Pictures from my past (1)

I don’t know how my memory works other than to say that, nowadays, for the most part, “It doesn’t”. That’s just a question of age, though, and the fault of some of my prescription medicines.

Some of my earliest memories are pictures. Pictures that somehow have remained in my mind for year after year, decade after decade. They come from many sources. Books and comics. Films and TV programmes and sport as well. And rather disconcertingly, as I have done the necessary research for these blog posts, many of my longstanding memories have actually proved to be rather false.

My earliest recollections come from the very few bubble gum cards that I had. In the late 1950s, a company called Chix did a very nice set of footballers, and I was captivated by the card depicting Jeff Whitefoot, whose name absolutely fascinated me. With all the cowboy  programmes we used to watch on TV at that time, I suspect that I came very close to believing that Jeff was a member of some obscure tribe of English Red Indians who lived in the Black Hills of Manchester:

The best example of what might be termed false or mistaken memory is the card showing a player called Cliff Holton. My recollection as an adult is that as a child I was fascinated by the strange colour of Holton’s shirt. He played for Northampton Town whose shirts were an unusual purple-very dark violet-maroony colour. But now, with the help of ebay, I have discovered that Chix only ever portrayed Holton as an Arsenal player, with an ordinary red Arsenal shirt. So, for what it’s worth, here’s Cliff Holton, that well known Arsenal centre forward. Let’s be generous to an eight year old, though. Perhaps some of the cards had a more purple tinge than others, especially when it came to those hooped socks:

Other distant images that have stayed with me include a few from a series of bubble gum cards which were rather snappily entitled “WHO-Z-AT STAR ?” . One card was of a young actor called Edmund Purdom, the star of “an adventure show” I used to watch entitled “Sword of Freedom”. It was not particularly popular in the industrial East Midlands of England. I suspect that it may have been too heavy handed an allegory of the Cold War and the Dirty Repressive Commies. The tights clad hero was “a maverick freedom fighter, prepared to die for his belief in a free society.” He was busy fighting “the tyrant who exercises control over 16th century Florence, the tyrannical Duke de Medici “.

Where I lived, within easy walking distance of at least half a dozen coal and clay mines it was pretty difficult to identify with “a city of poets and painters, wealth and marvels”. What I did like, though, was our hero’s rapier which looked as if the baddies were being stabbed by a yard long toothpick.

Here he is!

The same series provided a card depicting Conrad Phillips in the lead role of “William Tell”, complete with his rather strange sheepskin coat and crossbow. As a small child, I always felt rather unsettled because he never seemed to have proper sleeves in his coat, and I used to worry that he would catch cold, up there in those Swiss mountains:

Another card in the same series depicted Willoughby Goddard, who portrayed the gigantic Gessler, the villainous Austrian ruler of Switzerland. I was fascinated by the piece of information on the back of the card that when he went by airliner, he always had to buy three tickets for three seats to avoid crushing other passengers. At that time there was an incident in one episode that I didn’t understand at the time. William Tell had Gessler at his mercy, but let him go free. Tell’s little son asked his sheepskin clad Dad why he hadn’t got rid of the evil Gessler once and for all. Tell replied that there was a risk that if they ever killed Gessler, the Austrians might send somebody who was competent and then the Swiss would be in trouble:

Two puzzles to finish with. Which member of our family persuaded us all to watch “The Four Just Men”? an English TV series which was allocated its own card in the WHO-Z-AT STAR ?” collection.

How can the plot have been any more complicated ? The Four Just Men were Richard Conte, Dan Dailey, Jack Hawkins and Vittorio De Sica. Except for Jack Hawkins, I have no idea which one was which :

There were five assistants for the Four Just Men, played by Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore in Goldfinger), Lisa Gastoni, Andrew Keir (Professor Quatermass), Robert Rietti and June Thorburn :

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The list of guest stars in the series, though,  was simply amazing :

Judi Dench, Alan Bates, Leonard Sachs (Manuel), Patrick Troughton (Dr Who), Donald Pleasence (Blofeld), Richard Johnson, Ronald Howard (son of Leslie), Basil Dignam, Roger Delgado (The Master in Dr Who), Charles Gray (another Blofeld) and Frank Thornton (Captain Peacock) :

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Next time, the pictures I remember from my comics.

