‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hippy Attempt on the Summit of Mount Snowdon. What Foolish Things We Did as Students! – Cup of Tea Tales
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hippy Attempt on the Summit of Mount Snowdon. What Foolish Things We Did as Students!
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Ashworth’s Sweet-Shop, Harehills. Sweets, Victory V Lozenges, Sweet Cigarettes and Other Delights We Have Lost Over The Years.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A’ Levels, the Final Year at High School, Planning to Leave Home, Getting into College and Growing Older if Not Wiser.
- David’s Bookshelf Issue 5
- ‘Cup Of Tea Tales’- Remember, Remember the Fifth of November – Bonfire Night Shenanigans! Not Fun for Everyone!
I guess it was just the times, but there was an alignment of the stars and the swinging sixties met with adolescence and a society that hadn’t got its mind onto this new group, teenagers. Looking at us now, we don’t seem very wild and revolutionary, but then, we were unsure about what we wanted to be or do. We certainly knew we didn’t want to be like our parents. And, by golly, did we make that clear!
The word bandied around was freedom, and as ‘almost adults’ we wanted more than our fair share of it. For me, music was revolutionary and inspirational. My wife doesn’t get it, but I saw the world change from black and white to Technicolor almost overnight. Clothes became wild, colourful, and a statement of individuality and, despite a general lack of money, we did our best to make ourselves stand out. My mother started wearing short dresses with Mary Quant patterns and colours. Artificial fabrics were all the rage and prices were low. I believe she bought a dress for ten shillings, 50 pence nowadays.
As teenagers, we didn’t have a lot of money, but I bought a pair of Levis and they were basically my only trousers that were not school ones and, at first, the only ones that weren’t shorts. Eventually, I built up my collection of fab gear with such fashion statements as loons, tie-dye t-shirts, grandad shirts, a budgie jacket, Afghan coat, clogs, chisel-toe shoes, rhino skin shoes, and bomber jacket. My father had built wardrobes into our bedrooms. There wasn’t a lot of space, but that didn’t matter as there wasn’t much in them at first, apart from school uniforms. Having an older brother was handy, as I could raid all the trendy clothes that he had. He was very patient with me, but occasionally we came to blows. My younger brother likes to remind me how my older brother and I fought over the tomato sauce. I think this was because there wasn’t a lot left. The top had been removed, and we wrestled over it. We only stopped when the ceiling was splattered with it. Brotherly love!
As I have said previously, my first social experiences were youth clubs, but by the age of fourteen, we were moving further afield. My experience of parties started when I was much younger with the usual children’s birthday parties. By the end of Harehills County Primary School, we were becoming very interested in the opposite gender and games such as pass-the-parcel were being replaced by postman’s knock. In our teens, this moved on a notch. I am not sure what parents, particularly parents of girls, were thinking when they agreed to host parties. To make matters worse, they had obviously been persuaded not to be present, which was a recipe for disaster.
I can’t remember where the first party I attended was, but it would have been either around the Roundhay School area or Alwoodley. We had, for a long while, gathered in Pete’s cellar at Harehills but, as we knew who was attending, somehow I don’t count those. These were more of a gathering of friends and saw us listen to albums, dissect them and the bands themselves, and of course, it was the venue where our band first started. Times were different, and it was quite easy for teenagers to buy alcohol and cigarettes were openly on sale from street cigarette vending machines, although, as I have said, we didn’t have much money. A bottle of cheap sherry, QC or the like, or preferably a bottle of Chablis, could be bought for about six shillings (30 pence). Cider was another favourite and was stronger in alcohol than the current offerings. Newcastle Brown was not a good choice as it was sweet and sickly and gave young drinkers a dreadful hangover and a determination never to drink again. We tried everything in those days. Martini and lemonade, lager and lime or blackcurrant were often the choice of the girls but avoided by the lads. Whilst we were at Pete’s one night, he decided to mix all the remnants of his parent’s spirit collection. There was wine, schnaps and other assorted drinks. When mixed, there was this opaque mixture that was christened Rocket Fuel. It was as dreadful as it sounds and the following day there were a lot of sore heads.
Another venue I haven’t mentioned before was a Roundhay friend’s house, John L, affectionately nicknamed ‘Screwer’. Several of our friends had quite definite nicknames and most, if not all, were quite cruel now I look back, but I didn’t have any understanding at the time. They were just what they were called. Screwer, Bones, Smeller! The teachers also had a range of nicknames. Fingers, the Headmaster, Holy Joe Pullen, the RE teacher, Gobbler, the young English teacher and others. I don’t remember having one myself, but who knows what others called me? I was Dave, at the time, and still am to Leeds friends, but it sounds so young now and not the man I see in the mirror.
