1965 through the eyes of an Englishman

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The BEV Retrospective - 1965.

A slight change of style this year. Instead of dealing with things rather randomly in date order, I have dealt with them in date order within major topics - hope this works.

US bombers over North Vietnam.

Vietnam War.

The US National Security Council had recommended an escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam late in 1964. In January, as a precursor to this, the 18th TAC Fighter Squadron was moved from Okinawa to Da Nang Air Force Base, and other bases were set up. At that time these bases were protected by South Vietnamese (ARVN) troops.

After several attacks on them by the Viet Cong (NLF - National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam), it was decided that the bases needed more protection. The ARVN seemed unable to cope. So, in March, 3,500 United States Marines were dispatched to South Vietnam. This marked the beginning of the American ground war proper, and the number of US troops would be increased to nearly 200,000 by the end of the year

The planned bombing campaign was intended to force North Vietnam to cease its support for the NLF by inflicting massive damage on North Vietnam's air defences and industrial infrastructure. Starting in March this year, for several years, the US air forces would hit the north, and other targets such as the Ho Chi Minh Trail with million tons of missiles, rockets and bombs.
The bombing was not a success. The North Vietnamese leader warned that if the Americans "want to make war for twenty years then we shall make war for twenty years. If they want to make peace, we shall make peace and invite them to afternoon tea."

The role of the US ground forces was initially defensive, but this went against the grain of the US commanders there. At the same time, ARVN forces were getting a hammering, and their situation was becoming critical. US General Westmoreland said, "I am convinced that U.S. troops with their energy, mobility, and firepower can successfully take the fight to the NLF" and outlined a three-point plan to win the war, along the lines of:
  • Commit more troops to reverse the losing trend by the end of the year,
  • Then mount offensive action to destroy enemy guerilla and regular forces,
  • Plan for a final 12 to 18 moth mop-up phase.
It was implicit in this that the ARVN would be sidelined, and the US would take full responsibility for the war.

As many allies as possible were roped in by the US, not including the Brits, who had had enough of that stuff in Malaya and elsewhere in history, and this course of action was started. It was initially quite successful, the US troops could wallop the NFL in direct confrontation. So very soon, the NLF changed tactics and began to engage in small-unit guerilla warfare, which allowed them to control the pace of the fighting, and essentially moved the plan into its third stage before the main objectives had been achieved..

In addition, it should be noted that partly because of this, unlike soldiers in WW2 or Korea, there were no secure rear areas where troops could get R&R: they were vulnerable to attack anywhere they went.

By November, the Pentagon was telling LBJ that the number of American troops in Vietnam would have to be increased from 120,000 to 400,000.

State troopers attacking demonstrators.
Civil Rights, Legislation, and Draft Protest in the USA.

In January, as part of his State of the Union Address LBJ announced his "Great Society" initiative. This was to be a program to deal with the elimination of poverty and of racial injustice, focussing on education, medical care, urban problems, and transportation. Unfortunately, this would have to compete with the demands of the now escalating war in Vietnam.

As it turned out, 1965 marked the peak of civil rights action and protest in the USA. One of the most immediately effective consequences of the 1963 Civil Rights Act was that since there was to be no discrimination on the basis of race, then blacks must be able to vote.

The gateway to voting was voter registration. In several southern states if a black person had attempted to register, he would either have been run off or arrested by a police officer, or at best told that he or she wasn't eligible to register - "that's just the way it is". Nonetheless, many attempts had been made during the late 50s and early 60s. On the back of the civil rights act,
activists in these states now started a vigorous push for registration, which was in some cases resisted by the authorities or by more sinister bodies such as the Ku Klux Clan.

In February, a black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot by an Alabama state trooper in the aftermath of a nighttime civil rights demonstration when the city lights were turned off and state troopers opened fire. In March, a march from Selma to Montgomery was organized by civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and James Bevel in response to this shooting. It took place on March 7th, "Bloody Sunday", and was brutally terminated by State troopers and the Dallas County Sheriff's Department, who, in the presence of the news media, attacked the marchers with clubs, tear gas, and bull whips. Many marchers were injured, some severely.

