1958 through the eyes of an Englishman

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Explorer 1.
The BEV Retrospective - 1958.

In reaction to the Soviet burst of Sputnik activity, and four months after Sputnik 1, the US launched its first satellite - Explorer 1, and a new Federal agency, NASA was formed to unify the previously fragmented efforts toward space flight. Satellites Vanguard 1 (Navy), and Explorer 3 followed shortly - Explorer 2 didn't make it. In October, the US manned space-flight project was renamed Project Mercury.

There were lots more nuclear weapon tests, initially mostly in the USSR, and after this burst of activity, the USSR announced that it had suspended further tests, and urged Britain and the US to do the same. Of course at that point the latter two felt that they were behind, so they did not respond, and in fact escalated their levels of testing.
In continuing progress toward civil rights for black Americans, the US Supreme Court ordered Little Rock Arkansas high school to integrate

There were changes in the Middle East. In February Egypt and Syria joined together to form the United Arab Republic, forming a common front against Israel. A coup in Iraq deposed the monarch, and replaced his government by a Soviet backed regime. This had a knock-on effect in Lebanon, where the pro-western government was ejected. The US responded by sending 5000 marines to Lebanon to keep the peace.

President Diem's troops in South Vietnam had some success against the communist insurgents. In consequence of this, the communists in South Vietnam started to persuade the government in North Vietnam to take a more active role in the insurgency. Further American advisors trickled into the country.

The Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, had returned to Cuba from Mexico in 1956 with a group of 82 followers intent on establishing a guerrilla war against the Batista government. After a disastrous start, when the group lost most of its members in clashes with government troops, the 20 or so survivors established a stronghold in the mountains in the east of the island. During 1957 and 1958 he built his following and advanced across Cuba so that by the end of 1958 his forces were threatening the capital, Havana.

In Europe, seven members of England's Manchester United football team died in an air crash.

Technology.

Another high-level computer programming language - ALGOL - was created in this year by a transatlantic team of computing academics. While it was never much used in commercial computer programming, since it had no standardized input and output mechanisms, it was highly influential in the design of future programming languages.


AT&T's 'wideband' modem.
For the now growing group of computer users, AT&T introduced modems in this year that would allow communication over regular telephone lines to and between computers anywhere in the country. Direct dialling had been introduced by AT&T in 1951.

To put 1950s UK telecommunications in context, it was only in this year that 'Subscriber Trunk Dialling' was introduced on a limited scale. Prior to then, you had to dial the operator to make any kind of non-local call. The then Postmaster General speculated that by 1970 possibly 3/4 of long-distance calls would be directly dialled.


The integrated circuit was invented at about the same time in the US by Jack Kilby of the Texas Instruments company and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor. Kilby demonstrated the first working integrated circuit on September 12. These devices initially contained only a few transistors, but they would evolve rapidly to revolutionize the electronics industry.


Life.

I'd adjusted to Brenda's new relationship with Billie Ebbage, and returned to the youth club where we reverted to being good friends. Our indiscretions were known to the group, probably via Andrea, Brenda's younger sister, and could have gone either way with the other girls. You can never tell. As it turned out it put them off, and I had no further offers. I guess the fact that I was stupid enough to get caught outweighed the fact that I was now a man with some slight experience. We had a visit from the Saltaire Church youth group at one point though, and there was quite a cute girl called Elaine from there who got my attention.


Buddy Holly.
On March 9th, a bunch of us went to see Buddy Holly and the Crickets when they appeared at the Gaumont in Bradford. As far as I was concerned, the experience was electrifying. The young Texan leaped onto the stage clutching his electric guitar, and belted out the startling introduction of "That'll be the day". It was very loud and very exciting, and I think the first time I ever saw an electric guitar except on the TV.

They did most of their repertoire, but it was over much sooner than most of us wanted. It is characteristic of the generation gap of the day - and probably of today also - that we came away stunned and captivated, while the Bradford newspaper reporter for the Telegraph and Argus said: "Artistry has been kicked out of the stage door and performers who can provide ephemeral thrills are taking its place. Audiences are in search of the momentary gimmick, of which they tire whenever another novelty is introduced."

Anyway, I thought he was fantastic, and I wasn't the only one. A Liverpool lad called Paul McCartney watched him carefully to see what chords he used and where he placed his capo when he appeared on British TV. It was not a random accident that Lennon and McCartney named their group the Beatles, and that the Rolling Stones first hit record was "Not Fade Away".

At some point in this year I acquired my third addiction to go along with cigarettes and sex. Jeremy Law, David Illingworth, and I would hang around at the back of the Sun Inn in Cottingley by the tap room entrance. A 'tap room' was a small, poorly furnished room in a pub, often with a 'spit and sawdust' floor, where the older men of the village would retire from female company to play dominoes and darts, and drink beer. The old lags of Cottingley would buy us young lads halves of Hammonds bitter - then the Bradford local brew - just to be mischievous.
Later we graduated to getting inside to play darts, and then gradually the staff behind the bar got used to us being there, and sold us beer directly. If the police came in through the front door, we'd get kicked out of the back. The drinking age in England was then, as now, 18 years, and we were all 16. We also quickly discovered that we could get away with it in other pubs too, particularly those out in the country, or those in town that were busy so that the bar staff couldn't be bothered to give you a hard time. My father frequented the same pub occasionally, and there were probably times when he was in the front, and I was in the back, but nothing was ever said - possibly my father thought I was better off in the pub than getting some girl in the family way.


