Chapter 3. The 1950s

The 1950s began with the 1951 Festival of Britain
3.2 The end of rationing
3.3 Early Schooldays

3.4 My Teenage Years at school
3.5 Cycling and the Invicta Road Club
3.6 Meeting Diane
3.7 My Last Year at NGS
3.8 My Apprenticeship at Harrisons

3.1 The 1950s began with the 1951 Festival of Britain which turned out to be a very dramatic experience for me. My mother and her sister, Aunt Ida, decided to have a day out to the Festival of Britain exhibition on the South  Bank of the Thames and the funfair at Battersea Gardens in Battersea Park . We got to the South Bank exhibition and I remember seeing " The Dome of Discovery" but I'm not sure what was inside. The "Skylon" mast was impressive and the "Shot Tower" which was where there made lead shot for shotgun cartridges by dropping molten lead from the top into water I think. More exciting to me was to go to the funfair at Battersea Park. There was a special river service to take visitors from the South Bank site to Battersea Gardens. We had a look round the usual funfair stalls and rides and then made for the Roland Emett train. This was a little railway made in his fantasy designs. He helped design the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car of the film fame. We boarded an open carriage about 2 seats from the front in the station. There were two trains which shared the single track and a baton was exchanged where they passed just outside the station before entering the single line to ensure safety. As the train started out slowly I suddenly had a premonition that it was going to crash! Whether I had seen the other train coming in I don't know but I knew something was wrong. I grabbed my Mum's hand and shouted "We must get off, it's going to crash" or some similar warning and pulled her up. We got out with Aunt Ida while it was still moving and seconds later the two trains hit head on. It was terrible, the crash and screaming people. In the melee that followed we lost touch with Aunt Ida. All I wanted to do was run but Mum kept hold of me and we remade contact with Aunt Ida in the fairground.
I later learned that the engine of the train that hit us reared up and crashed down on that first carriage we were in and killed a woman and injured several others.
I sometimes wondered if I imagined I had a premonition, but the fact remains that we escaped injury.
I found this reference to the crash in "Time" July 23rd. 1951

3.2 The end of rationing, in particular sweet rationing most importantly to me. I associated that with the return of Winston Churchill as prime minister and the end of the times of austerity after the War. The rationing of sweets was the only aspect of it that affected me as that was what my pocket money went on, together with comics.
I used to collect as much of the others ration coupons as a needed, but it never caused a great problem. Rowntrees gums, pastilles and loose sweets were usually available, then with the end of rationing there was a short period of euphoria as more sweets appeared and money was the only restriction on having them. The novelty of excess soon wore off.
My favourite comics from the 40s were "Radio Fun" and "Film Fun" and "Knockout". Then as I got older "The Wizard" which had stories in. But the most prized were the super heroes "BatMan" and "Superman" and "Captain Marvel". I collected those comics which if I had them now would be worth a fortune, like the dinky cars.

3.3 Early Schooldays. My Junior School was Stimpson Avenue in Northampton. It is still there as a Primary School. I was there from age 8 to 11.
It was there that I developed my interest in sports, academic studies were always rather boring to me although I enjoyed maths except for mental arithmetic which I could never respond quickly enough to. But PT (Physical Training) and any games I enjoyed a lot and could always have a good go at. They had a school football team which I eventually played for in the last year. My greatest triumph was being captain of the "Cromwell" house athletic team at the school sports and we won the Cup. I have a picture somewhere of that.

3.4 My Teenage Years at school 1952-1957, were not the difficult times that teenagers seem to have now, although I had my moments I suppose. Significantly I managed to pass the 11+ selection exam for Northampton Grammar School. This is now the Northampton School for Boys and is celebrating its centenary this year 2011. Initially I thought I had failed because when everyone else received their results letters, I didn't get one. But, to my surprise, and everyone else I think, it came the next day with the good news. My parents never made a fuss about it and I never had any special coaching or promises of presents if I passed, but they were clearly delighted and I got a new sports bike! This led me to join the Northampton Invicta (cycle) Road Club eventually.
Being at the Grammar School was like sporting heaven and that was the what I enjoyed most there. Academic studies were again not much interest to me except maths, particularly geometry, and Latin strangely enough. I suppose it is a mathematical language. Art was also a favourite, but games were what I lived for. It was my introduction to Rugby football and Cricket which I had played a bit but only for fun. Those two games I think are the most enjoyable to play. The school employed sportsmen as teachers and I was lucky to be there when Frank Brookman of Bedford Rugby club and Frank Sykes of the Northampton Saints rugby club and England and also Taylor of Saints and England were there as sports masters. Frank Sykes was very well liked and a tribute to him and his wife is in that link for their present work at Cate School, California.
I did make the Northants County boys team and played at Franklins Gardens where the Saints play. My rugby playing days continued with the NGS Old Boys Association.
NGS Colts 1955-56

