In 1957 there was big news on the home front when my sister Lindsay was born and I got a new hand knitted cardigan.
Here we are sixty years later, still smiling…
But around the world following the excitement of wars and revolutions in 1956 this particular year seems to have been less frenetic.
The Treaty of Rome established the Common Market, which was a deeply significant event that has shaped the recent history of modern Europe. This has become the European Union and has undergone a number of expansions that has taken it from six member states in 1957 to twenty-seven today, a majority of states in Europe. Britain joined in 1973 after a long period of being denied membership by France and in particular the deeply ungrateful and shameless Anglophobe President de Gaulle.
Forty-five years later a majority in UK wish that de Gaulle had got his own way.
1957 was the fiftieth anniversary of the Boy Scouts which began in 1907 when Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant General in the British Army, who had served in India and Africa in the 1880s and 1890s held the first Scout camp at Brownsea Island in Dorset.
I joined the Wolf Cubs when I was seven years old and after I had passed all the tests and received my Leaping Wolf Certificate moved up to the Scouts when I was eleven. At first I was in the Paddox Troop but later transferred to the Hillmorton, which was good for me because dad was the Scoutmaster, which gave me a bit of an advantage when it came to passing tests and getting badges.
This is me in 1965 wearing my version of the Aussie Baggy Green Cap.
I liked the Scouts and the quasi-military organisation that came with it with the uniforms and the kit inspections, the law book and solemn promise and the fact that I could legitimately carry a hunting knife on my belt without being challenged. Boys stayed in the Scouts until they were sixteen but I never saw it through to the end; Dad fell out with the Group Scout Master, Harry Newman in 1969, walked out and never waggled his woggle again and that November I discovered girls and that hanky-panky was much more fun than gin-gan-gooly and that was goodbye to the Scouts, which was a shame because I was only a couple of tests away from my First Class Scouts badge at the time.
You can read more about the Boy Scouts in these two posts…
Robert Baden Powell and Scouting
On a serious note there was a major train crash disaster in 1957 when two trains collided in thick fog which killed ninety-two people and injured another one hundred and seventy-three. I mention this because the accident was in Lewisham in south-east London and only a couple of miles or so from the town of Catford where my grandparents lived and who we used to visit regularly.
In sport Stanley Matthews played his last game for England at the almost unbelievable age of forty-four. He has the record for the longest serving England career at twenty-three years and remains the oldest man to ever play for England. Let’s face it; it is completely unlikely that this record will ever be beaten. He didn’t retire from football altogether at this time though and he continued playing at the very highest level in the English First Division with Stoke City until he was fifty years old when he finally retired in 1964.
I can actually remember seeing Stanley Matthews myself because from about seven years old dad started to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.
Football grounds were totally different to the all seater stadiums that we are used to now and were predominantly standing affairs. I was only a little lad so it was important to go early to get a good spot on the wall just behind the goal. This required an early arrival and although matches didn’t start until three o’clock dad used to get us there for the opening of the gates at about one.
This must have required great patience on his part because two hours is a long time to wait for a football match to start standing on cold concrete terracing and I really didn’t appreciate at the time that all of this was done just for me. In the 1960s of course it was common to have pre-match entertainment when local marching bands would give a thirty minute medley of tunes up until kick off time so at least there was something to watch.
Footballers like Matthews were completely different from the prima donnas of the modern game; they got stuck in and played like men with a big heavy leather football, shirts that became waterlogged and uncomfortable in the rain and the mud and boots that would have been more appropriate for wearing down a coal mine. What’s more it wasn’t unusual to watch the same eleven men play week after week because they just shrugged off the knocks that put modern players out for weeks. An injury had to be almost life threatening to stop somebody playing in those days.
Off the ground there were two important airborne events in 1957 that were important for the future. There was the first flight of the Boeing 707 which was to become important in increasing travel opportunities and in the USSR the sputnik programme began with the launch of Sputnik1, which was an event that triggered the space race between the two world superpowers the US and the USSR both bursting with testosterone and competing with each other to rule the modern world.