over an open fire.

I can still recall the conversation as one of life’s defining moments when he explained that if I gave up and went home everyone would think that I was a big sissy and I would probably be dismissed from the troop with dishonour and someone would break my staff in two over their knobbly knee!  Anyway next day was parent’s visiting day and it never occurred to me for one moment to pack up my sleeping bag and groundsheet and go home early.

As well as the training and the tests there were a lot of games as well.  British Bulldog was a good toughen you up sort of game, which is probably not allowed anymore because it was a bit rough and inherently dangerous.  It started with one poor boy, usually the smallest, being picked out to stand at the bottom of a hill while the rest of the Troop charged down and through with the objective of getting to the other side without being caught and wrestled to the ground.  This was the job of the unfortunate boy in the middle who had to intercept one of the charging boys, pin him to the floor and shout British Bulldog 1-2-3.  If he was sensible the little boy in the middle would try to intercept the next smallest boy and so on.  This boy then joined the first at the bottom of the hill and the rest charged again.  This carried on until only one boy remained who had avoided being caught and mugged and as he was stretchered off and taken to the infirmary everyone cheered and he was declared the winner.

Boys stayed in the Scouts until they were sixteen but I never saw it through to the end, dad fell out with the Group Scout Master, Harry Newman in 1969, walked out of a meeting and never wiggled his woggle again and that November I discovered girls and that hanky-panky was more fun than gin-gan-gooly and that was goodbye to the Scouts, which was a shame because I was only a couple of tests away from my First Class Scouts badge at the time and I  never got to go on to the Seniors.

My dad is the handsome man in the middle of the photograph…

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Scrap Book Project – Boy Scouts (1)

HHillmorton Boy Scouts 1965

The Boy Scouts movement began in 1907 when Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant General in the British Army, who had served in India and Africa in the 1880s and 1890s, published ‘Scouting for Boys’ and held the first Scout camp at Brownsea Island in Dorset.

Since his boyhood, he was fond of woodcraft and military scouting, and therefore, as part of soldiers training he showed his men how to survive in the wilderness.  He believed that it taught them to develop independence and to think for themselves, rather than just blindly follow orders and so towards the end of his military career he wrote the principles of Scouting in his book ‘Scouting for Boys’ which was based on his earlier military experiences, and in so doing he started the Scouting movement.

I joined the Wolf Cubs when I was seven years old and after I had passed all the tests, had a sleeve full of badges and received my Leaping Wolf Certificate moved up to the Scouts on 25th May 1965 when I was eleven.  At first I was in the Paddox Troop but later transferred to the Hillmorton, which was good for me because dad was the Scoutmaster, which gave me a bit of an advantage when it came to passing tests and getting more badges.

I liked the Scouts and the quasi-military organisation that came with it with the uniforms and the kit inspections, the law book and solemn promise and the fact that I could legitimately carry a hunting knife on my belt without being challenged; it was a bit like the Hitler Youth Movement but without the nastiness!   My only regret about the uniform was that by the time I was in the scouts that old pointy khaki hat had been replaced by the green beret; I always lamented the passing of that hat.

Being in the Scouts was genuinely good preparation for later life because it taught discipline, purpose and respect and some truly useful skills like first aid and survival, using an axe and a compass and lighting fires without the aid of a cigarette lighter.  Looking now at the Scout progress card however there is one thing I’m not so sure about and that is stalking.  In the Scouts you got a badge for being good at that but these days that sort of thing is likely to land you in a whole lot of trouble!

And it wasn’t just stalking because lots of things about the 1960s were more casual than they are now and whilst it seemed normal at the time I suppose today this might be interpreted as naïve.  No one questioned the motives of people who gave up their time to be Arkela or Baghera in the Wolf Cubs, Skip or Bosun in the Scouts because these were decent people who gave up their time for the benefit of others.

They certainly didn’t have to have checks by the Criminal Records Bureau and there was no sex offender’s register to refer to before they were allowed to do it, they were just good men and women, like my dad, who volunteered because they had a sense of duty and because they enjoyed doing it.

Even Robert Baden-Powell’s sexuality has been brought into question by modern biographers, who claim to have found evidence indicating he was attracted to boys but this has never been proven and was probably just a mischievous attempt to discredit a genuine British boys’ hero.  In 1899 during the second Boer War Baden-Powell was promoted to be the youngest colonel in the British Army and became famous for resisting the siege of Mafeking when the town was surrounded and outnumbered by a Boer army of eight thousand men but which, under his command, withstood the siege for two hundred and seventeen days until relieved.

Other interesting badges were backwoodsman, explorer (but our troop never got sent to the Amazon or anywhere else remotely interesting) and a woodcraftsman, but I don’t think I managed any of those.  I’m fairly sure that I didn’t manage the aircraft modeller either and it didn’t help that my dad was giving out the badges and he had obviously seen my hamfisted attempts at assembling the Avro Lancaster Airfix kit!

