Saving the 70s- Richard Grayson

We interviewed Professor Richard Grayson in the summer of 2014.  Throughout the 1970s Richard attended Lime Walk Primary School and in this interview he tells us what life as like.  Here are a few clips, which we hope spark some of your own memories.


Professor Richard Grayson, interviewee for Saving the 70s HLF project

Events at school, Sports day and Christmas Fairs

Transcript: “The events that punctuated the year at school were things like; sports days on the field below the slop at Lime Walk, school plays particularly at Christmas, school football matches particularly in the last couple of years. I remember us playing cricket with a hard ball, which is just unheard of now at Primary School, no helmets, just pads and a box, so those would have been important events. We also had really, really good Christmas fayres, which lots of parents got involved in helping and making things for. So for example, I remember one of the Mum’s made a set of finger puppets of the Wombles out of felt, which I still have and I got those at Christmas fayre in about 1978 or 1979, something like that and the final Christmas fayre in 1979, Shell, the petrol company, the oil company brought in their massive Scalextrics set, which you could pay to go on and the fastest lap won. Because I’d been there helping to set up, because my Mum and Dad had been helping, they used me as the sort of test case for getting the Scalextric going and later on when it came to the formal thing I was so practiced that I had the best time, so that stuck in my mind and I went out and got a Scalextrics set soon after.”

1970s fashion and dressing as a Mod

Transcript: “I was a Mod in the Mod revival of 1979, which involved aged 10 having a Harrington black jacket, with a tartan inside and badges for groups like The Jam and Special Selector, those kind of things. There was a few of us at Lime Walk who had Harringtons and considered ourselves to be Mods.”

Film and Television

Transcript: “Oh the cinema, well Yes trying to get the years right but Star Wars came out in 77 I saw that in London actually in 78 I saw it because it was my 9th birthday, people still talk about this in the family, five adults and one child went to see Star Wars for my 9th birthday.  But we saw it again soon after in Hemel and when The Empire Strikes Back came out they did a double bill which I saw at the Odeon, and just saw loads of films.  I didn’t ever go to Saturday morning pictures but lots of my friends did and they would have things like the Lone Ranger and Flash Gordon, you know things from the 50s actually and also some of the Childrens Film Foundation stuff used to pop up there the sorts of things that were on Screen Test.  Well, from quite an early age I was really gripped by Dr. Who and John Pertwee in particular as Dr. Who and in fact I got so attached to him and bearing in mind he stopped being Dr. Who in December 1974 and I was 5½, when he was replaced by Tom Baker and allegedly this man was Dr. Who, I thought “no he isn’t”, and I stopped watching it.  I was so annoyed and for a lot of people the great Dr. Who was Tom Baker but I loathed him and therefore didn’t watch Dr. Who for most of the 70s.  Interestingly, one summer he actually came to Hemel dressed as Dr. Who for the big fair they used to have down at Gadebridge Park which I would have gone to see despite my hostilities to Tom Baker, but we were away on holiday but loads of my friends did and it was such a huge thing, people went and got signed photos of Dr. Who it was just, for a kid, it was probably the biggest thing that happened in Hemel in the 70s when Dr. Who came to town. The other TV programmes, I can remember it now, the BBC schedule used to begin with Playschool followed by something like Jackanory which was quite short and then usually a longer programme something like Scooby Do some cartoon or something like that then I think it was News round then it would be something like Blue Peter or a series followed by a cartoon right at the end.  That would go on from about 3.45 until just before the news which I think began at 5.30 so it was about 1 hour 45 minutes.  The programmes I liked, I liked Blue Peter and I always liked the serials that they had on, things like The Secret Garden which the BBC did an adaptation of.  The Phoenix and the Carpet was another one I remember very vividly , I didn’t like Jackanory for some reason, I found that a bit annoying. There would always be great excitement among my friends whenever a new programme so for example Rhubarb and Custard, now that was new, there’s a new programme on tonight.  It is difficult to explain to younger people now but there were three channels then, and there had only recently been three, and there were childrens programmes on for less than two hours on each channel at the same time so you couldn’t watch both of them, and nobody had recorders, so they were great events and you probably would find that half the people I knew would have watched Blue Peter, people say that about Morecombe and Wise, you know you could go into work and twenty million people would have watched it, it was getting on for half the country so I do think TV programmes were a hugely unifying factor in the childhood experiences that people had.   Then there were other things like Six Million Dollar Man and Wonder Woman and all the Saturday tea time stuff of which Dr. Who was one but Dukes of Hazzard, Wonder Woman, they all did that Saturday teatime slot at different points and they were real events as well.”

