Sunday, 28 August 2016

This Book is Exchangeable at Half Price

Every so often I will find the name of a long-gone secondhand bookshop stamped on the yellowing flyleaf page of an old paperback. These were a very particular kind of used book store. Far removed from the antiquarian establishments where the price is deftly written in a soft pencil stroke on the top right hand corner of the flyleaf, or who may also choose to smartly cover a rare and desirable dust jacket in a protective acid free plastic cover.

These were the shops who defied the laws of the high brow collector set. They'd splat indelible ink right across the face of the first page, so the name and often the address of the shop was defiantly emblazoned within. It was very clear to the customer, and the proprietor, that every book stored within the four walls of the shop is well and truly branded, just like a herd of cattle. The shop stamp also removed any hint of anonymity about the book's provenance - it may have passed through several or a dozen hands but for one time at least, we know something about its shelf-life history.

The major selling point was that the book is exchangeable at half price - so often accompanying the ink stamp is the price clearly written in irremovable ballpoint. The exchange factor also meant that often these books could often be rather well-worn by the time they'd end up in your hands!

I have vivid memories of so many of these kinds of bookshops which were once common place throughout the nation. The 'Popular Book Centre' was perhaps the most-well known of them all as they were a kind of chain with many branches scattered throughout London (and perhaps further afield). Famously too, these places catered for a range of tastes that could not be satisfied by the more 'traditional' type of secondhand bookshop. Where else in the world could you source American super hero comics, X-rated adult zines, pulp fiction, car maintenance manuals, biographies, the classics, Mills & Book romance novels or ancient sheet music and pop magazines all under one roof? 

So now I'm on a new quest - to put together a collection of these book shop stamps as I come across them. Your examples much appreciated too...

This PBC was just a few doors away from the Hope & Anchor Pub, An opticians shop is on the site now.

Book Bargains states its address as being OUTSIDE number 160 Shepherd's Bush Market - which was in fact a grocers shop in the 1960s. The street numbers were given to each shop unit that was constructed beneath the railway bridge that runs between Goldhawk Road and Uxbridge Road. So Book Bargains must have traded from a stall...

Where were M&D based? Post the Half Price era. Note that the customer got just under a third of the price back 

A rather sparse looking stamp, but enough information to show the name and the (abbreviated) street. Most likely a stall in what was then the world famous Petticoat Lane market.

Undoubtedly a prime example of a shop catering for the massive British package tourism trade that transformed the Costa del Sol region of Spain from the 1960s. And guess what - it looks like Julian's is still going strong...

For 10p, Thunderbirds are Go at POPULAR BK. CENTRE. Why not use an unsightly thick black felt tip pen to really knock down the collectible grade of your recent purchase?

Finally, here's one hailing from the US. I recall spending about half a day in this place. Late 80s I reckon. What a treasure trove of amazing books, and so sad to learn that it has now 'TOO' bitten the dust...

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Some Olympic Games Stamps

With the 31st Olympic Games just about to commence, I thought I'd delve into my old stamp collection to check out some examples of the Olympic commemorative issues that went on sale around the world during the 20th Century. 

There must have been thousands of Olympics stamps printed by the host nations and the participating countries since 1896, when a set of 12 stamps based on ancient Greek art and architecture connected with the games was issued in Greece to mark the first modern Olympiad. Since then, there have been many superb designs, as well as the dull and the forgettable. 

So here are a few rather nice examples that I've found:

A finely illustrated swimmer bathed in pink swirly lines: from a classy set of six issued by Yugoslavia for the 1952 Games held in Helsinki, Finland.

The cracking Op Art stamp by the New Jersey-born graphic designer Lance Wyman - this was part of a stylish brand image for the 1968 Mexico games

A cool green pitch for this Dutch footballer. One of the eight Dutch stamps marking the 'IX Olympiade' - held in Amsterdam. It was the very first where the Olympic Flame was lit , and Netherlands 1928 marked a rather less romantic first too - the arrival of Coca-Cola as a sponsor...

The ghostly fencer. The City of Montreal hosted the 21st Olympics, which was in fact boycotted by 33 African countries. The reason? The  International Olympic Committee had refused to ban New Zealand from participating because its rugby team had been touring South Africa. 

South Africa itself was already banned from taking part in the Olympics - ever since the 1964 Tokyo Games - for its refusal to condemn apartheid.