When you weren’t getting badges scouting was good for toughing you up.  I can recall my first camp in 1965 when I was eleven when I spent my first time away from home and my parents.  By the second day I was so desperately home sick that I was feeling really ill with what felt like a big groaning hole in my stomach.  The Scoutmaster, Mr Pointon, or Skip, took me aside and gave me a good talking to about growing up and enjoying the experience and I don’t know how he did it but in a matter of just a few minutes he removed my anxiety and my tears and I was back with the rest of the boys cooking sausages over an open fire and it never troubled me again.  I can still recall the conversation as one of life’s defining moments when he explained that if I gave up and went home everyone would think that I was a big girl and I would probably be dismissed from the troop with dishonour and someone would break my staff in two over their knobbly knee!  Anyway next day was parent’s visiting day and it never occurred to me for one moment to pack up my sleeping bag and groundsheet and go home early.

As well as the training and the tests there were a lot of games as well.  British Bulldog was a good toughen you up sort of game, which is probably not allowed any more because it was a bit rough and inherently dangerous.  It started with one poor boy, usually the smallest, being picked out to stand at the bottom of a hill while the rest of the Troop charged down and through with the objective of getting to the other side without being caught and wrestled to the ground.  This was the job of the boy in the middle who had to intercept one of the charging boys, pin him to the floor and shout British Bulldog 1-2-3.  If he was sensible the little boy in the middle would try to intercept the next smallest boy and so on.  This boy then joined the first at the bottom of the hill and the rest charged again.  This carried on until only one boy remained who had avoided being caught and mugged and he was declared the winner, as he was stretchered off and taken to the infirmary.

Boys stayed in the Scouts until they were sixteen but I never saw it through to the end, dad fell out with the Group Scout Master, Harry Newman in 1969, walked out of a meeting and never wiggled his woggle again and that November I discovered girls and that hanky-panky was more fun than gin-gan-gooly and that was goodbye to the Scouts, which was a shame because I was only a couple of tests away from my First Class Scouts badge at the time and I  never got to go on to the Seniors.

The Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts movement began in 1907 when Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant General in the British Army, who had served in India and Africa in the 1880s and 1890s, published ‘Scouting for Boys’ and held the first Scout camp at Brownsea Island in Dorset.   Since his boyhood, he was fond of woodcraft and military scouting, and therefore, as part of soldiers training he showed his men how to survive in the wilderness.  He believed that it taught them to develop independence and to think for themselves, rather than just blindly follow orders and so towards the end of his military career he wrote the principles of Scouting in his book ‘Scouting for Boys’ which was based on his earlier military experiences, and in so doing started the Scouting movement.

I joined the Wolf Cubs when I was seven years old and after I had passed all the tests, had a sleeve full of badges and received my Leaping Wolf Certificate moved up to the Scouts on 25th May 1965 when I was eleven.  At first I was in the Paddox Troop but later transferred to the Hillmorton, which was good for me because dad was the Scoutmaster, which gave me a bit of an advantage when it came to passing tests and getting more badges.  I liked the Scouts and the quasi-military organisation that came with it with the uniforms and the kit inspections, the law book and solemn promise and the fact that I could legitimately carry a hunting knife on my belt without being challenged; it was a bit like the Hitler Youth Movement but without the nastiness!   My only regret about the uniform was that by the time I was in the scouts that old pointy khaki hat had been replaced by the green beret; I always lamented the passing of that hat.

Being in the Scouts was genuinely good preparation for later life because it taught discipline, purpose and respect and some truly useful skills like first aid and survival, using an axe and a compass and lighting fires without the aid of a cigarette lighter.  Looking now at the Scout progress card however there is one thing I’m not so sure about and that is stalking.  In the Scouts you got a badge for being good at that but these days that sort of thing is likely to land you in a whole lot of trouble!

And it wasn’t just stalking because lots of things about the 1960s were more casual than they are now and whilst it seemed normal at the time I suppose today this might be interpreted as naïve.  No one questioned the motives of people who gave up their time to be Arkela or Baghera in the Wolf Cubs, Skip or Bosun in the Scouts because these were decent people who gave up their time for the benefit of others.

They certainly didn’t have to have checks by the Criminal Records Bureau and there was no sex offender’s register to refer to before they were allowed to do it, they were just good men and women, like my dad, who volunteered because they had a sense of duty and because they enjoyed doing it.  Even Robert Baden-Powell’s sexuality has been brought into question by modern biographers, who claim to have found evidence indicating he was attracted to boys but this has never been proven and was probably just a mischievous attempt to discredit a genuine British boys’ hero.  In 1899 during the second Boer War Baden-Powell was promoted to be the youngest colonel in the British Army and became famous for resisting the siege of Mafeking when the town was surrounded and outnumbered by a Boer army of eight thousand men but which, under his command, withstood the siege for two hundred and seventeen days until relieved.

Other interesting badges were backwoodsman, explorer (but our troop never got sent to the Amazon or anywhere else remotely interesting) and a woodcraftsman, but I don’t think I managed any of those.  I’m fairly sure that I didn’t manage the aircraft modeller either and it didn’t help that my dad was giving out the badges and he had obviously seen my hamfisted attempts at assembling the Avro Lancaster Airfix kit!

