Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The local clinic, which in my young day used to house the school doctor and dentist, has been lying empty since a big new health centre opened nearby.

I presume that over the years the old building provided a full range of services for all age groups, but for me that was the place in which I had my tonsils removed.

In those days it was thought the tonsils were responsible for a lot of childish illnesses, and many parents were persuaded that having the tonsils out would benefit their young ones.

I don’t remember a great deal about my operation, but I know that, after the job was done, I stayed in the clinic overnight and was allowed home the next day.

My sister tells me that she was to have it done as well. However, our parents decided against it, after a little girl died having her tonsils out. (And since then, Rita’s tonsils have given her no trouble at all.)

I was certainly more fortunate than some Glasgow children living in the early 1920s. Those attending the Victoria Infirmary had their tonsillectomies, were sent back to the waiting room to recover, and after a while went home with their mothers by tram. I’ve been told that these tramcars were known as the “Sawdust Cars,” because the floor had to be covered with sawdust to mop up the blood.

There was one good thing about having your tonsils out - you were allowed plenty of ice cream afterwards!


Can you can guess what this gadget is?

It’s a crystal wireless set with earphones - sometimes just known as a cat’s whisker set.

The cat’s whisker was a thin wire which was used to find the exact place on the crystal which would result in receiving the wireless signal. A great deal of patience was needed, for the crystal required just the right pressure by the wire. An aerial was required as well, and of course only one person, using the earphones, could hear the broadcast.

Progress in the development of radio was quick and the general public soon became enthusiastic listeners.

1922 - The British Broadcasting Company went on the air with their 2LO station. The licence fee was 50p (ten shillings) per year.

1923 - The Radio Times magazine first appeared. (The newspapers, not wanting to popularise radio, had refused to advertise the programmes.)

1924 - First Royal broadcast. King George V, at the opening of the Empire Exhibition, Wembley.

1926 - The General Strike. Because no newspapers were being published, the BBC began transmitting five news bulletins each day.

1927 - The BBC became the British Broadcasting Corporation. The first broadcast of a Promenade Concert from the Queen’s Hall, London.

1928 - The first broadcast by the BBC Dance orchestra directed by Jack Payne.

1930 - The first broadcast by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, founded and conducted by Adrian Boult.

1932 - Henry Hall took over the BBC Dance Orchestra from Jack Payne.

I suppose it would be around 1935 that I began to take an interest in the radio. We listened to the Scottish Children’s Hour, though some favourites like Toytown came from London.

Saturday evening provided good entertainment.
The McFlannels was an early situation comedy from Glasgow.
In Town Tonight was a topical magazine with all sorts of people being interviewed.
Music Hall was an hour’s entertainment by well-known variety artistes who each had  a ten minute spot.
 And finally there was drama - not a serial, but a different play every week, some serious, some light-hearted, some old and some new.

Who were the big variety stars of the 1930s? 

George Robey, Sandy Powell, Ronald Frankau, Suzette Tarri, Nellie Wallace, the Western Brothers, the Two Leslies, Clapham and Dwyer, the Crazy Gang of which Flanagan and Allan were members, Max Wall, Will Hay, Norman Long, Albert Whelan, Wee Georgie Wood, Lily Morris, Jack Buchanan, Cicely Courtneidge, Will Fyfe, Evelyn Laye, Elsie and Doris Waters, Stanley Holloway, Gracie Fields, Anona Winn, Renee Houston and Donald Stewart, Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, Wilson, Keppel and Betty, and my list, which is by no means complete, ends with Billy Bennett.

Billed “Almost a Gentleman,” Billy Bennett (1887-1942) usually concluded his act with a monologue, and this was one of his -

There's a little sallow man lives north of Waterloo,
And he owns the toughest music hall in town,
There are broken-hearted comics, there's a graveyard for them too
And the gallery gods are forever gazing down.

He was known as Fat Caroo in the pubs round Waterloo,
And he wore a green tie with a diamond pin;
He was worshipped in the ranks by the captain of the swanks,
And the coalman's daughter loved his double chin.

He had loved her all along and despite his ong-bong-pong
The fact that she loved him they say was right,
Though her complexion was a fake, and her teeth were put and take
Put in by day and taken out by night.

'Twas the fifteenth anniversary of her twenty-second year,
So he smiled at her as sweetly as a hog
And asked what present she would like. And jestingly she said:
"Your green tie for my little yellow dog."

Fat Caroo seemed in a trance and his heart slipped through his pants,
But he tried his utmost not to look a wreck,
So he handed her the tie and kissed her hand good bye-
When he bowed his head she bit his neck.

Later on Caroo came to, his tie had gone, it's true
And his tiepin with it! He seemed in a fog.
He rushed liked mad to find, that she'd tied that tie behind
To the tailpiece of her little yellow dog.

She was screaming like a child, the dog was running wild,
Biting policemen as he galloped up the straight;
For the little dog, called Tom, when he wagged his to and from,
Felt the tie pin urge him on to meet his fate.

The dog returned at dawn with his windscreen slightly torn,
And unseen took something from the lady's room.
To another room he flew, saying: "That's for Fat Caroo,"
And silently he slunk out in the gloom.

When Caroo jumped into bed, he'd ‘ave wakened up the dead
With a scream he as he fell like a hog;
Her false teeth, they were buried in the seat of Fat Caroo-
'Twas the vengeance of that little yellow dog.

There's a cockeyed yellow poodle to the north of Conga Pooch;
There's a little hot cross bun that's turning green;
There's a double-jointed woman doing tricks in Chu-Chin-Chow,
And you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.


And I haven’t forgotten Jessie Matthews (1907-1981). Her father was a fruit and veg seller in London and she was the 7th child in a family of 16. Actress, dancer and singer, she achieved fame in the 30s on stage, screen and radio. In the 1960s she took the part of Mary Dale in the BBC’s long-running radio soap “Mrs Dale’s Diary.”

In this clip she sings “Look for the Silver Lining” from Jerome Kern’s 1920 show “Sally.” Halfway through the song there’s a picture of her with her second husband Sonnie Hale, the actor/director. (She was married and divorced 3 times.)


The cartoon images of the doctor and the radio were taken from The image of the crystal wireless set came from Wikipedia.


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