Little Pink Book
Bertie: “Ere Trev. Got a job for yer. You like messing around with Bobby’s childhood junk. Here’s an unusual one… What looks like rubbish to me.”
Trevor: “Once again I must remind you, Bertie, that my name is Trevor. As voted for by one of our more sophisticated readers. Kristian in California. As with all things, one person’s junk is another’s treasure trove of memories. This tiny grubby little book does, I admit, look very unpromising. But who knows what may be within it. We shall see…
Little Pink Book
It appears that Bobby was searching for something important. His will. He assures me he doesn’t plan dying just yet, but who knows in these uncertain times? A will is important and has been placed somewhere safe. So safe he can’t remember where! It’s OK. It was written after Diddley died and hasn’t changed since Andrew (son), Robin (nephew), Alison (solicitor) had their copies. Looking everywhere, he came to this small cabinet in his garage.
Bertie: “Why do you want that old cabinet, Bobby?”
Bobby: “In my old life, pre computers, it held all my bills etc. I got it from the Legal and General. Destined for the skip.”
Trevor: “Stolen, then!”
Bobby: “Rescued for recycling.”
Trevor: “Stolen, then!”
Bobby: “When I came to Laurel Cottage, I didn’t like to throw it away and put it in the garage. Full of papers. In looking for my will, I ended up throwing away some very old bills. Finding some very interesting memorabilia. And right in the bottom this tiny, grubby, little pink book. I didn’t collect autographs, but that is clearly what it is. An autograph book. Mostly children’s signatures. Some even overwritten with London bus registrations, which sets the book around 1954. The year I was a bus spotter. On further investigation I discovered some really interesting entries. And one outstanding one. So over to you, Trevor, to tell the story.”
Little Pink Book
Most of the entries are by children on 20 and 21 May 1953. A Wednesday and Thursday. All undoubtedly classmates at Cheam Park Farm Juniors. Almost all written in pencil. Plus a couple of teachers with pen and ink. At nine years old, it is amazing how grown up some children’s writing had become while others were still developing. But why pencil? It certainly wasn’t practical to use dip pens, but why not ballpoint pens? Well… there weren’t any practical, affordable ballpoint pens in 1953. They had been invented seventy years before. At one time, Mr Biro was involved before WW11. Hence the name. It was to be some years later that Marcel Bich shortened his name to Bic and marketed what would become the world’s most popular ballpoint pen. The Bic Crystal. And it is still the most popular ballpoint pen today. The full history of the ballpoint pen is here.
But, we digress. In 1953, you had a pen and ink or pencil. Slate and chalk were much further back. Teachers and posh kids might have fountain pens. But, we all used the dip pens provided by the school.
So here we are on 20/21 May 1953.
Sir Winston Churchill was Prime Minister.
Dwight D Eisenhower US President.
The “hit parade” then was very pre rock and roll.
No 1 that week was Frankie Laine “I Believe”. No 1, 20 May 1953.
And here’s just one that the kids at Saturday Morning pictures sung with glee:
Lita Rosa. “How Much is that Doggie in The Window.” No 5 on 21 May 1953.
Unremarkable days then on the 20/21 May at Cheam Park Junior School. A school built in the mid thirties for the Park Farm estate of private housing that was part of the enormous house building explosion around the fringes of London. Surrey then. Greater London now.
So why collect autographs? Shortly after, on 29 May, Tensing and Hillary became the first men to climb Mount Everest. Their monumental endeavour would have been big news as they started the climb up the world’s tallest mountain. And, of course, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was less than two weeks away. Hotly anticipated and a time that generated its own memorabilia. The strangest entries of all are two poems by Bobby’s Mum and Dad. Carefully written. His Mum, maybe. But Dad? So interesting they deserve their own story. Another week…
But then, in the midst of all this unremarkable scribbling, are one or two prize autographs. Particularly the last one, that also deserve their own story. So this week is “The class of 53”. Followed by “Family History”. Followed by “VERY IMPORTANT names”. All engendered from this Little Pink Book.
The class of 53.
It’s clear to me that the children’s signatures, many with the dates they were written, are a homage to that period of time as a record of the class of 1953. It’s almost certain that all the children were asked to participate to build that record. Bobby didn’t have an autograph book and most likely his Mum, Dorothy, gave him the book, which only had the two poems in it. It was just a game at the time. We won’t bore you with every single page. Just a few, with special stories.
The class of 53:
E A Robinson (teacher)
M John (teacher)
If you would like to imagine school in those days, when ink monitors and milk monitors were important jobs in the classroom, you might like to read this.
And here are some special names. Over to you, Bobby.
Hilary was my first “girlfriend”. We were inseparable as Country Dancing partners. Dancing round that Maypole in May at 9 years old was our big moment.
Leif was Norwegian. He lived on the Park Farm Estate in a semi-detached. That made him posh for the rest of us, who lived in terraced houses. He had wonderful birthday parties to which we were all invited. His Dad was some sort of cameraman and we were treated to wonderful film shows on cine film. They even had a polar bear rug on the floor. I know… unacceptable nowadays.
Howard was a special friend. In the days when Subbuteo was a new table top football game for boys, Howard and I set up a Subbuteo league playing at each other’s houses. Years later, my son Andrew and I were obsessed with Subbuteo for quite a while. By then, the game was main stream. Sold in shops, with beautiful green beige pitches, goals and 3D players. Back in 1953, the game was purely mail order. The players had the same plastic spherical bases, but the players came in press out cardboard 2D. The “recommended” pitch was lined out in chalk on an “old army blanket”. We are saving this for a Subbuteo special next year. And you will learn how Hamilton Academicals once won the World Cup.
Clive lived in the same road as me. Brocks Drive. He was always in trouble, being my friend. Years later, when I was in my forties, I went to Cheam Social Club with Mother-in-Law. A lady came over and asked “Are you Bobby Ball? I used to hate you. You had no discipline whatsoever. When Clive went out with you, I never knew if I would see him again. Just nine years old, you took him on a train to London bus spotting. He was always late coming home. And yet he loved going out with you on adventures.”
Frank was my best friend, living down the other end of Brocks Drive. I was so disappointed when, shortly after, he emigrated to Australia and I never heard from him again.
Bernard was my “Sixer” in 2nd North Cheam Cub Pack. Meeting in St Oswald’s Church Hall in Brocks Drive.
Malcolm lived almost opposite me in Brocks Drive. We had many mishaps together and became train spotters. He was the only one at our end of Brocks Drive who had a TV. On a wet miserable day, we all piled into his house to watch the Coronation on a tiny TV. His house always smelled of fish.
So there you are. The class of 53. I wonder where they all are now?
Lighting a Candle for Diddley