THE ENGLISH DISEASE. 7 DECADES OF OBSERVATION/INTO THE 1960"S

THE PENDULUM STARTS TO SWING

As 1960 arrived, the Huddersfield Parish Church Clock chimed in the new as my friend Brian Firth and I trundled by in his father"s pick up truck. It was not much but it was wheels and in those days ANY wheels were important to young men out on the pull. Even after all these days I can recall saying that I would never be a teenager again! In fact I was a trainee teacher, one term completed and home for the holidays to meet up with old friends ,now scattered in term time over the whole country, and all of us with new tales to tell. The 1960"s beckoned us, as indeed the whole country, with expectation and optimism.

Little did we know then that this decade was to set in train the social change that still persists today and which, amidst all the good things achieved has seen the English lose their way, discipline, respect and ,in too many people it seems, their sense of purpose as more and more rely on the State to provide for them and others despair as their efforts to provide for themselves fall sadly short.

However, on that starry night of January 1st 1960, no such thoughts troubled our heads. The world was indeed, our oyster and for me personally, the 1960"s were set to be, and proved so to be ,an exciting, challenging and rewarding decade. In this I was not alone ,for the decade was to be the definitive one for kick starting big changes all over and, for the vast majority here, a decade that was to shape the next 50 years of their lives.

On the World Stage, the decade proved both innovative, frightening and one in which man finally triumphed in space. Between 1960 and 1963, change swept the USA and as my Mother always said, change there came here soon after. J F Kennedy became the young, dynamic leader, that country demanded. The Civil Rights movement began to make itself heard ever more loudly with both progress and tragedy accompanying it. In 1963 Kennedy was assassinated, a singular event that shook the world, so much so that to this day, people still remember where they were when they personally heard the news. Lyndon Johnson became President, heeding the call for civil rights as well as committing to a deadly war against Communism in Vietnam. This brought protests at his own back door as especially the youth of America rose up against the war and the accompanying draft that sent many to a premature end.

Other premature deaths were to have major ramifications across the world. Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King was assassinated and so was Robert Kennedy towards the end of the decade, the latter playing a part in paving the way for Richard Milhous Nixon to enter the White House as the Youth of America heightened their protest against the War and also their Universities.

The decade also saw the Americans locked in a strange conflict with Russia to conquer space, the final frontier. JFK had earlier seen off the Russians at the Bay of Pigs in the Cuba conflict, but it was the USSR who won the race to space initially The first man in space was in 1961, and it was the Russian, Yuri Gagarin. The rest of the decade saw furious competition with the USA finally overhauling the USSR and putting men on the moon by the end of it. In 1966, the first orbit of the Moon took place, followed in 1968 by Apollo 8 and finally in 1969, the first moon walk. All these worldwide and world shaking events were played out against a backdrop of social change in the UK also.

In 1960, the UK population was 53 million and rising. To meet the clamour for progress, the decade saw innovations both large and small. Fridges became a must for every household, sliced bread, plastic buckets, ice lollies and chocolate ices on sticks were just some of the smaller, but important, innovations in this decade. Beyond that, the drive to supply electricity to all homes, largely achieved that goal. In the field of communications things began to gather momentum. In 1962, Telstar paved the way for future Communication Satellite launches and also the first Trans Atlantic Satellite linked the USA and Britain for the first time in this form of media. The first Audio Cassette appeared in 1962 followed in 1965 by the video recorder.Also significant was the opening of the first Supermarket. Today it seems impossible to comprehend that before that women usually, would make purchases weekly at individual Butchers, Greengrocers, Provision merchants, Bakers etc as separate entities to put food on the table. The arrival and subsequent development of Supermarkets changed all that and also provided more change as men became more involved in shopping, as usually a vehicle was required to transport all the bought goods home and whilst women were driving in increasing numbers, most licence holders in the 1960"s were male.

