Eleven Sweaty Men in a 4-Seat Hillman Husky

disco lightsCan you remember what you did on Saturday nights in 1970? My friends and I were, like a lot of other testosterone and beer fuelled males, heading for the disco. We had a choice of venues; the Top Rank Suite, with its circular dance floor downstairs and the illuminated, multi-coloured glass one upstairs; and the Mecca, Royal Pier Ballroom, famous for its plastic palm trees. There were other, seedier establishments which decent chaps avoided. One week in May it was our turn at the Pier.

Picture of the sort of Hillman Husky – a 1954-1957 model – unfortunately not a '70s modelThere were four of us in the old Hillman Husky and the plan was to meet in the car park at the end of the evening, for the return journey. Colin, the car’s owner, was not renowned for his powers of logical thought, especially after a couple of beers, and he was so proud of his new wheels that he invited everyone he met, to a lift home.

Later that night a crowd gathered outside the disco to see the famed car. When he was satisfied with the packing of the passengers he started the journey home. He had travelled less than a mile along the High Street, just reaching the Bargate when he was flagged down – by the local constabulary. He had forgotten to turn on the lights. It would have helped had he been able to see the dashboard, but with eleven people occupying the four seats it proved impossible.

The astounded policeman did his duty, seven passengers walked home and Colin pleaded guilty at court. It cost him a £13 fine and he got his ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ in the local paper.

The 70s were under way …

Kim P Moody

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Advertising in the Seventies

In 1970 TV advertisements were more like cinema ads with the posh voiceovers and orchestral music. Take a look at this precious collection of eight ads. Want to emigrate to Australia or join the men in mining?! The sinister voiceover for Tufty is worrying as his friend gets hit by a car because he didn’t take his mummy with him to the ice cream van. We don’t get these types of scary voices now unless it’s in the advert about not paying your car tax. I wonder what that says about society/government 40 years on?

For mash get smashBy 1976 ads had changed quite a bit and they were more like short films. ‘The family’ was sacrosanct at this time when most were falling apart and the adverts that we saw on TV were either fictionalised sets of idealised family life or images from the past. This montage of seven ads clearly demonstrates the shift. The burger ad here is a classic example of the short film style of ad. The bird in the BT ad is reminiscent of Roobarb & Custard, a very British cartoon. However, the American influence is obvious with the Yorkie and Corona ads, both British companies. The Smash advert is classic ironic sci-fi in which we all believed that robots would replace us in the future.

The 3p Curly Wurly ad with school kids and Terry Scott playing the school boy role is funny. Very ‘Just William’ and possibly true to some school experiences but not mine! More like 1940’s or 50’s. Tufty was replaced by Charley Says, a difference in animation style and also the funny cat made to make you laugh rather than a fluffy toy style squirrel. But still as sexist with the asking mummy business (plus, can you imagine a kid being called Vera now?).

And just in case anyone hasn’t got lost down memory lane already, what about this Thames TV linkage. Classic!


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Green Cross Code

The Green Cross Code posterThe Green Cross Code was a road safety campaign where Dave Prowse, the bloke who played Darth Vader in Star Wars wore a superhero type suit and told kids how to cross the road safely. This was in the time before there were many special effects so it mattered that he was quite tall. I think he was also the jolly green giant, but can’t find any reference to that even on Wikipedia. So maybe it’s just my bad memory.

The Green Cross Code was a set of rules, one of which was that you weren’t supposed to cross behind parked cars, but to move further down the street to find a place without a parked car so that you could see clearly to cross. Of course, times have changed a lot since this public information film was shot. I imagine that street is now double-parked all the way down with speed bumps dissecting the road.

A number of celebrities would also appear in these films, such as Kevin Kegan (footballer) and Alvin Stardust (rock star). Presumably this was meant to appeal to the agegroup who would swoon over these people. Didn’t do nothing for me as I was only about five at the time! I liked the Green Cross Code man because he had a light-up watch that could transport him out of his little CCTV peep show and into the street. Fab stuff.

Another favourite road safety campaign of the Seventies was Tufty, as seen in this lovely animation. I was in the Tufty Club but only vaguely remember it, badges and the like. I think Tufty taught me how to ride a bike.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Survivors TV Series

DVD cover for Survivors first seriesIn 1975 a British TV series from Terry Nation and the BBC tackled the issue of the collapse of society after a worldwide virus. Survivors became a cult classic and is still available now on DVD, having been reissued in 2003-2005. It was also adapted into a book. Alys my partner loved it in repeats, but I’d never heard of it until a year ago. We borrowed the DVD set from a friend and became addicted to it when the Lost season was over.

Survivors screen shots showing initial plague laboratory

The initial premise is that Abby, the lead character – a woman forsooth! How modern are we? – is travelling the English-Welsh border looking for her son who has been in a boarding school. She meets people along the way and some come with her (most notably Greg) and some try to keep her with them, either by persuasion or force. There are some harrowing scenes of the destruction and what is left after most people are dead, but the nature of the drama is psychological, suspense and leaving things to the viewer’s imagination. There is little reliance on gore for horror. The introduction to the program every episode shows how the plague started by accidental infection in a laboratory.

I have for a long time been attracted to stories with ‘everyone else is dead, only us left’ storylines, more technically referred to as apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and have started writing several novels in this genre. There are plenty of films and books to draw inspiration from, and the Seventies Survivors is one of the better.

