Books Monthly August 2020 - the most colourful page in the magazine - and just look at those fabulous Annual covers...
  Books Monthly Nostalgia
More reminiscences of life in the 1950s...


Book of the month: Roy of the Rovers - Best Of The Fifties

 Published by Rebellion Publishing July 2019

Celebrating 65 years of goals and glory in 2019, this first in a spectacular new luxury treasury series collects the very best stories from the first decade of Roy of the Rovers comics!

Roy Race is only a schoolboy but the scouts from the mighty Melchester Rovers have spotted his talent, and now he's on his way to a career as professional footballer!

But how will Roy settle into the ranks at Rovers? Can he deal with the competition, the pressure, and the fan's expectations? The legend begins here!

An icon of British comics and sporting history is born, with his origin presented in glorious hardback for the first time!

This superb book continues Rebellion Publishing's dedicated programme of publishing 1950s/`960s British comics. What I absolutely love about it is the fact that each episode of the picture story is exactly as it was published in the Tiger comic from issue 1 on September 11th 1954. I remember waiting with huge anticipation for the first issue of the Tiger comic - I already got the Lion each week, and the promise of a brand new "brother" paper to Lion was enormous. I was two days shy of my eighth borthday on the official publication date, which was a Saturday. I seem to remember that my comics were published on a Thursday but I could be wrong. Anyway, this wonderful book brings back so many brilliant memories - I loved football, for instance, and I was enthralled by Jet Ace Logan (and Plumduff Charteris!). I forget which football team I supported, as we didn't have a first division team in Gloucester. It could have been anyone, maybe even Liverpool, whom I follow now and have done since 1966, when  my love of football was reignited when England won the world cup. We played rugby at the Crypt Grammar School, which was where I ended up in 1957, two years later, at the age of ten; but it was football we played in the quadrangle at break and dinner time, and it was football we played on Satuday mornings when I cycled back to Tuffley (where the Crypt Grammar School was) to join my classmates in a game, and it was football we played in the recreation ground in Brockworth (where I lived) just beyond the primary school I had attended. I hated rugby with a passion that has never diminished, and I used every schoolboy wile to get out of playing each week. Football was my passion - one Christmas I even asked for (and received) a genuine leather football. This book is brilliant. I'm halfway through it and have just sent off for its companion volume, The Best of the 1960s, which I shall write about in the next issue. It's like having dozens of issues of the Tiger comic in one volume - now that would be something! In the meantime, I can only finish by saying that this is the very best Roy of the Rovers book I have ever seen - and I've reviewed quite a few of them over the years!

Growing up in the fifties - Entertainment Part 1

When my Mum died in 2002 I inherited her collection of family photos. Just a cardboard box, filled with snaps of family members, works outings, school photos, baby photos etc., etc. One of them was of a works outing, about thirty or so people, men and women, standing by a coach, probably from the 1940s or 1950s. What was interesting about it was the fact that my Dad was among the workers in the photo; also, at the very front, was a very short old man, certainly no more than four feet six inches, if that. He had a walrus moustache, and an enormous flat cap, more like a 1920s style of cap. I had no idea if this man, probably in his late forties or early fifties (people looked older in those days), was a family member or just someone from the same place of work as my Dad's. At the time (2002), my Mum was the eldest of the Norman family still living. And, of course, she wasn't really a Norman but a Paice, or a Kimber. I didn't get the chance to ask her who this little bloke with the big cap was, because I'd never seen the photo before. Now, nearly twenty years later, genealogy is big business, fuelled by such excellent programmes as Who Do You Think You Are? and A House Through Time. Pen and Sword publications have a huge range of books available to help people discover their past; and there are at least two major genealogical sites online: (in my opinion, the best); and We've used both, and managed to trace both of our familes (The Normans and the Haudes) back through the ages. Very satisfying, and thrilling to do.

However, we've come to realise, lately, that there really is no substitute for hands-on quizzing of older family members in order to get to the bottom of family mysteries, the answers to which you simply won't find on the genealogical sites. And with the death, earlier this year, of Wendy's older brother, Bob, we've come to realise that we, Wendy and I, are the respective heads of our families, and it's up to us to record what little we know. I know, for example, that after the Great War, and the death in August 1916 of my paternal grandfather, my Dad and his three older sisters were sent off to live with my grandfather's younger brother, my Great Uncle Leopold Septimus Norman. My paternal grandmother, Emily Kemp (b.1886, d.1929) had a fifth child, my Uncle Eddie, who was also at some point in his life palmed off to be brought up by Uncle Leo and Aunt Maggie. Although you'd find some of this information on the Census sheets (the 1921 Census is due to be published next year, and I've just learnt that there is no 1931 census [it was destropyed by fire!] or 1941 census because of the War), the information would be limited. There would be no notes to say that Grandmother Emily simply couldn't cope with her four children after her husband died in 1916, and I don't know that that is the reason for her giving her children into Uncle Leo's care - in fact, more importantly, I have no way of finding out what happened to cause her to part company with her four children, what year it happened (was it 1916, when Granddad Arthur Robert Norman died) or was it 1918, when the war was finally over? There is no one to ask, and no way of ever finding out now. Which makes it more important than ever to set down what we know about our families - reminiscences, scandals, anecdotes. And who was that little bloke in the works outing picture that was in my Mum's collection of old photographs?