A second march took place on March 9th, which stopped at the bridge that was the site of the previous attack, to hold a prayer service and then return to Selma. There was a court restraining order forbidding a march to Montgomery which would have given the authorities carte blanche for further violence.

On the 17th LBJ sent a bill to Congress that formed the basis for the Voting Rights Act. It would become law in August, and made it pretty clear that states were not permitted to impose any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure... to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or colour."

A week after the second march, a federal judge ruled that the state was out of order in blocking the marchers "The law is clear that the right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups... These rights may... be exercised by marching, even along public highways." On the 25th the march arrived at the capitol in Montgomery.

Another subject that aroused much passion at this time was conscription for the Vietnam war. A system of national military service had existed in the USA since before WW2. It had lapsed and been renewed in 1948 during the Korean War as the 'Selective Service Act' - otherwise known as 'the draft', and was still in force at this time. Young men were required to register with the local draft board at age 18, and were issued with a registration certificate - the 'draft card', which they were required by the act to carry at all times.

At this time many people had objections to the war in Vietnam on many different grounds. For some it was morally wrong, for others it was a pointless waste of young American lives in a war that could not be won, for yet others it was interference in a foreign civil war against a corrupt and ineffective regime, and so on - at length.

Protestors marching from the UC Berkeley teach-in.
There was also a view that the draft was unfairly administered and biased against working class and black young men. It's fair to say that public attitudes toward the war was a subject of considerable complexity. It's certainly one over which a Brit with only second hand knowledge could get himself into deep water.

In this year it became common for academic institutions or their staff and students to organize 'teach-ins' to discuss these topics. AS close as I can understand it, a teach-in was a kind of combination of seminar, debate, and to some extent demonstration, without too much constraint on the topic. Attendees at these teach-ins would often publicly burn their draft card to symbolize their opposition to the war and/or to unfair conscription practices.

The largest of these took place in May at the University of California, Berkeley, and was attended by 30,000. In marches associated with the event, more draft cards were burned, along with an effigy of Lyndon Johnson. I can't be certain, but it seems likely that around this time, Johnson stated to be plagued by the political slogan "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?", sometimes followed by "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, NLF is gonna win!"

Tanks of the Indian Army.
Second India/Pakistan War.

India and Pakistan had lived uneasily as neighbours since their war in 1947. In 1962 India had also had a brush with China, in which it came off worst, and this probably encouraged Pakistan to view its forces as being weak.

In March and April, fighting between the two nations erupted again in the Rann of Kutch, a disputed area to the west of the Indian state of Gujarat. British Prime Minister Harold Wilson brokered a cease fire, but Pakistan felt it had had the better of the exchange. A plan was conceived to provoke an insurrection in Kashmir by infiltrating dissidents and saboteurs. This, apparently did not fool anybody, and in August, Indian troops attacked across the 1947 cease fire line in response to this provocation, thus initiating the second India/Pakistan war. Pakistan described it as an unprovoked attack.

On September 1st, Pakistani troops counter attacked further south in an attempt to cut the Indian army's lines of communication. The attack was in force, and sharp, and initially had the Indian's in some trouble. To relieve the pressure, India opened a second front, attacking across the India/Pakistan border close to the city of Lahore in Pakistan.
Here the Indian army initially had the initiative. Some sizeable tank battles were fought, and the air forces of the two sides clashed, with the results going both ways, but tending toward a stalemate.

On the 22nd, the UN Security Council unanimously called for a cease fire, and probably recognizing that the war was not going anywhere, India and Pakistan complied the next day. Talks were hosted by Soviet Premier Alexey Kosygin, and resulted in an agreement to withdraw to the pre-war lines of August, rendering the whole event completely pointless. There were numerous cease fire violations, but in general, the agreement held.
White Separatists in Southern Rhodesia.

