1960s memories

Kennedy_DallasSomeone who is writing a novel has asked me about my memories of the 1960s because they were not born then.

This makes me feel very old. But I did once meet someone whose grandfather had met someone who had been a boy soldier at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Time gallops.

The big social UK changes in the UK were in 1963 and 1967/1968.

In 1963 you had a perfect storm of the contraceptive pill, the Profumo Scandal, The Beatles, the assassination of President Kennedy and the rise of TV and print satire with That Was The Week That Was and Private Eye.

British society changed.

Before 1963, Britain was basically still living in the early 1950s or in the mid-1930s… 1963 was a social earthquake that rumbled on.

And then, in 1967, there was Flower Power and the Summer of Love which only really lasted about six months. I tried wearing a floral shirt, not wearing a watch and going around without shoes, but gritty pavements and dog shit soon scuppered that idealistic experiment.

1967 was immediately followed in 1968 by student unrest and the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in Grosvenor Square. They were riots, really – uprooted metal railings against police horses. Classmates from my school were at one and told me about police over-reaction, though I think there may be two sides to that story.

So 1967-1968 quickly switched from flower power, peace and love  to student revolt and potentially worse in the course of a year.

It was like that in London, anyway.

The other changes I remember were sights and sounds and smells.

Somewhere around that time, someone invented a way to clean soot-black buildings with (I think) high-pressure water. British cities like London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow had been black. Just black stone and brick smelling of soot. Slowly, they were cleaned and architectural details appeared.

Somewhere around then, too, sodium street lamps came in.

Before then, in back streets at night, you walked carefully in darkness between pools of light from not-very-strong white street lights. When sodium lighting came, it flooded the streets with an orange light.

And, somewhere around that time, rubber-soled shoes came in.

Before that, you heard everyone walking behind and beside you in clip-clop-clip leather-soled shoes. With rubber-soled shoes, you did not hear people behind you. At the time, I felt this was a bit unsettling.

But that was a long time ago.

If anyone remembers things differently, another blog on this may follow.

Kennedy_Dallas2So it goes.


1 Comment

Filed under 1960s, UK

One response to “1960s memories

  1. John Stringer

    Smells: fabrics and materials have changed. Things took longer to dry then and there was often a pervasive smell of wet or damp woollens and other things. Not to mention the omnipresent smell of cigarettes and coal fires. I left England in 1968 and have only been back once (in high summer) so maybe the damp does still linger there. I missed it when I visited!

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