OFF ill from school. I was wrapped up in a light throwover and feeling sorry for myself. My illness: I honestly can’t remember as I had a number of sick days off from primary school between 1974 and 1981: the common cold, a dodgy tummy, a smashed-up finger (accidentally slammed in Mr Livingstone’s car door), a sty in my right eyelid, severe hayfever…
Whatever the illness or accident, there was always a bottle of Lucozade close by – not a small bottle, but a big glass bottle wrapped in yellow-coloured cellophane – proper old school recovery drink. If it was winter, two bars on the four-bar gas heater would be keeping the room warm. Food for the day would consist of Heinz chicken soup and slices of Sunblest bread with a heavy smearing of margarine.
Entertainment was limited as my siblings were at school, so the television kept my company. The television set had some unique features: changing channels meant walking across the room and pushing buttons, and picture quality adjustment was carried out by shifting the indoor aerial from side to side – features that add a few hundred extra steps every day (if only the Fitbit was around during these times.)
So, what was on television? The thing I remember were various educational programmes that were shown on the BBC – they were called Schools and Colleges. The subjects were wide and varied: science, maths, English, French, how such-and-such works, media studies, sociology… It’s fair to say that the Schools and Colleges was a feast of learning programmes that meant I was getting a trickling of education whilst off ill from school.
I have to admit, some of the programmes were too technical for me, but there was one scene that has stuck in my mind: it was a feature within a programme, warning kids of the consequences of not brushing their teeth. Now, the thing is this: during the 70s and some parts of the 80s, broadcasts that warned kids of dangers were on par with horror films – if you remember those never go with strangers, don’t play on train tracks, never mess with electricity, and never play with fireworks public information broadcasts, you’ll know what I mean. This particular broadcast, warning of the consequences of not brushing your teeth, had a circle of kids in the school sports hall (wearing white vests and shorts). They looked cold and scared, and the lights in the hall were dimmed. All of a sudden some other kids appeared carrying a huge toothbrush and began scrubbing the mouths of the terrified kids in the circle. As a 6 year old, I found the atmosphere of the broadcast rather unsettling.
I guess the unsettling teeth-brushing fright show was a one-off for the Schools and Colleges, let’s not forget the fun ones like You and Me (… me and you, lots and lots…) and Words and Pictures.
The good thing about the teeth-brushing fright show is that it scared me into keeping my teeth clean, and 44 years later, I can proudly say I only have just one filling in my mouth. Thinking about it, you could argue that the fright show was very effective.
Further retro reading:
The retro hardback book, Section N Underpass – reminisce on adverts, leisure and entertainment from the 70s and 80s. Get the rundown by clicking the front cover below: