Saturday, April 15, 2023

UPDATED: 1968 And 1969: The Space Hopper In Britain...

From Mettoy - Our wonderful orange friend...

May 1968, England, UK - hop into summer with the spacehopper!

We were puzzled by the BBC's dreadfully researched I Love The 1970s series some years back. We were convinced that the space hopper was a craze well before the 1970s began. Well, feast your eyes on the above. The earliest space hopper ads we can find are from April 1968, and in 1968 there was a charity space hopper race in Hyde Park and toy shops and others were organising space hopper races elsewhere. This was MAINSTREAM pop culture, proven by newspapers of the time.

A carnival space hopper race in England, UK, 1969

The BBC's I Love series was riddled with errors - the series was reaching into 1981 pop culture in I Love 1979. The Rubik's Cube was not named, remanufactured or sold as such until 1980 - the trademark was registered in the UK on 7 May, 1980. The tiny seepage of Magic Cubes (the first incarnation of the Cube) beyond Hungarian borders was nowhere near enough to bring about any mainstream craze in the UK. Jonathan King took a Rubik's Cube onto Top of the Pops during the summer of 1980, describing it as the 'latest craze in America', it was certainly NOT a craze in the UK. The vast majority of us had no idea what it was.

The BBC seems to have a real obsession with pouring crazes from other decades into the '70s. We don't know why. In the case of the 1980s, is it political? The big bad Thatcher/Reagan 1980s rewritten as completely void of fond memories? Or are their researchers simply stupid?


Here is an ad for toys, including the space hopper (or SPACEHOPPER, as it is written in the ad!) from the Cambridge Evening News, England, 1969. Click on the illustration for a closer look...

Due to a faintly tedious tendency to hype the 1970s, both the BBC's "I Love 1970s" website and the Toy Retailers website state that the hopper arrived in Britain in 1971. However, the advertisement you are looking at is real, dates from 1969, and describes the Hopper as a "trend"...

For doubting Thomases, here is the date of the ad - 14 November, 1969 (as with the 1968 and other 1969 clippings), and I would be happy to provide photocopies of the entire newspapers to anybody who cares to examine the matter further - simply go to my profile for the e-mail address. Note: our later research has revealed, of course, that the space hopper was quite old news in the UK by the time the 1970s even started.

This British Toy Fair brochure from January 1969 features the space hopper, too (see page illustration on the right).

The Miller's Guide Collecting The 1960s by Madeleine Marsh also lists the space hopper as a late 1960s item.

As early as 1967 something called the "bouncing egg", a space hopper-type toy, was at toy fairs in England. The Science and Society galleries contain an excellent picture from April 1967 (featured above), labelled "12 year old Matthew Redmond entertaining people on Stockport Road with his ‘Bouncing Egg’ from the toy fair".

Copyright SSPL/Manchester Daily Express - not to be reproduced without permission.

The space hopper as we know it today, complete with its distinctive face, came into being in 1968 and was on sale in the UK from April that year - and an immediate trend. See illustration below for a round-up of the hopper state-of-play in England and the USA in 1969.

Hopping mad in 1969... the Space Hopper, complete with its highly distinctive face is in England, UK; the Hoppity Hop and Ride-A-Roo are rampant in the Christmas 1969 Sears and Montgomery Wards mail order catalogues in America.

If you are interested in pop culture, check out your local newspaper archive (I found the 1968 and 1969 space hopper ads in mine). Advertisements for clothes and toys and articles on fads and fashions provide valuable pointers as to what was "hot and what was not" way back then.

Do not, under any circumstances, take the word of the BBC's I Love 1970s, I Love 1980s, or I Love 1990s sites or TV programmes. The BBC's tendency to hype the 1970s ruined the I Love... venture and has infected other sites, like the Toy Retailers.
A few years ago, the Toy Retailers site was listing klackers (or klick-klacks) as the "undoubted" toy craze of 1971 - which I'm pretty sure is correct.

In the wake of I Love The 1970s, the Toy Retailers 1971 on-line information was altered to declare the space hopper "Craze Of The Year" - which is completely untrue as the Toy Retailers Association has NEVER made a "Craze of The Year" award and, besides that fact, the space hopper, although still quite popular, was old news by then!

