Pippa Dee and the Tupperware Mountain

Guest Blogger Joanne Fox is back for another trip down memory lane

When I was growing up in the seventies, it felt like the boom-time for party-plan selling. Few weeks passed without my mum and our neighbours visiting one another’s homes to swoon over the latest ranges of clothes, make-up and kitchenware that could be bought on a party-plan basis.

The concept was simple but effective. Imagine you make an innocent comment to the lady who’s just moved in along the road. “That’s a nice blouse,” you say, privately thinking the swirly orange pattern reminds you of your lounge curtains.

“It’s from Pippa Dee,” she replies. “Would you like to come to my next party?”

70's style pink nylon nightdress for sale at www.retrochicvintage.comTo be friendly, you go to the party, noticing how the menfolk of her household have made themselves scarce before guests arrive. The hostess’s daughter models a few frilly tops. You feel obliged to purchase a serviceable bra so that your hostess will make enough sales to receive her free gift.

Just when you think you can escape, a couple of other guests decide they will arrange parties – and of course you are invited. Now you have to go to their houses and buy more overpriced clothes so they can get their free gifts too. But never fear, because you can always have a party of your own and it’ll be your turn for the free gift. Hurray! You’ve only spent a small fortune on clothes you’ll never wear to get that lilac baby-doll nightie which will give you a shock of static every time you put it on.

When I was about ten I had two pink nylon Pippa Dee nightdresses. I can still remember how I detested the feel of the cold material, which did much to put me off man-made fabrics for life. To me all their clothes looked terribly old-fashioned, but one guest who found inspiration at a Pippa Dee party was Jacqueline Gold, now chief executive of the Ann Summers chain. Back in the eighties she saw how the concept of party-plan selling might revive the Ann Summers business, which was then owned by her father.

Tupperware party invitation At your Pippa Dee party you would be expected to provide a few nibbles, and what better to serve them in than your extensive collection of Tupperware? Following its invention in the 1940s by Earl Tupper, Tupperware became king of the party-plan circuit. Any time that people thought they had enough pastel-shaded bowls, boxes and cruet sets to build a Tupperware mountain, out would come some new item that nobody realised they needed until it was demonstrated by the party organiser.

I particularly remember we had a round, white Tupperware dish which was divided into half a dozen sections. There was a handle which screwed into the centre, and the dish had its own lid. It was used a lot for peanuts and crisps if we had visitors, or for bits of salad for Sunday tea. The second Tupperware item that sticks in my mind is a pale green beaker, again with a lid. Whenever I went on a school trip the beaker would come with me, filled with orange squash which never tasted very nice. During holidays, Tupperware really came into its element. Picnics on the beach would feature hard-boiled eggs, pickled onions, cheese and cucumber sandwiches, and other delights, all packed neatly into every possible size of Tupperware container.

In the late 70s Tupperware’s popularity began to wane and I remember a brief fad for stainless steel parties instead. However Tupperware has since regained its place in the party-plan market, with the result that there was recently estimated to be a Tupperware party held every 2.5 seconds!

Jo Fox’s 1978 Diary

Joanne Fox, is a short story writer published in women’s magazines, and winner of Frome Festival short story competition 2007. “Looking at your great blog really jogged my memory about the 70s and so I had a root through my filing cabinet to see what mementoes I had tucked away.”

Radio One 1978 diaryI would have been fourteen when I tore the Christmas paper from my Radio One Diary for 1978. At that age I was obsessed with music. Few presents from my mum can ever have prompted as much excitement as this little book. And how glad I am that my diary has survived.

On the front cover, Leo Sayer springs into the air, wearing white trousers with braces and a slightly manic smile. White trousers were clearly the in thing in the late seventies because when I turn the page I find Canadian disc jockey Kid Jensen in huge white flares, white boots and a Radio One sweatshirt. I was more of a John Peel fan, but the biographies of all the Radio One D.J.s at the front of this diary were riveting reading. Ed Stewart, Dave Lee Travis, Alan Freeman, the lovely Anne Nightingale – their names conjure up hours of happy listening.

On the page for personal information, below my name and address, I have written three vital details:

“Rick Wakeman is ACE”
“Status Quo are excellent”
“Bay City Rollers should be boiled in oil”

Yes, at fourteen the evidence is that I wanted to be a rock chick! At the bottom of every diary page is a space headed “This week’s chart topper is…” I have to say I am impressed that I filled in all the number one hits, from Mull of Kintyre in January, to the Commodores Three Times a Lady in mid-September. So, apart from my opinions on the Bay City Rollers, what other gems did I record in my messy ballpoint?