When you weren’t getting badges scouting was good for toughing you up.  I can recall my first camp in 1965 when I was eleven when I spent my first time away from home and my parents.  By the second day I was so desperately home sick that I was feeling really ill with what felt like a big groaning hole in my stomach.  The Scoutmaster, Mr Pointon, or Skip, took me aside and gave me a good talking to about growing up and enjoying the experience and I don’t know how he did it but in a matter of just a few minutes he removed my anxiety and my tears and I was back with the rest of the boys cooking sausages over an open fire and it never troubled me again.  I can still recall the conversation as one of life’s defining moments when he explained that if I gave up and went home everyone would think that I was a big girl and I would probably be dismissed from the troop with dishonour and someone would break my staff in two over their knobbly knee!  Anyway next day was parent’s visiting day and it never occurred to me for one moment to pack up my sleeping bag and groundsheet and go home early.

As well as the training and the tests there were a lot of games as well.  British Bulldog was a good toughen you up sort of game, which is probably not allowed anymore because it was a bit rough and inherently dangerous.  It started with one poor boy, usually the smallest, being picked out to stand at the bottom of a hill while the rest of the Troop charged down and through with the objective of getting to the other side without being caught and wrestled to the ground.  This was the job of the boy in the middle who had to intercept one of the charging boys, pin him to the floor and shout British Bulldog 1-2-3.  If he was sensible the little boy in the middle would try to intercept the next smallest boy and so on.  This boy then joined the first at the bottom of the hill and the rest charged again.  This carried on until only one boy remained who had avoided being caught and mugged and he was declared the winner, as he was stretchered off and taken to the infirmary.

Boys stayed in the Scouts until they were sixteen but I never saw it through to the end, dad fell out with the Group Scout Master, Harry Newman in 1969, walked out of a meeting and never wiggled his woggle again and that November I discovered girls and that hanky-panky was more fun than gin-gan-gooly and that was goodbye to the Scouts, which was a shame because I was only a couple of tests away from my First Class Scouts badge at the time and I  never got to go on to the Seniors.

A Life in a Year – 25th May, The Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts movement began in 1907 when Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant General in the British Army, who had served in India and Africa in the 1880s and 1890s, published ‘Scouting for Boys’ and held the first Scout camp at Brownsea Island in Dorset.   Since his boyhood, he was fond of woodcraft and military scouting, and therefore, as part of soldiers training he showed his men how to survive in the wilderness.  He believed that it taught them to develop independence and to think for themselves, rather than just blindly follow orders and so towards the end of his military career he wrote the principles of Scouting in his book ‘Scouting for Boys’ which was based on his earlier military experiences, and in so doing started the Scouting movement.

I joined the Wolf Cubs when I was seven years old and after I had passed all the tests, had a sleeve full of badges and received my Leaping Wolf Certificate moved up to the Scouts on 25th May 1965 when I was eleven.  At first I was in the Paddox Troop but later transferred to the Hillmorton, which was good for me because dad was the Scoutmaster, which gave me a bit of an advantage when it came to passing tests and getting badges.  I liked the Scouts and the quasi-military organisation that came with it with the uniforms and the kit inspections, the law book and solemn promise and the fact that I could legitimately carry a hunting knife on my belt without being challenged; it was a bit like the Hitler Youth Movement but without the nastiness!   My only regret about the uniform was that by the time I was in the scouts that old pointy khaki hat had been replaced by the green beret; I always lamented the passing of that hat.

Being in the Scouts was genuinely good preparation for later life because it taught discipline, purpose and respect and some truly useful skills like first aid and survival, using an axe and a compass and lighting fires without the aid of a cigarette lighter.  Looking now at the Scout progress card however there is one thing I’m not so sure about and that is stalking.  In the Scouts you got a badge for being good at that but these days that sort of thing is likely to land you in a whole lot of trouble!

And it wasn’t just stalking because lots of things about the 1960s were more casual than they are now and whilst it seemed normal at the time I suppose today this might be interpreted as naïve.  No one questioned the motives of people who gave up their time to be Arkela or Baghera in the Wolf Cubs, Skip or Bosun in the Scouts because these were decent people who gave up their time for the benefit of others.  They certainly didn’t have to have checks by the Criminal Records Bureau and there was no sex offender’s register to refer to before they were allowed to do it, they were just good men and women, like my dad, who volunteered because they had a sense of duty and because they enjoyed doing it.

Even Robert Baden-Powell’s sexuality has been brought into question by modern biographers, who claim to have found evidence indicating he was attracted to boys but this has never been proven and was probably just a mischievous attempt to discredit a genuine British boy’s hero.  In 1899 during the second Boer War Baden-Powell was promoted to be the youngest colonel in the British Army and became famous for resisting the siege of Mafeking when the town was surrounded and outnumbered by a Boer army of eight thousand men but which, under his command, withstood the siege for two hundred and seventeen days until relieved.