 Here is the Colts team, some of the names I remember. I am 2nd from right on the front row.
 Back Row L to R: 
 ?, John Pearson, Michael (Mick) Marlowe, Ted Pendred
 Centre Row
L to R:
 ?, ?, ?, Barry (Fatty) Lewis, John Price, Trigg.
 Front Row
L to R:
 Keith Earl, Howard (Wally) Walton, ?, David (Spike) Botterill (Capt.), ?, John (Nobby) Barcock, John Greener

3.5 Cycling and the Invicta Road Club
I enjoyed all sports and cycling became a favourite with me. When I passed the 11+ I was given a Raleigh Lenton bike as a reward. It was like a dream come true to me, a racing bike as I thought at the time. I loved the "Reynolds 531" alloy frame, but as I progressed in knowledge of the sport of cycling the frame was eventually all that was left of the Lenton!
It all started when I joined the Invicta Road Club, a cycle racing club based at a cycling shop in Northampton run by Ralph Reynolds. (a curious coincidence of names with the Reynolds 531 alloy tubing). The shop was opposite my brother-in law's butcher's shop in the Wellingborough Road Northampton. I suppose that is how I first went in there. It was an "Alladin's Cave" for cyclists and Ralph and his wife Doris were such wonderful people. I must pay tribute to them here for enriching my life in those early formative years.
I needed a genuine racing bike which would be quite expensive even in those days but if I could get a decent frame then I could build it myself with help from Ralph  Reynolds.
I embarked on a money raising regime based on farm work picking peas mainly in the fields around immediate countryside. It was extremely hard work but during the season I managed to raise around £6 I think to buy a second hand "F.H.Grub" racing frame and another £5 or so for second hand "sprint wheels" and tubular tyres. The gears, pedals, chain, cranks, saddle, handlebars etc gradually followed until I had the complete bicycle. I was able to do some reasonable times for 10 and 25 mile time trials and I spent the next winter training to get fit. I did 200 miles a week for 6 months or so by cycling 30 miles a day and did indeed reach a respectable degree of fitness.
My peak came when I rode in the Coventry Godiva 25 mile time trial on a Sunday. 3 of us were riding and we stayed overnight at a transport cafe "greasy spoon". The breakfast, after having no sleep due to the traffic noise, was very greasy bacon and eggs. No the greatest preparation. The start was very early to avoid traffic on the open roads, around 7am. Needless to say I was sick just after starting but that was normal for me then I managed to hold my position before being caught late on by my "minuteman". We started at minute intervals so being caught by the man behind was a bit humiliating. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it especially seeing Gordon Ian, the national Champion" zooming by in the opposite direction. There was Gordon Ian and the rest of us! He had his own van full of cycling equipment.
Rugby and cycling were my favourite sports but I was also becoming interested in another pastime, the opposite sex!

