Birth of ‘50s youth culture

Main Pic. Brighouse Girls Grammar School in the 1950s
Main Pic. Brighouse Girls Grammar School in the 1950s
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Are you among these girls at Brighouse Girls Grammar School in the early 1950s?

It’s almost 60 years ago and life has certainly changed since then. Back in those days we did not have computers, DVDs or game consoles. Entertainment was very much down to us, which usually meant playing outside in woods and climbing trees from morning till night, with not a sign of any health and safety considerations until the familiar and often embarrassing ‘You Ooooo’ from your mother shouting from the front doorstep that it was time to come in.

These were the days when all our toys would fit under our bed and there was no need for a separate bedroom. At home, inside the bay window we would make a corner shop, and then in the garden we made the Indian wigwam from mum’s clothes horse. We rowed across the English Channel in an upturned wheelbarrow and put together the best show in town, well in our street, for mum and dad, gran and as many aunties and uncles we could muster.

The TV was certainly a bit primitive back then, but one of my favourite programmes was Robin Hood with Richard Green. This programme ran from 1955 to 1958 with 143 programmes and was filmed at Nettlefold Studios, Walton-on-Thames. Robin Hood pioneered a new method of TV film-making which enabled the studio to turn out a complete 26-minute programme every four and a half days.

The well tried and tested method of film making involved the studio technicians building huge sets on which the cameras were lined-up for each sequence. To cut out delay and speed up production, these kinds of sets were swept aside. Instead they used stock items of scenery such as a baronial fireplace, the serf’s hut, a staircase, entrance hall and a corridor. All these items were mounted on wheels so they could be quickly moved into position. The fireplace could be turned upside down and hey presto now you have a pulpit!

The result was that the viewing audience were given the illusion of many different corridors, rooms, archways, when in fact they were seeing the same pieces of scenery each time.

Another gimmick used was a real hollow tree-trunk, 20 feet high, “planted” on a fake mossy bank. The trunk was also on wheels which meant it could be used again and again in the Robin Hood stories. But of course like the rest of the scenery it had to be moved around to fool the audience. How did they manage to create a woodland scene? That was easy. The studio technicians created another tree made out of wood and plaster then giving it an overhanging branch. Both trees were then wheeled into the right position, and for the short time it was on screen it provided a most realistic impression of a forest glade.

These were the early days of TV and looking back as corny as the scenery was we all enjoyed these programmes week after week. After the programme the following day we would all re-enact it out at school in the playground or school field. All the lads would of course be Robin Hood and his band of merry men whilst the girls would have played the part of Maid Marion.

But by the time these girls arrived at the Girls Grammar School they didn’t play such games anymore. They were all about to become members of something called the 1950s youth culture, when the life of, what did they call it, ‘a teenager’, was about to change young people’s lives forever.