UK bonfire night.

In England, November 5th is a celebrated day. It's one of those Catholic/Protestant antagonism things. In 1605, a group of Catholic conspirators, hoping to destroy the Protestant king James I and the rest of the Protestant establishment in one fell swoop, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament during a state opening. They were caught in the act, and hung, drawn, and quartered or whatever. Of course, the Protestants hailed this as a great event, and it has been celebrated ever since as "Guy Fawkes Night", or "Plot Night", or more likely nowadays, "Bonfire Night". It's the English excuse for lighting street fires and letting off fireworks.

So a day or two before November 5th in 1958, Jeremy Law and I were at his house speculating about who we could invite to the Staybrite Avenue bonfire. It suddenly popped into my head, and I said "Elaine Stead", and then got to the phone book first. Elaine agreed to come to the bonfire as my guest, and so by November 6th I had a new girlfriend. Elaine was a little younger than me, being only just 16, while I would soon be 17, so the relationship was rather more conventional than that with Brenda had been.
I am not sure that the relationship was initially as intense as it had been with Brenda - there is something very unique about the first time. But it was not far behind, and we rapidly became very close, and declared our love for each other.

We saw each other at her house, since she had immediately introduced me to her parents, and she visited at ours. Elaine's dad, Frank Stead was 'Chief Cashier' at a textile machinery factory in Keighley called "Prince, Smith, and Stells". He was a freemason - not that that meant much to me. Her brother Richard was a salesman for the same company - he used to refer to me as "that long bugger". Elaine's mother, Lucy, was a bit snobby in some ways, but she made up for this by being pretty hospitable, and being a damn good cook - best roast beef and Yorkshire pudding I've ever had. Of course, Elaine and I also got out by ourselves, and Elaine switched youth groups and came to ours.

Elaine soon confirmed my impression that teenage girls are just as interested in sex as teenage boys. I learned the art of pussy eating more thoroughly at this point, and am a great believer in that as the way to a woman's heart in a sexual direction. If you can make sure your woman is sexually satisfied before you get your rocks off you are on the path to a happy sex life.

Once again this was an outdoor activity, and I recall that the winter of 1958/59 was a fairly cold one. But where there's a will, there's a way. By now I had the confidence to walk into a chemists shop and ask for condoms, so we could work on this new skill with less restriction. We did it in quite a lot of places, on the benches in front of the Bingley Cricket Club pavilion, on the cricket pitch, on the odd occasion in my bed when the house was empty: you name it.

I soon realized that I did not like condoms. I don't know for sure, but I suspect we were out of condoms and fell to the temptation anyway. However it happened, I found that there was a considerable difference in how it felt. Elaine must have agreed at least to some extent, as we fell into the habit of using the rhythm method, only using a condom between the 8th and 18th day of her cycle. There were no indiscretions, and all went well.

We spent time with our friends from the youth group, and gravitated from there to meeting at a pub called "The Fisherman" on Wagon lane within walking distance of the Teale residence. We were mostly still underage drinkers, but the pub was in a quiet spot, and the landlord didn't seem to be too worried.

I was now in the first year of the sixth form at school. The 'Black Magic' spell was broken at this point. I had too many distractions. My paper round was by now both morning, evening, and Sunday. The relationship with Elaine required time, and then there were my mates at the pub who could not be ignored - i.e. I liked my beer. There was little time for study, and in the exams this year, John Wordsworth easily pipped me to the post.


The Vikings poster.
Entertainment.

By now I, or I should say, we, were getting to the cinema more often, so I'll speak more of the films I saw, and less of statistics. Having said that, the US box office hit was the film "South Pacific" based on the musical by Rogers and Hammerstein. We saw that. Also in the box office top ten were "The Vikings" - "Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide", and "The Young Lions". We saw these too.

The most popular British film for me and my mates was "Ice Cold in Alex", a WW2 film that probably sold more lager than official lager advertising. Several of my friends switched at least temporarily from English bitter beer to lager after seeing the film.

From the British music charts, the songs that stuck in my mind were:
  • Everly Brothers - All I Have To Do Is Dream, Bird Dog,
  • Buddy Holly - Rave On,
  • Peggy Lee - Fever,
  • Connie Francis - Stupid Cupid (irritating but catchy, and you couldn't avoid it),
  • Cliff Richard & The Drifters - Move It,
  • Conway Twitty - It's Only Make Believe (more for the strange name of the artist),
  • Jane Morgan - The Day The Rains Came (powerful song by a woman with a powerful voice).
Lets do 'Rave On':



When you've got a bunch of friends, a friendly local pub, and a steady girlfriend, entertainment becomes less of a priority.
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