Pocket Money

Transcript: “Well pocket money I would spend most of it on comics and magazines and they would be comics like Warlord, Battle Action Victor which were all war comics strips, mainly about the Second World War and I think that extent to which World War Two stuff was part of childhood play.  but also the football magazines like Shoot and Goal was around for a while but then that merged with Shoot and I have a funny memory of myself walking into the newsagent saying have you got Shoot incorporating Goal giving them the full title, I must have been quite a strange child as if there was another Shoot around which didn’t incorporate Goal.  The comics, unlike now, they didn’t come with free gifts every week, I mean all comics now come with a free gift every week.  Then it was a bit of an event and the particular event with Shoot was the lead ladders.  A piece of cardboard with all 92 teams in the different divisions, you’d start off, a bit like keeping a diary, you would start off the season with really good intentions of moving them around and never get there.  You would give up after a couple of weeks, the cardboard got dog eared.  So pocket money for comics and magazines I think and I think it was quite important for lots of people and as were cheap sweets, you know penny chews as they were, they would be very important.  But more widely you would occasionally you would save up a bit more for toys and you would use birthday money for toys.  The very serious pocket money toy in 77 or 78 were Star Wars figures, there was an original series of 12 of them and two of them were really hard to get and people’s mums would go down the market and say “have you got the Jawa or the Sand Person” they rarely did, but there were kids that would go to Brent Cross and would manage to get all of them.  They were really important pocket money.  But more expensive would have been Action Man because you would get Action Man for your birthday and then you could buy the uniforms for them, just about in the range of pocket money saved up for 6-8 weeks or something.  I think in the late 70s I was probably getting about 50p a week or something like that.  So there was the temptation, War Lords was probably about 7p or 8p you could buy that and a load of sweets and a football magazine or you could save up maybe for 10 weeks to get an Action Man uniform so that was very difficult.  Other toys would only be for Christmas and birthday presents would be Lego which was also very expensive but very popular and Scalextric as well.” 

Toy shops in Hemel Hempstead

Transcript: “I was just struck as a child in Hemel as to how many good toy shops there were in Hemel, so for a start you had Taylor & McKenna’s was the most well-known one and that was going into Marlowes from the roundabout and that was on the right.  There was another one which may not have opened until 1980s on the left called Cards and Toys or something like that and they also had a branch there and a branch up in Market Square.  In the High Street certainly in the 70s you had a shop called Dinky Dell which was quite small and a bit more focused on models and I had a vague idea that my parents considered quite expensive and there was always some tut tutting about Dinky Dells anyway and we always tended to go to Taylor & McKenna’s which was on two floors, toys for boys and girls downstairs and models upstairs, so Scalextric trains, I haven’t mentioned trains, so lots of people had train sets obviously, that was upstairs.  Then behind the back entry of what was Woolworths overlooking the water garden was a model railway shop , then a model railway shop in Apsley where the stamp shop now, you  toy shop at Adeyfield called Richards, so I thought that was my toy shop and it was where the betting shop now on the corner near the pet shop and there was a toy shop at Warners End, which was a toy/sports which is now I think a Chinese takeaway, so we were pretty well covered.  Plus then you could wander into any newsagent and buy things like Air fix kits, they would have them in a full range of paints.  My grandparents lived in Bennetts End in Winchdells and there were both Martins and Parrys in Bennetts End and you would go and buy  model kits there, it was really good.  I would love to turn the clock back and wander into Taylor & McKenna’s set out circa 77 or 78 but with the money I have now, and get it at those prices, it would be really good.” 

The Queens Silver Jubilee 1977

Transcript: “The Queens silver jubilee was a big thing in 1977, we had a school fayre and I seem to remember it was very hot, not as hot, I think, as it had been the summer before in 1976. We’d had a big event, lots of things decked out in red, white and blue. Somebody, possibly an Auntie, possibly, probably not my Grandmother, because she wasn’t the biggest fan of the Royal family, but somebody knitted me a tank top with crowns around the bottom, red, white and blue. So the silver jubilee was big.”


Christmas production of ‘Oliver’ at Lime Walk School 1976-7. Richard Grayson is in the front row with grey socks


Class 2 at Lime Walk Primary School taken in November 1977. Richard Grayson is first from left on the back row.

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