Ghana commemorated the 1964 Olympics held in Japan with 7 stamps, including another one showing a footballer. This stamp must have been mailed sometime around Christmas 1964 - check the holly leaves on the post office cancel. The Ghanaian football team were beaten by Egypt in the Quarter Finals of a tournament that was eventually won by Hungary.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Rubbish Bin Boy, Southend, Essex

After languishing in my box of 35mm transparencies for over two decades, the rubbish bin boy is back. I took these photographs sometime in the late 1980s during a visit to the Essex coast. He's made of some kind of cast metal, and the idea was to throw your rubbish in his mouth. It looks like the actual bin which would have been affixed to his back had gone walkabout, so the rubbish would most probably have just piled up around him. At some point the Borough Council must have decided enough is enough, so hence his disappearance from the seafront not that much longer after I captured him on film...

Shame, I have always been very fond of street furniture such as rubbish bin boy, and these days it's hard to find pieces like this. Simply a crudely painted, brightly coloured object, but charming if a little bit mad looking.

I wonder if anyone knows when he was made and if there were any others like him, either along the Southend seafront, or anywhere else?

Was this the last paint job he ever had?
Perhaps he knew that his days were numbered. Note the red tear under his left eye...

Monday, 13 June 2016

Generation X - Revisited

An old chestnut this one. But I've been asked several times to explain why I still stand by my theory that Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson's UK book Generation X (1964) is the very first significant use of the now oft-used term 'Generation X'. Especially when the phrase was very likely first immortalised in print a dozen years earlier. If you've stumbled upon this post and wondering what it's all about - or fancy a refresher - please check out my previous article on the subject, dating back to 24th February 2014. 

Holiday Magazine December 1952
What the Holiday editors were previewing was a three-part article which ran in the January through to March 1953 issues of Holiday magazine. The project was initiated by Robert Capa with the collaboration of a team of his fellow Magnum photographers - but the 'Generation X' title (attributed to Capa himself) was actually ditched in favour of the rather bland billing 'Youth of the World'. 

So 'Generation X' what Holiday calls "the projection name" failed to get beyond starring in this snippet when published in the USA. It was also not mentioned at all in the UK when the same photo story ran in a special edition of the popular Picture Post magazine in January 1952.

But the term was actually fully revived in January 1954, when Capa's piece was rejigged for Switzerland's stylish DU magazine:

A marvelous cover - published by Conzett & Huber in Zurich, January 1954
Undoubtedly it is this publication that justifies the argument that the term was coined well before the 1960s or certainly Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel. But I think that sadly back in 1952 and 1954, Capa's Generation X concept simply failed to break through, and so swiftly slipped out of sight.

The major reason is that this was a much less-celebrated return to an earlier study of the lives of ordinary folk across the globe called 'People are People the World Over', which was first published in the Ladies' Home Journal in 1947. This also involved Capa, and the newly founded Magnum photographic agency. But also, the subjects of Generation X were 'young adults', already too old to be part of the emerging 'teenager', or the rock and roll generation that was waiting just around the corner. So too conventional perhaps, even though it was fascinating to hear from those people who were still children during WW2.

To sum up - here are some pages from DU (in German) where 'Generation X' first appears to enter the lexicon of our sociologists and cultural anthropologists. But it is interesting how the term was completely (and thus not conveniently) forgotten when the term would later be truly seized upon to describe a new breed of youth...

Thursday, 2 June 2016

United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975

It's just three weeks to go until the 'Referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union'. Yesterday, while searching for something else completely, I found two small objects that I'd held on to from my secondary school days in the 1970's that are very timely reminders of the very first referendum to be held nationwide in the UK. 

Of course I wasn't old enough to vote on the 5th June 1975 - forty one years ago this month - but this was big news which certainly spilled into the playground. 

Above is my old ticket wallet courtesy of Southern Rail on which I'd affixed a SAY "YES" TO EUROPE red sticker on the front. These stickers would have been given out in the streets at the time, and a few handfuls found their way to us kids who'd stick them on exercise books, duffle bags and the like.

I've also discovered a KEEP BRITAIN IN EUROPE badge which was given to me by a class mate whose father I think was quite active in politics at the time. Interesting to note the address of the publishers - it's in Old Park Lane, a very smart apartment block just round the corner from Piccadilly's Hard Rock Cafe (which had opened in 1971, four years before the referendum).

Tin Badge, 1975
The '75 referendum demanded a simple Yes or No to the question: "Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community?". Back then the nation responded with a whopping 67% saying YES. 

It was just two years earlier that the UK had joined what was commonly termed 'The Common Market'. I also remember the various 'Fanfare for Europe' activities back in January 1973 - like the commemorative stamps that were issued by the Post Office. YES, just 3 pence to send a letter back then...