Other interesting badges were backwoodsman, explorer (but our troop never got sent to the Amazon or anywhere else remotely interesting) and a woodcraftsman, but I don’t think I managed any of those.  I’m fairly sure that I didn’t manage the aircraft modeller either and it didn’t help that my dad was giving out the badges and he had obviously seen my hamfisted attempts at assembling the Avro Lancaster Airfix kit!

When you weren’t getting badges scouting was good for toughing you up.  I can recall my first camp in 1965 when I was eleven when I spent my first time away from home and my parents.  By the second day I was so desperately home sick that I was feeling really ill with what felt like a big hole in my stomach.  The Scoutmaster, Mr Pointon, or Skip, took me aside and gave me a good talking to about growing up and enjoying the experience and I don’t know how he did it but in a matter of just a few minutes he removed my anxiety and my tears and I was back with the rest of the boys cooking sausages over an open fire and it never troubled me again.  I can still recall the conversation as one of life’s defining moments when he explained that if I gave up and went home everyone would think that I was a big girl and I would probably be dismissed from the troop with dishonour and someone would break my staff in two over their knobbly knee!  Anyway next day was parent’s visiting day and it never occurred to me for one moment to pack up my sleeping bag and groundsheet and go home early.

As well as the training and the tests there were a lot of games as well.  British Bulldog was a good toughen you up sort of game, which is probably not allowed anymore because it was a bit rough and inherently dangerous.  It started with one poor boy, usually the smallest, being picked out to stand at the bottom of a hill while the rest of the Troop charged down and through with the objective of getting to the other side without being caught and wrestled to the ground.  This was the job of the boy in the middle who had to intercept one of the charging boys, pin him to the floor and shout British Bulldog 1-2-3.  If he was sensible the little boy in the middle would try to intercept the next smallest boy and so on.  This boy then joined the first at the bottom of the hill and the rest charged again.  This carried on until only one boy remained who had avoided being caught and mugged and he was declared the winner, as he was stretchered off and taken to the infirmary.

Boys stayed in the Scouts until they were sixteen but I never saw it through to the end, dad fell out with the Group Scout Master, Harry Newman in 1969, walked out of a meeting and never wiggled his woggle again and that November I discovered girls and that hanky-panky was more fun than gin-gan-gooly and that was goodbye to the Scouts, which was a shame because I was only a couple of tests away from my First Class Scouts badge at the time and I  never got to go on to the Seniors.

A Life in a Year – 13th May, Certificates, Leaping Wolf and Elementary Swimming

1965 was a mixed year for me when it came to passing exams.  As predicted I failed my eleven-plus in Spring and was sent to secondary school in September in the bottom grade at Dunsmore (or Duncemore in my case) but to compensate for that I did get my Leaping Wolf certificate in the Wolf Cubs and passed my Elementary Test for swimming a whole length of the swimming baths and that was quite something let me tell you, the certificate was signed by the examiner, Mrs Dick, who was a fearsome creature, Councillor Pattinson, the Chairman of the Baths Committee and Jim Duffy, the Town Clerk no less!  Who needed the eleven-plus? Not Me!

Robert Baden-Powell and the Boy Scout Movement

Robert Baden-Powell was a Lieutenant General in the British Army who had served in India and Africa in the 1880s and 1890s who held the first Scout camp at Brownsea Island in Dorset.

Since his boyhood, he was fond of woodcraft and military scouting, and therefore, as part of soldiers training he showed his men how to survive in the wilderness.  He noticed it taught them to develop independence and to think for themselves, rather than just blindly follow  orders and so towards the end of his military career he wrote the principles of Scouting in his book ‘Scouting for Boys’ which was based on his earlier military experiences, and in so doing started the Scouting movement.

I joined the Wolf Cubs when I was seven years old and after I had passed all the tests and received my Leaping Wolf Certificate moved up to the Scouts when I was eleven.  At first I was in the Paddox Troop but later transferred to the Hillmorton, which was good for me because dad was the Scoutmaster, which gave me a bit of an advantage when it came to passing tests and getting badges.

I liked the Scouts and the quasi-military organisation that came with it with the uniforms and the kit inspections, the law book and solemn promise and the fact that I could legitimately carry a hunting knife on my belt without being challenged; it was a bit like the Hitler Youth Movement but without the nastiness!   My only regret about the uniform was that by the time I was in the scouts that old pointy khaki hat had been replaced by the beret; I always lamented the passing of that hat.

Being in the Scouts was genuinely good preparation for later life because it taught discipline, purpose and respect and some truly useful skills like first aid and survival, using an axe and a compass and lighting fires without the aid of a cigarette lighter.  Looking now at the Scout progress card however there is one thing I’m not so sure about and that is stalking.  In the Scouts you got a badge for being good at that but these days that sort of thing is likely to land you in a whole lot of trouble!

boy scout membership card

 And it wasn’t just stalking because lots of things about the 1960s were more casual than they are now and whilst it seemed normal at the time I suppose today this might be interpreted as naïve.  No one questioned the motives of people who gave up their time to be Arkela or Baghera in the Wolf Cubs, Skip or Bosun in the Scouts because these were decent people who gave up their time for the benefit of others.  They certainly didn’t have to have checks by the Criminal Records Bureau and there was no sex offender’s register to refer to before they were allowed to do it, they were just good men and women, like my dad, who volunteered because they had a sense of duty and because they enjoyed doing it.