The Hopper was fun, and threw up a lovely echo as I bounced down the path at the side of my gran's house...

Happy days!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Mary, Mungo And Midge

Mary, Mungo and Midge make some jelly. I love the attention to detail - the 1960s kitchen, complete with kettle, flex and plug, the 'Crabtree's' jelly, the rabbit jelly mould and formica-topped table.

In 1969 the BBC took us out tiny tots of the Magic Garden and the cosy rural idyll of Trumptonshire and into town.

A real town. Well, at least realistic.

Mary was a pre-school girl who lived in a block of flats. A very modern block of flats. Quite posh, and only eight flats high, but still modern reality.

Mary was a very advanced pre-schooler, who knew lots and lots of things, could write letters to her grandmother, and spent a lot of her time in her large, sunny playroom with her pet companions, Mungo the dog and Midge the mouse.

And here we got a blast of whimsy.

Mungo and Midge could talk. Well, at least they could talk to Mary and each other.

This, of course, added endless appeal for pre-schoolers, and provided the basis for a series of episodes in which the modern world was explored and explained. What happens when you post a letter? Midge found out. What happens when you go into hospital? Mary and Midge found out. What should you do if you get lost? Mungo found out. How are greetings cards printed? Midge found out.

A wooden Mungo - he lives on our bookcase.

Mungo was the wise, sometimes grumpy and slightly pompous, grandfatherly figure of the group. Midge was the impetuous, endlessly curious child. Mary, although a pre-schooler, was a sort of mother figure, sorting out disputes between 'the boys' and being a bit of a bossy boots on occasion.

Mungo and Midge had their own special way of using the lift at the block of flats - with Midge standing on Mungo's nose to press the buttons.

John Ryan, the man behind the show, was a creative genius. He'd already brought us Captain Pugwash, and his visualisation of the world of Mary, Mungo and Midge was beautiful - rich with detail. His daughter Isabel provided the lovely voice of Mary, with Richard Baker being the narrator and providing the characters of Mungo and Midge. Newsreaders were rather like royalty to some of us working class viewers in those days, we deemed them terribly wise and posh, and I would love to see footage of Mr Baker 'doing' Midge's voice on camera. This gentleman had great talent outside of the newsroom.

'A town is full of buildings...' The town in which Mary and her pets lived was very realistic - quite ground-breaking in tots' telly.

Mary, Mungo and Midge is a time capsule from 1969, complete with 'old' money! It was repeated for years afterwards and has, deservedly, gained something of a legendary status, but its adventures in 1969 are incredibly 1969. After all, we were being encouraged to believe that living in high rise blocks was good back in the 1960s!

Mary, Mungo and Midge certainly had a very jolly time, and there was no distressing graffiti in the lobby or on the stairways.

Midge was a highly talented mouse - he could play the flute. But his repeated renditions of 'Three Blind Mice' were not usually appreciated by his friends.

My little life was turning upside down in 1969, I won't go into details, but it was not good and the state of affairs only got worse as the 1970s moved in and progressed. But, although I was suddenly not a happy pre-schooler, sitting in front of Watch With Mother, I was aware of the characters and found them a comfort.

It's a delight to watch, and I heartily recommend it.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Magic Roundabout - Brian's After A Council House...

The Magic Roundabout! Using the striking visuals of a French animated series created by Serge Danot, Eric Thompson created his own characters and made it a legend in its own tea time here in England.

And it worked beautifully. The French visuals were surreal and highly colourful, the characters looked adorable, and when you added Mr Thompson's highly droll and very English stories, you had an unlikely recipe for a mega success. Mr Thompson simply turned down the volume for each episode of the French Le Manége Enchanté and did his own thing.

'Good gracious!' said Florence.

'Fancy!' said Brian.

Dougal - every dog has his day. Or tea time in this case. Interesting fact: Did you know that English animator Ivor Wood worked with Serge Danot on the original series?

