Part 1 can be read here.
Socially there were pubs, the British Legion, working men’s, golf clubs, radio amateurs clubs, swimming clubs, boxing clubs, theatre clubs, and youth clubs. Dances or ‘hops’ if you were from the other side of the tracks, were held weekly with live music usually in the local church hall or in the sports club.
There were two fleapit cinemas in the town and a local newspaper which was printed on presses in town and had been so since the 19th century.
For the more civic minded there was a thriving Red Cross Detachment, St Ambulance Brigade, Army Cadets, Air Cadets, Sea Scouts, scouts, Girl Guides, Brownies, all run by local people.
The High street was full of privately or family owned stores and businesses, family solicitors, estate agents and a local weekly livestock market and farmers market, not forgetting the office of the local newspaper.
There was genuine civic pride, the Mayor even had a mayoral car complete with standard and on civic occasions the council turned out in their finery. For Remembrance Day parades it seemed that the whole town turned out either to march or take part. Led by the local police superintendent, the local British Legion members, usually a contingent from the local army regiment, with a military band along with representatives of the navy and RAF, followed by the civilian services and youth organisations.
Our town was, on the surface, a nice place to live and not unlike many others at the time. It didn’t need a label we all called it OUR town.
If all this sounds like some utopia to you, I have to say that it was not all as it seemed. If World War 2 was the Great War Part 2, OUR town for me and for many other young people living in the 1960s was, with hindsight the 1930’s all over again.
There was, by many ex-servicemen, a feeling of being let down by politicians (then as now then). Life in civvy street had not been, for the first 10 years or so after the war, a particular improvement on what had gone before. Much of industry was worn out, so was the infrastructure. Pay was poor, conditions not good and unless you were able to get a new council house in one of the ‘overspill’ estates being built in places like ‘OUR town’ the ‘slums’ continued to be home.
‘OUR Town then started to feel the national changes. Resentment built up in the workforce, although more people had voted for Labour than Conservative after the war which showed apparently, that people wanted a welfare state ‘womb to tomb ‘ (arguments don’t change then). Tory governments followed in 1955 and 1959, giving rise to (I paraphrase) ‘you’ve never had it so good’ and ‘Life is getting better’. Remember ‘Life can only get better’ Labour 1997- see what I mean about catch phrases?
In ‘OUR Town‘ this was the case for many working in the industrial sector, mainly low skilled boring jobs were still plentiful (no change there then) and the wages good. The fact that products produced by other countries were often as good if not better was dismissed, as was the fact that many factories were overmanned and subject to poor management and union control.
But hey! The sun is shining, why should we bother? We’ve done our bit in the war, why should I work harder, the ‘higher up don’t bother’ look how they live and where. The fact much of Europe was getting on a lot better and more quickly was ignored or more likely unknown.
Come the 1970s and the ‘new order’ started to feel its collective feet. People born during the war or just before had, it seems, a new approach to what they wanted from life, many had had a poor upbringing during the war years, a combination of ‘Dad’ being away in the forces or on ‘war work’ along with ‘Mum’ working too. The ‘better educated’ brought up on progressive’ ideas wanted to destroy everything established or establishment e.g. the replacement of grammar and secondary modern schools with comprehensives.
These people, the equivalent of today’s Oxbridge PPE’s ‘educated’ set, wanted to overthrow the old order and amazingly were allowed to get away with it, without putting anything practical or sustainable in its place.
The bottom line was for many – and still is – ‘money’ and for the few there was lots to be made by mergers, sell outs, and buying and importing from other markets across the world.
In this new global world, when ‘new’ was the ‘in thing’ and ‘big is beautiful’, OUR Town started to suffer. Mergers meant, in the main, job losses and this in turn led to strike action and due to raging inflation higher pay demands, which, in turn led to more job losses. Some of our factories closed, local unemployment began to rise. More people were employed by the state at all levels.
National economic problems led to efficiency and productivity drives. The Post Office was old fashioned and uneconomic with the result that deliveries were curtailed, jobs were lost and a postal strike result in further job losses. The uniformed ‘postie’ became a thing of the past and our town was not immune.
Local stores closed due to competition from supermarkets, the result? Job losses for local people in local stores replaced by, in many cases, boring shelf-filling jobs or warehouse work, Supermarkets (usually plc companies owned) had the buying power to drive down the cost of locally produced green grocery with the result that many smallholders selling seasonal greens went out of business, unable to compete. Bakers and dairies also suffered. Milk roundsmen disappeared as did the baker and mobile greengrocer.
Communities by slogan is in three parts. Part 1 was published here yesterday and Party 3 will be published tomorrow.