Robert Baden-Powell

Even Robert Baden-Powell’s sexuality has been brought into question by modern biographers, who claim to have found evidence indicating he was attracted to boys but this has never been proven and was probably just a mischievous attempt to discredit a genuine British boys hero.  In 1899 during the second Boer War Baden-Powell was promoted to be the youngest colonel in the British Army and became famous for resisting the siege of Mafeking when the town was surrounded and outnumbered by a Boer army of eight thousand men but which, under his command, withstood the siege for two hundred and seventeen days until relieved.

Other interesting badges were backwoodsman, explorer (but our troop never got sent to the Amazon or anywhere else remotely interesting) and a woodcraftsman, but I don’t think I managed any of those.  I’m fairly sure that I didn’t manage the aircraft modeller either and it didn’t help that  my dad was giving out the badges and he had obviously seen my hamfisted attempts at assembling the Avro Lancaster Airfix kit!

Scout Badges

When you weren’t getting badges scouting was good for toughing you up.  I can recall my first camp in 1965 when I was eleven when I spent my first time away from home and my parents.

By the second day I was so desperately home sick that I was feeling really ill.  The Scoutmaster, Mr Pointon, or Skip, took me aside and gave me a good talking to about growing up and enjoying the experience and I don’t know how he did it but in a matter of just a few minutes he removed my anxiety and my tears and I was back with the rest of the boys cooking sausages over an open fire and it never troubled me again.  I can still recall the conversation as one of life’s defining moments when he explained that if I gave up and went home everyone would think that I was a big girl and I would probably be dismissed from the troop with dishonour and someone would break my staff in two over their knobbly knee!  Anyway next day was parents visiting day and it never occurred to me for one moment to pack up my sleeping bag and groundsheet and go home early.

As well as the training and the tests there were a lot of games as well.  British Bulldog was a good toughen you up sort of game, which is probably not allowed anymore because it was a bit rough and inherently dangerous.  It started with one poor boy, usually the smallest, being picked out to stand at the bottom of a hill while the rest of the Troop charged down and through with the objective of getting to the other side without being caught and wrestled to the ground.  This was the job of the boy in the middle who had to intercept one of the charging boys, pin him to the floor and shout British Bulldog 1-2-3.  If he was sensible the little boy in the middle would try to intercept the next smallest boy and so on.  This boy then joined the first at the bottom of the hill and the rest charged again.  This carried on until only one boy remained who had avoided being caught and mugged and he was declared the winner, as he was stretchered off and taken to the infirmary.

Boys stayed in the Scouts until they were sixteen but I never saw it through to the end, dad fell out with the Group Scout Master, Harry Newman in 1969, walked out of a meeting and never wiggled his woggle again and that November I discovered girls and that hanky-panky was more fun than gin-gan-gooly and that was goodbye to the Scouts, which was a shame because I was only a couple of tests away from my First Class Scouts badge at the time and I  never got to go on to the Seniors.

1965 – Motorway Speed Limits, Woodbine Cigarettes and Exams

1965 was the hundredth anniversary of the end of the American Civil War and to celebrate appropriately the United States started a new one in Vietnam.   American troops had been there for some time of course but on March 2nd, following an attack on a United States Marine barracks, Operation Flaming Dart and Operation Rolling Thunder commenced and the war was official.  An estimated six hundred and twenty thousand soldiers died in the American Civil War and one million one hundred thousand in Vietnam.  There were many more unaccounted civilian casualties in addition to that.

In politics Edward Heath became leader of the Conservative Party and began the period when he and Harold Wilson alternated occupancy of 10, Downing Street.  Although these two party leaders certainly didn’t have the stature of Gladstone and Disraeli it is just about the last time in British politics when the two party leaders were almost evenly matched and this generated an interest in politics that has been sadly lacking since.

Around about 1970 I even joined the Young Conservatives but this was nowhere near as exciting as the Boy Scouts and I didn’t renew my subscription when it ran out at the end of the first year.

In the early winter of 1965 there was a lot of fog and a series of multiple crashes on Britain’s new motorways, and in December as a bit of a panic measure an experimental speed limit of seventy miles per hour was introduced.  This really hadn’t been a problem when motorways were first opened because most cars prior to the 1960s would have had difficulty getting up to seventy miles an hour in the first place let alone maintaining this speed for any distance without blowing the engine to kingdom come but by mid-decade they were starting to get faster.

It is an interesting fact that car designers and racing car drivers were also using the M1 motorway to conduct speed trials and in June 1964 a man called Jack Sears drove an AC Cobra Coupé at 185 miles an hour in a test drive on the northern carriageway of the motorway.  The press picked the story up and soon there was a crusade for a speed limit.