I love this show. And I have a special link. I made my debut on the same day as the Eric Thompson/BBC version of The Magic Roundabout - 18 October, 1965.

So proud! Every birthday, I raise a mug to Florence, Dougal and co.

Eric Thompson, the esteemed creator of the English version characters, once said that he didn't believe in talking down to children. Children, he said, were just people who hadn't lived very long.

'Radio Times', 1968.

Interviewed in 1998, Eric Thompson's wife, the actress Phyllida Law, said:

'He got £15.00 an episode. That charming 'it's not acting, you're just reading it' thing. He had no rights to anything but his scripts, not even to the names, although they were his. Still, the Magic Roundabout helped us move from a flat to a heavenly house just up the road.'

Phyllida Law revealed that Eric Thompson sought inspiration from his heroes and those around him for the characterisations and names, seeing himself as being like Brian - irritatingly cheerful - and his wife as being a bit of a model for Ermintrude the cow. Mr MacHenry, the gardener, was named after their local chemist, and Buxton the cat from the Dougal and the Blue Cat film named after a cousin of Ms Law. Dougal's sometimes-mentioned-but-never-seen Auntie Megsie was based on his mother-in-law.

As for Dougal, he was partly based on Tony Hancock, but Ms Law, who always called her husband 'Tom' or 'Thompson', commented: 'He never listened to the French script. Thompson would never take us to a French restaurant. It was partly a joke, and a very Dougallish, Hancock sort of joke. He always thought he was like Brian the snail because he was irritatingly cheerful, but without doubt Dougal was to a great extent him.'

There were quite a lot of colourful characters in the Magic Garden, most well-known regulars, a few obscure like Penelope the Spider. I think I saw her about once. And the two little birds, The Tweets. Eh? Did not compute. They simply didn't register.

In a minute, I'll lollop through the regulars in order of my preference, but I'll start with somebody who actually comes in at number six on my own list. Why? Well, he was the very first character to appear in the show back on that eventful Monday in 1965.

I remember talking to my mate Don back in the 1990s about the Roundabout characters. 'My favourite character was Mr Rusty,' said Don.

I was incredulous. Don't get me wrong, I liked Mr Rusty, but he wasn't that interesting and didn't even spend that much time on screen usually. He played the barrel organ and owned the Roundabout, so his role was essential, but still... I always thought there was a faintly melancholic air about him, and could not get worked up over him.

Then I thought about my own favourite character, Florence. She was hardly the most amusing and fascinating of the Roundabout crowd either. In fact, I remember her once being referred to as 'prissy'. Why on earth was she my favourite? Well, back in the early 1990s, at the time of my Roundabout-orientated conflab with my mate Don, I was a care worker, doing a lot of counselling, and so decided, in my late-twenty-something-infinite-wisdom, that my feelings for Florence must have a deep, psychological basis. Perhaps I favoured her because she represented stable femininity? My mother was not stable, nor could it really be said were any other of the females in my family circle when I was a child, so perhaps Florence had provided me with something I was lacking?

I pondered, I analysed, then said to Don, 'Maybe Mr Rusty represented something lacking in your own life? A stable masculine influence, perhaps?'

'No,' said Don, 'I just liked Mr Rusty.'

So that was that.

And Florence is my favourite.

So that's that.

Mr Rusty with his Roundabout and trusty barrel organ.

Mr Rusty with Dougal and Florence.

The next on my personal list of Roundabout faves is Ermintrude the cow. Lovely Ermy - an upper class, highly good natured, pink-with-red-dots-and-a-blue-hat cow.

Perhaps Ermintrude represented another stable feminine figure to me? A lovable, dotty auntie figure? Or perhaps it's just time to cut out the psychobabble?

'Hello, dear hearts!'

Next up would have to be Brian the snail. Always cheerful. Always ready to get up Dougal the dog's nose. Brian was the working class man to Dougal's overbearing management figure, and he was great fun.

'Allo!' said Brian, arriving.

Brian, up a tree.

Brian with his lovely shaggy friend.

