Cup of Tea Tales – Being a Teenager in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s. Coffee Bars, Juke Boxes and Pinball Machines.

David’s Bookshelf – Issue One Cup of Tea Tales

  1. David’s Bookshelf – Issue One
  2. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Lifetime of Global Successes, Disasters and Wonders! Space the Final Frontier.
  3. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hetchell Woods (Bardsey) and Crags – A Special Piece of God’s Own Country or County! One of my Favourite Places to Visit.
  4. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Wonderful Yorkshire Dales. Trollers Gill, a Place with a Mysterious Legend and the Hell Hole where I Diced with Death.
  5. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Labs and all Manner of Magic, Misery and Mayhem. What Must have been the Worst job for a New Teacher, Chemistry with Boys with only one Aim, to Make Your Life Hell!

The teenage years for most people are turbulent and exciting times, a time when we want to be older and leave being a child behind, but are not quite sure how to fit in. The 1960s were a period of revolution in post-war Britain, both socially, technologically, politically and culturally. This added to the experience and I, for one, did not realise how unique these times were. Now I am not saying they were better, and one only has to look at health to realise that things now are far in advance of where they were, but the experience of being a teenager was influenced by all the changing factors.

Young people didn’t know, necessarily, what they wanted, but they could agree that they didn’t want to be like their parents. One of the first signs of growing up as a teenager was going into Leeds City with your friends and the place where you wanted to hang out would be either music shops, record shops or coffee bars. Saturday mornings would see us gather at the coffee bar under the Texas Grill on Vicar Lane in Leeds, run by a lady called Lulu. For some reason, the most attractive bars were subterranean, and this one was particularly handy, as it was almost at the Harehills bus stop. In the late sixties, scooters parked outside would be an indication of how popular a place it was and, at least for my friends and me, this was THE place in the city. It was only small and there was a side room that had the pinball machines and the main room that had a few tables and some bench seating. The benches had that red vinyl covering and the whole place had the smell of coffee and smoke. Us oldies will remember when it was normal for eating places, cinemas, pubs and even aircraft to be full of people smoking. I can’t say that I miss it, even though I was a smoker myself. The bar sold Cokes, Pepsis, milkshakes and for the trendy, ‘Frothy Coffee’. Sophisticated times, eh? There was a range of cakes, but most were Turkish and very sweet and not to my taste.

We would gather and chat, plan the weekend, discover if there were any parties, and generally hang out. There wasn’t a lot of money to spare and I don’t think the owner ever got rich off us, but we were at least regular customers. The pinball machines were a real draw. They had everything that you wanted as a teenager. They were from the USA, were loud, flashed lights and those who could master them had real street credibility. The skill was to hit the bumpers with force, flick the flippers at the right time and give the whole machine the right force of push to achieve success without causing a tilt. I played a few times but never was a master as you needed copious money or skill to get replays, and I had neither. It was almost as much fun to watch as it was to play and our crowd would gather around anyone playing, particularly those getting high scores.

A group of Roundhay girls used to meet there as well, and they had a culture quite different from us lads. Their conversations were often one on one and used whispered voices. I was always intrigued as to what they were saying, or who they were talking about. They even had their own coded language that sounded like complete gobbledygook to me. I am not sure if it was called Pigeon Latin. It was explained to me and apparently, you took the first letter of the syllable and then added a ‘urrugh’ before finishing the syllable. The word dog became ‘Durrughog’. Multi-syllabic words were more complex, as each syllable had the same treatment, but, with practice, became quite easy. What was very difficult was listening to the girls speak very quickly to each other in what sounded like nonsense, but they clearly understood and there was much laughter. This was particularly intimidating if they kept looking at you amidst the laughter. I still can speak it in a slow form, but it is a skill without a lot of applications nowadays. I wonder if the girls can remember it, or still use it?