When the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland fell apart in 1964, and Zambia gained its independence, Southern Rhodesia remained a British colony. Large areas of the country were owned by the white population - mostly of British origin, and they were vigorously opposed to majority rule. In May, an election with results that were inevitably biased by complex voting restrictions and a boycott by the black nationalists resulted in a landslide win for white separatist leader Ian Smith. Smith's government was clearly set on a path to unilateral independence.

Other African countries demanded that the United Kingdom use force to prevent this, and the UN General Council also put pressure on Britain to prevent it. But in November, Smith's government, after days of tense negotiations with Harold Wilson's UK government, made its independence declaration. 220,000 whites would control almost 4,000,000 Africans and live as a super class. Wilson told parliament that he would not use force to prevent this. He could not realistically have done so with a good proportion of the British population at the time supporting the whites - because they were white, and an army with an officer corps a large percentage of which probably had relatives there. Instead he imposed a range of sanctions, including an oil embargo, in which he was joined by the Americans.

The stage was thus set for an extended 'Bush War' that would last for years before majority rule was achieved.
Happenings and Politics in the UK.

In January, Winston Churchill, Britain's war leader and grand old parliamentarian died at the age of 90 as the result of a stroke he suffered earlier in the month - the end of an era.

In April it was announced by the British government that a drink-drive limit would be introduced, supported by a device called the 'Breathalyzer'. This was a glass tube containing some kind of crystals with a mouthpiece. If you were stopped by the police and they suspected you'd had too much to drink, you had to blow into the tube, and if a certain length of the crystals changed colour, you'd likely lose your license for a couple of years as well as being fined.

Some joker noticed a problem with the law within the first month or two. When he was stopped by the police, he got out of his car, produced a hip flask of whiskey from his pocket, and proceeded to down it in one. He was breathalyzed, and being over the limit, appeared in court. There he claimed, quite plausibly, that the police had no evidence he was drunk before he got out of the car, and the case against him was dismissed. The law was suitably tweaked.

The same month, the Pennine Way - a public footpath that runs along the backbone of hills that forms the spine of the North of England - was officially opened. I have been telling myself ever since that one day I should walk it.

In July, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, having lost the previous general election, stepped down as leader of the Conservative party, and a few days later was succeeded by Edward (The Grocer) Heath.

Cigarette advertising was banned on British television in August, and in a climate where imposition of restrictions on traditional rights seemed to be acceptable, in December, a 70 mph speed limit is imposed on British roads. Prior to this year, such roads had been derestricted - you could do any speed you thought fit.

Also in December, an oil rig - Sea Gem - collapsed in the North Sea. It had been the first of the drilling rigs used in exploration of the North Sea, a notoriously unfriendly marine environment. As luck would have it, a passing merchant observed the event, and the rig's crew were rescued.

Craters on the moon.

Aleksei Leonov outside Voskhod 2.

Gemini 6A and 7 side by side in orbit.

A PDP-8 computer.

The 60s was the decade for space exploration, and 1965 had a long list of events.

In February, Ranger 8 was intentionally crashed into the Moon. During its descent, it successfully transmitted pictures of possible landing sites for the Apollo program astronauts. It was followed by another similar mission, Ranger 9, in March.

Not to be outdone, and also in March, Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov left Voskhod 2 for 12 minutes, and took the first space walk.

In April the US launched its first and only space nuclear power reactor, called the SNAP-10A. It operated for a while in a low earth orbit, but then something failed and the reactor shut down. It was then shifted to a higher orbit, and will fall on someone's head in about 4000 years time.

The same month a commercial communications satellite called Early Bird (Intelsat 1) was launched. It became operational in May 2 and was in service for transatlantic TV broadcasts for four years.

In July, US probe Mariner 4 which had been launched the previous year flew past Mars and returned images of our nearest neighbour planet.

In August Gemini 5, carrying astronauts Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad stayed in orbit for a week and demonstrated the use of fuel cells for electrical power in spacecraft.

In November, the Soviet Union launched Venera 3 toward Venus to reach that planet the following year. Also that month, France launched its first satellite, Asterix-1, and three days later, Canada followed with Alouette 2.

In December after some setbacks to the attempt, Gemini 6A and Gemini 7 made the first the first contrived rendezvous (not a docking) in Earth orbit.