Next comes Dougal himself. Grandiose and at times manic, Dougal was the pivotal character in the Roundabout saga. This lover of sugar lumps had a spiky relationship with Brian, but the two were genuinely fond of each other really. Junior Points Of View revealed in 1967 that Dougal was the seventh son of a freelance lamp-post inspector, sent to Shepherd’s Bush to train as a sheepdog, was then an extra in The Hound of the Baskervilles, had bark-on parts in dog food commercials, and was discovered by Florence and launched as a dog star.

Dougal dreamt of glory. It was a dog's life in the Magic Garden.

And then there was Zebedee - a moustachioed, red-faced, pointy-pupiled thingy on a spring. What on earth WAS Zebedee? Well, actually, he was a jack who had come out of his box. He arrived in the very first episode of the Magic Roundabout in 1965 in a parcel, promising sad Mr Rusty that he would bring life back to the Roundabout, which had fallen out of favour with the local children. His role in the Garden was pure magic! His moustache was the source of all the abracadabra stuff and could make all sorts of things happen. He was the one who first brought Florence to the Garden, and he brought her along in many subsequent episodes, too. She was often seen to be waiting for him by the Roundabout. Zebedee also called time on most episode's events - 'Time for bed', that is.

Dougal didn't half fancy himself.

Still, he was rather adorable, and, being a major star, given to fits of quite understandable temperament. But he could be quite rugged at times. And sometimes a little coarse. He once told Brian to zip his screamer.

Episode One - and Zebedee arrives to help Mr Rusty.

Florence calls to Zebedee - who arrives. All together now: 'BOING!'

'Hello,' he said. 'Ready to go the Garden?'

Spaced-out (but only on sleep) Dylan.

Dylan was a guitar playing American hippie rabbit, who first snoozed onto the Magic Garden scene in about 1967. The Observer newspaper spoke to Eric Thompson on the subject and published an article on 23 April 1967: 

He [Eric Thompson] tries to amuse the adults with little jokes – provided they mean something to the children, too – but he is conscious of the danger of making the whole thing sophisticated. A rather hip rabbit joined the cast recently, and when Dougal remarked that he wasn’t like a rabbit at all, because he didn’t skip around all the time, the rabbit replied: “We’re rethinking the image.” Mr Thompson fancies he went a bit too far that time: “Children couldn’t really get hold of an idea like that.”

Dylan tries to recreate Dougal's 'epic' nose.

The Magic Roundabout quickly became cult viewing for adults. And it was not surprising. There was lots to appeal. One of my favourite scenarios involved Brian the snail feeling exploited by Dougal as they undertook some improbable venture or other. With Dougal in charge, of course.

'I'll report you to the Union!' squawked Brian.

'If you were in a union, I'd sack you!' said Dougal.

Some of the books based on the series make droll reading too - the ones written by Eric Thompson, that is. In one late 1960s publication Brian, feeling his living space was a little too confined, revealed that he was on the waiting list for a council house. This curious jostling of kiddie whimsy with adult reality still makes me laugh today. Genius.

Trouble brewed when Ermintrude decided to become a meter maid.

Mr MacHenry was the Magic Garden's gardener. He whizzed in on a little bike which went 'whee!' and seemed a bit of an odd-bod - most of the time a staid Englishman and, on at least one occasion, a manic, stereotypical Irishman, uttering such stereotypical gems as 'Yes indeed and begorrah!' Well, it livened him up as a character.

The train was a rare visitor to The Garden, but tended to liven things up when she did put in an appearance. Yes, that's right, she. The train was more than slightly hoity-toity, likely to go off in a huff at the slightest provocation. Go off in a HUFF - geddit?!!

And what about the larger children seen on the Roundabout on the opening and closing credits? Who were they? Well, they were Basil (the yellow topped boy), Paul (the blue topped boy) and Rosalie (self explanatory). They rarely appeared in episodes, but poor, dear Rosalie is etched on my mind after a tragic incident in the early 1970s.

I was a little lad, sitting on the loo and playing with a small blue plastic Rosalie I'd got out of a box of biscuits. She was fearlessly scaling a couple of small pipes which rose from the floor to the boiler beside the lavvy. Then, suddenly, DISASTER! Rosalie somehow slipped from my fingers and plummeted down, down, down, and disappeared through the hole in the floor where the pipes emerged.