The history of the speed limit is interesting, the first speed limit was the ten miles per hour limit introduced by the Locomotive Act, or Red Flag Act, of 1861 but in 1865, the revised Locomotive Act reduced the speed limit still further to four miles per hour in the country and two miles per hour in towns, which, lets be honest is slower than average walking speed and sort of missed the point of automotive power.  This Act additionally required a man with a red flag or a lantern to walk sixty yards ahead of each vehicle, effectively enforcing a walking pace, and warning horse drawn traffic of the approach of a self-propelled machine.  In 1896 a new Locomotive Act replaced that of 1865 and the increase of the speed limit to a positively reckless fourteen miles per hour has been commemorated each year since 1927 by the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.  The motorway speed limit of seventy miles per hour was made permanent in 1970.

Speed limits didn’t make any difference at all to Jim Clark who was one of Britain’s greatest Formula One racing stars and in 1965 he won both the Formula One championship and the Indianoplois 500.  He was regarded as the greatest driver of his time and won twenty-five of his seventy-three grand prix starts but sadly died prematurely in an accident at Hockenheim in Germany in 1968 when his car left the track and crashed into trees.  This was a time when motorsport was a lot more dangerous and the life expectancy of a driver was a great deal less than it is today.

A significant event of 1965 was the banning of cigarette advertising on television.  I am thankful for that because at eleven years old I was at my most impressionable and I am quite convinced that I might otherwise have been seduced by the macho image that cigarette advertisements used to lure teenagers into tobacco dependency.

It was about this time that I enjoyed, or perhaps more correctly endured, my first cigarette.  My friend David Newman had slipped some woodbines from his dad’s half empty packet and we went into the fields behind his house for a smoke.  David’s dad, Harry, wouldn’t have noticed a few fags going missing because he used to smoke about sixty a day and that certainly helped towards a premature death.

Woodbines were untipped and maximum strength and we lit up and I can clearly remember trying to adopt an adult demeanour and puffing away but without inhaling until an unfortunate combination of sucking in and speaking at the same time involuntarily drew the foul vapour into my lungs, filled my brain with noxious gasses and made me giddy and unsteady.  I literally fell over as though someone had punched me in the head, turned an unpleasant shade of green and was violently sick, much to the amusement of my pals.

I tried cigarette smoking a few more times after that, as we all did, but I have never forgotten that thoroughly unpleasant experience and gladly never became a real cigarette smoker at any time ever after that.  In 1968 Lotus started advertising tobacco on their Formula One racing cars.  That didn’t do Jim Clark any good did it!

1965 was a mixed year for me when it came to passing exams.  As predicted I failed my eleven-plus in Spring and was sent to secondary school in September in the bottom grade at Dunsmore (or Duncemore in my case) but to compensate for that I did get my Leaping Wolf certificate in the Wolf Cubs and passed my Elementary Test for swimming a whole length of the swimming baths and that was quite something let me tell you, the certificate was signed by the examiner, Mrs Dick, who was a fearsome creature, Councillor Pattinson, the Chairman of the Baths Committee and Jim Duffy, the Town Clerk no less!  Who needed the eleven-plus? Not Me!

Age of innocence, Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts movement began in 1907 when Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant General in the British Army, who had served in India and Africa in the 1880s and 1890s, held the first Scout camp at Brownsea Island in Dorset.   Since his boyhood, he was fond of woodcraft and military scouting, and therefore, as part of soldiers training he showed his men how to survive in the wilderness.  He believed that it taught them to develop independence and to think for themselves, rather than just blindly follow orders.  Towards the end of his military career he wrote the principles of Scouting in his book ‘Scouting for Boys’ which was based on his earlier military experiences, and in so doing he started the Scouting movement.

I joined the Wolf Cubs when I was seven years old and after I had passed all the tests, had a sleeve full of badges and received my Leaping Wolf Certificate moved up to the Scouts when I was eleven.  At first I was in the Paddox Troop but later transferred to the Hillmorton, which was good for me because dad was the Scoutmaster, which gave me a bit of an advantage when it came to passing tests and getting badges.  I liked the Scouts and the quasi-military organisation that came with it with the uniforms and the kit inspections, the law book and solemn promise and the fact that I could legitimately carry a hunting knife on my belt without being challenged; it was a bit like the Hitler Youth Movement but without the nastiness!   My only regret about the uniform was that by the time I was in the scouts that old pointy khaki hat had been replaced by the green beret; I always lamented the passing of that hat.

Robert Baden-Powell

Being in the Scouts was genuinely good preparation for later life because it taught discipline, purpose and respect and some truly useful skills like first aid and survival, using an axe and a compass and lighting fires without the aid of a cigarette lighter.  Looking now at the Scout progress card however there is one thing I’m not so sure about and that is stalking.  In the Scouts you got a badge for being good at that but these days that sort of thing is likely to land you in a whole lot of trouble!

