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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

                                     Planes, Trains and Automobiles


In the early 1930s it was a rare occurrence to see an aeroplane flying over. If one did appear, we children would stop our games, gaze up to the sky and chant “An aerey-plane, an aery-plane!”

A few years later we had the opportunity to see planes in the air and on the ground, when Sir Alan Cobham’s Air Display came to a field just outside our town. What excitement! There were stunt pilots performing all sorts of clever manoeuvres, including looping the loop, the falling leaf, sweeping down to pick up a cloth on the ground, and walking on the wing. I envied the children who went “up in a plane” that day.

But my turn came later. We were on holiday at Prestwick when small aircraft were making short flights from the sands. I’m not sure if my father enjoyed the experience, my mother watching from the prom certainly didn’t, but needless to say, I did!

The plane shown here is similar to the one we flew in.


Travelling by train was always exciting for children in those days. Many folk who worked in Glasgow used the railway rather than buses, and there was a frequent service from our town.

When we went on holiday it was by train. A few days before we set off, a railway lorry would call to collect our luggage, usually a big hamper, and, when we arrived at our destination, our hamper would be there waiting for us.

I can remember the excitement as we waited on the platform for our train to appear. The engine seemed to be enormous, and the tremendous hiss of the steam was really quite frightening.

There were no corridor trains on any of our journeys, and that can be a problem for excited little boys!

There was a downside to rail travel however. Smoke and soot from the engine could penetrate the carriages and you could arrive at your destination with a black face!

Thanks to for this photograph.


At that time there was very little motor traffic in our town. Most vans and lorries were horse-driven and there were very few cars.

Car engines had to be started by means of a handle inserted at the front of the radiator. On each side of the vehicle, stretching between the front and the back wheels, was the “running board” which you stepped on when boarding or alighting. There were no indicators of course, and the driver had to use certain hand signals to show his intentions. And of course there was the horn which produced that honking sound!

I presume car brakes weren’t all that reliable, for I often saw cars, parked on an incline, with a brick placed in front of the nearside front wheel.

Taxis were rarely seen. I imagine they were used only for weddings and funerals and I’m pretty sure that on such occasions most people would walk.

There were fire engines of course, but I don’t remember seeing police cars, though there was the "Black Maria", a big black vehicle that took you off to jail if you misbehaved. And there was another vehicle from which we hid - the dreaded “fever van.”

Thanks to FreeFoto for this picture of a 1915 Vauxhall. You’ll notice the spare wheel at the driver’s side.

This video shows scenes of a motoring club outing in the 1930s.


A TOUCH OF CULTURE No.6 online tomorrow Friday 5th November -
“Remembering Yehudi Menuhin”


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