Changing The World

Did you ever think you would help to change the world?

I did.

I was almost sixteen years old, and reading a lot of books. And I was also watching the news. Lots of things were happening.

*The Prague Spring.
*The Vietnam War.
*Civil Rights Protests at some American universtities.
*Protests at universities in Japan.
*Student protests in Poland.
*Demonstration against the Vietnam war in London.
*Baader-Meinhof terror bombings in Germany.
*Martin Luther King Jnr assassinated in America.
*Student riots and civil unrest in Paris.
*Student demonstrations in Yugoslavia.
*Robert Kennedy assassinated in America.
*State of emergency in Malaya following a Communist insurgency.
*Demonstrations against the military government of Brazil.
*Women’s Liberation protests in America and Britain.
*The ‘Troubles’ begin in Northern Ireland.
*Black Power salutes are seen at the Olympic Games.
*Israel attacks Lebanon.

Yes, a big list, and all in one year. And that is only a selection.

So, the young and committed me decides that the world is changing. The old order is being challenged, and I want to be a part of that. I am going to look back in old age, remembering how the younger generation in 1968 changed the world.

First step. I join the Young Communist League. At the time, this was the under-18 section of the British Communist Party. I go to the first meeting and I am overwhelmed by the bureaucracy and lack of enthusiasm. At another meeting, someone turns up with a deactivated WW2 rifle, and shows us how it works. He tells us that we will need to know how to use weapons when we ‘take to the streets and seize power’. We are going to sweep away the aristocrats and big-business millionaires, ensuring a fairer society for everyone in Britain.

I look around the room. There are eleven of us at the meeting. As keen as I am, I think we might be slightly outnumbered by the British Army.

After that, I don’t go to many meetings. Mainly because my parents moved us out to Kent, and it was too far to travel.

Fast forward to me at eighteen. I am working now, and my membership has been moved up to the adult section of the British Communist Party. But most of the time I am too busy to go to meetings. I have a car, a regular girlfriend, and almost forget about politics for some years. I stop paying my subscriptions eventually, and I am no longer a Party member.

By 1977 I am married, and my first wife and I both join the local branch of The Labour Party. There is a Labour government, but it is led by one of the rather stuffy moderates, Jim Callaghan. We go to some meetings, put some leaflets through letterboxes. But in middle-class Wimbledon, it is all very comfortable. Nobody talks about changing the world, they are more interested in the better schools for their kids, and local issues like rubbish collection.

And they don’t really like the idea of any poor people living in the same street.

Then I heard about the Militant Tendency. This was a far-left group within the Labour Party. I was still paying my subscriptions, so I joined that group too. This took me back to my original ideas in 1968. We would change the Labour Party by working within the structure. Get back to the Socialist roots. Support the working classes, tax the rich, and spend the money on promoting social equality.

Maybe I could be part of changing the world after all, but I was going to have to settle with starting in England.

It didn’t work of course. The newspapers caught on, and vilified the leaders and organisers of The Militant Tendency, calling them revolutionaries and Communists in disguise. (Both actually true.)

It seemed I was going to have to be content with my role as a union organiser in The London Ambulance Service, where I had already earned the occasional nickname of ‘Stalin’.

Besides, in 1986, the Labour Party expelled me as a member, along with everyone else associated with Militant Tendency. The Communist Party had split into pro-Soviet and anti-Soviet groups, and I had nowhere to go. My politics were old hat. The Sovet bloc was fracturing, and the hard left was splitting into ever more smaller parties. None of those held any attraction to me.

Now I sit here, seventy years old and in a reflective mood, on a very hot day in Beetley. I left my last Trade Union in 2012, and I live in the heartland of right-wing Conservatism. The unions have lost most of their power, and many people work for minimum wage on no-hours contracts. Some cannot pay their fuel bills, or put enough food on the table for their families. The rich are obscenely richer, and the government is run by heartless capitalists who think it is amusing to grind down the working classes into a life of despair.

Change the world? Me? That’s a laugh.

More Of ‘My’ London

I found some more old photos of the area I lived in until I was 15 years old.

Aylwin Girls’ Grammar School Bermondsey, late 1950s. My cousin went there. It is now called The Harris Academy.

Boys window shopping at a toy shop. Elephant and Castle area, 1960.

Work clothes and overalls for sale. East Street Market, 1960s.

An early self-service supermarket. Elephant and Castle, 1960s.