And it wasn’t just stalking because lots of things about the 1960s were more casual than they are now and whilst it seemed normal at the time I suppose today this might be interpreted as naïve.  No one questioned the motives of people who gave up their time to be Arkela or Baghera in the Wolf Cubs, Skip or Bosun in the Scouts because these were decent people who gave up their time for the benefit of others.  They certainly didn’t have to have checks by the Criminal Records Bureau and there was no sex offender’s register to refer to before they were allowed to do it, they were just good men and women, like my dad, who volunteered because they had a sense of duty and because they enjoyed doing it.

Even Robert Baden-Powell’s sexuality has been brought into question by modern biographers, who claim to have found evidence indicating he was attracted to boys but this has never been proven and was probably just a mischievous attempt to discredit a genuine British boy’s hero.  In 1899 during the second Boer War Baden-Powell was promoted to be the youngest colonel in the British Army and became famous for resisting the siege of Mafeking when the town was surrounded and outnumbered by a Boer army of eight thousand men but which, under his command, withstood the siege for two hundred and seventeen days until relieved.

Other interesting badges were backwoodsman, explorer (but our troop never got sent to the Amazon or anywhere else remotely interesting) and a woodcraftsman, but I don’t think I managed any of those.  I’m fairly sure that I didn’t manage the aircraft modeller either and it didn’t help that my dad was giving out the badges and he had obviously seen my hamfisted attempts at assembling the Avro Lancaster Airfix kit!

When you weren’t getting badges scouting was good for toughing you up.  I can recall my first camp in 1965 when I was eleven when I spent my first time away from home and my parents.  By the second day I was so desperately home sick that I was feeling really ill with what felt like a big hole in my stomach.  The Scoutmaster, Mr Pointon, or Skip, took me aside and gave me a good talking to about growing up and enjoying the experience and I don’t know how he did it but in a matter of just a few minutes he removed my anxiety and my tears and I was back with the rest of the boys cooking sausages over an open fire and it never troubled me again.

I can still recall the conversation as one of life’s defining moments when he explained that if I gave up and went home everyone would think that I was a big sissy and I would probably be dismissed from the troop with dishonour and I would have to join the Girl Guides instead!  Anyway next day was parent’s visiting day and it never occurred to me for one moment to pack up my sleeping bag and groundsheet and go home early.

As well as the training and the tests there were a lot of games as well.  British Bulldog was a good toughen you up sort of game, which is probably not allowed anymore because it was a bit rough and inherently dangerous.  It started with one poor boy, usually the smallest, being picked out to stand at the bottom of a hill while the rest of the Troop charged down and through with the objective of getting to the other side without being caught and wrestled to the ground.  This was the job of the boy in the middle who had to intercept one of the charging boys, pin him to the floor and shout British Bulldog 1-2-3.  If he was sensible the little boy in the middle would try to intercept the next smallest boy and so on.  This boy then joined the first at the bottom of the hill and the rest charged again.  This carried on until only one boy remained who had avoided being caught and mugged and he was declared the winner, as he was stretchered off and taken to the infirmary.

Boys stayed in the Scouts until they were sixteen but I never saw it through to the end, dad fell out with the Group Scout Master, Harry Newman in 1969, walked out of a meeting and never wiggled his woggle again and that November I discovered girls and that hanky-panky was more fun than gin-gan-gooly and that was goodbye to the Scouts, which was a shame because I was only a couple of tests away from my First Class Scouts badge at the time and I  never got to go on to the Seniors or the Queens.

1957 – a Sister, Spaghetti, Scouting, Sputnik and Stanley Matthews

In 1957 there was big news on the home front when my sister Lindsay was born but around the world following the excitement of wars and revolutions in 1956 this particular year seems to have been less frenetic.

The Treaty of Rome established the Common Market, which was a deeply significant event that has shaped the recent history of modern Europe.  This has become the European Union and has undergone a number of expansions that has taken it from six member states in 1957 to twenty-seven today, a majority of states in Europe.  Britain joined in 1973 after a long period of being denied membership by France and in particular the deeply ungrateful and Anglophobe President de Gaulle.

Harold MacMillan became the new Prime Minister of Britain when Anthony Eden resigned over the Suez crisis debacle and this ushered in the baby boomer years of the late 50’s and 60’s when life generally improved for everyone.  He led the Conservatives to victory in the 1959 general election using the campaign slogan “Life’s Better Under the Conservatives” and MacMillan himself is remembered for his famous personal assessment of these years when he said, “indeed let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good.”

Most people were beginning to get television sets in the home and on 1st April the BBC broadcast one of its most famous ever programmes; a spoof documentary about spaghetti crops in Switzerland. The Panorama programme, narrated by Richard Dimbleby, featured a family from Ticino in Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest. It showed women carefully plucking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry.  Some viewers, presumably those who were daft enough to believe it, failed to see the funny side of the broadcast and criticised the BBC for airing the item on what was supposed to be a serious factual programme.

