6th Feb 2019
I was born in 1973 and was fortunate to grow up in a time where it felt great to be young. Long before the digital revolution but in an age where the growth of electronics and computers was emerging and exciting. Life was more than social media, it was real. We climbed trees, played out, had grazed knees and often went round to our friends houses. We have memories filled with fun and adventure.. Of course, that may all be viewed through rose tinted glasses but whilst we have broad memories of those years lots of the detail has been lost in time..
The internet is full of lists of items that were great from past decades, so I thought I would share my memories of those things that we all lived with but may have forgotten..
Let’s take journey through my childhood home and remember some great things and some that were not so great..
In the bathroom we had the Izal medicated toilet paper which was a truly horrible experience and to this day remains something I have never really understood. I think this style of paper was also found in public toilets of the time. The original Matey bubble bath stood proudly on the side of our avocado coloured bath which also provided a home for the Brut soap on a rope. There would be an array of aftershave including Hai Karate, Old Spice and Denim, a nice skin tonic after you’d had a shave with a Philips triple headed electric shaver, definitely not the best a man can get. In the later half of the 1980’s you may well have had some Insignia deodorant and shower gel and the early Lynx fragrances, now very collectable.
In the airing cupboard that was shared with a lagged hot water tank were piles of sheets including the classic candy stripe, warm and comfy brushed cotton sheets. There would also be a selection of blankets and bedspreads, long before the days of duvets or continental quilts. Some of the blankets I remember were so heavy, coarse and itchy they were almost impossible to sleep under. I associate blankets and sheets with a light small of mothballs, a really distinctive smell and one which lingered around my whenever I visited Grandparents.
In the bedroom there was the classic Goblin Teasmade or the clock radio. I also have memories of those alarm clocks with the numbers that you could see in the dark. It may be an urban myth but I think some of these numbers were radioactive because of the paint used. Curtains and wallpapers were bold in design and colour or you may have had that wood chip wallpaper with bumps on that you couldn’t help but pick at.There were also plenty of electrical grooming items at this time, the curling tongs that were plugged in and left to heat up ready to burn an unsuspecting foot or the set of heated rollers and pins just asking to be played with.
If you were young you may have had posters on your wall of your favourite pop star, film or TV programme. The amount of quality music, films, television and culture at this time provided a vast array of interesting magazines and books, which was the only way to stay connected to your favourites. There really is too much to list here but reading old editions of Look-In and Radio Times, amongst others, provides some insight into how lucky we were. It is odd that there was more quality and choice with only 3 analogue television channels and far fewer radio stations to enjoy.
Radio was still very popular when I was young, you would often see really big old valve radio sets in sitting rooms, such a warm and rich sound. As time ticked towards the later part of the 20th century portable transistor radios became more popular with manufacturers like Roberts, Decca and Hacker coming to the fore. These sets are often still working today and are certainly built to last. Soon manufacturers including Sony, Grundig, Panasonic, Philips and Aiwa were producing small portable transistor radios with integrated cassette tape recorders, long before the Walkman these portable sets were chunky but looked great and provided a brilliant option for listening on the move. Before the arrival of the cassette tape we had the 8-track cartridge and of course reel to reel players. Reel to reel tape had been around since the 1950’s, it is always worth looking for old reels of tape in the hope that it could contain some gems of radio. In most cases these contain classical music but you may strike it lucky and find something unique. It is often said that tape reels were more reliable than C60 or C90 cassette tapes but I don’t recall many issues with chewed up tapes.
In pride of place on our sideboard was our Sanyo Stereo System with AM/FM Radio, Cassette Tape Recorder and Record Player, this probably didn’t produce the best sound but it provided hours of fun for me, listening to the radio and my small children’s record collection. The best thing however was being able to make tape recordings of myself. It’s amazing how something that was done for fun in 1977 is now a unique insight into my childhood at that time. I told some really odd jokes!
Home entertainment at this time was emerging, colour television sets appeared in the early 1970s but many homes still had a black and white set. It is incredible today how large but lightweight our televisions are. In past decades a TV would weigh over 15kg and be set in a wooden cabinet. There were very few remote controls, some sets may have had a wired remote control but the majority were push button and in some cases you had to manually tune the set with a tuning control.That didn’t really pose a problem with the limited choice of channels available. One memory that sticks with me is the static crackle you would get when you pressed your hand against the screen, this static also attracted dust like nothing else. A phrase now lost is when you were told to wait for the set to warm up when you switched it on, this applied to old cased valve radio sets too and my there was some voltage going through them!!
I loved our Video Recorder, it was rented from Visionhire, I think the alternative was Radio Rentals. In this era high cost household electrical items were rented rather than bought outright. I always looked longingly at high spec machines but they were just so expensive. This was the early 1980’s and we had a Panasonic VHS machine, of course domestic home video had been around since the early 1970s with the Philips N1500 machines and latterly the N1700 but these were astronomically expensive. In the late 1970s we also saw Video 2000 and the birth of the Beta format or Betamax as it is more broadly known. With VHS and Beta leading the market we saw the beginning of the home rental market for films and some television titles. A trip to the video shop was a real treat where you could choose your film for rental, I loved the old book style cases that you got the tape in to take home. If you were lucky you would also be able to choose some crisps and sweets to go with it.
There have been many confectionary items that have been forgotten, my favourite was the Texan Bar. I thought they were huge and to me it was a wonderful bar of chewy caramel with a chocolate covering, lovely… Of course there were loads of other sweets that have now changed names or become unavailable. We had Spangles, Double Agents, Pacers, Mintola and Toffo’s. There were Opal Fruits, Marathon and Treets which have all changed names. Lots of sweets were made by Rowntree’s which has since become part of Nestle. If you take a look at a Christmas Selection Box from the 1970’s the contents are very different to what you will see today
It wasn’t just sweets that have changed, we used to have Tudor Crisps that have now long gone, there was also the packet of plain Smith’s crisps that came with the small blue sachet of salt along with such delights as Farmer Brown’s Snacks and Bitza Pizza produced by Walker’s. I also have vague memories of Hedgehog Flavour Crisps but I must confess I never saw these. As a child I was also a big fan of Heinz Noodle Doodle’s. These were tinned spaghetti shapes in a tomato sauce and were advertised by the Noodle Doodle Man, this was special to me because the Noodle Doodle Man was voiced by Jon Pertwee who was one of my favourite actors to have played Doctor Who. I still own the Noodle Doodle song on record to this day..
I wonder what memories kids of today will have..????
This is a brief music file used as a Quiz on BBC Local Radio in 1983. It contains just 7 brief excerpts from some famous ABBA songs.. Can you get all 7 song titles after one play??
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