1960, growing up, space travel and all that jazz

When we were very young – sounds like the introduction to an AA Milne book – we, and specifically, I, expected to be living in a very different world by now.

For starters, I didn’t expect to be living on this particular world at all, the four year old me in 1960 fully expected that the 55 year old me in 2012 would be living on the Moon at the very least, probably even Mars providing that Dan Dare had killed off all the Martians first – or at least quelled them all first, we can’t go around saying that we should kill all the indigenous species in new lands before we settle there because thats not right at all is it – you can put your hands down America and Australia, it probably wasn’t your fault.

It was a brave new era in 1960, both the Russians and Americans were firing rockets up into space on a regular basis usually piloted by dogs or monkeys and there was even talk of sending a man up into space anytime soon and then after that, holidays on the Moon, it would only be a few short years you’ll see.

It all sounded so simple, all you have to do is point a rocket towards the sky, fill it with stuff that will burn very brightly, light the fuse and stand back, the flying bit was easy what with dogs and monkeys flying spaceships above our heads and it has to be said, none of those dog and monkey spaceships crashed during takeoff either, which is more than can be said when they started putting men inside them, men just complicated things, men wanted to fiddle with the radio during takeoff or put an 8 track cartridge into the machine, men just pushed the wrong buttons just to see what would happen if they pushed the wrong buttons, and they crashed and burned – you don’t get that with dogs and monkeys in space, they just sit there and look out of the window.

Its true that none of the dogs and monkeys came back, but still.

To a soundtrack of Chubby Checker, Cliff Richard and Bert Weedon, the man who taught my now famous cousin how to play the guitar under the bedcovers at night (will have to run THAT one past the lawyers), we Queens Road Infants School kids had the whole world in our tiny hands as we sat in the hard concrete playground at dinnertime, or as the case may be picked up bits of glass from the playground as a punishment for some imagined classroom crime, the school only had three teachers and they were all utter bastards, all of them, especially the bloke one with the glasses, I was convinced that he had probably escaped from Hitlers bunker at the end of the war and come to Leeds to teach kids nothing at all and punish them by making them pick up glass every lunchtime – there’s two things wrong with that, first of all our playground ALWAYS seemed to be full of broken glass and secondly, they made four year old kids pick it up at lunchtime, if there had been a coal mine within walking distance they’d have sent us down there as well, I’ll be bound.

So when we weren’t working for the utter bastard in the glasses we’d sit in the playground and stare at the sky where airplanes flew overhead on a fairly regular basis and someone would say something like “I’m going to be a pilot when I grow up” unless it was the strange boy who lived in The Stanmores who would say something like “I’m going to be a stewardess when I grow up, ooh those shoes”, and then it would become a bidding race for who could imagine the most fearless and daring-do sort of profession.

“I’m going to be a pilot when I grow up”
“Well I’m going to be a stewardess when I grow up, ooh those shoes”
“I’m going to be a fighter pilot when I grow up and kill Germans”
“Its Vietnamese”
“What is ?”
“We don’t kill Germans now, that was our dads, we kill Vietnamese now”
“Do we ?”
“Yes, well, the Americans do anyway”
“I’m going to be an astronaut when I grow up”
“What’s an astronaut ?”
“They haven’t been invented yet but when they are they’ll be the men who fly spaceships”
“I thought monkeys and dogs did that”
“Well I’m going to own a monkey who can fly a spaceship and I’ll get him to take me to the moon”
“That sounds ace, where do you get these monkeys ?”
“The jungle”
“Don’t they need training ?”
“No, any monkey will do, they can all fly spaceships”
“Excellent, thats what I’m going to do as well then”
“I’m not going to the moon, I want to go to Mars and kill Martians”
“Can’t you just talk to them and make friends ?”
“Have you ever read Dan Dare, Martians won’t talk to you, they just want to kill you, every time”
“Really ?”
“Yeah, its all they understand, I’ll take a really big ray gun though”
“Excellent, ray guns, I’ve got a ray gun at home”
“You liar”

“Will you need a stewardess on your spaceship ?”


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