The Retro Room @ The Nice Rooms Webzine
For those misty-eyed readers of a certain age who like to be reminded about things they may have forgotten.
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 and pear drop flavours.
Imagine if you can, the taste of a mixture of chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, triprolidine, brompheniramine, dexchlorpheniramine, doxylamine, pheniramine, promethazine, pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine and oxymetazoline..Now hark back to that 'taste-lingering explosion of flavours you got with the combo of red, green and opaque mustard coloured Spangles in your mouth all at once....
What was your carton?
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.
THE FLAKE ADVERTS
Typical of the Flake brand adverts over the years, this evocative & provocative 1974 example - complete with haunting music - was probably the best of its type.
And on the subject of 1970s' chocolate..
A few I can think of missing in the clip are Ice Breaker, Country Style, Mint Cracknell, Grand Seville, Special Recipe, Waifa, Rumba, Welcome - and this beauty:
MILK TRAY BAR
"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.
It was originally launched in 1947 and was a favourite through to 1981"
PUBLIC INFORMATION FILMS
..And Charlie says "Run like Hell if you find any Bengal Matches.."
Anyone remember oxy-gum, Splasher the Dolphin, Dr Mariner, Piper, Bolton, Neptina the mermaid or Professor Fumble? Created originally in Japan by Minoru Adachi and the animation company Japan Tele-Cartoons between 1964 and 1971, Marine Boy ran for three series - 78 episodes of the final third series were dubbed into English, syndicated by Warner Brothers for the US, and shown in UK in the early seventies. The opening credits and theme tune can be viewed below.
Many, many an hour...
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 / 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.
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...and it was quicker walking....and I ended up carrying the thing around with me.
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 brother received this for a Christmas present in the mid seventies. 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 first aired in the UK in 1968.
The original series was made jointly in '66 / '67 by Yugoslavia (Now Slovenia) & German TV and its original title was "Holidays In Lipica" - translated as Počitnice v Lipici in Yugoslavia and Ferien in Lipizza in Germany.
I was 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 think she was renamed Julia for UK TV but will stand corrected) 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? Yes..who exactly?
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 & 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.
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? Instruction manual? Instruction Shmanual...It was time to mix everything together and add some flame to the process..
THE ORIGINAL PAN'S 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:
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.
It was "Frothy man" Well, it certainly was when it first hit the shelves. Somewhere along the way someone changed the recipe..and..well, it became less frothy...and I can't believe I'm writing this.
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.
Johnny Astro may sound like some sort of prophylactic but it wasn't..It was a great toy that involved a balloon and a fan...Sheesh...OK. Let's not go there. Seriously though, it gave me hours of fun back in the sixties.
Are these things still available to hire these days? I was thinking of sending a lorry-load to The House of Lords.
BOB A JOB WEEK
Nothing worse for a cub scout (circa late '60s in my case) than walking up some stranger's drive only to be met by one of these stickers on the window during Bob A Job Week. It meant that some other cub scout had got there before you and you weren't going to be paid your shilling to weed a complete stranger's thistle infested garden or be invited into the said stranger's house to clean up their kitchen.
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."
DAVID BOWIE ON TOP OF THE POPS SINGING: "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 epitome of retro cool.
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.
As a very, very young child (I hasten to add) 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."
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 essential 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? :-)
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 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 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.
THE FLASHING BLADE
Or Le Chevalier Tempête (translated means Knight Storm) It is / was a French television serial made in the late 1960s and first broadcast in the UK on BBC children's television during the 1960s and 1970s. 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.
I remember the green parrot Crazy Foam can can sitting on a shelf in the bathroom of my home way back in the misty-eyed mid sixties of my childhood.
Crazy Foam had the consistency of a heavy volume shaving foam. It smelt like a cross between swimming pool chlorine infused with perfume.
Back in 1981, and an hour or so before the pubs and clubs of Southport beckoned, there was the small task of helping a poor defenceless frog dodge the traffic and circumnavigate a crocodile infested river to get to the other side.....and then I'd go and play Frogger in the amusement arcade!
Phil Kives, founder of K-Tel sadly died on 27th April 2016. The man who introduced life necessities such as The Blitzhacker Food Chopper, The Miracle Brush, The Veg-O-Matic, and all things that included the words Comb Away in some form or other, died in his native Canada aged 87. For me it's the compilation albums that I will remember with great fondness.
gR 2014/ 2015 /2016 /2017