Friday, 22 November 2013

That Was The Year That Was

Much will be made over this weekend about two significant 50th anniversaries- the assassination of JFK and the arrival on British TV of Dr Who [#1 being played by William Hartnell]


dr who hartnell

People ask “Where were you when you heard about JFK being shot?” In the 60s we had no internet, no mobile phones [not even colour tv!] so news took a little longer to arrive. I remember though – Dad had gone down to the church to sort out a Boys’ Brigade matter, and one of the deacons rushed in and told them all. So Dad came straight home to tell Mum. I was eight years old at the time. The following night, I cowered behind the sofa, watching the new scary science fiction programme about a man in a Police Call Box!

But I have been thinking about 1962/1963 - I think that it is fair to say that those two events marked the end of a significant year in my life- that was the time when I first really became aware of “World Events” and “What Other Grown Ups Were Doing” In October 1962, our family was shaken by my Grandfather's death. Then the whole world was shaken by had the Cuban Missile Crisis- and while my Dad was leading a prayer meeting, my Mum taught me to make up packet custard [not sure why, but it is a useful skill]

In the November 1962 my brother Adrian was born and a week later, That Was The Week That Was came onto the television. My Dad loved TW3. I would hear him laughing his head off, and I’d sneak out of bed to go downstairs and find out what was so funny.


January 1963, the family were involved in a minor RTA- our car skidded off the road on black ice and went into a ditch. We were all OK, but a chauffeur driven Bentley stopped to help – Mum, baby bro and I were invited to sit in the back whilst Dad, chauffeur and a passing farmer with a tractor got the car back onto the road. I encountered a mink coat and drank my first cup of ‘real’ coffee from the lady’s [Lady’s?] thermos flask. It would be years before I tasted real coffee again. We never found out who the Lady was.

A couple of months later, there was the Profumo affair. Newspapers had pictures of a sad-looking MP, and a poor lady who appeared to have mislaid her clothes. Dad got into serious trouble with Mum because I asked what all the fuss was about. “Sex - and you will understand more when you are older” Dad replied. Mum said he shouldn’t say that word to an 8 year old! To misquote Mandy Rice Davies, another of the protagonists “Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she?” [I wanted a chair like that]



Beatlemania was spreading around the world. My friend Dorothy was obsessed and spent all her money on packets of the little picture cards. There were 48 cards in the set and she had all but one. She kept buying more and more packets in the hopes of finding it [we suspected they hadn’t ever printed it and it was a marketing ploy]

martin-luther-kingIn the summer was the Great Train Robbery, and Martin Luther King made his “I have a Dream” speech in Washington.

That summer, my parents began reading me the wonderful Narnia stories.


Just a few months later, their author, C S Lewis, died at the age of 65. I remember that I learned the word “obituary” and my Dad showed me CSL’s obit. in the Daily Telegraph. The word comes from the Latin obitus meaning death. My own life was happy, and surrounded by joy and love, but I learned that wasn’t everybody’s experience

And as the summer faded into autumn and winter, there was JFK’s death and Dr Who on TV

I know that I was heavily influenced by my parents – their fondness for great oratory, loathing of greed and immorality, concern for those who were suffering, and good sense of humour…and my interest in the world outside our cosy little family home has continued to this day.

But realising this was all happening half a century ago makes me feel incredibly old right now!!


  1. Great post, Angela. I found it fascinating reading about the events of 1963 as it was the year of my birth and when JFK was shot I would have been about 5 months old.

  2. CS Lewis actually died on the same day as JFK - also the day that the author of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley died. They say these things come in threes!!

  3. Great post! I remember the announcement while in school that the President had been shot. It's hard to believe, or at least I had forgotten, that we had no color TV, cell phones, or internet. We've come so far in 50 years! It seems to me, life was a lot more pleasant, easy going, and more wholesome "way back then". :-) Saying 50 years, doesn't seem quite as long as saying half a century. :-)
    God bless and have a great weekend!

  4. I couldn't believe that all this took place 50 years ago. Time really flies by.
    Love from Mum

  5. 50 years really does seem a long time ago for something that still seems so current... (and so close to the year of my birth!!!) I had a look at what was happening in France 50 years ago, and you might like to see a page I found:

    1. That French page is wonderful - all sorts of other events I didn't notice at the time [death of Piaf, new Pope, Tereshkova into space...] Thanks for pointing it out Floss!

  6. A very eventful year Angela. I dont remember most of the events even though I was six at the time.

  7. This is a wonderful post. The only thing keeping me from not feeling old with all this nostalgic coverage is the fact that I was yet unborn, just!


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