Back on Earth in September, the largest tanker ship at the time at 150,000 tons, Tokyo Maru, was launched in Yokohama. Within four years the Japanese would be building vessels over twice this weight.

In the world of computing there was a significant development. ARPA (The Advanced Research Projects Agency) developed the concept of Packet Switching. This is the concept that enables computer networking - without it you would not be reading this. The concept was also independently developed during the same year at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK.

Possibly the most practical new product was made by the Digital Equipment Company - DEC - based in Massachusetts. This was a 'mini-computer', called the PDP-8. The mini bit was to distinguish it, in power and price, from the mainframe computers made by companies like IBM.

The PDP-8 was first constructed from printed circuit boards using discrete components. Each board had a standard set of connectors so that the boards could be connected together by a standard 'back-plane' - a set of connectors wired together in parallel. It was a 12 bit computer, which mean't that initially, it could only address 4096 12 bit words of memory. It was a miracle of packing the maximum of functionality into the smallest and cheapest amount of hardware. However, any computer programmer who has thoroughly read the linked Wiki page should be able to figure out how it could be used.

The PDP-8 sold until after 1975, when cheap microprocessor chips forced it out of the market. It's documentation should form part of the world heritage, just in case we are forced to take many steps back in technology and start from something simple again.

Other trivial and not so trivial inventions of the year included:
  • Astroturf,
  • Soft contact lenses,
  • NutraSweet,
  • The compact disk (at least in its basic theoretical form),
  • Kevlar.

Early in the year my friend Mike got himself a job with a company called Foseco that is still around, and makes foundry products. The deal was that he would get trained initially in Birmingham, and would then be shipped off to the company's branch in Japan.

Well that definitely put paid to any ideas that Cherry and I might have had for further dalliances. It was also all rather sudden, so we did not get chance to organize a parting encounter. Ah well, such is life.

My daughter Helen at about this time.
But I had another sweetheart. My daughter Helen was two this February, and I thought she was the best thing since sliced bread. I was happy to show her off to anyone who'd put up with me.

My Royal Institute of Chemistry examination results were good enough to get me the GRIC qualification, something roughly equivalent to a university degree in chemistry - it just took a lot longer to get. With this in hand, it was time to look for a new job. Harwell had been fun in many respects, but the pay sucked, and the prospects for promotion were not wonderful. To get a significantly better job there I'd have had to have a PhD, and even people in those jobs, like my boss Ted McIver, were looking to move out.

I applied for various jobs, and went for an interview, and got an offer from the first company that replied - The United Steel Company. The steel companies had been nationalized by the Labour government after WW2, and then de-nationalized by the Tories during their recent long rule. The job was at their research laboratories in Rotherham, a smaller city jut to the east of Sheffield in South Yorkshire. Sheffield was a traditional home of the steel industry in the UK.

The big step to be taken at this point was the purchase of our first own house. At that time, the best you could do in the way of mortgages was 95%, and to get one of those you probably had to be buying a brand new house. Since we had to find 5%, the house had to be relatively inexpensive. We also had to do the whole thing at a distance, and fairly quickly, since they wanted me to start in Rotherham as soon as possible. I can't remember exactly how we managed it, and in fact looking back now it seems quite a feat. I think in the first instance, someone at the new company did a round of the Rotherham estate agents, and came up with some developments that were possibilities.
Then I'm sure I got an Ordnance Survey map of the area and looked at the locations, routes into the city, and so on. Then we went up there for a weekend to actually have a look. I think we had some assistance from my dad in that. Sheffield was not desperately far from Bingley, so he could drive down and provide some mobility for the search.

The Sheffield, Rotherham, and Worksop triangle.
I'm pretty sure that the choice more or less made itself. To get the sort of price we needed, we had to be well out of the city, beyond any fashionable suburbs, and not in one of the yuppie country areas. The move gave me a substantial salary increase, but then the mortgage payments and bus fares would eat it, and we would still be as poor as church mice.

