It feels like the entire world has been in limbo for the past four months as we all tried to come to terms and cope with the wretched coronavirus pandemic which has dominated our news feeds, TV programmes, podcasts and online newspapers.
So many events, jobs, lives and loves have been lost during this emetic epoch that it’s no wonder many of us have been feeling nostalgic and longing for days, events and excitement of years gone by.
One event which happily survived however was my birthday, a rather significant one, on July 4. Even Boris Johnson decided to mark the occasion by declaring “independence day” and allowing pubs to reopen for the first time since March, but I had nothing to do with that, honest.
So what hit the newspaper headlines in 1960?
Being an old newspaper man, two gifts that were particularly fondly received were original newspapers published on the day of my birth, July 4, 1960. (If you can’t do the math that made my birthday the big 6-oh no!)
These newspapers are fascinating tomes reporting on the state of the nation back in the days when you could smoke anywhere, and everyone did; when drink driving was the norm; when men weren’t allowed in delivery rooms to witness their children’s births; when the only time a man took the knee was to propose marriage; when the only people wearing face masks were bank robbers and dirt bike riders; and when telephones were all attached to the wall with a long piece of wire.
On the box, it was a rented “box” back then rather than a 52 inch wall-mounted flat screen high resolution TV with full connectivity, you could watch the likes of Steptoe and Son, Morecambe and Wise and, just to prove they weren’t all double acts, Hancock’s Half Hour.
As for computers, the internet, social media, www, what’s all that? “It’ll never happen and if it does, it won’t catch on.”
The era of John, Paul, George and Ringo
Browsing through these newspapers one gets a real flavour for life back in 1960, the year four guys from Liverpool, John, Paul, George and Ringo, got together and formed a band they called The Beatles. Whatever happened to them?
Back then you could buy a three bedroom semi detached house in suburbia for £3,000, a brand new car for well under under a grand, a gallon of petrol (yes, it was a gallon then, rather than a litre) for about 4 shillings and a loaf of bread for one shilling. That’s 20 pence and 5 pence for those unfamiliar with pre-decimal coinage.
And in the world of sport, Floyd Paterson was heavyweight boxing champion, Oxford won the 106th Varsity Boat Race in a time of 19 minutes dead, Merryman II ridden by Gerry Scott won the first televised Grand National and Manchester United’s Bobby Charlton, who was to become my childhood hero, was just 21 games and 18 goals into an England playing career which would see him win 106 caps and score 49 times, which were both records in their day.
In entertainment Eddie Cochran had a posthumous UK No 1 with Three Steps to Heaven and at the Oscars, the French siren Simone Signoret won best actress for Room at the Top, Charlton Heston won the actor’s award for Ben Hur and silent movie star Buster Keaton kept a straight face, as usual, to collect an honorary gong for his services to the film industry.
Castro’s Cuba filled our newspapers
And, the splash on one of the newspapers I was given, London’s old Evening Standard, was a story explaining that the government had been complaining “in the strongest possible terms” to Havana about the Cuban military commandeering Shell oil company assets in the Caribbean. I’ve always had a fascination with Cuban history — Fidel Castro, the Bay of Pigs, the Marixt guerilla Che Guevara, the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK, Khrushchev, the nuclear hotline between the US and Soviet Union — perhaps that’s because the country was in the news the very day I was born.
But the real coincidence was that another gift to mark my special day was tickets for a flight to Cuba and a three day stay in the capital Havana before beach time in Varadero in the island’s Hicacos Peninsula. It’s not until February, but in my book you can’t beat a bit of winter sun wrapped up with a living history lesson.
The Havana itinerary includes a three hour tour in a vintage car which I hope to write about in a blog for one of TTE’s clients, Adrian Flux, which specialises in classic car insurance.
‘Wobbly horse is tested for dope’
Anyhow, back to the newspapers: The stories were twee, the design rather messy, the photographs black and white, the headlines a little bit dull — apart from “Wobbly horse is tested for dope” in the Daily Express! The newspapers are now fragile and smell very old (a bit like me perhaps?) but they made me feel very happy, and sad at the same time.
Sad because of the demise of the printed newspaper. The internet has blown newspapers away and I believe that’s a shame. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a celebrant of the internet, it can bring power to your fingertips, happiness to your heart and keep you connected with people all over the world, which has been incredibly important and a source of great comfort for many during lockdown. But there are the well-documented negatives too — cyber bullying, fake news, phishing scams, radicalisation, manipulation — which legislators seem unable, or unwilling, to keep in check.
How I sometimes long for the days of innocence and my smelly old newspapers, even if they are now in terminal decline.
Do me a favour, go out and buy a newspaper this week. After you’ve read it, tuck it away in a drawer and leave it there for 20 years or so. When you get it out in July 2040 you will really enjoy it, and the likes of it will probably exist no more. Show it to your children and they probably won’t believe it ever existed at all.
Here to help at To The End
Enough sentiment. Enough nostalgia. The net, social media, is here to stay and you have to embrace it, whether you like it or not. The team at TTE are here to help you do just that, while avoiding the negatives and reaping the benefits.
And, for no other reason than it makes me laugh and I hope it will make you laugh too, here are my six sons, who are old enough to know better, and one of the grandchildren, who isn’t, “busting a few shapes” — do they still say that? — during my “socially distanced” but very sociable birthday garden party. Enjoy, or not, as the case may be.