I've rephotographed some of these family snaps with either my camera or my phone, and the results are reasonable, sufficient for the purposes of recording them for posterity. I haven't annotated them, but I have uploaded them to Facebook and I still have them on the laptop, which has an enormous hard drive. Our three children have seen them and laughed at the styles, the fashions etc., particularly at the little bloke with the enormous cap, but at others, too; and they do ask questions about family members, family histories etc. They each had a copy of our family trees when we'd completed them a few years back. There are more investigations to be carried out on Ancestry and Find My Past in the future. In the meantime, I can make a start by recording my memories. They may not be of interest to anyone outside the immediate family, but then again, I love reading other people's family histories, so maybe it will interest you, or someone you know. It may turn out to be a valuable insight into the lives of your ancestors during the 1940s and 1950s, and the 1960s are always of interest to someone, aren't they? I know, because I lived through all of those decades and I'm still here, with all my marbles, and able to write about what I remember, so here goes:

My earliest memory, verified by my Mum, is of standing in my cot, screaming as a load of capering monkeys scrambled up the walls of my bedroom. I would have been around one year old, she told me, when I told her it was the first thing I could remember. That was the year, she said, when they almost lost me to whooping cough. Whooping Cough is like a common cold but is followed by weeks of severe coughing fits. I was in a bad way, it seems. And lucky to survive, it also seems. The monkeys were illustrations on a frieze that ran around the room at adult waist height, and it also featured other exotic animals that you wouldn't ordinarily see in Britain. I was born on Friday thirteenth September, 1946, (lucky for me, at least!) in the village of Brockworth, in the county of Gloucestershire, delivered by Nurse Doyle, the midwife, in the family home at 72 Boverton Drive. I was described to my Mum as having a square head, "like a German, really". As far as I am aware I was the first person to be born in that house. The family had moved to Brockworth, in Gloucestershire, in 1939. I base this supposition on the fact that I was told Mum and Dad were waiting for the house to be finished, living while they did so in a flat above one of the  shops at the end of the Drive.  I don't know why, but I do know that in the next road, which ran parallel to Boverton Drive, and was called Boverton Avenue, my maternal Grandmother lived with two of her seven children, my Uncles Ernie and John. Opposite them, also in Boverton Avenue, lived my Great Uncle Ernest and Great Aunt Grace; he was brother to my maternal grandfather, Henry William Kimber (1888-1943) and my maternal grandmother, Florence Annie Paice (1887-1958). At the top of Boverton Drive ran Court Road, which led to Brockworth Court; Court Road was also the road to Brockworth Church, and to the next village, Churchdown. Now, according to the road atlas, halfway to Churchdown there's a bloomin' great motorway and not far away, GCHQ. In my day, this was more or less open countryside. In Court Road lived the oldest of Henry and Florence Kimber's children, Stanley William Kimber (my Uncle Bill, who was married to Elsie, and there they lived with their two children, Brian and Peter Kimber, both a little older than me). In the next village down the road, going towards Gloucester City, a village called Hucclecote, lived my Uncle Leslie and his wife Grace. They eventually had seven children, including one set of twins. Just about all of my Mum's family moved to Gloucestershire, beginning with Uncle Bill and Aunt Elsie in 1935, and by 1939, they were all there. Dad's family, his three sisters and their husbands, remained in the East End, in and around Hornchurch, mainly.

I said earlier that I thought I was the first person to be born in 72 Boverton Drive. I have an older sister, Jean, still living in Scotland, and five years older than me (so really, she's the oldest living Norman - however, being the oldest man, I consider myself the head of the family, and she really won't mind, in fact she probably won't even read this!. Jean was born in rooms above the local shop, a shop run by Mr Ellis, who always called me "Peter-called-Paul". I have no idea why, but the fact that Jean was not born in 72 Boverton Drive is important. I know for a fact that the family (all of them Kimbers, apart from my Dad) moved out of London en masse and decamped to Brockworth, in the county of Gloucestershire over a period of four years. They were all Londoners, from Camberwell. Knowing the fact doesn't tell me why it happened, and I can only make intelligent guesses. First, 1939 was the year Britain declared war on Germany. My Mum had worked at the Eastlight Factory in the East End of London, where they manufactured box files. My Dad was a highly skilled engineer, and in Brockworth was situated the Gloucester Aircraft Factory. I know for a fact that my Dad, Arthur Robert Norman (same name as his Dad, my grandfather, whom I never got to meet), and my Uncles Ernie and John, worked in that factory. My Dad, being highly skilled, was in what was known as a reserved occupation. That is to say, he was never called up for military duty because his work at the factory (making small arms and ammunition, I believe) was considered essential work. My four Kimber uncles went off to fight in the war, along with  my Dad's younger brother, Uncle Eddie (remember him? He was the fifth child of Emily Kemp, who turned all of her children over to the care of Uncle Leopold and Aunt Maggie. He also moved out of London to the village of Matson, a couple of miles away from where my Grammar School stood, presumably to be near my Dad, whom he idolised (as did I!)

