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Two Rooms And A View: 73 - The Exciting Adventure Of Life

...For me, the nineteen-fifties was a decade of growth, development and new experiences, many made possible by being a member of the Boys' Brigade. It all started when, as part of the Festival of Britain, the Brigade nationally decided to send a message of congratulation to the King. This was to be delivered by a team of runners carrying an inscribed scroll from the birthplace of the Brigade's founder at Thurso in northern Scotland to Buckingham Palace in London...

Robert Owen recalls life as it was way back then.

Compared to the twenty-first century, it is practically impossible to comprehend the different standards and way of life of only fifty years ago. It was the age before TV, computers, mobile phones, the internet, the contraceptive pill for women, equal opportunities, drugs, explicit magazines and open debate on sexual matters, or what my mother used to call, 'Bedroom talk'.

The rules of society and the roles of individuals were straightforward. People were either single, engaged or married. There was no such thing as relationships, partners or items. Sex was for marriage and couples got married first and lived together afterwards. An unmarried couple living together were living in sin, and any children so produced were frowned upon by society.

Men worked and women looked after the home and children. Many more people went to church, and discipline, self-control and respect for authority were taught by the family, school and church. Police were respected, capital and corporal punishment still existed and law-breakers were so punished.

It was the age of full employment when only about six percent of young people went to university, but many more attended evening classes. Economically, the state did not provide, but most people saved from their low wages. Thrift was a virtue and debt a vice. Credit cards were unknown and bills were paid with cash.

It was the time of public transport, not motor cars, when old people were not afraid to go out at night and children respected their elders, when doors were left unlocked and people knew their responsibilities, not their rights!

It was also before marketing and extensive advertising of consumer products. People were encouraged to make things last and repair products, not throw them away as soon as they broke, or when there was a fashion change.

Many people believed this produced a strict, austere and depressing society, which was trying to recover from the hostilities of war. As far as I was concerned, it certainly didn't! Life was like an exciting adventure as I discovered the unknown world of being a teenager. There weren't enough hours in each day for all I wanted to do.

However, in an attempt to shake off this apparent post war gloom and celebrate the country's many achievements of the last century, a massive Festival of Britain Exhibition was held in London in 1951. The National papers and magazines were full of photos of the Skylon pointing skywards like a futuristic rocket and the much-visited Dome of Discovery.

For me, the nineteen-fifties was a decade of growth, development and new experiences, many made possible by being a member of the Boys' Brigade. It all started when, as part of the Festival of Britain, the Brigade nationally decided to send a message of congratulation to the King. This was to be delivered by a team of runners carrying an inscribed scroll from the birthplace of the Brigade's founder at Thurso in northern Scotland to Buckingham Palace in London.

Each team consisted of a Carrier and two Escorts who ran about five or six miles on different parts of the journey. Locally, the runners came to South Shields via Jarrow and Hebburn where there was an official hand-over at the Town Hall. The next team of three then took over on the journey to the Council Offices at East Boldon, en route to Sunderland.

I had the privilege of being one of the Escorts on the team and for the first time, I met John Chalmers personally. His car, a large Austin Princess, was carrying our clothes and acting as an escort throughout the journey. When passing through Cleadon Village, we were so far ahead of our schedule that he stopped the run and asked us to relax for twenty minutes with a cool drink in the back of his car.

He was very pleasant and talked to each of us in turn. To this day however, I remember the large and luxurious car that was so rare and ahead of its time in 1951.

Perhaps stimulated by this running experience I entered the Battalion five mile Senior Road Race in the summer of 1951. The winner was Ian Cooke from the 1st Jarrow Company, A Ainsley of the 11th Company was second and yours truly was a surprise third. Any athletic fame I might have glorified in was quickly lost when the Gazette incorrectly reported the result.

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