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THE ENGLISH DISEASE 7 DECADES OF OBSERVATION / 2.

Updated on August 26, 2011

THE SECOND DECADE. 1950 / 59 INC.

As 1950 arrived I was in my final year at Primary School. As 1959 bade farewell, I was on vacation having completed my first year of Teacher Training. From short trousers to prospective Teacher in a wonderful, yet angst filled 10 years. It was ,of course, ever thus.

I fulfilled my Teachers prophecies and passed the 11 Plus, gaining a Scholarship to Grammar School. I was not given my first choice of School and thus became a pupil at King James Grammar School Almondbury. Whoever decided that, in the Education Offices of Huddersfield Borough, gave me the key to my future. The School was 350 boys only approximately and I was destined to rise to be a big fish in that pond. That the School was Boys only was no shock for Primary School had been the same and Co-Education was the exception not the norm in those days.

Grammar School held no terrors for me, thanks to the excellent last 3 years at my second Primary School, but changes at home were to provide me with difficult circumstances during my earl mid teen years. My father, successful Detective in the Police Force though he was became, like many of his colleagues of the time, disenchanted more and more with those above them. Most of these being Officers who had, for whatever reason, stayed at home and not served King and Country in the theatres of World War Two. Others left to start their own Businesses and, inspired by a fellow Detective Sergeant, my Father did likewise. Thus, I found myself moved from a quiet lower middle class are to the fringe of a large Council Estate in a tough part of the Town. The reason was my Father had chosen to become a Fish Fryer for his Business and the working class flocked daily to pick up wholesome food and avoid chores of cooking and washing up. Not that any of this affected me at the time, though later it was to be the beginning of me learning to stand on my own two feet.

At School, I played with fellow pupils in a School where Sport was important. At night ,homework done, I would go out to play floodlight soccer with boys from the Estate, the street lights being our source of illumination, in an area where cars were still a rarity. Summertime saw us in fields playing first cricket, then soccer and as School beckoned once more, we began to start "Chumping". This was the term used for collecting wood for the November 5th Bonfire Celebration. Life for me was uncomplicated initially in the years from 10 to 14 bounded by the simple order that School and Sports presented. However, for my Mother things were very different. Prior to her marriage she had been the Personal Assistant to the Managing Director of a large Organisation in her native Liverpool. The first time she saw my Father, he was the Office Boy, harbouring hopes of a Police career. The chance came to him in West Yorkshire and after the wedding in 1938 it was there they had set up home. My Mother was denied the chance to work then, it being required of all Officers wives not to do so. The rule was relaxed after the war and my Mother later worked part time in Sports Retail and Confectionery, before becoming not only a Fish and Chip Shop Assistant but also Bookkeeper and Financial Director of the enterprise, whilst my Father dealt with the preparation required on a daily basis.

The premises where we then lived boasted an Orchard and a spare outbuilding and my Father soon added Pig Breeder to the list of his activities. This was to involve me in later teen years, but as a youngster, my role was limited to joining my parents plus Dog, Cat and Pig {called Queenie } on Sunday evening walks round the adjacent fields and woodland areas!

Indeed, for me, the early teen years were fun filled and also in terms of sport, skill learning years, for though we had no coaches as such, we were able to play in small groups, thus getting many kicks or hits of the relevant ball. We did not know it then but we had the best we could ever have, short perhaps of someone to point us in the right direction when trial and error let us down.

In the larger world things were far from idyllic. Britain was still building hard after the war torn years. Finances were tight for most, cod wars with Iceland rocked our own boat and I always seemed to be clearing snow from the shop front in winter. The Empire Windrush brought the first immigrants from the Caribbean, and in the other direction many Brits queued to get £10 assisted passages to go and live in Australia. As others seemed to think the streets of Britain were paved with gold, the disillusioned determined this was not, as the Politicians had promised, a land fit for heroes to live in.

In Africa and Asia the winds of change began to blow. Events that were to have a profound effect on the rest of the Century. Also and with great menace, The H Bomb arrived as the Cold War began to escalate and Churchill"s vision of an Iron Curtain became reality as the struggle between Communism and Capitalism intensified. Brave dissenters in Hungary were mercilessly crushed by Russian Tanks. In Korea outright War developed between East and West with American and British soldiers needing to develop new tactics to deal with new opponents. Possibly more peacefully, at least on the surface, the Space Race began with Russia sending Sputnik 1 into space to claim the initial spoils..The USA AND RUSSIA locked horns over Cuba with the young President Kennedy keeping his nerve as Nuclear engagement threatened and eventually forced the Russians to rethink their strategy.

Socially, Britain saw the development of Television as the main home entertainment and information medium develop through the decade, albeit in glorious Black and White only and with most merely renting their sets as opposed to owning them The Cinema continued to be the main source of entertainment however, and through a complex set of circumstances too involved to relate here, my Father became a Cinema Manager, whilst my Mother took total control of the shop. This had sharp ramifications for me personally, about which more below but for most of Britain there was a cinema based event that produced outrage, questions in Parliament and the certain conviction of the elders that young people around my age were leading the Country into disaster. The cause of this was a film, from the USA called Rock Around the Clock featuring Bill Haley and the Comets! Rock and Roll had hit the UK and scandalously, young people took to Dancing ,or Jiving,as it was called then, in the Cinema aisles! This became a cause celebre of enormous proportions and one wonders what the elders then would have made of the recent protests, riots and downright criminal looting that has hit our streets in 2011. They had enough on their plate with Jiving and most suffered apoplexy with the subsequent arrival of one Elvis Presley, denounced in public and from pulpit alike, as the human manifestation of Satan himself. My generation, it was said, was wanton and of no worth or substance to Society!

Set against this, following the division of labour from my parents, at 14, I suddenly became part time Grammar School pupil and part time worker, multi tasking daily. My day began no later than 7a.m. when my task initially was to wash 2 or 3 hundredweights of potatoes in the mechanical washer and transfer to the holding bath, filled with water and agent to prevent browning or softening of the soon to be chips. Secondly, I prepared feed and gave to the Pigs, these were now officially mine as my Father had determined his work times just did not fit in with looking after pigs. He was, in all truth, correct in this. Finally, I returned to the kitchen to make cups of tea for myself and parents abed, fry my breakfast of bacon and eggs, get school gear together and dash across the road to catch the 7.50 or 8.15 to take me to my other world School, though I was no high flyer initially, was an oasis of calm and order with a liberal dash of sport and exercise involved. At 14 I suddenly became ill and lost weight and no Doctor or Hospital could diagnose the cause. Then 12 months later, as suddenly as it had arrived, the illness vanished, not to return till I was 37 and even then not to be diagnosed again. I was 55 years of age in fact,before diagnosis confirmed me as a Coeliac!

Now, as they used to say on the children"s cinema matinee as the serial ended for the day, "TO BE CONTINUED".I will indeed continue this personal and social trawl through the second half of the 1950"s in the next Hub.



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