Saturday, 11 April 2009

Diary of an Adolescent, 1953.

I recently rediscovered my diary of 1953. An exciting find for me as I am engaged in an autobiographical work concerning 1945 to 1959. (I hope to publish as a weekly blog from November, the month of my seventieth birthday, God willing.)
The diary is scruffy, mundane and contains information relevant to 1953. A dog licence cost 7/6d, car tax £12-10 shillings, a marriage licence 10/- and a wireless licence £1-0-0. Plus Kenneth Stevens was 4ft 6 inches tall and weighed 5st 3 lbs!
It contains a multitude of spelling mistakes. (Who would have thought I would go on to teach English.) It is not exactly Samuel Pepys, nevertheless it is an interesting insight into the life of a 1950's thirteen year old village boy.
My life seemed to focus around football, playing and football, watching. The watching being Derby County at the Baseball Ground, cost 6d to stand in the 'Boys Corner'. (Curiously never referred to as 'the Boys and Girls Corner'.) So keen was I that every Derby County result was faithfully recorded. I also played cricket and hockey at secondary school and attended Long Eaton open air swimming baths whatever the weather. The latter a hated occupation which taught me nothing. I left school at seventeen a non swimmer and learnt to swim within weeks in the local canal.
My existence was totally self centred, oblivious in the main to the world beyond, though there are in fact very occasional references to the outside world. I recorded on January 28th. 'Bentley was hanged at nine o'clock. Five hundred people booed and jeered outside the prison.' (For some reason I have had a lifelong fascination with murders and murderers.)
10th March simply records 'Mr Stalin was buried yesterday.' The 25th March entry informs 'Queen Mary died yesterday' whilst June 12th reveals 'Les Graham was killed'. (He was a famous rider in the TT Races in the Isle of Man.) An early indication of my future interest in motorbikes. Jan 27th reminds 'The Empress of Canada is still burning.'
Plus there are references to the wireless, television and very occasional trips to the local theatre, courtesy of Aunt Ida from Derby. Including mention of Carol Levis on the wireless and Henry Hall, Jack Watson and Jimmy Jewell on television; plus Wee Georgie Wood on stage at the Hippodrome. (We had no television at home neither would my mother have been able to afford theatre trips.)
But in the main thirteen year old interest was, in a way amazingly simplistic compared to today's computerised adolescent pursuits. Jan 'Ran out of stamp hinges.' Feb 'My bike mudguard rattled'; 'nearly finished an egg stand in woodwork.' 'Stuck photos in album.' April 'Made a caravan from Weetabix.' 'Football case split so played with dinkies.'
Times were austere. 'Mam has run out of sugar so we are using icing sugar' but we were not unhappy. Small things amused, the simplest of events gave pleasure. 'British Legion party. Had a biro as present.' At Easter 'Had some pontefracts from mam.'
The austerity of the times and in particular my families existence was reflected in periodic mention of food. Of the Sunday School party, no mention of activities, only that we had a 'Good tea.' And a highlight of the year was undoubtedly the Celanese Gala Day and free tickets from friend Eric's mum. (Eric's father was a Celanese employee.) The page entry triumphantly reads. 'Had free tea. (the word free was underlined) Mars Bar, chocolates, 2 chocolate wafers, ice cream and pop.' A feast indeed!
A love of animals is evident throughout the diary. January 'Saw a frog under the ice and rescued it.' (I wonder if it required rescuing) Jan 9 'Hope my tortoise is still hibernating' and April 'Found tortoise upside down. A broken back leg I think.' June tells us 'Cat caught it's tail in the door'. There are also references to 'poor old Benji' and later 'Grannie buried him.' (To this day I am not sure as to exactly who or what Benji was, presumably a family dog or cat.)
But probably the most revealing was the the entry for the 3rd January. 'Foxhunt at culvert. Fox went down hole. No terrier so they could not get fox. I was glad.' (But it always was a myth that the fox hunting debate was a country versus town issue. We village children may have followed the hunt but that is not to say we liked their arrogance and cruelty.)
Being country bred our pursuits reflected our rural existence. Never more so than our knowledge of bird life around us. We were avid egg collectors, but taught to take one egg only from a nest. 'Found starlings egg.' 'Found six birds nests.' 'Linnet in Rice's hedge. Three eggs.' ' Found new nest up Muddy Lane. Bird small. Black head. Hissed. What is it?'
I attended school though seldom with enthusiasm apart from a love of sport. 6th Jan 'New teacher with red hair. (Miss Lockwood) She is very strict. Personally I do not like her.' But oh for the fickleness of the young. 9th Jan 'I am beginning to like Miss Lockwood more than at the beginning.' Homework's were numerous and often completed on the bus journey to school. The finished articles were often joint efforts. 'Drewitt borrowed my English book.' And if school was tolerated rather than enjoyed there are memories that I cherish. It taught me a love of reading and instilled a thirst for knowledge. The diary faithfully records 'Went to the library and took out Biggles Flies South and Biggles in Borneo.' And a later entry, 'Have now read Biggles Breaks the Silence, Biggles in Spain, Biggles Goes to War and Biggles Flies the Swastika.' (Coupled with a penchant for fervently collecting Turf cigarette cards it is small wonder school studies so often took a back seat.)
School also provided only my second trip to the seaside to date, a camping holiday for underprivileged children in Mundesley, Norfolk, which I in my ignorance spelt Norfok. We visited Cromer and I faithfully recorded that 'Cromer is posh but not much of a place' and that 'I only spent one and sixpence today.' Not the most exciting of times. 'We had another sing song' and 'My turn to wash up' but the memories nevertheless will stay forever.
So the summer continued. I recorded visits to town (on one occasion walking there, a distance of over four miles), visiting the museum and buying stinking scent. Plus friend Bob 'Pinched Woolies egg but put it back.' How typical were we I wonder.
Life was for living. Occasionally I envied others but in the main I 'lived the life'. Thinking profound thoughts was for others. Perhaps thinking is an adult occupation.
An unimportant diary but an important part of my life. Even more so in that the diary finishes abruptly on Sunday the 30th 0f August. On the 8th of September I arrived home to be told that my mother had died. (see blog dated 12th December) My life would never be the same again.
What do you remember from the first of your teenage years?