On the same day as the postage stamp issue, there was an unusual football fixture as part of the Fanfare for Europe which was held at Wembley Stadium - between The THREE new entrants into the Common Market and The SIX current members. A dazzling line-up of great players of the time included Northern Ireland's Pat Jennings, England's Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton, and Scotland's Colin Stein playing for The THREE. And on the pitch for The SIX that night were the West German stars Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller, and Holland's Johan Neeskens.

Official Programme Cover
For the record The THREE won 2-0 in front of some 36,500 spectators - in a stadium that then held 100,000. The scorers were Henning Jensen (Denmark) and Scotland's Colin Stein.

And now, some 43 years on from the year that began as a Fanfare for Europe, the citizens of the UK are set to put a CROSS in the box next to their answer to the question "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union".

Stickers printed in 2016 for the 'IN campaign', handed to me in the street this week 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Tracy '77

Tracy went to the same school as my sister. They were quite good friends for a while. When she came over to ours, Tracy always seemed rather curious about her friend's older brother - especially the kind of music that he was playing.

Anyway, we never got to speak much, but one day she presented me with one of her drawings as she thought I'd like it. It was a real surprise. This was the very first piece of artwork that had ever been given to me. She said it was about me, even though I never got into the safety-pin thing, and it felt a bit of a cliché which embarrassed me slightly.

But I had a bit of crush on Tracy. I remember that she was blond, very attractive, and had a scar below the corner of her bottom lip which seemed very cool to me. I just love the way she had signed the back of her drawing: 'Tracy '77'. Oh boy, such a very long time ago!

At some point, I'd put 'PUNK' inside the sleeve of 'The Whole World Turned Day-glo' single by X-Ray Spex, which I bought (on orange vinyl), but had stopped playing the 7" once the track appeared on their 'Germfree Adolescents' LP that was released about six months later. So 'PUNK' has been rediscovered. Perfectly and appropriately preserved between the picture sleeve and disc of a masterpiece from the era.

Thank you again Tracy '77, wherever you are...

'Punk' by Tracy '77

Monday, 4 April 2016

Central Electricity Authority at Hulton's Boys and Girls Exhibition, 1956


National Hall, Olympia, London
28th August - 8th September 1956
9am to 9pm

An exhibition of a kind never before seen in Britain is to be staged in London, specially for children. Supported by many of the country's major public and private industries, it takes place at Olympia and will provide an exciting end of school holidays treat. 

As the children swing through the doors of Olympia they will go 44 years on in time to the year A.D. 2000. Over £10,000 has been spent on creating the atmosphere of space conquest as a background to the whole exhibition. 

The decor of the Exhibition is the world of the new century and will show the fantastic progress of science and the conquest of space as the background to everyday life. The walls will carry a painted panorama of interplanetary flight. Spaceships and helicopters of 44 years ahead will span the roof of the National Hall, led by the United Nations flagship under the command of Colonel Dan Dare, and four gleaming rockets will sweep down to within 25 feet of the floor. Although the spaceships will be out of reach, children will be able to handle the great majority of exhibits and find out how they work.

There will be exciting mechanical games to try and opportunities to test their skill against famous sportsmen. A power station of A.D. 2000 will be displayed by the Central Electricity Authority.

On the Royal Navy stand will be a 30-ton submarine, 50 feet long, which has been specially sent up from Gosport, complete with its crew. The RAF stand will have a Vampire jet fighter, where pilots of the future will be able to sit at the controls with an officer beside them to introduce them to the first stages of high speed flight. 

As well as these, there will be exhibits by the Central Electricity Authority, British Railways, the Grenadier Guards, and even the governments of Australia and Canada to attract young immigrants, and France and Italy to attract young holidaymakers. 
There will be a special display by the United Nations - believed to be the first time the work of the organisation has been projected at an exhibition for children. 

Apart from entertainment value and the thrill of meeting leading personalities from the worlds of film, sport and theatre, the Exhibition shows a serious undertone, for British industry is making a determined effort to capture the attention of schoolchildren - the scientists, technologists, technicians and nurses of tomorrow...

Sponsors are Hulton Press Ltd, publishers of the children's comics 'Eagle', 'Girl', 'Swift' and 'Robin'.

Adults will not be admitted. 

At the Exhibition, these ten cards (7x4.5x0.2cms) were handed out from the Careers Enquiry Desk on the Central Electricity Authority’s stand.

The CEA ran the electricity supply in England and Wales between 1954 and 1957.

Original Badge available at the Boys & Girls Exhibition c.1956 (2.5cms diameter)