There was a TV program doing the rounds some years ago called “The Wonder Years” and in it a young boy named Kevin Arnold describes his life from the age of twelve in 1968 right through to being a seventeen year old, each series of the show taking one year into account.
It struck a chord and I loved that show, mainly because Kevin Arnold was the same age as me in each of those years, when he described his childhood to the backdrop of the music of those times then he was describing my childhood too and although our lives were set in different countries we still led remarkably similar lives to a remarkably similar musical soundtrack.
July 1968 was one of the important crossroads in our lives, we were 11 years going on 12, just this very week we were finishing school for the summer but not only were we finishing school, we were FINISHED with that school, we were leaving Cookridge County Primary School, they had taught us all they knew, they had no more knowledge to teach us and in any case they needed the room for the new intake of infants next September, the first conveyor belt of education was dropping us off the far end and we were to start again on a new conveyor belt a few months later.
But first it was the school summer holidays, 1968.
There’s nothing quite like the first day of your school summer holidays and theres nothing quite like the first day of your school summer holidays when you’ve just left the school that served you up the first six years worth of education, AND theres nothing quite like the first day of your school summer holidays when you’re 11 years of age and The Rolling Stones are providing that summers anthem and everyone wants to try and impersonate Mick Jagger but when they do they just look stupid – if you danced like that at a wedding then they’d probably drug test you and then send you home in disgrace.
This is the reality of 1968 though, Eddie Grant with his first appearance on TOTP with The Equals but look beyond the sparkly stage suits and on into the audience, young birds in mini skirts and young lads in sharp suits, all doing that generic sort of shuffling dance that will suit any record, probably won’t match the beat or the dancing antics of the band but it will do and when you’re a young lad in a sharp suit in a fully lit television studio then its all about the birds and nothing whatsoever to do with the dancing antics.
This was the music we went on holiday to, 1968 was Great Yarmouth and our Ray losing his Batmobile, Man From Uncle and James Bond corgi cars on the beach, a tragedy that we still speak of today, in fact if he reads this it’ll set him off again, he won’t remember this but all three of us also lost our swimming trunks when my dad put them on the roof of his car to dry off in the sun, forgot about them, and then later took the car down to the newspaper shop to get an evening paper and came back without our trunks – I wish I’d been there to see some old ladies on the promenade being slapped in the face by three pairs of wet swimming trunks as a Morris Oxford whizzed by.
See how good it was in July 1968 ?
How good would it be to be 11 years old going on 12, you’ve just left Primary school, you’ve got six weeks full of wonderful nothing-to-do days, and THIS is the chart music thats playing on your radio, no wonder we 50-something year olds feel so sorry for all of you who came along later, especially those of you who were 11 year olds in the 1980s, my god you should get a medal for growing up to a soundtrack of the 1980s – still, you can always watch The Wonder Years and see how good it was for us, the generation who could still “go out to play” first thing in the morning and not come back until it was getting dark at 10pm with absolutely no way of our mothers getting in touch with us during the day, except by telepathy.
Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses. A yard like a lot of other yards. On a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back…with wonder. Kevin Arnold, The Wonder Years