Some residents of Reverdy Road Bermondsey with their milkman, 1970.

St James’s Church, Bermondsey. My parents married in this church in 1947.

The Norwegian Church, Rotherhithe. Originally for sailors from the nearby docks to use. Still a church, and also a centre for the culture of Norway.

More Of My London Memories In Photos

I managed to find an interesting selection of photos covering the period from 1957-1966. At the time, I was aged 5-14, but not much changed during those nine years.

Small boys collecting Train Numbers at a mainline station, late 1950s. Hard to believe now, but that was a ‘big thing’ up until the late 1960s. I did it a few times with friends in the school holidays.

People queuing to buy groceries from an open air shop, 1957.

‘Glamour girls’ being used to promote cycling as healthy, early 1960s.

The Supremes (with Diana Ross) taking a photo opportunity with some rag and bone men, mid 1960s.

A respectable young couple on an underground train, early 1960s.

A gang of ‘Teddy Boys’, late 1950s. These fans of Rock and Roll music were known for their violence and street fighting.

Mods on their Italian scooters, mid 1960s.

Soho, 1966. A ‘Sex Shop’and Striptease show combined.

Soho, 1966. A ‘Sex Cinema’.

Soho, 1966. A Strip Club.

The famous ‘2 i’s’ coffee bar, Soho. Many pop stars of the day were discovered there, including the young Cliff Richard. (Photographed in 1966)

Nostalgia In Photos: London’s East End, 1960s

I found this series of photos online. They were all taken in the East End of London from 1965-1967. Most look like they could have been taken twenty years earlier.

A woman outside her Nissen Hut, 1967. Those huts were supposed to be temporary accommodation during the war, but she was still living in hers in 1967.

One of her neighbours, an elderly man. He had also been living there since 1945.

A mini-skirted school crossing lady, in 1966. She took her baby along as there was nobody to care for it while she worked. Those women were called ‘Lollipop Ladies’, and still exist today. There is one helping schoolchildren cross a busy road in Dereham, the nearest town to Beetley.

Bomb damage from the Blitz on an East London Estate. It was 1965, twenty years after the end of the war. Rebuilding had yet to be completed in this area.

David Bailey, the famous photographer. He is pictured here with his girlfriend at the time, around 1967. He was living in a run-down part of East London, what we used to call ‘slumming it’. It had become trendy to live in what most regarded to be poor quality housing, or slums.

Two old ladies chatting outside a shop, 1967. They look more like they are living in 1867.

A model shows off the latest 1960s fashion in Stratford Market, 1966. The onlookers seem to be enjoying themselves.

Little girls out playing with their dolls and prams, 1967. No sign of any supervsising parents.

London Nostalgia In Photos: Street Markets

Pets were often sold on the streets. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen now.

Club Row Market. East London, late 1950s.

Petticoat Lane Market. East London, early 1960s.

It was also possible to buy more exotic animals, like this little monkey, or large parrot.
Petticoat Lane Market, early 1960s.

Lambeth Walk General Market. South London, early 1960s.

Pearly Kings and Queens dancing ‘The Lambeth Walk’ in Lambeth Walk Market. Late 1950s.

Lewisham Market, South London. 1967.

East Street Market, South London. Late 1960s.

New Caledonian Antiques Market. South London, late 1960s.

Chapel Street Market, North London. Having corns removed in the street, 1959.

Brick Lane Market, East London. This photo is from 1983, and shows how little had changed.

Yet More Nostalgic Photos

I cannot seem to get enough of these memories!

A seafood seller outside a London pub, 1960s.

A man selling live eels from a market stall. London, 1960.

A mussel stall. London, 1956.

A grocer’s shop selling fresh fruit and vegetables. 1969.

A bus conductor on his platform, 1967. (Buses no longer have conductors.)

The view on the top deck of a double decker bus, 1960s.

Queuing for the ice-cream man, 1969.

A carefully-posed interior shot of a London Underground train, 1972.

Using a lamp-post as a swing, 1960.

A Ford Capri parked outside a Wimpy Bar. South London, 1970s. (I loved Wimpy Bars, and once owned a Ford Capri.)

More London Nostalgia In Photos

Mini-Skirted girls, late 1960s.

Standard Underground Train interior, 1967.

The ABC Cinema Elephant and Castle in my youth.

The same cinema, sadly ‘redeveloped’ later.

