For a teenager in the sixties anything was possible. I’d started work at sixteen in 1960 as an office junior earning £6 a week, good money in those days.
This was spent on the latest fashions and, most of all, enjoying myself.
I remember going to parties that lasted all week, meeting up after work at friends’ houses, where we jived and twisted to the latest hits by Bill Hayley and Chubby Checker. As my friends lived some way away, this often meant travelling to work each day from a different direction, sometimes leaving as early as five in the morning to get to the office by nine-thirty.
We had fun but never got drunk, there were definitely no drugs in those days, well I never saw any, nor did the parties ever get out of control, although I do remember one occasion when a barbecue set light to a neighbour’s fence and we had to call in the fire brigade.
Weeknights meant visits to the cinema to drool over Burt Lancaster or Tony Curtis or try the latest sports. I was a great sports fan myself and played for a local netball team.
Like every other teenager in Britain, I couldn’t wait to try out the latest craze brought over from America, ten-pin bowling, also known as Keggling. Bowling nights were great social events and I made many friends bowling in the league. I’ll never forget the thrill of scoring a strike or a spare and the hugging and celebrating that went on when our team won. I still have my London Area Bowling Association badge and badges and awards for high scores and high series
Upstairs in the Bowling Alley there was a club with a juke box and an illuminated dance floor, consisting of squares of coloured glass lit from underneath. After we’d finished bowling we’d go upstairs to smooch around the floor with our boyfriends in the dimly lit hall. Magic. The only downside was the number of times we’d miss the last bus and have to thumb a lift home.
I always made sure I went with a friend and never felt in any danger, although I wouldn’t recommend it these days. In those days it was all part of the innocent fun.
Living near Wembley Stadium meant that we could enjoy sports such as Ice Hockey and Speedway. An avid supporter of Wembley Lions in both sports, I was in my element. Roy Shepherd became my ice hockey hero, padded out in his helmet and huge shoulder pads he looked like a dishy American Footballer. A giant of the rink, his skill at body-checking his opponents ensured victory for the Lions on many occasions. I still recall how the whole stadium shuddered as we stamped our feet on the wooden boards and clapped our hands to cheer on the Lions when they played against teams like the Paisley Pirates or the Nottingham Panthers.
After the game the rink was open for skating so anyone who’d brought their skates could get on the rink for half-an- hour’s free-skating. I raced around with the best of them, practising my cross-over curves and backwards shimmies. Sadly the end of the 1960 season saw the demise of Ice Hockey at Wembley until its return in 1963.
Following the Lions Speedway team meant travelling to watch them race against the Dons at Wimbledon or the Hammers at West Ham. There was always some lad with a motorcycle willing to give us a lift. The exhilaration felt when riding pillion and the smell of the leathers as you clung to the drivers back provided another unforgettable experience.
The thrill of watching the leather-clad speedway riders roaring around the track on their light weight aluminium bikes with no brakes will stay with me forever.
Falls, mishaps and accident were plentiful but thankfully, not usually serious. Even today the smell of burning carbon when a motor cycle races past me on the road evokes memories of cinder race-tracks and fearless riders. At Rye House, an out of town track, you could stand so close to the rail that every circuit by the riders resulted in your being sprayed with cinder from the track. Glorious days!
The World Speedway Championships were also held at Wembley Stadium. The atmosphere in the stadium on these occasions was electric and the tension intense. I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like it since, unless of course you count 1966 when Wembley hosted the Football World Cup.
I’d go along to cheer on the British rider, Peter Craven, a daredevil who, legend has it, wore his pyjamas under his leathers in case he ended up in hospital. His exploits on the track never ceased to amaze and he won the World Championship twice. Regrettably he died in 1963 following an accident at Edinburgh Race-track where he catapulted into a wooden fence.
He was an exceptionally talented rider with a remarkable gift for thrilling fans whenever he rode.
Thursday nights I’d don my dancing shoes again to meet up with friends at the Jazz Club in nearby Watford. There we’d stomp to great bands like Chris Barber and Kenny Ball. I still get itchy feet when I hear Midnight in Moscow and Kenny’s magical trumpet.
I’ll also never forget the Bank Holiday weekend when a group of us travelled in a Dormobile to Great Yarmouth. The girls slept in the Dormobile and the boys slept on the beach. In those days going out with boys was all innocent fun and there was never any impropriety. We all had boyfriends but it never went any further than kissing.
Another place we’d have to hitch a lift home from was the Ritz Ballroom in Kingsbury, a place now sadly demolished.
This popular dance-hall was so crowded on a Saturday night that you had to dance on the spot. The only drinks on sale were soft drinks. Most Saturday nights ended with a long walk home, with aching blistered feet. I still remember one particular night when I’d missed the last bus yet again I set out to walk home. Half-way home I met my Mum who’d come out with a flask of coffee and some flat shoes to meet me.
I believe it was this that prompted me to take my driving test at seventeen and my Dad to help me buy my first car, an Austin A40 Devon which cost £100. I remember my weekly stop at the garage to buy four gallons of petrol, giving the garage-hand a pound note, telling him to ‘keep the change’.