The Pace Of Change – Part II

So, fancy a new car for less than £1,000 or a television for under £60? Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not a trick – just how much these things were being advertised for back in 1963.

The newspaper where I work two days a week runs a ’50 Years Ago Today’ column and today I had the job of going through the old archives to find some suitable stories.

Tito and queenThe news was interesting – in part for the historical details. There was mention of President Tito of Yugoslavia driving through the area on his way back from a UN meeting and local rows about whether fluoride should be added to the Hampshire’s water supplies.

What was also interesting was how similar much of the news was to what goes in the paper today. Some people have a rose-tinted view of life in the past but judging by the stories in the paper it wasn’t that different.

Okay, no mention of drugs but otherwise still plenty of the usual local newspaper staples – theft, drink-driving and petty squabbles.

Even at a national level I found familiar themes. The New Forest’s Conservative Member of Parliament warning that the Government needed to take action to keep mortgage costs down because young couples were being priced out of the property market. (We certainly haven’t solved that one!)

Singer VogueWhat I found just as fascinating, though, were the adverts. Back in November last year, I wrote a post called The Pace Of Change, mostly talking about how technology had changed in my lifetime.

Looking through the newspaper adverts from 1963 was weird. This was two years before I was born but it was like a world out of a book or film.

The new Singer Vogue – yours for £685 plus tax – boasted ‘fully adjustable front seats’ and even came ‘now with front disc brakes’. The ad also highlighted the fact: ‘greasing points now completely eliminated’.

What! Did people have to grease their cars before 1963?

austinYou could also buy the new Austin A60 for £720 or rent the latest Philips 19″ TV for just 9/6 per week (that’s 47.5 pence in decimal coinage).

Alternatively, buying the new telly would set you back £59.85. But that was without legs. They were another £2.10.

Looking at the ads for electrical goods was like staring into the technological dark ages. One advert offered a deal encouraging you to buy two televisions – ‘be a two TV man and get the best of both channels!’

Yes. That’s right. In 1963 British viewers had the choice of BBC or ITV. The BBC2 channel didn’t come along until 1964 and Channel 4 was a very, very long way off.

There was also the ad for the Bush auto-player. This marvel could play both 10 and 12″ records – and was ‘wired for adapting to stereo’.

An advert for bathrooms highlighted the fact there was a ‘wonderful choice of colours’, while the National Coal Board was plugging (coal-fired) free-standing cookers that could not only heat the kitchen but provide ‘the luxury of instant hot water’.

If that much can change in 50 years, it makes you wonder what they’re going to be advertising in 2063!

Blast From The Past

I had a different kind of blast from the past last night. I went to see the Boomtown Rats at Boscombe Academy.

For those of you poor people not familiar with the Boomtown Rats, they’re the Irish new wave band led by Bob Geldof that had a string of hits in the late 1970s – and reformed this year. Their best known song – in the UK at least – is probably I Don’t Like Mondays:

Back when this came out, I was still at school and – like so many others – could totally relate to the sentiment of the title.

But the story behind this song is much darker than just wanting to get out of school. In January 1979, the Boomtown Rats were on tour in the US and Geldof was giving a radio interview in Atlanta when the telex machine (?!) next to him started printing out a report on a school shooting in San Diego.

A 16-year-old girl called Brenda Ann Spencer had picked up the semi-automatic rifle her father gave her for Christmas (she later claimed she had asked for a radio). Spencer started firing across the street into the local elementary school, killing the headteacher and the school custodian, and injuring eight children.

At the time, Spencer’s explanation was “I don’t like Mondays”. Geldof adds that at the time a journalist was asking her “tell me why” – which became part of the refrain.

I’m not going to comment on the link between the first part of this post and that story. Except to say that it’s sad how some things don’t change and perhaps the world would be a better place if we worried more about people than having the latest ‘things’.

Nuff said. I’ve got to finish rewriting the ending of a book.

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