We settled on a semi-detached two bedroom house in a village called North Anston, which is about half way along the main road route between Rotherham and Worksop. This was 45 minute bus ride from where I would be working. It wasn't a particularly wonderful area. It was pretty much out in the countryside, but that was rather featureless and drab, and just to the north there was the colliery town of Dinnington, which was frankly a bit rough.

The pay in the new job was better, and we had got our feet on the bottom rung of home ownership, but the work was frankly rather boring.
One of the by-products of the steel making industry is a large quantity of blast furnace slag. This is a dark green glass-like material that floats to the top of the molten steel, containing the non-ferrous elements of the smelted iron ore. It was generally regarded as something of a nuisance, since you had to get rid of the stuff somewhere. However, it was known that if you ground it up to a fine powder, then mixed it with water, it would set after a fashion like Portland cement. My work was associated with an effort to market this powder for use as a Portland cement substitute.

We'd grind slag, and add things that were likely to improve its setting capabilities, or blended it with some Portland cement. Then we'd cast little test blocks and measure their setting rates and their progressive development of strength over time using plain old Portland cement blocks as a control. I also made another DTA rig to compare the hydration rates and extents of various mixtures.

After some time I was also involved in another potential use for slag. It was discovered that if you took the molten slag, and added certain minerals or metal oxides such as Titanium Dioxide, you could get the slag to solidify in a micro crystalline form rather than as a glass. If this was cast into tiles, it formed a very hard and strong material that could be used as an industrial or heavy duty flooring material. So I duly did tests on the properties of such tiles, and got slightly involved in attempts to market them.

Dinnington Colliery in the 50s.
The poverty problem was quite acute, and after a little time I got a part-time job at a pub close to the colliery in Dinnington. The pub, whose name I have forgotten, had a 'concert room' - a fairly large hall with a stage and sound equipment. I would work Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. On Thursday there were 'turns', singers, comedians, bands and so on, with a typical 'working mens club' atmosphere. On Fridays and Saturdays it served as the town's main dance hall. On these to nights the nature of the crown was such that fights between customers were quite common, and it was customary to keep a couple of pick-axe handles behind the bar, just in case.

The concert room bar was very busy all three nights, and the customers were not tolerant of delay. The first week was something of a baptism of fire, as I learned to use traditional British recirculating beer pumps, and to make change, to encouragement such as "get thee skates on lad ah'm gaggin fer a drink, we avn't got all day". But I soon got the hang of it, and one of the benefits of the place being very busy was that the tenant landlord had a pretty liberal margin for spillage.
A fair quantity of this found its way down the throat of yours truly. The beer in South Yorkshire was another of those culture shocks. I'd got used to the crap that passed for beer in Berkshire, and the new stuff was quite different. It was good beer but very heavily hopped, and bitter. In the course of my part-time work, I got to know some of the regulars on dance hall nights, including a girl called Eileen who I used to rather fancy, and who rather encouraged me. But there was no time for that when I was working, and when I'd finished I had to catch the last Worksop bus to get back to North Anston.

Given a combination of the boring work, the hour and a half commute each day, having no friends in the area, and the absence of anything to do in North Anston or Dinnington, my next job search began almost immediately. Elaine was pretty much isolated during the day, and I was missing three nights a week. When we had any money to spare we would go into Sheffield or Rotherham at the weekend to the shops, but for the mid sixties, when it was supposed to be all happening, it was certainly not an exciting life. Sometime during the summer, Elaine decided that she was ready to have a second child, and some time in August or September, the deed was done, and she was pregnant again.

In an attempt to extend my life and maybe cut down on the smoking habit, I took to smoking a pipe, a habit that was to persist for several years. In a moment of madness typifying the eccentricities of the 60s, in the autumn when the weather started to get a bit nippy, I bought myself an astrakhan style hat. I say 'style' as I'm pretty sure I could not have afforded a Persian lamb's wool hat at that time of my life. Mercifully no pictures of it remain.

By December, Elaine was ready for some home comforts and friends, so she and Helen went off back to Shipley to stay at her parents until Christmas/New Year.