Anonymous said...

Hi Ken, (not grumpy at all) thanks for your visit to my blog, always enjoy making new acquaintances. How very interesting to find a diary from back then. How times will have changed considerable since. I too visited Cromer about 16 years ago, stayed in a caravan near the coast.

I read you like Northumberland and was a farm labourer. A good mix to have!

Bye for now, CJ xx

Robert said...

Hi Ken, I wrote you a long reply to your comment on my blog (thanks, as always).

I can't remember anything specific of importance in my early teenage years. They were, in my memory, mostly unhappy and full of testosterone-fuelled frustration. I was suffering from a severely poor self image at that time. I guess that, from the above, you can see why I don't revisit that era often.

Rodders said...

I remember when I was 11, last year at primary school, we went on a school trip to Walsingham, in Norfolk. A catholic thing. We also visited Norwich & Cromer. The 'scariest thing' for me was I had already hit puberty, and was so scared of getting an erection changing into my pyjamas, or the other spotting my hair down below! The naivity of being a youngster! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Smashing post!

I have a "Girl's Chrystal" pocket diary from a similar period.

Entries are sparse but the first one reads, "Daddy is rotten".

Wonder why I was cross with him.


Troy said...

Loved this posting. My memories of early teens (late 1960's) are unrequited love and sending my first Valentine card. Being in a pretend pop band (with homemade instruments). Arguments about growing my hair long. Holidays in Scotland and staying with my grandparents at Filey (Yorkshire).
I don't think I ever made a caravan out of Weetabix (must have missed that Blue Peter).

Eddie Bluelights said...

Hi Ken, Loved the post. You were very disciplined in your diary entries - mine were non-existent I am afraid other than, "Got up!", "Mucked about!", "Had breakfast", "Had dinner", "Lit a banger!". Hardly the sort of thing to make the literary world jump to its feet. Now I've finished my play I will have more time to visit. Best wishes. Eddie

laurie said...

and you really do have to like a teenager who refers to him as "Mr. Stalin.

Marian Dean said...

Here is where I regret not being a hoarder. I am a continual "throw out" sort and love a good trip to the tip. Your post makes me regret this trait. The only thing I ever kept (and still have) are a couple of love letters from my first boy friend in 1956. I too used to keep diaries, but they are all gone now. It was very interesting to read what you had written in yours as mine were very similar as we were of the same ilk and age group. (but I was a lassie from Lancashire)
I look forward to reading this autobiographical work when it is finished.
Keep up the good posts.
Love Granny

Nota Bene said...

If only life was still so simple

Anonymous said...

How lovely to find your diary. I used to keep a diary...but they've all been lost....mind you just as well, I'm sure I would cringe if I read them back.

DJ Kirkby said...

I wrote a whole book about my childhood and teenage years. I am looking forward to reading your blog excerpts, it already seems endearing and the bit about why your diary entries stopped brought a lump to my throat. x

Kit Courteney said...

What a lovely post!

I'm sure I have never read the line 'Made a caravan from Weetabix.' And I can't imagine I ever will again.

My early teenage years were in the early/mid 80s... The overwhelming feeling for me at the time was absolute happiness. Of having very little money but of having everything I could possibly want. Books, mostly. I was a massive Enid Blyton fan and devoured the 'Malory Towers' series over and over again. Boys did nothing for me but books.... Yes!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

crystal jigsaw
Hi Thanks for visiting. You might like my blog dated 39th Sept re Northumberland.

Hi Interesting. Our past shapes our development, for better or worse. (Havent forgotten about video)

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Hi thanks for visiting. Amazing but I remember the feeling!

Not Waving

Hi. My youngest daughter used to leave notes with her rights and demands all over the house!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Hi Oh to be young again! I have nearly finished an autobiographical work and found the 16-19 bit the most painful.

Hi Funnily enough i have found no other diary. Am going to have a good read of your play. I havent forgotten.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Hi Strange, the Mister bit. The way we were brought up?

Hi I must admit i have found no love letters. there again perhaps I was a late developer!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Nota Bene
Hi How very true!

Hi I too cringe but its the only life we have. Thanks for visiting.

DJ Kirby

Hi We have no control over events, clever though we think we are at times.By the way, people like you who write professionally are more of an influence on the likes of me than you realise.

Kit Courteney
Hi Do you ever write down your memories before they fade into obscurity. Something to leave behind for posterity?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.