The Retro Room
NEW!! THE NICE ROOMS' BIG RETRO CHRISTMAS SECTION
Quite why slices of orange & lemon confectionery saturated in sugar is the first image that springs to mind for me when I think of Christmases past I really couldn't tell you.
..and then there were these...
I tried eating dates. I tried picking them up with that plastic fork thingy but it tended to bend or snap. I remember thinking that dates tasted like leather and the stone was too big for all the effort I put in trying to eat the things anyway. But they reappeared every year without fail on the table next to the orange and lemon slices, turkish delight and the mixed nuts.
I liked some nuts back then. And I hated some..
Walnuts should have been banned for 9 yr old kids like me.
Trying to crack the things open with nutcrackers was a task in itself only for the shell to splinter everywhere. The walnut itself tasted bitter and came complete with said shards of shell mixed in.
I needed refreshment..
..and my first taste of spirits as a child was on the cards!
Circa 1970 in The Nice Rooms' household and noone was looking.
I sneakily lifted up the lid of the liqueur chocolate box and grabbed the first one I could lay my hands on looking about me as I did so.
Unwrapped it (quietly)
Wrapper went into my pocket to hide the evidence.
A second or so passed.
And then I felt it.
I felt the warmth of the liquid.. That warming trickle on the back of my throat.
and that....disgusting taste..
Didn't know back then what all the fuss had been about.
Didn't like the things at all.
I'm sure my dad would have given me one if I'd asked him anyway.
..And then there were the Christmas parties..
I can't remember the last time I saw one of these at a party (Christmas or otherwise) but they just scream Christmas Retro to me.
As do these.
The chocolate never tasted the best and it took an age to unpeel each coin but seeing a net of these dangling on the Christmas tree added to the excitement of the forthcoming big day.
We always got to make paper chains at school around Christmas. (Maybe we didn't - perhaps it was only once but the one time I always remember I came unstuck)
What should have been a simple task became a nightmare for me. I can't remember if I was using "Copydex" glue or glue paste but whatever it was I was putting too much of the stuff on the coloured paper and it got on my face, eyebrows and fingers.
"A soggy mess" (That was me not the resulting paper chain.)
By the time The Wizard of Oz came on the TV on Christmas day circa early '70s I didn't much care that my paper hat was beginning to slide off my head or that I had mislaid such things as a miniature magnifying glass that I had "won" in a cracker. That initial spike of morning excitement that had been on the wane was given a momentary boost with the anticipation of watching this classic film.
Of course I wasn't aware back then that during filming Judy Garland had said of the Munchkins that: “They were drunks. They got smashed every night and the police used to scoop them up in butterfly nets.”
The film’s make-up artist Jack Dawn recalled later how one German Munchkin who called himself The Count had been rescued from a toilet bowl.
He said: “You had to watch them all the time. Once when he was due on set, he went missing. Then we heard a whining from the men’s room. He had got plastered during lunch, fallen in the toilet and could not get out.”
The Big Retro Christmas Section is to be continued
But in the meantime -
Many, many an hour...
This consisted of 'worm-like' shreds of coconut that came complete in its very own pouch.
Sweet tobacco was cool but times change.
I don't ever remember my mum or dad worrying back then when they saw their 9 yr old son pretending to smoke sweet cigarettes or puff on a liquorice pipe or chew this sickly sweet stuff.
Bruised wrists in the late '60s / early '70s anyone?
CEREAL BOX TOYS
Ah the memories and the excitement of delving deep down into the Sugar Smacks (aka Sugar Puffs) cereal box and at last finding the cellophaned toy.
Which character was it going to be?
What colour was it going to be?
Eventually I would manage to pull the said toy out.. along with several bits of cereal that had got stuck to my wrist and lower arm in the process.
THE SINGING RINGING TREE
Kids' TV consisted of several foreign series when I was a kid.
Believe me when I say that this 1957 East German production (that was repeated several times in the sixties) still plays with my brain today.
Smoking dogs. Smoking elephants. Smoking clowns. Silver paper being lit and Bengal Matches. (See below)
As well as coming boxed around November 5th every year I'm sure these indoor fireworks were sometimes found in Christmas crackers as well!
The Bengal matches of my childhood mainly came in just two colours if I remember correctly: Red and Green.
For Bengal Matches think mini olympic torches or lost-at-sea flares licensed especially for your living room.
No 60s / 70s retro article should be without Spangles.
Ask anyone who remembers these and the chances are The Old English flavours will be the ones that spring to mind.
