Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Hippie Shake with Joanna Lambert

As my latest book, Storm Clouds Gathering is set in 1965 I thought it would be great fun to take a peek at that amazing era. This week, author, Joanna Lambert joins The Hippie Shake and shares some of the memories and pictures that represent that wonderful era, the 1960’s.

Growing Up in the Sixties

What do I remember about the sixties?  Well for a start I spent a good part of the decade at school.  In the early sixties there was nothing you could really define as British music.  Cliff Richard was an English version of Elvis and most of the singing stars wore sports jackets and trousers, emulating their American counterparts.  It was either ballads or rock and roll.  Then came the Beatles and shortly after that the Rolling Stones.  We were absolutely blown away with not only their music but also the accompanying Mersey and Manchester sounds which followed in their wake.  Every chart topping band seemed to be English: Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, The Hollies, The Animals, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Troggs and Dave Clark Five to name but a few.  The UK had suddenly become ‘where it’s at’. I do remember my mother having this hate thing for the Stones.  She saw them as the devil incarnate.  My mum’s tastes were quite specific : Ken Dodd and Matt Monroe – oh and Jim Reeves of course! And she would never miss Perry Como’s Christmas show!

When I was fifteen the Beatles were filming ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ locally.  Their train passed each morning through one local station where pupils were waiting.  It brought excited girls into class telling of of glimpses of our idols and waves as the coaches passed through.  Although you had to go to Bath to see the real stars, my own town’s cinema hosted a ‘one-night only’ with Herman’s Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers and Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas.  Most of us had no voices by next morning!

 When miniskirts arrived we rolled up the waist bands on our school skirts to shorten them,  much to the annoyance of our Headmistress.  Regularly each month all the girls had to stay behind after assembly to listen to one of her pep talks.  No nail varnish, hair which was collar  length or longer had to be caught up in a ponytail and at any trace of make-up she would freak out!  She was an absolute Rottweiler when it came to school uniform as well, it all had to be regulation, no cheap substitutes and hats or berets had to be worn once we left the school gates.  To break this rule meant detention.

At sixteen I left school spending the summer working in the local Woolworth.  It was the first time I had earned my own money and was able to buy my own clothes.  I was in seventh heaven.  One local businessman bought his daughter a boutique for her twenty-first birthday.  The small provincial West Country town I lived in had never seen the like - you could choose from a huge selection of dresses for under £5!  Life was now all about dressing up and looking good.  Woolies sold Rimmel make up, everything in the range was 12p.  I used to occasionally spoil myself by going to Boots and purchasing a Goya perfume stick – Timeless was my favourite!

The world seemed to be awash with ferocious supervising women – first our headmistress and now Beryl, the Chief Supervisor who ran our local branch of Woolies with an iron hand.  On Saturdays we would get visits from young guys who would wander around the store, usually a little worse for drink, and ask for stupid things like left handed cups and sky hooks and striped toothpaste (you could only get white toothpaste then).   Hawk -eyed Beryl would have them out of the store in no time!

Once the autumn came I started my Business Diploma at college.  I stayed on at ‘Woolies’ as a Saturday girl, earning 70p for a  day’s work.  It doesn’t sound much but it went quite a long way in those days.  When my first year at college ended some of the girls suggested we get summer jobs with Ross, which was a similar company to Birdseye.  They had a local factory and five of us ended up working six weeks in the despatch department where the chicken were weighed, bagged, sealed and put into crates before being wheeled into a massive freezer.  Another section made cardboard boxes and once the birds had been frozen they would be boxed up and shipped out in freezer lorries to another warehouse.  This work earned us the princely sum of £8 a week – we thought we had a fortune!

College was also a time for boys.  Boys at school somehow didn’t cut it but now to be in an environment with those who were much older saw the beginning of dating – and with the advent of longer hair and fashion there were so many gorgeous men around!  Getting a boyfriend with a car was a real coup!  At the time a car, even a second hand one, was far beyond the purchasing power of most young men.  I met my first husband at college; he was lucky enough to have been bought a car by his parents – a two tone grey Singer Gazelle with leather upholstery.  Those were the days when cars had bench seats - a bit of a strange phenomenon in today’s motoring world.

Local music venues were extremely tame – we had Top Twenty Club where although you could dance to all the latest hits the only refreshment was Coca Cola!  To experience anything more risqué you had to travel to Bath where just outside the city the Keel Club was the place to frequent.  There was a strict dress code there (no jeans) and my husband tells me that very often after an evening’s drinking they would turn up at the club only to find someone had forgotten and was wearing them.  The trick was that those with trousers would go into the club and one of them would hand his trousers out through the gents’ toilet window - luckily they were all more or less the same size!  The club was so dark that once in there no one noticed who was wearing what!

Looking back I guess the sixties for me were fairly tame and provincial.  London was the happening place and we only saw glimpses of places like Kings Road and Carnaby Street on TV. The only knowledge I had of drugs was from college where you could get hold of purple hearts (ampehtamines) but I didn’t ever come across anyone who used them. I think most people where I lived viewed drugs as a celebrity thing and used more in places like London.  Mostly everyone indulged with alcohol; although women going into pubs on their own or in groups was seriously frowned on.  Pubs were still very much a male domain where I lived!  In fact even when we reached the early seventies, a friend and I were refused entry to a pub because we were wearing hot pants – oh how times have changed!

More about Joanna

Jo Lambert grew up in rural Wiltshire. She originally trained as a secretary. In the 1980s she successfully completed a Higher National Certificate in Business and Finance. She has had a full time career since the age of 18, starting in secretarial roles and moving into management. She currently works part-time as an Administration Manager at her local hospital which allows her to make time for her great love - writing. She is the author of four books - The Behind Blue Eyes Trilogy and a sequel, Between Today and Yesterday. Jo is currently working on her fifth novel The Other Side of Morning which is due for publication in 2013. She lives in a village on the eastern edge of BathSomerset with her husband, cat Mollie and a white MG Midget which she calls ‘her husband’s other woman.’

Joanna's latest published book

Other titles by Joanna

When Tomorrow Comes
Love Lies and Promises
The Ghost of You and Me

twitter: @jolambertwriter


Rosemary Ann Smith said...

Wonderful memories and photographs, really enjoyed reading. The '60s will always be my favourite decade, and the '50s not far behind ... Rosemary

Pauline Barclay said...

Hello Rosemary, big thanks for stopping by. Always great to see you. Hugs x