The home dining experience was much more limited in the 1950s and spaghetti you see was not a widely-eaten food at the time and this explains how the broadcast managed to fool so many viewers.  In the programme Dimbleby explained how each year the end of March is a very anxious time for Spaghetti harvesters all over Europe because of the risk of late frosts and he also explained how each strand of spaghetti always grows to the same length thanks to years of hard work by generations of growers.  An estimated eight million people watched the programme and hundreds phoned in the following day to ask for more information about spaghetti cultivation and how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC kept the joke going by advising callers to place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.

1957 was the fiftieth anniversary of the Boy Scouts which began in 1907 when Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant General in the British Army, who had served in  India and Africa in the 1880s and 1890s held the first Scout camp at Brownsea Island in Dorset.   Since his boyhood, he was fond of woodcraft and military scouting, and therefore, as part of soldiers training he showed his men how to survive in the wilderness.  He noticed it taught them to develop independence, rather than just blindly follow orders and so towards the end of his military career he wrote a book called ‘Scouting for Boys’ in which he set out the basic the principles of Scouting which were based on his earlier military experiences, and in so doing started the World wide Scouting movement.

I joined the Wolf Cubs when I was seven years old and after I had passed all the tests and received my Leaping Wolf Certificate moved up to the Scouts when I was eleven.  At first I was in the Paddox Troop but later transferred to the Hillmorton, which was good for me because dad was the Scoutmaster, which gave me a bit of an advantage when it came to passing tests and getting badges.  I liked the Scouts and the quasi-military organisation that came with it with the uniforms and the kit inspections, the law book and solemn promise and the fact that I could legitimately carry a hunting knife on my belt without being challenged.  It was a bit like the Hitler Youth Movement but without the nastiness!   Boys stayed in the Scouts until they were sixteen but I never saw it through to the end; dad fell out with the Group Scout Master, Harry Newman in 1969, walked out and never waggled his woggle again and that November I discovered girls and that hanky-panky was much more fun than gin-gan-gooly and that was goodbye to the Scouts, which was a shame because I was only a couple of tests away from my First Class Scouts badge at the time.

Age of innocence – Boy Scouts

Robert Baden Powell and Scouting

In a serious note there was a major train crash disaster in 1957 when two trains collided in fog which killed ninety-two people and injured another one hundred and seventy-three.  I mention this because the accident was in Lewisham in south-east London and only a couple of miles or so from the town of Catford where my grandparents lived and who we used to visit regularly.  I can remember the railway line that you could see from the bottom of the garden and I find it surprising that I was until now unaware of this fact.

In sport Stanley Matthews played his last game for England at the almost unbelievable age of forty-four.  He has the record for the longest serving England career at twenty-three years and remains the oldest man to ever play for England.  Let’s face it; it is completely unlikely that this record will ever be beaten.  He didn’t retire from football altogether at this time though and he continued playing at the very highest level in the English First Division with Stoke City until he was fifty years old when he finally retired in 1964.

To find a player in the mould of Sir Stanley is almost impossible nowadays. With all the press and media hype that surrounds today’s celebrity players such as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, Matthews was the first real football celebrity. Unlike any other players, he was able to maintain his professionalism at all times and lived only to play the game. Matthews at the time was only earning £20 per week in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of pounds nowadays.

I can actually remember seeing Stanley Matthews myself because from about seven years old dad started to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.  I can recall quite clearly going to the matches because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back.  Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and dad had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   Dad just didn’t like paying bus fares.

Football grounds were totally different to the all seater stadiums that we are used to now and were predominantly standing affairs.  I was only a little lad so it was important to go early to get a good spot on the wall just behind the goal.  This required an early arrival and although matches didn’t start until three o’clock dad used to get us there for the opening of the gates at about one.  This must have required great patience on his part because two hours is a long time to wait for a football match to start standing on cold concrete terracing and I really didn’t appreciate at the time that all of this was done just for me.  In the 1960s of course it was common to have pre-match entertainment when local marching bands would give a thirty minute medley of tunes up until kick off time so at least there was something to watch.

Footballers like Matthews were completely different from the prima donners of the modern game; they got stuck in and played like men with a big heavy leather football, shirts that became waterlogged and uncomfortable in the rain and the mud and boots that would have been more appropriate for wearing down a coal mine.  What’s more it wasn’t unusual to watch the same eleven men play week after week because they just shrugged off the knocks that put modern players out for weeks.  An injury had to be almost life threatening to stop somebody playing in those days.  And if you don’t believe me, the 1956 FA Cup final, in which Manchester City beat Birmingham City 3-1, is famously remembered for Manchester goalkeeper Bert Trautmann continuing to play on for the final fifteen minutes of the match after unknowingly breaking his neck!

Off the ground there were two important airborne events in 1957 that were important for the future.  There was the first flight of the Boeing 707 which was to become important in increasing travel opportunities and in the USSR the sputnik programme began with the launch of Sputnik1, which was an event that triggered the space race between the two world superpowers the US and the USSR both bursting with testosterone and competing with each other to rule the modern world.