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Our crowd comprised the members of our rock band and associates. We were not Mods, Rockers or Teddies, and we had friends and acquaintances from all of these groups, but I guess we were a bit more hippy. We loved progressive music and rock, and had long hair, despite Roundhay School’s best efforts to keep us like proper boys/gentlemen. At this time, Boodle-am was the fashion shop and tie-dye shirts, loon pants, and jeans with inserts to make them even more bell-bottom, were coming into vogue. At Roundhay, I remember how we would be inspected by some of the form teachers and told to get our hair cut, which somehow we forgot to do. I clearly recall tucking my hair down inside my collar to somehow escape detection during an inspection. I loved my hair. The feel of it is something that I miss, having lost most of it by my mid-twenties. I also grew sideburns, which were the rage these days. Again, this was something that Roundhay School teachers didn’t approve of, or at least the more traditional ones.

The tiny, ‘Number Six’ cigarettes were the most common smoke as they were so cheap and the coffee bar would be full of the stench of smoke, chatter and the bells and crashes of the pinball and the accompanying sounds of the jukebox.

All coffee bars had jukeboxes and these were part of the attraction. The big hits at the time (1968-9) were: Spirit in the Sky, Honky Tonk Woman, Bad Moon Rising and In the Year 2525.

Jukeboxes were again part of the American attraction of the coffee bars. Like the pinball machines, they were mesmerising as the record would be selected after feeding in the coin. Racks of singles would turn, and a record would be grabbed by a mechanical arm. The disc used to fall onto the turntable and the heavy needle arm would come down onto the record you had selected. Your choice of music would play and, hopefully, it was met with approval from those sitting around. If the coffee bar was busy, you could wait a long time for your selection to play. I have seen teenagers trying to win approval fail miserably by selecting the wrong record, one that was not seen as worthy. A boy could lose the interest of a girl if they had a naff taste in music.

I can’t remember how long we went to coffee bars, maybe a year or two before they were replaced with other venues. We also used to go to the Del Rio in Leeds for a while, but there were a few and we would move between them. There was one at Harehills that we would walk to from Pete’s house. Again, it was below ground and it was owned by Jack Charlton, the Leeds United footballer, and was called the Trophy Room. I believe he also owned the clothes shop above. The coffee bar was very similar to the one at the Texas Grill, but maybe a little smaller. Occasionally, we would see Jack there and he would be happy to chat. We would sit, talk about music, plan a new song, and often walk along to Project Records. (I hope I got the name right as I can also picture Concept Records) This shop was a godsend to us. They sold secondhand as well as new records and when they became available, cassettes. Because prices were low, you could experiment a bit. I would look for covers that were intriguing or artists that I had never heard but knew had played on other albums I liked. I still have a copy of an album by Keith Tippett, a jazz pianist, who played on a couple of King Crimson’s early albums. Some great discoveries were made this way, and some dud purchases were made. The other advantage of the shop was that if you were desperate for money, you could sell your albums, but you never got a lot for them. Jack Charlton’s coffee bar and the shop closed after there was a fire.

Harehills was an interesting place in the late 1960s. It was quite a melting pot of people and cultures, but I never had any problem there and always, with one exception, felt safe. The Clock Cinema was a great place to see new films and I remember as a teenager watching the films Woodstock, Easy Rider, Blazing Saddles, Mash, Kelly’s Heroes and many, many more. Of course, going as a teenager was a very different experience from going with your parents or grandparents. I know that they even had double seats for couples. I remember my first visit with a girl and the vast, imaginary gap that separated us as I tried to work my arm around her shoulders. For some reason, I can’t remember the film at all.

The bus was our means of transport, apart from walking, and we didn’t mind spending vast amounts of time waiting for them to arrive. Upstairs was the place to go, but they stank of tobacco and were filled with smoke. The rocking motion was more exaggerated than downstairs and you would often disembark feeling sick. Who could forget the ‘Spitting is Forbidden’ sign at the front and the Hypno the Rapist sign? We often missed the last bus at the end of the evening and this would mean a long walk home, sometimes in a group, but many times on your own. Peter gave the experience a lasting tribute in the song Last Bus, that the band used to play.

Rain, fog, frost, snow, the walk home to Oakwood and then through Gipton Wood in the dead of night holds both fantastic and frightening memories. I got to know the trail through the woods, each and every root that waited to trip you in the dark, so that, if necessary, I could run through it with no hesitation. Some nights I just strode through without a thought, others I was quite terrified and listened to every noise, my heart almost drowning the sounds out.

What we do when we are young!

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