Think very intense liquorice, mint, pear drop and..er.. 'cough medicine' flavours and you're on the right track.
PUBLIC INFORMATION FILMS
And Charlie says "...run like hell if you find any Bengal matches.."
THE SPACE HOPPER
The idea was good - me bouncing around until my heart was content in front of all my mates.
In reality I was shattered after 5 minutes.
It was quicker walking.
And I was left carrying the thing.
Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots was first manufactured in the USA by the Marx Toy Company in 1964.
It wasn't until the '70s that this game was introduced in the UK under the name Ravin' Bonkers.
My sister got this as a Christmas present in 1972.
If the robot took a hit on the chin the head sprung up.
Problem was the head sometimes sprung up even if it wasn't hit...
Fustrating in the heat of a family battle you understand.
THE WHITE HORSES
I don't ever remember watching one single episode all the way through from this series -The White Horses aka Ferien in Lipizza (Holidays in Lipizza) that was made jointly circa '66 / '67 by Yugoslavian & German TV and first aired in the UK in 1968.
I was however captivated as a kid by the haunting and sombre theme tune sung by Jacky Lee (She also sang the theme tune to the early 70s kids' programme Rupert the Bear)..
Sombre indeed..Austrian actress Helga Anders who played Julka (I thought it was Julia but apparently it was Julka) died at 38 of heart failure following problems with alcohol and drugs and the actor Helmuth Schneider (seen holding the horse's reins about 30 seconds into the clip) was killed in a car crash in Brazil in 1972.
Welcome to the real world.
Who would have thought that a box of plastic circles that produces mathematical roulette curves of the variety technically known as hypotrochoids and epitrochoids could make a great Christmas present for a generation of kids in the mid to late 60s?
Designed in the late '60s by Raleigh employee Alan Oakley (open to debate apparently) this 10 yr old was particularly captivated by the three speed gear stick and how different it looked from all the other bikes at the time.
Forget that the centre of gravity was not where it should have been or that I couldn't sit back and reach the handlebars very well or that it had a hefty price tag of approx £30 in the newly decimalized UK.
I wanted one some 20 years before I had even heard of the film Easy Rider.
I dreamt on.
As endearing as the local adverts ("You can find us opposite this cinema") and The Pearl and Dean intro music, no local cinema film presentation was without its intermission.
The mind bending hypno-kaleidoscopic imagery had the effect of making hoardes of people get up from their seats (cue sound of seats springing up) and head off to the foyer to buy such things as "a cool glass of orange ...or maybe some nuts.."
Glass of orange?..I only remember it being sold in cheap cartons.
For many people, the word "Intermission" meant toilet time.
It was all in the box: Copper Sulphate, Iron Filings, glass tubes, corks, a pipette and a whole lot more..
Who cared if the 240 Experiments had been safety tested beforehand?
It was time to mix everything together and add some flame to the process..
Granted, the idea of lighting up a tower if you won was fun but once you had mastered Remco's two mazes it was no longer fascinating.
MILK TRAY BARS OF CHOCOLATE
"Eight Milk Tray Chocolates, in a bar.
Imagine a box of Milk Tray Chocolates.
Now imagine picking eight of the most popular chocolates – keeping their distinctive shapes – and putting them in a bar!
The Milk Tray Bar had a cult following back in the 1970s and people still reminisce about it to this day.
THE ORIGINAL PANS PEOPLE ON TOP OF THE POPS
Try and block out Steve Wright's inane ramblings and just marvel at the music courtesy of T Rex and the dancing courtesy of Pan's People from 1971.
The Original Pan's People Line up consisted of:
Louise Clarke (1949–2012) Died of heart failure
Felicity "Flick" Colby (1946–2011) Died of pneumonia as a result of cancer
Barbara "Babs" Lord
Andrea "Andi" Rutherford
Patricia "Dee Dee" Wilde
THE RAG AND BONE MAN
I have very vague memories of a guy on a horse and cart (early '60s) coming down our road shouting out something...
The word "rag" followed by other words blended together in the mix which I'm guessing must have been "and bone" ??? - Didn't sound like that though..
I remember my mum sending me out to give him some of our old clothes.
In return I got a balloon...and get this...IT WAS TIED TO THE END OF A STICK!
My day was sorted then.
The very brilliant Brian Cant, Toni Arthur, Julie Stevens and Tony Robinson camping it up in a great kids' TV alternative to Grandstand and World of Sport circa '76 (judging by the flags and bunting)
Other noteable names who appeared in Play Away - an offshoot from Play School - include:
Julie "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" Covington,
Nerys "Liver Bird" Hughes and
Jeremy " I played the piano in this video but went on to experience one heck of a Reversal of Fortune" Irons.
OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS AND ITS 'FAMOUS' CLAPOMETER
Whatever happened to The Zaporozhian Cossacks?
Are these things still available to hire these days?
Just asking as The House of Commons could use a few.
BOB A JOB WEEK
HERE COME THE DOUBLE DECKERS
From the misty-eyed long hot summer holidays of my childhood comes this TV programme from 1970. It featured the adventures of an "all singing and all dancing" gang of seven kids whose clubhouse was a double decker bus that just happened to have been abandoned in a London junkyard.
All this and no health and safety issues facilitated many an adventure back then.
"Douglas Simmonds who played the lovable kid Doughnut, followed his lifelong ambition for science and made it his career.
He was a researcher in medical computing at a major hospital in the UK.
For six years prior to that position, Doug was a theoretical physicist and at one time was a medical student.
He held a very responsible position with the Department of Health in England.
Douglas took early retirement and pursued other interests.
Tragically in March 2011 Doug died of a massive heart attack."
Courtesy of http://www.thedoubledeckers.com/now.htm
DAVID BOWIE: STARMAN
Many people of a certain age can cite this performance by David Bowie on Top Of The Pops in '72 as one of those pivitol "Sit up and really take notice" musical moments in their lives.
My nan who was watching the television with me at the time was less impressed. She thought Bowie was a woman.
And then my mum came in from the kitchen and said "Yes, he's definately a woman."
THE MUSIC CENTRE
The Look and The Sound - Brilliant!
CHEF'S SQUARE SHAPED SOUPS..
Kudos to the psychologists etc who came up with the idea of inserting a tongue twister into a soup advert.
It had the effect of a sizeable proportion of the UK television viewing public circa '79 randomly reciting it and - in the process - endorsing a product to all and sundry at no extra cost to the manufacturers.
The taste of the square shaped soup was "OK" at best but the one joke doing the rounds back then about having to use square shaped bowls to serve it in soon wore thin.
The black and white world of school holiday TV brings back so many memories.
Casey Jones the TV series had been round the block a bit even when I used to watch it as a kid but this and Champion The Wonder Horse were vital viewing.
If there had been the world wide web back then I bet many would be pointing out that the plate with the engine's name on - "The Cannonball Express" - was actually shown upside down about 10 seconds into the clip....
They would have..wouldn't they? :-)
As a very, very young child :-) I was fascinated by the way the trafficators just appeared out the side of the car as if by magic.
"The shape of the Trafficator arm is closely based upon the shape of the semaphore signal arm used by the Royal Bavarian Railway beginning in 1890. The only difference from the railway arm is that it is halved down its length so as to fit flush with the vehicle's exterior.
They have been increasingly rare since the 1950s, as ever-tightening legislation has prescribed the need for the modern type of flashing signal.
Many historic vehicles (e.g. pre-1961 Volkswagen Beetle sold outside the USA) that are used on today's roads have had their trafficators supplemented or replaced with modern indicators to aid visibility and to meet legislative requirements."
Circa 1970 and I had just bagged the jackpot prize - A Rocket Cap - in one of those Lucky Bags you could buy for 6d.
That was all my "sweets" money for the day back then but who cared? - Not me:
"Heh! Heh! Watch out anyone who gets in my way...and even those who don't 'cos I'm goin' to slam one of these mothers on the floor in front of you or possibly behind you and make you jump.."
Realising that I didn't have any money left to buy any caps did put a dampner on things
THE FLASHING BLADE
Or Le Chevalier Tempête (translated means Knight Storm)
The British version of twelve 22 minutes episodes was created from the original four French 75-minute episodes.
Who cared about the logistics of it all?
It had one of the greatest musical intros ever.
THE TOP OF THE POPS ALBUMS
The Pickwick series of "Top of the Pops" albums ran from 1968 - 1985 and used "Sound A-likees" to recreate the 'happening' tunes of the day.
The albums owed their ongoing success in no small part to the series producer Bruce Baxter, who took over at the start of 1971. Baxter brought in his own team of vocalists - Tony Rivers, John Perry, Ken Gold, Stu Calver and others.
I still have the album above I hasten to add.
The term 'Top of the Pops', was not legally protected at the time causing some consternation in the hallways of the Old Boys' Network that was (is) the BBC. To be honest, and judging by the end result, I wouldn't be surprised if half of the Old Boys' Network moonlighted and sang on the albums themselves.
..To Be Continued