DVD cover for Survivors first seriesNow it transpires that Survivors is being remade, thank goodness still British or it would reek of American sentimentalism (it might still, I have yet to see). Early reports suggest that there is a lesbian storyline (hurrah!) but that the character in question dies (boo). Also pleased to note that the actor who plays Martha Jones in Dr Who will be in this new Survivors. I wonder if the Beeb are hoping for the same level of success with Survivors as they had in resurrecting The Doctor (Terry Nation was the creator of the Daleks after all). As far as I can tell, only the name, the virus and some of the character profiles are the same as the original. It will be an interesting comparison to make.

One shift in attitude to note is that the Seventies series focussed on the despair and the various pockets of survivors were often quite dysfunctional. According to Wikipedia the new series will focus on hope and humanity and will be more optimistic. So perhaps we will see some sickly American influence in our hard-hitting British drama after all. “This is in an attempt to make it less depressing to watch as the kind of disaster depicted has moved out of the realm of pure science fiction.” Interesting to note that people think that we are more likely to have a global event now than before – considering we’ve been under the nuclear threat for decades. What else do they know that we don’t? I don’t think it ever was ‘pure science fiction’ as these stories have often been about a very real, immediate danger.

I wonder if they’re going to bring back Blake’s 7?


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Jaws

Poster for JawsI wasn’t allowed to watch Jaws as it was too scary. In fact I don’t like to watch it now for the same reason. Yes I’m a wimp, I’m scared of Scooby Doo. The thing about Jaws was that it stopped you wanting to swim in the sea, which we often did when on holiday in North Wales. (God forbid I would ever swim up there now, I think that I must have been immune to the cold as a child.) Even the posters and trailers for Jaws had me quaking.

I have watched the film several times in the last decade, since it’s been on the TV quite a bit. I’m interested in the cinematography and I like Richard Dreyfuss as an actor (loved him in Close Encounters which I’m sure I’ll be discussing it here at some point). However I do have to admit that although I know the narrative very well there are certain scenes that are more fuzzy in my memory due to my face being in a cushion at the time that they’re shown. There is the bit where the man is in the cage underwater and the other bit on the boat where someone has his leg bitten off.

Jaws is a great film for Film Studies students as it marks a transition in cinematography and special effects. I am especially interested in the way tension is built up and the music. Though it might be seen as quite clunky now with our cgi stuff that we have, the use of the mechanical shark was cutting edge in the Seventies. And the actors had to actually act to make it all believable. I think that’s why it’s such a good film compared to some of the action films you get today, and so popular still.

We used to play Jaws in the playground at school, which consisted of holding your hand above your head to represent the fin and imitating the music. The unmusical among us would do this by going ‘duh-duh… duh-duh… de-de-de-de-de-de-de-de-DUH-DUH!!!’ And then you would run around after other children trying to catch them.

In 2005, the Jaws 30th Anniversary DVD was released. Apparently Jaws 2 was really crap. I shouldn’t imagine there’ll be a 30th Anniversary edition of that this year.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

A Seventies Halloween

Yes, the time has come again for my customary gripe about how children nowadays have a much better deal of it than I did but how ironically this means that their lives are actually impoverished. I could give it a miss and you could take it as read, but no I’m not going to. Cue the violins.

apple bobbingWe didn’t have sweets at Halloween. We didn’t have plastic skeletons and light-up witches and spend our evening going door to door begging in our supermarket dress-up costumes. Oh no. We had apple bobbing, homemade costumes which then got recycled for the guy a few days later, and baked potatoes on the bonfire.

We didn’t do pumpkins, we hollowed out swedes. These took hours as the flesh is so hard, but they were more substantial. We would put a candle inside and they smelled fabulous as they slowly cooked.

supermarket at halloweenI first heard of trick or treating when I was about nine, and it was introduced by the TV news as a form of neighbourhood annoyance. Apparently this awful behaviour had been introduced from America (the shock) and involved youths demanding money with menaces. If you didn’t pay them then they’d smash your windows or set fire to your bins. Needless to say I was horrified years later when I met people who encouraged their children to indulge in this criminality.

Watching ET when I was twelve was quite confusing, as I had no idea why there were children and adults dressing up and wandering around the town carrying sweets. I thought it must be some sort of street party.

It absolutely amazes me that in the age we live, some people still encourage their children to go knocking on strangers’ doors asking for treats. It also disgusts me that there is no space for childhood imagination and inventiveness in the racks of bought costumes and pumpkin buckets.

I suppose the main reason I get so hacked off by all of this is a similar reason that Christians are fed up with the commercialisation of Christmas. Samhain is my main religious festival and as such it is sacred to me. I can give a bit of leeway and I have a sense of humour but there’s only so far that I can be pushed.

Okay, rant over. Normal service will be resumed next week.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Dangerous Playgrounds

playing on the monkey barsWhen I was a kid in the seventies we went to the park on our own and played on the climbing frame, monkey bars and swings however we wanted to. There was a concrete floor and if you bashed your head on it then it was your own stupid fault. Under the big climbing frame in our park was a sandpit, to catch you in case you fell. Good thinking on the part of the park designers. Except that amongst the sand were large quantities of cat and dog crap, smashed glass, rubbish and bricks.

Our mothers didn’t write to the council and complain that the playground was dangerous, they just put stinging TCP onto our heads and told us to stop crying. Well, at least that was the case for some of us. Obviously some parents did write to the council to complain or we wouldn’t have the spongy floor and safety-conscious climbing experiences that are the playgrounds we get today.

When we were bored with the playground, we would go up to the building site, which wasn’t fenced off. I remember playing house in a half-built real house and nicking boxes of nails to nail into a tree so I could climb it. Ah, those were the days!


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room