3.6 Meeting Diane
I spent my time out of school in the company of a circle of friends who were in the rugby team or from the school. We had a number of favourite venues one of which was the YMCA snooker club. This was in a building on the town main street, Abington Street, where everything happened so was conveniently placed. We had to be members to play snooker on the full size tables so we were part of the YMCA fellowship.
There came a time when the YWCA invited anyone interested to go to dancing on a weekday evening at their meeting hall nearby in Castilian Street.
I went a couple of times hoping to meet a girl I could go out with. The same circle of girls went there as we met at parties and other venues like the Wedgwood coffee house in Abington Street.
The Repertory Theatre "Gods" was another meeting place on Saturday nights when we met in the bar. I had one or two dates which did not come to anything. Anyway, Diane's cousin Anne was in the circle and she asked her to go to the YWCA dance, evidently with the idea of meeting me because my friends told me Anne's cousin would be going. This would have been in 1956 when I was 16 and she was 14. The dancing at the YW was all kinds. I was useless at ballroom but enjoyed the square dancing. The girls there devised way of getting us boys involved and one game was like musical chairs and the girls had to find a boy's lap to sit on! Diane had been pointed out to me and I was hoping to get her on my lap. Evidently I had been pointed out to her and she made a beeline for me. From that moment one we have been together. It was I suppose "Love at first Sight". Mick Marlowe, one of the rugby team in the photo above also fancied Diane and at the end of the evening he asked me if I was going to ask to walk her home. I said I had thought of it and he said "Well, go ahead, I think she fancies you". Being very nervous in the presence of the girls I approached her with no much hope when the evening came to an end. To my amazement she said "Yes" and we left together to walk home to her home in Grove Road not far away where she lived with her parents.
That moment became the defining moment of my life. Those precious minutes determined the rest of my life. I remember exactly what she was wearing, which says it all because I could not repeat that feat of memory ever after! She had a black top on and a tight natural coloured skirt which showed off her figure and her blonde hair. Her top coat was a mixture of oatmeal colours which I gladly helped her put on. I felt totally at ease with her as we walked her arm in mine. As I learned afterward she was hoping I would ask her out as she very taken with me being dark and handsome would you believe? That made us perfectly happy together.
When we reached the house I had been furiously thinking what could I do to see her again and I asked if she would like to go to the pictures. I think she suggested the Plaza cinema which was nearby and I don't remember if there was a particular film on. We agreed to meet outside the cinema on the Wednesday following I think, it being Monday evening if I remember correctly. We parted with a peck on the cheek I think, and I walked home as if on air.
My life became centered around her after that. I never wanted to do anything that didn't include her or consider her first.

3.7 My Last Year at NGS
My last year at the Grammar School was my first year with Diane. Our first date was that one at the Plaza cinema, Wellingborough Road Northampton.
I thought it perhaps unlikely that she would turn up although I did think she liked me. She has since told me that she could not eat anything since we met as she was so nervous of meeting again.
So we were both struck by Cupid's arrow. I got to the cinema early, as I always do for any engagement, and she was not there so I wondered if she would appear, but miraculously she eventually did and we went in happily together. I can't remember what the film was or much else except that we held hands and probably had ice creams. I just know that I was happy to be with her as I suppose I knew she was happy to be with me. I think we were in love from the start and just being together was enough. We made arrangements to meet again, I can't remember where but we had several haunts we frequented with our circle of friends. The YWCA where we met, the "Wedgwood" Coffee house where we could make a coffee last hours! The Northampton Repertory Theatre where we met in the "Gods" on a Saturday night and had drinks in the bar. various bars including one in the Town Centre the name escapes me for the moment. We were not short of places to go to together. On reflection, I realise these venues were ones I had established with my friends as I explained in 3.6 above. Diane was following me wherever I went! Was I too arrogant to realise that I naturally expected her to want to? Perhaps, but I would have done anything she wanted anyway.
This was the year of my O-levels and I had decided that I wanted to leave school and go to work at Clarke and Sherwells, the gravure printers in Northampton where my uncle Jack Barcock was apprenticed. I had an interview and met Mr. Clarke himself who remembered my Uncle well. I was looking forward to it, but things went wrong! The Printers Union, SLADE & PW, (Society of Litho Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process Workers) had a dispute with the firm about the apprentice ratio. They controlled the number of apprentices, keeping it to what they thought was right for the trade. Quite sensible really as it prevented the employers using apprentices as cheap labour and maintaining the demand for skilled workers. The printing unions were incredibly powerful in those days. The upshot for me was that they would not allow me to start even though I passed an entrance exam and was accepted by the firm.
My Uncle Jack came up with the solution. He would get me an interview with Harrison & Sons of High Wycombe where he worked. True nepotism!
This led to a significant, life changing point for me which saw me taking up an apprenticeship as an Engraver at Harrisons.

3.8 My Apprenticeship at Harrisons
Harrison & Sons Ltd., were a printing firm with with a factory at High Wycombe established just before WW2 to print the Royal Mail postage stamps by the photogravure process.
They were an old family firm in the great tradition of friendly beneficent employers of the time. I was very fortunate to have my apprenticeship with them I subsequently came to realise.
I have so many memories and anecdotes of my 10 years there that I must devote a separate page to them.