Jo Fox in 1978On Friday the 13th of January I wrote “Today is here!” I quite like the celebratory tone of this observation. On the 24th I noted that the lead singer of the band Chicago had died, and a month later I saw Star Wars. I still remember queuing in the rain to get into the Odeon in Derby for the afternoon screening!

In March Kate Bush reached number one with ‘Wuthering Heights’. She seemed so different from everyone else in the charts, and I found her combination of weirdness and beauty fascinating. I too wanted to wave my arms around and sing in a high voice, “It’s me, Cathy, come home…” In fact, I probably did when no-one was watching.

Also during March I saw Gordon Giltrap at the Derby Assembly Rooms. I was learning guitar and I’d have loved to be as good as he was. The next concert I went to was in June – Gerry Rafferty of Baker Street fame. By now, Boney M were number one with Rivers of Babylon. I hated it! But not as much as I hated the hit that topped the charts after that, You’re the One that I Want by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.

In August I went on a family holiday to the Welsh resort of Tenby. We always stayed in ‘flatlets’, which was a posh way of describing bedsits-by-the-sea. Sadly my diary entries tail off soon after writing that Keith Moon had died on September 7th. What happened in September to end my devotion to my diary? I can only guess that once I moved up a year at school, filling in the week’s number one seemed a rather nerdy thing to do.

However there are still some surprises in the address section at the end of the diary. I had several penpals, two in Germany, one each in Austria, France, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Australia. A schoolfriend was part of a penpal club and she used to get a booklet, similar to a book of raffle tickets. For (I think) 10p you could buy a ticket with the name and address of someone abroad who wanted a UK penpal. Then you could start writing to a total stanger about your guinea pigs, your latest Abba L.P. or your crush on your physics teacher. Most of my penpals fell by the wayside, not least because postage ate up too much of my pocket money! When I look at their names now I wonder where they are. In their attics or filing cabinets, have they stashed away their old diaries with my name and address inside? I’d love to know.

As I close my diary, I see Elton John on the back cover. He has a gappy smile, sunglasses (despite being indoors) and that ubiquitous Radio One sweatshirt.

1978 was a good year for me. So, well done mum for choosing a present all those years ago that still amuses me today!

Tyrell P34 F1 Racing Car

Kim P Moody with more Formula One Racing

JTyrell P34 at Monaco

While Niki Lauda was busy trying to win his second F1 World Championship, Tyrell Racing was producing a rather special F1 racing car. Derek Gardner, their chief designer had produced a car with tiny, 10-inch diameter wheels at the front. The idea was to reduce the frontal area, thus reducing aerodynamic drag.

The problem with the small diameter wheels was the reduced area of contact with the road giving poorer grip when cornering. Gardner’s answer – to give the Tyrell P34 four wheels at the front instead of two!

The Tyrell P34’s first race was the Spanish Grand Prix in 1976, with two cars driven by Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler. Its best ever result was the Swedish Grand Prix with a 1 – 2 finish. Jody Scheckter is still the only driver ever to win a Grand Prix in a six wheeled car.

Schekter left Elf Team Tyrell at the end of 76, and was replaced by Ronnie Peterson for the 1977 season. The car was not as good as in 76, largely due to the lack of tyre development by Goodyear, and did not reappear in 1978. It was a short lived chapter in F1 history. The P34 was one of the two most radical designs to have succeeded in F1. The other was the Brabham BT46B Fancar.

Niki Lauda the Real F1 Hero

Kim P Moody watches Formula One Racing

Well done to Lewis Hamilton for winning the 2008 F1 World Championship, with McLaren, and his ensuing MBE. We won’t mention his friends in the Toyota team …

Niki Lauda leading the 1976 Formula One title raceBut back in the 70s we had real F1 heroes, like Niki Lauda. Lauda’s first F1 race was the Austrian Grand Prix in 1971, driving for the STP March Racing Team. He didn’t get his first race win until the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix when he was driving for Ferrari.

He won his first World Championship in 1975, but his most spectacular year was 1976, again with Ferrari. By the end of the ninth round of the 76 season, the British Grand Prix, Lauda had twice as many points as his nearest rival. His run of success came to a sudden halt on the second lap of round ten, the German Grand Prix, at the long Nurburgring circuit.