I was devastated. I peered through the hole... yes, there she was, face-down and completely inert. Poor darling. I dashed to my mother who said: 'If you think I'm 'aving the floorboards up for a bit of plastic, you've got another think coming!'

I beseeched her. I even thought of be-screeching her. But boys were not allowed to cry in my household.

So that was that.

The Roundabout spun on and on, right up until early 1977, still as 1960s as could be. No Glam Rock. No Disco. No Johnny Rotten lookey-likey. After the show's end, it cropped up occasionally in repeats and, in 1989, the BBC released the first Magic Roundabout video.

As the late 1980s Acid House rave scene turned into the early 1990s rave scene, the Magic Roundabout was revived. The show seemed to fit well into the culture of that time, fuelled by drugs like ecstasy, and all sorts of things were read into it - just as they had been during its original run. Dougal and Dylan and co were, of course, as high as kites. The psychedelic landscape was indicative of that. Yes, the Magic Roundabout was simply the hippie 1960s played out by puppets. Every innocent word and expression of the series seemed to be linked to a groovy druggie lifestyle. Absolute nonsense, of course. Eric Thompson had simply poked a bit of gentle and innocent fun at the pop culture of the Roundabout era. Zebedee really was not 'on' something, and Dougal's sugar lumps were simply sugar lumps.

Back to Phyllida Law in 1998, who said: 'Thompson was rather surprised to hear that Dylan was a cokehead or whatever. He was just asleep a lot, this rabbit. He never smoked or anything. Tom just shrieked with laughter. Not that he shrieked because he was a straight man. It was me that did the shrieking.'

Back to the start of the 1990s, and new Roundabout merchandising began to turn up.

The first sign was a lovely series of T-shirts available at C&A stores. There was Dougal, and Zebedee and all sorts. Then the theme tune was transformed into various rave remixes and Nigel Planer brought the Roundabout back in a slot on early morning Channel 4 news.

My dear old Zebedee 'Time For Bed' T-shirt illustration from 1990. And the shirt seen on me on holiday last year. Yes, I do bear a certain resemblance to Dougal, don't I?

Florence disliked vulgarity.

Nigel - you did great at first - Florence pondering on the fact that everything was so intrinsically symbiotic was inspired. But then I fell off your Roundabout when Florence suggested a burping contest. Nigel, my darling Florence would NEVER have suggested such a thing. Not even in the 1990s. This was the girl who was constantly telling Dougal not to be vulgar, who admonished him with a stern 'REALLY, DOUGAL!' when he slurped his sugar lumps. This was an adorable young lady, steeped in Victoriana. Burping contest? No, no, NO, mate. After that your Roundabout revival simply became some of my favourite screen visuals with you doing a voice over.

Still, it's not all bad news - as Neil of the Young Ones you will always be one of my 1980s heroes.
More videos were released and the much-feared Dougal and the Blue Cat was amongst them. This terrified me when I was a little kid because of the Magic Garden folk being attacked and imprisoned by the dreadful Blue Force which took over the Magic Garden. My own little life had taken a turn for the worse in 1969 and I was going through bad times throughout the 1970s. The film didn't help, which seems daft, but I was six-years-old at the time. The Magic Garden was my little bolt hole and I hated it becoming insecure too. Still, never mind. The nightly episodes continued in their usual glorious 'everything in the Garden is lovely' vein and I soon recovered.

The Roundabout has since been revived in glorious CGI with Kylie Minogue as Florence. Not for me. Only one Roundabout for me. Eric Thompson's version. The characters are as much a part of my childhood as any traditional fairy tale characters. With added adult wit appeal.

Oh well. Time for bed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper And Jelly Babies..

Here are the Beatles with very fetching moustaches and beard in 1967. The Liverpool lads had come a long way from the days of pudding basin haircuts and suits. A rumour doing the rounds courtesy of an advertisement which appeared in several children's comics in 1966, was that the lads were partial to jelly babies!

