In January I started a mini-series of reminiscences of my childhood in the 1950s and 1960s in urban Scotland which were times of immense change. Unfortunately the series has become very intermittent, this being only the fourth post. Links to the first 3 posts in the series are listed at the end of the post.
Certainly changes in transport and travel have been extraordinary!
Cars were relatively uncommon in our street. Rarely would our playing be interrupted by a car driving along the street far less a parked car causing an obstruction.
Certainly of those who lived around us we were quite early adopters buying our first car in November 1959 - a Morris Minor 1000 like this one although ours was grey.
How basic cars were: no radio, no seatbelts, no safety equipment, purely functional only. The Minor 1000 didn't have indicators but had trafficators: one small orange arm (about 6inches long) on each side, between the front and back door windows, which flicked out horizontally. We thought they were much better than the new-fangled flashing indicators. Even in 1959 there were very few cars in our street.
Our second car - 1964 - was a dark green Morris 1100 (similar to the one below): the first model with hydrolastic suspension.
Even in these few years there had been quite an advance in design.
From the early 1960s cars lost their novelty value as more and more people could afford them and, as they became more common, they started to affect our street playing. On Friday last I drove along our old street and even at midday there was barely any pavement space available. Back then the whole street, pavement and road, was safely available to us.
This was the start of the car becoming the dominant mode of transport. However as the car became more and more important, famous makes and models started to disappear. Below is a small list, by no means comprehensive,
Baby Austin A30
of names which were common but which were overtaken by time.
Before the car took over though, was the train - steam trains. When we went on holiday we went by train; we went on a Sunday school picnic by train, we went 4 miles to a football match on a football special.
Dr Beeching transformed the railways, unfortunately. Soon we had lost one of our two stations and the line going west. Dirty and grimy the steam trains were and they were on the way out but fortunately I caught the tail-end of steam. I also got the train-watching bug until steam was replaced by those incredibly boring DMUs - diesel multiple units. Trainspotting stopped dead.
Steam trains were alive in a way which no other form of transport is. The steam, smoke, whistle, hissing, spinning wheels and much more. These were the most powerful but wonderful creatures.
Prime time for spotting was 8.15ish and 13.15ish. In the morning the engine which had pulled the train from London to Edinburgh then went onto Perth with the return to Edinburgh passing us at lunchtime. This was our opportunity to see one of the stars - the A4, A3, A2 Pacifics - which didn't normally venture as far north.
The A4s - we called them "streaks" - were our favourites: so sleek, absolutely beautiful even if we only saw them dirty in their black paint-job.
This is the Union of South Africa (60009) after renovation. Gorgeous, absolutely fabulous!
As these wonderful engines were removed and replaced by purely functional diesel trains an era, a golden era ended. I must admit that my judgment that this was a golden era may not be accepted by many who travelled under steam but as a kid these were the most amazing machines and, for me, nothing will ever replace them.
Another bonus of train travel was going over the Forth Bridge. I always got a huge buzz trundling noisily over the Forth safely guarded by this magnificent bridge.
Again as the car took over we travelled less and less often by train. Until the Forth Road Bridge opened in 1964 the normal way of crossing the Forth by car was by ferry. Four ferries criss-crossed the Forth from North Queensferry to South Queensferry.
How small the traffic levels must have been for four such ferries to cope. Then on the 4th September 1964 the Forth Road Bridge opened, the ferries were no more. If you look closely you'll see a steam train on the bridge.
Moving back to the road I still have to cover buses. Lorries I'm going to miss because they weren't important enough in my life. Before buses I must touch upon horse-drawn vehicles. I am far too young (yes, too young!) to remember horse-drawn carriages. Only horse and carts were around in my early days. The one I remember most clearly was a fruit and veg cart although milk too was delivered by horse and cart. This was truly the fag-end of horses being used in transport.
Most of our town buses were double-deckers and their most obvious feature was the open platform at the back. I believe these open platforms remained on London buses long after they had disappeared from our streets. We thought nothing of running after a moving bus and launching ourselves at the platform with one hand outstretched to grab the pole nor of jumping off the platform as the bus slowed down. Today's lawyers would see spinning £ signs at the sight of what went on.
I do wonder who designed some buses, though: the upper deck of one bus had rows of bench seats, each bench seating 4 people. The designer obviously never travelled by bus: getting in and out of these seats was horrendous!
The opening of the Forth Road Bridge gave bus travel a massive boost because now direct buses to Edinburgh were easy and quick and train passenger numbers fell some more.
I feel there is so much more I could have written but haven't found in my memory banks. Any additional thoughts I'll put down in a round-up post at the end of the series. At the current rate of writing that should appear around 2011!
Previous posts in this series