Lauda’s car spun off the circuit with a suspected mechanical failure. It hit an embankment, rolled back onto the track and was struck by the Surtees-Ford driven by Brett Lunger. The Ferrari burst into flames and Lauda was trapped. Other drivers ran to his aid and pulled him from the burning wreck. He suffered severe burns to his head, and his lungs were damaged by hot, toxic gases. Although he could stand after the crash, he later fell into a coma. His condition was so bad that the worst was feared and a priest administered the last rites.

Niki Lauda in signature red capLauda returned to the track just six weeks later, having missed only two races, and finished forth in the Italian Grand Prix. James Hunt had reduced Lauda’s lead and won the championship by one point. Because of his determination and courage, Lauda is regarded as one of the bravest people in Formula 1.

Lauda won the championship again in 1977, and retired in 1979 to operate his charter airline. In 1982 he returned to F1 and won his third world title in 1984. Lauda has only ever had sufficient reconstructive surgery to get his eyelids to close, and now he is always seen in public wearing a red cap to cover the scars on his head. At the end of 1985 he retired again and returned to running Lauda Air. In 2001/2002 he managed the ill fated Jaguar F1 team.

Viva! – Vauxhall Viva

Kim P Moody revs things up a little

Viva Vauxhall Viva HA advertismentIt was my pride and joy in the late 70s. The 1972 silver, Vauxhall Viva HC Estate, was a sleek and modern car, just right for the family man.

The Viva was introduced in 1963. The HA was produced until 1966 then replaced with the HB. The last version was the HC, introduced in 1970. Production stopped in 1979 when it was replaced by the Astra. The HC was mechanically similar to the HB but the styling was changed from the sexy ‘Coke bottle’ curves to a sleeker, more modern shape. Interior space was improved, too.

Vauxhall Viva HC 1979One of the first things I did to my Viva was to change the styling. I parked it against a lamp post and put a huge dent in the passenger door. The estate version was great for shifting family stuff, including the dog.

I found that the handling was improved by placing a couple of breeze blocks in the back to aid traction. Cars were still made with the mechanical bits in the right place in the 70s – engine in the front driving the rear wheels – the way the gods intended (ask BMW).

Sporty versions, Magnum and Firenza, were successful in rallies and racing. The were fitted with a distinctive ‘droop snoot’ front that improved their aerodynamics. I have fond memories of the late Gerry Marshall throwing the Dealer Team Vauxhall Firenzas (named ‘Old Nail’ and ‘Baby Bertha’) through the chicane at Thruxton racing circuit – making more use of the grass than was appropriate. Nice style, Gerry! Nice car, Vauxhall!


Silver’s Mum’s Memories Part Two

Silver’s Mum’s (Judith Hubble) memories continued…

Harold Wilson, rarely seen without his pipeIn 1974 we also had a general election. Harold Wilson became PM – Labour – and the IRA bombed ‘Mainland’ Britain. London and Birmingham suffered the most. EEC membership was endorsed by referendum.

Sex Discrimination Act came in. Queen (the band) had their first number one – yay!! Equal Pay Act came in. Slight hic-up change of PM – James Callaghan (still Labour) aerospace and ship building industry nationalised – big mistake!

Again with the strikes, this caused ‘the winter of discontent‘. Margaret Thatcher became PM. The first ‘test tube’ baby was born. First commercial flights of the Anglo-French Concord. Lancaster House ended the illegal rule of Ian Smith in Rhodesia and in 1975 our second child arrived, Andrew.

Personal thoughts – still had bell bottoms, the average cost of a three-bed semi was £4,500, our first mortgage was £28.00 per month. Milk and bread were delivered to the door six days a week and supermarkets weren’t really the place to shop, he he he. Meat came from the butchers and you couldn’t take children out with you for a meal until the mid to late Seventies. If you had kids they stayed at home, with family or babysitters. Much better now.

Silver’s Mum’s Memories Part One

I had a handwritten epistle from Silver’s Mum, Judith Hubble, for Popandcrisps. What I like about this is the way that she talks about personal stuff like marriage and children in between world affairs and prices. I’ve edited only slightly.