John L’s house was another venue for our crowd and for gatherings and one or two parties. John was a lovely-natured boy and generous to a fault. I remember Dave G and me arriving at lunchtime. John offered us a fry-up and we stood in his kitchen watching. There was a frying pan with a thick layer of congealed fat (lard). He put the gas on to melt it and Dave and I both saw the very large moth stuck, wings wide, in the fat. ‘John, there’s a moth stuck in it!’ One or both of us said. ‘Oh, yes,’ he replied, took the spatula, scooped it out and flicked it into the bin, and then just carried on. I can’t say that I enjoyed lunch as much as I had hoped.
I must add that there were very different attitudes in the 1960s-70s, from those today. The girls tended to drink moderately, and it was the boys who had no sense and drank until they needed help. This was usually provided by a girlfriend, who ensured you got home safely.
Word got around about upcoming parties and it was accepted that if one of our crowd was invited, then we all were, which probably meant about twenty of us. Parties were usually planned for a Friday or Saturday evening. The front doors would often be open and loud music could be heard long before you arrived at someone’s nice home. Usually, by the time we arrived, it would already be crowded, and we just walked in. Drink, if you brought any, was deposited in the kitchen, where boys tended to gather. In the hallway and the two rooms, front and back, teenagers would stand chatting, smoking and drinking. I don’t remember any dancing. People would bring their latest records to play, and I sometimes did. This was never a good move as people would drag the needle over them, stand on them, spill drinks on them and they were never the same afterwards. Sometimes they disappeared as someone would take them.
The air would tend to be thick with smoke and even if you were a non-smoker, you would have inhaled half a packet by the time you left and your clothes would reek of tobacco. Some civilised and kindly parents would provide nibbles, but evidently, they clearly didn’t expect the numbers that were attending. Mid-evening, the pantry and fridge would be raided for any snacks. Anything tempting would be liberated and greedily enjoyed. Good Axminster carpets had drinks spilt on them, cigarettes trodden into them and food and vomit added to the mix.
Parents would have returned by elevenish in those days and a frantic cleaning up would start by the panicked host of the party. The poor girl would probably be quite upset by the careless attitude of the guests and her friends would rally around to put things to rights. The boys, including me, saw this as the signal that it was time to leave. We would gather up our records, search for missing friends, often lying ill in the back or front gardens, and head as far away as possible from the repercussions. Supporting any incapacitated members of our circle, we made our way along the dark, now quiet streets, ears ringing, vision slightly blurred, as the frost and mist began to settle over the city. I don’t know why, but it seemed that parties were held during autumn and winter, or maybe that is just my imagination.
I can only guess what the host’s parent’s reactions would have been. Carpet cleaning, or replacing, tears and a very firm declaration that this was the first and the very last party they would ever be allowed to hold in their house. I don’t remember many people re-hosting parties until we got older, with the exception of Peter’s cellar and John L’s, where his home became social central for quite a while. I only had one at my house and that was when my parents and younger brother were on holiday and I was left in charge. It was a fairly low-key affair, but I had to explain why a bedroom door handle had been snapped off.
I must add, for educational purposes, some of my party highlights convinced me to never allow my own children to host parties. How could I ever forget the Heinz Steam pudding being cooked in a kettle in one house, a mother’s very large corset arranged around a standard lamp for the world to see and marvel at, red wine on a white carpet, and the surprise of opening a pantry door to find a partly clad couple? The parents were actually present and supervising the party on this occasion. Of course, there were others, but you get the trend. I can’t say that our crowd was the worst behaved and often we were more observers than players, but I guess we were the types that parents dreaded and warned their children about.
The following Monday after a party, without fail, the host girl claimed it was a fantastic party. Their parents hadn’t complained, and they said they must host one again soon. I guess this was a way of saving face and, as I have said, few had an encore.
My most memorable time at a party was nearly my undoing. I was walking to an off-licence mid-party to buy some more drink. This was at Headingley and I drunkenly stepped off the kerb and was hit by an MG Midget. It resulted in my first stay in hospital. Clearly, I survived, but it was one of several near-death encounters.
For all our turbulent times and experiences, somehow, we all grew up and, in almost every case, became pillars of society in a wide range of professions and occupations. I guess we were lucky that mobile phone cameras were not on hand to record the highlights, and this is a luxury that the younger generation doesn’t have. Mind you, people like me are now retelling some of the wild times that grandparents got up to. We may be old, but we knew how to have a riotous time!