Meanwhile, fill the lonely hours with………..



Filed under Film & TV, Football, History, Humour, Personal

38 responses to “Pictures from my past (1)

  1. Your memory is still much better than mine.

    • I very much doubt it! How many days in our lifetime have we had, though, of which we have no memory at all? I cannot remember anything of Year 9 at school. The teacher’s name, the room, any of the subject teachers, nothing is there!
      I wonder where all those memories hide? Is there a huge garage in our brains, crammed full of unrelated garbage that one day we will want to think about?

      • I find every once in a while a memory I thought lost forever will pop out of my brain for no reason. But that’s rare, so I call my brain the Black Hole. Everything goes in, but nothing comes out.

      • Jan

        The master’s name eludes me but who could forget Chiens Perdus Sans Collier and Les Enfants Terribles?

      • Well, I remember “Chiens Perdus Sans Collier” but ” Les Enfants Terribles” doesn’t ring any bells. Was that Mr Padwick?

  2. Great memories. William Tell was a real favourite of mine…

    “Come away, come away with William Tell
    Come away to the land he loved so well
    What a day, what a day when the apple fell
    For Tell and Switzerland”

  3. Chris Divall

    Hi John,

    Seasons greetings! If you want to find the cast of any particular movie or TV show try the International Film Database IMDb: Ratings, Reviews, and Where to Watch the Best Movies & TV Shows . Type in the show title or performer’s name in the search field near the top.

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your blog. Though I’m probably ten years or more younger than ye you take me back to my own boarding school days where life during and just after the war were still fresh. I particularly remember the half-size comics in black & white of battles between Axis and Allied forces, and assembling one model WWII fighter plane or naval ship after another between rounds of conkers! Of all the ones I built, the Mosquito was my favourite aircraft, and HMS Hood my favourite pocket battleship. Such elegant lines.

    I also fondly remember many of the films that were played in the student library, including some terrific wartime epics. On Wikipedia I found a comprehensive list of WWII movies from all countries, not just Britain or the US, and sorted chronologically in groups by decade. Here’s the link: List of World War II films (1950–1989) – Wikipedia

    Have a splendid Christmas!

    Chris Divall

    • Thank you very much, Chris. I enjoyed reading about what you got up to in boarding school. Not much different to us, really, with our 1/3d Airfix kits and Frog as an exotic, slightly more expensive brand. As ships, I only ever made HMS Tiger which was a present, and the Bismarck (twice), I enjoyed sinking it so much. As for films, I watched the Dambusters quite frequently, thanks to our school film club, but I’ve always had a lot of regard for “The Cruel Sea”.
      Thanks a lot for the link. There are so many pages on wikipedia that you would never think existed until you find them!
      Enjoy your Christmas, too, and keep reading the blog!

  4. Christopher Divall

    John, to search for any particular movie or TV show or cast member try the International Film Database IMDb.
    If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of WWII movies from all countries, not just Britain or the US, try the Wikipedia page “List of World War II films (1950–1989)”.
    Have a splendid Christmas!

  5. I seem to recall watching some swashbuckling adventures on early tv, not these I hasten to add, but if my memory serves me right it was with Maurice Chevalier? I used to enjoy Children’s tv of the 60s and early 70s, we always watched over the summer holidays, either Robinson Crusoe, White Horses a German / Yugoslav programme or Belle and Sebastian. As our holidays fell differently to the London ones, I never got to see the endings of any of them. That scarred me for life I think!

    • Robinson Crusoe had some beautiful music to it, but don’t ever show kids “Belle and Sebastian”, they’ll all want one. Can you imagine taking him for a walk, armed with a bin liner in case he poos in the park? Seriously, though. you can get both RC and B & S on DVD if you want to know how they ended.
      As soon as you mentioned Maurice Chevalier, I was about to shout “Collaborator!!” but if you go to his page on Wikipedia, and read the section on World War II, you can see that he was a better man than that.

