Intrepid Optimist

Intrepid Optimist is the place where I can share my stories; fact, fiction and thoughts from the past and present. It’s Written by myself for people who believe adventure knows no age

1963 – What a Year!

During my recent 84th birthday I was asked as to which year in my life would be the most memorable? Without hesitation I replied, “Nineteen hundred and sixty-three.” “Of course.” Smiled my late, middle-aged friend. “Nineteen sixty-three; the year of Kennedy’s assassination.” 

Not so. Tragic though the murder was, I have never been a fan of any member of the Kennedy clan and the sad event left me curiously unmoved. However, I do agree that assassination is a deplorable act, except perhaps when the victim is a dictator, terrorist or of late, some deserving Russian banker.

I imagine, to those of lesser years, reading of that abominable event fifty-seven years ago is like, once upon a time, but the events of 63, are still clearer to me than many other past years. 

For a start, 1963 entered cold, and for the next three months, Britain suffered the worst winter recorded in 200 years, almost bringing the country to a standstill. London, Birmingham and Manchester, vanished under a blanket of freezing fog. I was 27 and living in Mottram-in-Longdendale, on the border with Derbyshire and close to the Peak District. It was also the home of a reclusive neighbour, the artist L. S.Lowry (1887 –1976) famous for his scenes of life in the industrial north. His matchstick men were to gain fame in songs by Status Quo and the Beatles.

In 1974 Mottram-in–Longdendale became better known for housing the medical practice of Dr Harold Shipman, one of the most prolific serial killers in recorded history, who committed suicide in 2076 while serving a life sentence. In 2012 Dale (one eye) Cregan, a petty crook, presently serving a life sentence for murdering two female police officers with a hand grenade in this once unheard of village.

It was not only the weather which threatened to isolate 1963 Britain. French President, Charles de Gaulle surprised us by objecting to our entry into the European Common Market. If that was not enough Dr Beecham, chairman of British Railways, proposed closing one-third of our railway tracks. Horror for the thousands of train-spotters, when steam was replaced by diesel.

It was an exciting year for me both in romance and in business. I had recently branched out and formed a new company selling construction equipment and ancillary tools Those were days when a lot of business was still being done lunchtime in pubs, where builders tended to hang out and here I was in my element. 

When not in a bar or out with friends a lot of my evenings were spent watching television on my black and white set. On 22nd.November 1963, I watched as John F. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, then, two days later, along with millions of viewers, I saw Oswald shot in turn by Jack Ruby. However, it was not only the death of an American president I was interested in, in those days. I spent time glued to the TV, avidly following the first episodes of Doctor Who, The Avengers and The Dick Van Dyke Show, At the cinema, I enjoyed The Longest Day, Mutiny on the Bounty and Lawrence of Arabia.

I ecstatically fell for all of the seven new Beatles songs released during that year (Please Please Me, Ask Me Why, From Me to You, She Loves You, I’ll Get You, I Want To Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There.) I was unaware of the birth in that same year of Brad Pit, Johnny Depp and Mike Meyers and I sometimes wish I still was.

As to the political arena, I distinctly remember being outraged by a Private Eye parody of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan as a senile Emperor, flirting with homosexuals and dancing girls, while around him his empire goes to wrack and ruin. But despite my aversion to the Ban the Bomb movement I was happy when in July, Russia, England & America signed the Nuclear Test ban treaty.

The crime story of 63 was the Great Train Robbery, of which Ronnie Biggs, the one that got away and over the next thirty years stayed away, before, in 2001 turning himself in, kept popping up when the media was short of a news story. In June another and cleverer villain nipped out of the country undetected. Kim Philby, a senior member of British intelligence, defected to the Soviet Union. While there – presumably bored out of his skull – as a joke, he made a map of the toilets in the Moscow city centre –apparently quite useful, as there were not too many of them.

The scandal highlight of 63 for me was the Profumo affair. John Profumo a British politician with an Italian title meets Christine Keeler, a London call girl at a house party at Cliveden, the Buckinghamshire mansion owned by Lord Astor – Profumo begins affair with Keeler – Keeler is sleeping with drug dealer – Keeler also having an affair with Yevgeni Ivanov, a naval attaché at the embassy of the Soviet Union – Keeler has affair with a Jamaican drug dealer – the first dealer attacks the second dealer – ends up in court.

Sir Roger Hollis head of MI5 advises Profumo to end his relationship with Keeler – press release story follows – Profumo tells House of Commons “no impropriety whatever” occurred in his relationship with Keeler and finally Profumo resigns admitting he had lied.

 Nowadays it would not be much of a story compared with Silvio Berlusconi ’s Bunga Bunga parties or the more recent Epstein and Prince Andrew shenanigans, but way back then it kept me enthralled.

Apropos to some read being shocked by my earlier disparaging remark concerning the 22.November 1963 presidential assassination (some would call it regicide). I prefer to remember JFK for his “Ich bin ein Berliner” remark made during a visit to that city. A Berliner is also the name for a type of German doughnut.


About bbryanthomas

Not so young man about town who, having witnessed and enjoyed life, is presently having fun, writing about those by-gone times and life in general.

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This entry was posted on January 7, 2020 by in Stories and tagged , , .
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