Another Social change to hit Britain was in Housing. The rehousing of people after World War Two was still a problem and Architects drew up their preferred solution- Tower Blocks. These had flourished on mainland Europe we were told, though in making a rail journey across from Belgium to Hungary, the site of these cold looking Towers, draped with washing etc did not fill me with optimism. I should have realised that Architects then knew a lot about Construction but precious little about people, and even less about pigs! I say the latter as the pig is an ideal animal to study, as I knew from my teens as a part time pig breeder. A sty, the home for pigs will accommodate in perfect harmony a certain number of pigs according to it"s size, and that of the pigs so housed. This harmony will continue unbroken unless and until, further pigs are brought in to the sty. If the sty is not big enough, as determined by the pigs themselves, all hell breaks lose and if left, they will wound and kill each other. The concept of Tower Blocks does not consider that and apply lt to people. A 5 Star Hotel, with well maintained communal areas, happily houses the occupants in tight proximity. Mainly this is because people usually have a short stay and also because of the charges, tend to have more educated people staying therein. The failure of Tower Blocks for Social Housing lies therein also. Occupancy in them is long term and by the nature of things less educated people populate them in larger number and overwhelm those others, better educated,who have better standards, and grind down both the facilities and the buildings themselves, as well as those who would seek to maintain and even enhance that which is provided . The result, eventually, the Blocks become unattractive to decent people who look elsewhere, whilst the others carry on like the poor pigs in the overcrowded sty and inflict often, the worst on each other. Progress is based on change but the Tower Blocks show us that not all change is progress. I often wonder if the Architects who designed these units had been made to reside in them initially for two years say, whether we would have so man today, especially in our now fermenting, inner cities.

The decade rolled on relentlessly. Computers arrived in their initial enormous Commercial form ,requiring whole rooms to house them in their Office Blocks. Video Games, Teleconferencing, and the forerunner of the Internet and e-mails made their bow, though it was not until the 1980"s that any of these came across my brow with me knowing of them. Of far greater significance was the development of popular music culture lead by the Youth. Building on the bases laid down in the 1950"s by Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis Presley stormed the Western World. At home,musical revolution also fired the young people via home grown talent like The Beatles, The Stones, Tommy Steele and also the likes of Cliff Richard {who would have thought then that this slick haired Teddy Boy type would end up with a Knighthood?}. Female singers also flourished in a different way to those like Vera Lynn and Anne Shelton who had smoothed the brow of the British Forces in the 1940"s. Chief amongst these was Dusty Spingfield, who herself was a rebel in her own right. Right up there leading change with Music was Fashion, which sprang to the fore after the austerity of the War years. Boys could, if they wished, wear Doc Marten boots or Teddy Boy outfits. Girls developed a fancy for wigs, mini skirts and even body art as the boundaries were pushed back further and more quickly than ever before.

It was impossible not to be touched by all, or at least some of those developments of the 1960"s developments as the spread of motor ownership, [in 1959, I had my first scooter, in 1964, my first vehicle, an Austin A35 Van, and in 1965, my first car a Ford Anglia}. Inter- City Rail Trains and ,wonder of wonders, package holidays abroad, became part and parcel of the life of most for the first time. The Consumer Society arrived and found us all happy to worship it and set it of on the rapid and steadfast progress it has made over the last 50 years to the point where we all have more, demand more and moan more if our desires are not fulfilled. Sodom and Gomorrah some say!

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS.

Above, I have indicated some key aspects of the decade known as "THE SWINGING 60"S" . With hindsight that truly was the decade that set off the Pendulum of modern society. Trouble is, a pendulum never stops in the middle, hence why we are at the very opposite side today. Equally, as you live through it, personal events, ambitions, struggles etc hinder your viewing from close up. Thus, I must admit that the changes that took place in the wider world, whilst noted by me, were not ever considered well enough as I was too occupied with my own progress in a jam packed personal decade, about which, my next Hub will relate and follow my path from student to teacher and beyond in career terms, and from being footloose and fancy free to marriage and fatherhood by the time the clocks called time on an exciting and exacting decade all round.

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Comments 2 comments

tonyduxburyuk 5 years ago from Rotherham, south yorkshire, england

Loved the bit about pig stys! A pity nobody explained that before.


j w adams 5 years ago from Essex/ Alanya/ Hurghada Author

There you go Tony, always knew being a teen pig breeder would pay off one day! Thanks for your comment, much appreciated.

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