      • So it would seem! I now feel I’m mistaken, perhaps the name has been embossed in my fading memory for other reasons. The programme I was thinking about was certainly French and set during the French Revolution. A swashbuckling adventure akin to the Three Musketeers. You’ve now got me thinking…

  6. Amazing the things we remember from our childhood years! Your mention of the bubble gum cards opened the door to my own childhood memory box. I see myself and younger siblings walking two blocks to the small corner shop where we buy the bubble gum with the cards inside 🙂

    • Yes, your memory can do some wonderful things. I used to collect cards from four ounce packets of Brooke Bond tea, and on the way back from the shop, I would frequently open the little cardboard box and slide the card out to see if it was one I hadn’t got. Nearly sixty years later, I can still feel the sharp corners of those cards and smell the tea.
      Marcel Proust, eat your heart out!

  7. atcDave

    Interesting memories, especially the whole area of “false” memories. I’ve had a few of those too!
    I’d also say your entertainment looks a lot different from ours! Apart from Bond and Fawlty Towers not much familiar there.

    • Yes, and with false memories, they can be destructive because they sew seeds among the real memories and then I start to wonder just what was true and what was false, especially when I was a little child of five or six.
      I think that programmes such as Dr Who and the Avengers would been on American TV, but you may be too young for them, as they came out in the 1960s.
      I remember fondly American series such as “Bewitched” and my mum liked “I love Lucy”, although I wasn’t much of a fan. My favourite was Batman, although for contractual reasons we only ever saw the Riddler, the Joker, Catwoman and the Penguin which was a terrible shame, with King Tut, the Mad Hatter and Mr Freeze that we never saw.
      “Holy disappointed viewers, Batman!”

      • atcDave

        Yes actually to both of those, but I didn’t watch! I did also love Batman though. There’s not enough silly and campy anymore.

  8. Your memory from where I’m sitting is just fine, John. There are times when I have my eyes closed resting before I go on to my next must-do, I begin to go down memory lane. It’s bittersweet.

    • The secret, I suppose, is to try to remember only the good things, but some bad things, alas, are too big to ever be forgotten.
      One tiny success I have had is being able not to hate people any more. I was bullied at school by one boy four years older than me, and as a young man by a neighbour who wielded a lot of power in the area. Decades afterwards I have no feelings for either of them except pity. They were both unworthy of the title “human being”.

      • Good for you, John. I too don’t hang onto hate, and in some circumstances not easy to do. I’m sorry you were bullied. Sad but true I had the same experience just because I was different. Those days are long over and today I focus on my life NOW. Carrying around grudges and hate just pulls me down and hurts me. Yes some things are too big to be forgotten, yet in forgiving that frees me. In the remembering, I won’t treat others as I was once treated. That is the Gift.

      • “I won’t treat others as I was once treated.” What a wise woman you are, Amy.

      • Thank you, John. It took many years to work on myself. I’m not willing to throw away that hard work.

  9. A fascinating series, John. I fear most of the TV shows must have been on before one arrived in our household

  10. 1957 or thereabouts. I’ll have to pass on the programming for that year!

  11. Chris Waller

    This brings back memories. I can remember William Tell, but I have no recollection of ‘Four Just Men’. That said, we didn’t have a television until I was 7 years old and my access to ‘the box’ was limited to what I think was called ‘Children’s Hour’. Was ‘Four Just Men’ about espionage?

    • Hello, Chris. As far as I remember, ‘Four Just Men’ was a series about four middle aged men who righted wrongs and solved undetected crimes that the perpetrators had got away with. It was on ITV and I don’t think that we watched it much, but I was always intrigued by the title. The reason it appears in this post is more the extensive list of stars that featured in it, with such an amazing cast list.

  12. Jan

    I am pretty sure you who taught “Les Enfants”. David Padwick (the epitome of a nice person) was entrusted with “Le Chateau de Ma Mere” and teaching us all about the geography and economy of Britanny (noted for its asparagus farms and tidal power station!).

  13. Do you have those cards now?

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