This gave me a little opportunity to do some exploring of pubs in the area, and I discovered one at a village called Whiston that I rather liked. It had a good crowd, and I could probably have got myself into trouble there given time.

I worked in the pub at Dinnington up to the end of the week before Christmas. On the Saturday night I bought some beer from the landlord, and invited some of the people I'd got to know there, including Eileen, back to our house for drinks after closing. We got there packed into two or three cars. It was a bit of a disaster. I new these people to a degree, but I soon realized that the house could easily get trashed, and I could not be everywhere at once. To make matters worse, Eileen took me to bed. That was a disaster too, because I was preoccupied with the row going on downstairs. I'm not sure whether I count it or not. Eventually I managed to get them all out when the beer was finished, and the house more or less survived apart from a damaged brick gatepost that somebody reversed one of the cars into.

Being back in Shipley/Bingley for the Christmas break made it eminently clear to us that from the point of view of our social life, and for the benefit of our children, we should get out of South Yorkshire as soon as we could.

This was another year of powerful 60s music. This year I'll restrict my list to the number ones, with a couple of exceptions - they are pretty representative of the times.

ArtistTitleMonth Comment
SeekersI'll Never Find Another YouJanAussie group newly appeared on the UK scene.
Righteous BrothersYou've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'Jan
KinksTired Of Waiting For YouJan
Tom JonesIt's Not UnusualFeb
Unit Four Plus TwoConcrete And ClayFeb
Rolling StonesThe Last TimeMar
Cliff RichardThe Minute You're GoneMar
Roger MillerKing Of The RoadMar
BeatlesTicket To RideApr
Jackie TrentWhere Are You Now (My Love)Apr
Sandie ShawLong Live LoveMay
Elvis Presley with The JordanairesCrying In The ChapelMayI thought Presley had really lost it by this time.
HolliesI'm AliveMay
YardbirdsHeart Full Of SoulJun#2, but an interesting entry. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page.
ByrdsMr Tambourine ManJunBob Dylan song, Los Angeles band formed 1964.
Sonny & CherI Got You BabeAugSloppy, but tremendously popular with the girls in the Dinnington dance hall.
Walker BrothersWalker BrothersAug
Rolling Stones(I Can't Get No) SatisfactionAug
Ken DoddTearsSepBritish comedian/singer - at #1 for five weeks, and sold over 2,000,000 copies
Rolling StonesGet Off My CloudOct
SeekersThe Carnival Is OverOctOne of Helen's favourite - "the carni falling over."
The WhoMy GenerationNov#2, but an interesting entry. English rock band formed the year before.
Spencer Davis GroupKeep On RunningDec
BeatlesDay Tripper / We Can Work It OutDec

The Stones in 1965.

As you'll see, 1964 may have belonged to the Beatles, but this year they were given a run for their money by the Rolling Stones, with three number ones apiece in the UK charts. This was not the case in the USA, where the Beatles were still way out in front with three number ones to the Rolling Stones one. However, I would say at that time it was the aspiration of a majority of British young men to be able to dance in the characteristic way that Mick Jagger did when he was performing.

Taking a wider scan across the British and US charts, songs that aren't in the list above, but that stick in my mind were:
  • "California Dreamin'" - The Mamas and the Papas,
  • "California Girls" - The Beach Boys,
  • "Help Me Rhonda" - The Beach Boys,
  • "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" - Marvin Gaye,
  • "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" - The Four Tops,
  • "In the Midnight Hour" - Wilson Pickett,
  • "The Sound of Silence" - Simon and Garfunkel,
  • "The Tracks of My Tears" - Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

I'll pick out Smokey Robinson.

OK, so movies, well I doubt that we actually saw one in this year, but here's the info. The US award winner was "The Sound of Music", it was also the box-office topper. I don't think I have seen it to this day. Second was "Doctor Zhivago", - I don't think I've seen that either. The Bond film at number three was "Thunderball".

The Brits contributed Dr Zhivago, and Thunderball, as above, and also "Help!", starring the Beatles, and "The Knack and How to Get It", among others.

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