The marvellous interior of Gants Hill Underground Station, East London.

The Art Deco exterior of Southgate Underground Station, North London.

Ealing Common Underground Station, with a ‘retro’ restored tube train dating from 1938.

Living in the last two houses in the street. East London, 1971.

East India Docks, 1971.

More Childhood Memories In Photos

Free school milk.

To help combat vitamin deficiencies, school children were given free milk to drink at school. In 1968, the free milk for chidren over eleven was withdrawn, and in 1979, it was withdrawn from children over seven. To be the ‘milk monitor’ for the day was a prized job, as you could drink the extra milk declined by some of your classmates.

Sweet Shops.

Dedicated sweet shops could be found everywhere. You could buy sweets for as little as ‘4 for a Penny’, and the choice was huge. The sweets would be weighed, and put into little white paper bags. I still remember the wonderful smell inside those shops.

The Coalman.

When I was very young, our coal was delivered on a horse and cart. The arrival of the coalman was greeted with excitement by gardeners, as they would shovel up any horse manure for use in their back gardens. By the time I was around nine years old, the horses were being replaced by lorries that could hold a greater weight of coal.

The Milkman.

Home deliveries of milk were also done by horses, and that went on well into my youth. Once again, expectant gardeners would be waiting hopefully with their shovels and buckets.

Rag and Bone Man.

These men were also known as ‘Totters’. They used horses well into the 1980s, and some still do. They accepted any old clothes, rags, or pieces of cloth. Also animal bones. The rags would be sold to companies that recycled them into clothing, and the bones were sold to factories for use in fertilizers.

The Mangle.

Every household had a mangle, used to remove excess water from washed clothing and bedding before it was hung out to dry. I used to help my grandmother with hers, by turning the handle that operated the rollers. The one in this photo appears to have its own electric motor, as the lady is not turning a handle.

Two Balls Up The Wall.

In my childhood, this was the most popular game for a child that had nobody to play with, especially girls.

Tower Bridge ‘Beach’.

With London being so far from the coast, (around 55 miles) residents made the best of what was on offer, the banks of the River Thames at low tide. This old photo shows sand has been added to the riverbank, but most of the time it was just mud.

Cycling Safety.

Once you learned how to ride a bicycle, you could opt for Cycling Safety and Proficiency classes that were held in the school playground on certain days. The instructor was usually a local policeman.

Kids Playing In The 1960s: Photos By Shirley Baker

I found these photos online, taken by Shirley Baker. They show children playing on the streets of Manchester and surrounding areas in the 1960s. No Internet, no video games or mobile phones, just making the best of simple things.

Three young girls on the pavement – Manchester, 1965
Three very characterful young girls on a Manchester street. The girl on the left is wearing a pair of very over-sized high heels and is clutching a huge white handbag. The middle girl is wearing an expression of pure contentment as she leans jauntily with legs crossed against a window sill and the girl on the right (also wearing some far-too-large stilletto heels) has a mucky face and a flat expression.
Photograph by Shirley Baker, images supplied by Mary Evans picture library

A little girl with her doll’s pram. Looks like she is wearing her dad’s shoes!

Happiness is a skipping rope, and someone to hold the other end of it.

Chalk, and a dry pavement. No electronic toys required.

If there is no park nearby, just hang an old well-used swing on the door frame.

Children laugh out loud at a Punch & Judy Show at Wilmslow, Cheshire. One young lad has come dressed as the Policeman in a plastic policeman’s helmet while the girl in the foreground wearing a headscarf, enjoys her rocket-shaped ice lolly
Photograph by Shirley Baker, images supplied by Mary Evans picture library

A boy on his bike racing past smaller kids playing on the street.

These kids had almost nothing, but their happiness shines through. Simpler times, healthier lives.

Age Test

I saw a nostalgia photo-post online, and it made me smile. If you remember all these things, you are as old as me, or close enough.

We had this same model on top of our Christmas tree every year. My mum’s pride and joy.

The ubiquitous school clocks, and the pencil sharpeners I used every day.

My first cassette recorder. How I loved that!

8-Track music tapes. When I bought a car that came with an 8-track player, I had to go out and buy some to play as I drove along.

The first camera I owned in my teens. An Instamatic with flashcube!

The machine for making card transactions. The flimsy paper was rubbed over your card placed in the carriage, and you got a copy as thin as a tissue.

Halcyon days!