April 2022 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web 24 years...
  books monthly
     A series of essays on growing up in the 1950s - 1960s


Previous "Growing Up" articles:

February 2022

This month I'm running out of time, so I thought I would just share with you what a typical 1950s/1960s Christmas was like for me and my sister Jean... Let's take 1956, I was ten years old, Jean would have been fourteen. I was a third of the way through my last year at Brockworth New County Primary School, because my birthday was in mid September and I was deemed ready to take the 11+ exam the following June, which meant, if I were to pass, that I would move up to senior school in July of 1957. I wasn't fazed by the thought of this exam, and I wasn't really conscious of the fact that I would be taking the exam a year early, because it wasn't really a year early to me, it was just a few months, three, to be precise. I had the reading age of a sixteen year old, I had many Charles Dickens titles in my own collection, as well as R M Ballantyne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexander Dumas, etc., etc., all normal reading matter, I thought, for a ten year old. I also had almost a complete set of Leslie Charteris's Saint books, some Inspector Wests, some Pan Horror Stories anthologies, Lorna Doone, Robin Hood and King Arthur, the latter two being my absolute favourites... and some Tarzan books.
       We were always asked what we would like for Christmas, and, taking the Tiger and Lion comics every week, I was aware of but not particularly interested in football, to the extent that some of my friends were. However, at the beginning of every football season, in September, the Tiger provided a carboard insert that allowed you to move teams up and down as the results came in; I was always a sucker for a free gift in my comics, and as I enjoyed a kickabout with my friends, I decided to ask for a football. In those days, footballs were made of leather and were inflated using an adaptor on a bicycle tire pump. I didn't have a bicycle then, that came a year or so later when I was eleven years old and able to take on a paper round. I bought the bicycle myself, a Raleigh four-speed, which was the envy of all my friends, especially the ginger-haired twins next door, as their bicycles were not equipped with drop handlebars, and had only three gears! Back to Christmas... I desperately wanted a three-colour torch - basically a normal torch with a sliding mechanism that placed a red or a green plastic lens over the bulb; cool! Other than that, I asked for the usual: a tin of toffees, either Sharps toffees or Bluebird toffees, a box of Turkish Delight, and my usual annuals, the Tiger and the Lion.
         I remember hanging a stocking at the end of my bed, and in the morning it had mysteriously been replaced by a pillow case... and in it was a cubic box containing my leather football; a three-colour torch; an orange and an apple; a tin of Sharps toffees; a wooden box of Turkish Delight; my Lion Annual and my Tiger annual, and another rectangular parcel which felt like another book, only it was three times as thick as my 160-page Tiger and Lion anuals. Because 1956 was the first year in which the Commander Book for Boys was published - a massive book containing over five hundred pages of beautifully illustrated stories (by Robert McGillivray) for boys - school stories, Wild West stories, desert island stories, etc., etc. I was overjoyed. This was a handsome book, some two inches thick, the same size as a TIger annual, and with a dustjacket - a beautifully illustrated brightly coloured dustjacket. The Commander book was published for four years running, and I still have all four of mine, all with their dustjackets. I have two of the companion girls' books, too, the Coronet Book for Girls, which Jean had each year in her pillow case. We scratched around and found a bicycle pump and got the football inflated. Dad and I had a glorious kickabout on the front lawn, then went inside to chill out, me with my three treasured books, and to start eating my toffees while Mum and Jean started preparing the Capon for Christmas dinner, and Dad went to the pub with Mum's brothers, my uncles John and Ernie. Christmas dinner would comprise the four of of us, the two uncles, and my beloved Gran.
          Later in the day other relatives would join us and we would spend the evening singing songs while Mum played the piano and Dad played the mandolin-banjo. All I could play at that stage of my life was the recorder, and not well enough to join in with the old favourites. There was always a houseful at Christmas - sometimes Dad's sisters, Aunt Ivy and Florrie would come to stay from Hornchurch in Essex, bringing with them their husbands, George and Stan, and Sylvia, Aunt Ivy and Uncle George's daughter, with whom I was madly in love. She was about eighteen months older than me, and I dreamed of growing up and marrying her. It didn't happen, of course, although legally I think it would have been within the law for it to happen. At bedtime, I started to read my Commander Book for Boys, and when it was time for lights out, I used my new torch to carry on reading by torchlight until I was too tired to stay awake. You may be wondering what gifts I bought for my Mum and Dad that year - well, it was the same as every other year, it was California Poppy scent for Mum, and a box of Dairy Milk; and a pair of yellow socks for Dad. I only ever remember  buying Dad yellow socks at Christmas... When I think about the kinds of money that gets spent on children nowadays, it makes me think of the simple things I would find in my pillow case, and how I was always so thrilled beyond belief to have my three brilliant books, the two comic annuals, and the brand new Commander Book for Boys. Pocket money books, a pocket money torch, pocket money sweets... and a football, which must have cost a comparatively small fortune to Mum and Dad. They weren't cheap, but they meant a huge amount to me. The perfect Christmas - basically, for me, it was books and sweets...


The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com and I'll let you know where to send it.


  In this issue:

  The Front Page

  Children's Books

  Fiction books

  Fantasy & Science Fiction

  Nonfiction Books

  The Silent Three

  The Four Marys

  Living with Skipper


  Acker Bilk Sleeve Notes

  Pen and Sword Books

  Sundays with Tarzan

  The Back Page

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