Back to Brockworth, and the fact that Jean was born above a shop whilst I was born in number 72 Boverton Drive. I don't know the year in which the villas that populated Boverton Drive were built, but it seems logical that my parents (and Jean) were living above the shop in Boverton Drive whilst the houses were being built. Jean was a war baby, I was a baby-boomer, probably, no definitely, conceived at Christmas 1945. A fitting end to the year the war finally ceased. That my extended family occupied four identical three-bedroomed villas in a small village (population 1945: around 3,500) after previously all living in the East End of London seems remarkable to me. I shall always think of myself as being of London stock - an East Ender, I guess. My father was a genuine cockney (born in Becontree), whilst my Mum was not - she was born in Barkingside, Essex, and grew up in Camberwell. My Dad was best friends with my Uncle John, Mum's older brother, and that was how they met, fell in love and married in 1939. I believe their wedding took place in London - it has the look of a register office to me, and certainly not rural Gloucestershire. I forget the month of their marriage, and will have to remind myself using some time, but I think it was in the summer of 1939. Jean was born in September 1941, so they were well settled in Brockworth by that time. At some point after hostilities ceased, Dad secured a job with Rank Precision Industries, which had a factory in one of the Forest of Dean villages, Mitcheldean. He rose through the ranks to become their Chief Tool Engineer, and I was extremely proud of him for that.

Rank Precision Industries was owned by J Arthur Rank, the film maker. In Mitcheldean they made cine cameras and projectors. Later, they made the very first Xerox photocopying machines. My Dad was involved in all of these things. My Mum was a homemaker. It was only when I got to the age of six that she started work again, when she became a dinner lady, serving meals and watching over us as we played after dinner in the  school playground. But that came later. My next coherent memory, after the monkeys, and that awful whooping cough, is of sitting in a tin bath in the garden, playing with my Dad, and I would have been around 18 months old. We had a large garden, all laid to lawn. My Gran's garden, round in Boverton Avenue, was the same shape, though the front garden was not as big. Out the back, she kept chickens, and geese, and gre vegetables. She had a border collie, too. And there was a big garage, made of corrugated iron. This garage was eventually carried from Avenue to Drive one day, panel by panel, and re-erected in our back garden - Dad was getting a car! But once again, I'm getting ahead of myself! Memories come thick and fast now. Me sitting in front of the radio in the front room, listening to Listen With Mother while Mum prepared meals. Me reading books by Mabel Lucy Attwell and reading comics like Robin and Jack and Jill, in which all the stories were told in rhyme. Me watching wide-eyed while the coalman carried enormous, very heavy sacks of coal to be deposited in the small shed at the back of the house. Me pedalling my Tri-Ang tricycle while my Dad pushed it with the special steel pusher that attached to the capacious boot. My first journey to Shurdington Primary School, mixed ages, probably in the region of twenty or so pupils, clinging for dear life to the double-decker seat that ran sideways at the back, where you got on, as we climbed towards the Cotswolds. I was four and a half. Sunday outings to the top of Cooper's Hill, where they rolled the cheeses on Whit Monday, and people braver than me ran down after them, breaking legs and arms. Saturday trips on the Bristol Omnibus Company double decker, bright green, number 57, into the city to do shopping that we couldn't get in the village. Shopping like school uniforms, which came from the Four storey Bon Marché department store. School holidays that seemed to last forever in a haze of bright blue skies and perennial sunshine. Projects at school such as writing a book... I chose to write about ocean-going liners, and wrote off to P&O and Cunard etc., for brochures with which to illustrate my "book". But that was after Shurdington - and during the days of the Brockworth New County Primary School - days of joy and fun and discovery, and the revolt against custard... but that's for next month!

Yours Retro Magazine - the latest issue - out now!

The July 2020 edition starts with an  in-depth look at how various stars have coped with being on the Muppet Show, such as Julie Andrews, Vincent Price, Liza Minelli and a whole host of others - then there's a great article on how Michael Caine became the real face of spy thriller movies as Harry Palmer; George Reeves, the original Superman; how Janet Leigh became a movie star; comparing Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes; Mickey Rooney and Ava Gardner; and much, much more. Eighty pages of pure nostalgia, heavily illustrated and brilliantly written. Best magazine of any genre on the market, and now monthly! Great value, great stuff all round!

 (Note to self, May/June 2016 Archives)

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 22nd 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 and I'll let you know where to send it.

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As this is the Nostalgia page, and it's all about what happened in the old days, I'm publishing part three of my memories of the 1950s, together with a couple of 1950s books that have recently come my way...