Ted Heath outside Number TenIn 1970 we had a general election and changed from Labour to Conservative. Edward Heath became PM during the next four years. Margaret Thatcher as sec of state for education stopped milk in schools. North Sea Oil and Gas were found, the miners striked, Direct Rule from London for Ulster. Idi Amin expelled all Asians from Uganda and most came here via holding a British passport.

We had flying pickets – the state of emergency was called resulting in a three day working week. No petrol, gas and electricity were rationed so that industry could try to maintain output on the factory floor – this was when we had steel mills, coal mines and a manufacturing industry! We joined the common market and lost the pound, shillings and pence. Yes we went decimal in Feb 1971. Jeff and I were married 11th December 1971 and CT Body Scanners were introduced.

In 1974 our first born arrived. Catherine (or as she is now known as Silver) 7 lbs and 4 oz (yep, we still had proper weights then as well).

More from Silver’s Mum later!

Tony Hart and Vision On

Kim P Moody takes Hart

Tony and Pat in Vision OnWith the recent news that Tony Hart, artist and TV presenter, has recently suffered two strokes, my thoughts wandered back to a show he presented, with Pat Keysell, until 1977, Vision On.

The show was specifically for deaf children. Because the content was entertainment and not education there was no speech and very little text. The communication was in vision only. The programme encouraged children to use their imagination as Hart and Keysell created images from all sorts of media. Children submitted their own contributions to ‘The Gallery’.

The programme won the international Prix Jeunesse, and the BAFTA award for Specialised Programmes.

Tony and Pat in Vision Oin the SeventiesTony Hart is also remembered for appearing with Morph, the Plasticine stop-motion character created by Aardman Animations, who later created Wallace and Gromit. Morph celebrated his 30th anniversary in 2007. Hart created the original design for the famous Blue Peter Badge.

Tony Hart was born in 1925 and first worked in television in 1952. He retired from regular TV work in 2001 and has now lost the ability to draw because of his strokes, he says this is “the greatest cross I have to bear”.

Thanks for the hours of entertainment and inspiration, Tony.

Goblins in the Bedroom

Kim P Moody brews a cuppa

Goblin Teasmade at www.teasmade.comI used to have a Goblin next to my bed. It would wake me and make a cup of tea to welcome me to the new day.

No! Not a little man with pointy ears, silly! A Goblin Teasmade. The idea was that it would turn on a small electric kettle to provide freshly boiled water (tea aficionados know that only once-boiled water is good enough for a proper cuppa).

This water would, by means of syphonic action, be poured in to the waiting teapot. Once the teapot was full the pressure switch under the now empty kettle would release, and activate the alarm, et voila! Perfect tea to start the day.

The reality was a little different. I was woken ten minutes early by hissing and spluttering from the wheezing kettle. It would try to force boiling water through a narrow pipe that had become furred, due to the hard water in our region. Health and safety experts would have a field day with the idea of boiling water sloshing about on the bedside table!

It was a real work-up trying to clean the pipe. I tried all sorts of things to remove the calcium deposits,  like pipe cleaners or bent wire, but it was never a real success. The Goblin was soon relegated to the garage, with the other detritus from the throw-away age.

Teasmades are still available, apparently, as retro novelty items – I’ll stick to getting up five minutes early, thanks!

A box of chocolates in a bag

Kim P Moody shares his memories of sweet endeavours

Revels packaging hasn't changed much!Picture an old fashioned corner shop, you know, the one where you were served by the shopkeeper – it’s called service! A small boy goes up to the counter and asks if he could get a box of chocolates, I think it was for his mum, for 6d (that’s 2.5 new pence). The old shopkeeper, with grey moustache and horn rimmed glasses leans forward and says, in a soft Yorkshire accent, “Y’can’t buy a box of chocolates for sixpence, lad.” then after a suitable pause for the boy’s disappointment, “… but y’can buy a bag o’ Revels!”

The shopkeeper was played by the late Derek Guyler (1914-1999), famous for his performance as Norman Potter, the caretaker, in the kids school sitcom, Please Sir! (1968-1972). I suppose the boy must a famous actor by now but I never knew who he was.

Y’can still buy a bag o’ Revels, but not for 6d. They are a variety of chocolate covered sweets, but instead of the identifiable shapes found in the posh boxes, they are all ‘balls’ of roughly the same size – so it’s pot luck as to which flavour you get – bummer if you get the chewy toffee ones, my favourite were the coffee!