But in 1967 they seemed much more serious - I mean, kinda far out, man!

Farewell to the jelly babies, hello to the facial hair, geeky specs, kaftans and love beads!

Recently I found pages from a January 1968 magazine in my mother's attic. I don't know exactly what the publication was, but the pages featured an article about the Beatles, torn out and kept by my mother many years ago. This extract from the article may be of some interest to Beatles fans now...

The cover on a recent LP album called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a photomontage of a crowd gathered around a grave. And a curious crowd it is: Marilyn Monroe is there. So are Edgar Allan Poe, Lawrence of Arabia, Mae West, Sonny Liston and eight Beatles.

Eight? Well, four of them are wax dummies, models of the Beatles as most people remember them, with nicely brushed long hair, dark suits, faces like cheeky choirboys. The other four Beatles are very much alive: thin, hippie-loving, moustachioed, bedecked in bright, bizarre uniforms, their eyes glittering with a new awareness tinged with a hint of the old mischief. As for the grave in the foreground: it has BEATLES spelt out in flowers.

With characteristic self-mockery, the Beatles are proclaiming that they have snuffed out their old selves to make way for the new Beatles. And there is some truth to it.

Rich and secure enough today to go on repeating themselves - or to do nothing at all - they are instead creating some of the most original, expressive and musically interesting sounds being heard in pop music.

Serious musicians are marking the Beatles' work as a historic departure in the progress of music. Composer Ned Rorem claims that the Beatles' haunting composition "She's Leaving Home" - one of 12 songs in the Sgt. Pepper album - "is equal to any song that Schubert ever wrote." Conductor Leonard Bernstein's appreciation is just as high; he cites Schumann.

Like all good popular artists, the Beatles have a talent for distilling the moods of their time. Gilbert and Sullivan's frolics limned the pomposities of the Victorian British Empire; Cole Porter's urbanities were wonderful tonics for the '30's; Rodgers and Hammerstein's ballads reflected the sentiment and seriousness of the Second World War era. Today, the Beatles' cunning collages piece together scraps of tension between the generations, the loneliness of the dislocated '60s, and the bitter sweets of young love in any age. At the same time, their sensitivity to the absurd is sharper than ever.

The Beatles' early music had exuberance and an occasional oasis of unexpected harmony, but otherwise blended monotonously into the pop scene. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" - the Beatles' big-hit single which has sold five million copies since 1963 - was a clichéd lyric set to an unimaginative tune. But the boys soon found their conventional sound and juvenile verses stultifying.

John Lennon, the group's chief lyricist, began tuning in on folk singer Bob Dylan. It wasn't Dylan's sullen anger that Lennon found appealing so much as the striving to "tell it like it is".

Gradually, the Beatles' work began to tell it too. Their 1965 song "Nowhere Man" ("Doesn't have a point of view, knows not where he's going to") asked, "Isn't he a bit like you and me?"

An even sharper departure from Big Beat banalities came as tune-smith Paul McCartney began exhibiting an unsuspected lyrical gift. In 1965, he crooned the loveliest of his ballads, "Yesterday,", to the accompaniment of a string octet - a novel and effective new genre, baroque-rock.

Still another form, raga-rock, had its origins after George Harrison fell for Indian music, studied with Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, and introduced a brief sitar motif on the 1965 recording "Norwegian Wood". Now everybody in pop music is experimenting with the sitar.

All the successes of the past two years were a foreshadowing of the Sgt. Pepper album, which more than anything else dramatises the brilliance of the new Beatles. In three months, it sold a staggering 2.5 million copies. Loosely strung together on a scheme that plays the younger and older generations off against each other, it sizzles with space-age electronic effects and sleight-of-hand lyrics. Above all, it proves that the Beatles have flowered as musicians.

Now that the Beatles' music is growing more complex and challenging, they are losing some younger fans. But the new Beatles have captivated a different and much more responsive audience. "Suddenly," says George Harrison, "we find that all the people who thought they were beyond the Beatles are fans." That includes not only students, but parents, professors, even business executives. Indeed, if the teenagers once made the Beatles plaster gods, many adults now make them pop prophets, and tend to theorise solemnly about their significance. One psychiatrist has said that the Beatles "are speaking in an existential way about the meaninglessness of reality."

Not so long ago the pop scene was going nowhere, becalmed in a doldrum of derivative mewing of Negro music by white singers. Then in the early 1960's the Beatles, together with other British groups, revitalised rock 'n' roll by closely imitating its Negro originators. As the Beatles moved on, sowing innovations of their own, they left flourishing fields for other groups to cultivate.

Of all the vital and imaginative groups, none has so far matched the distinctiveness and power of the Beatles. True, their flirtation with drugs and the drop-out attitude behind songs like "A Day in the Life" disturbed many fans, not to mention worried parents. But although all four Beatles have admitted taking LSD at least occasionally, Paul McCartney has said, "I don't recommend it. It can open a few doors, but it's not any answer. You get the answers yourself."

When the Beatles talk, millions listen - and callow as their ideas sometimes are, the Beatles exemplify a refreshing distrust for authority, disdain for conventions and impatience with hypocrisy. Young people sense a quality of defiant honesty and admire their freedom and open-mindedness; they see them as peers who are in a position, and who can be relied on to tell them what they want to hear...

Monday, March 16, 2009

November 1965: TV Comic - The Telegoons, Dr Who, Popeye And The Milky Bar Kid...

Front page star of this November 1965 issue of the popular TV Comic was Popeye. The spinach-scoffing sailor made his debut in his first ever comic strip in January 1929! There was nothing more exciting than the weekly comic... I had mine "put by" at the local newsagent's to ensure I didn't miss a single instalment of the continuing comic strips. TV Comic was published from 1951 to 1984.

The Telegoons were shortened and re-worked versions of the famous 1950s Goon Show radio scripts, featuring puppets. The show first appeared on the BBC in October 1963. Each episode was fifteen minutes long. In the comic strip pictured above, Neddie Seagoon is excited by a lower crested nit warbler.

The hugely popular children's sci-fi adventure Dr Who - still featuring the original Doctor, William Hartnell, in 1965, was a popular TV Comic comic strip.

The Milky Bar Kid ("The Milky Bars are on me!") first appeared on our telly screens in 1961 and was another popular TV Comic regular in 1965. I was surprised to find this comic strip - I thought advertising of this nature didn't happen until the 1980s!

I remember that Nestlé's was never known as Nestlé's by my family and friends here in England - always "Nestle's". It was circa the incredibly-swish-and-sophisticated late 1980s before the accent on the 'e' became known to me!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


The co-devisors of "Compact" - Hazel Adair...

... and Peter Ling - both far better known for the ATV soap opera "Crossroads", which debuted in November 1964. "Compact" told the story of a bunch of highly talented people, plus a gossipy secretary and her rather common boyfriend, who staffed a women's magazine. The show began on BBC 1 on 2 January 1962.

All at sea - the cast of "Compact" - including Carmen Silvera, later of "'Allo 'Allo" fame, who played cheroot smoking Camilla Hope, and, to the left, Sonia Fox, "Compact" secretary Susan Caley, later Sheila Harvey in "Crossroads". Another "Compact" actress who went on to greater fame elsewhere was Rachel Gurney, Celia Randall in "Compact", Lady Marjorie Bellamy in "Upstairs, Downstairs".

Good natured Anthea only took a job at "Compact", to establish her independence from her wealthy family. Here we see her being nice to shy Alan - played by Basil Moss, later Peter Tyson of BBC Radio 2's soap "Waggoners' Walk" (1969-1980). Of course, there were complications as Alan believed that Anthea was in love with him, as he was with her.

Oh dear.

Big noise Edmund Bruce rips up a copy of "Compact" as editor Mark Viccars looks on in absolute horror. Is this the end of the road for the magazine?

A "Compact" annual.

Another "Crossroads" link - Ronald Allen, right, was Ian Harmon in "Compact" and David Hunter at the motel. The woman in the cover picture is actress Monica Evans, Sally Henderson in the show. Secretary Sally found herself swept off her feet by suave boss man Ian. Marriage followed.