Being a `teenager` in post-war Britain was not easy. First of all teenagers, as such, did not exist. We were shadows of our parents – rather betweenagers rather than teenagers. Our needs and/or wants were fairly simple. My social life revolved around a church youth club that took place about five miles from where I lived with my parents. The club met twice a week – on a Tuesday was a work session – cooking for the girls and carpentry or metal-working for the boys. Friday was our own – my particular interest was the drama group. We were so fortunate in having a wonderful teacher who did wonders with a group of youngsters – costumes made from curtains – made up from her precious box of theatrical makeup (I remember the rabbits foot that was used to apply the rouge – I don`t think we shrank in horror at that – we lived in the country where rabbits were a welcome addition to our rather sparse meat ration). As a club we were encouraged to enter Youth Festivals and Speech & Drama Festivals. What a wonderful grounding for my later career as a lawyer in court!
So I had to travel to this Youth Club twice a week by bus – two buses each way in fact though I think I probably walked to catch the second bus. One year my birthday came around and my parents presented me with my first bicycle. It stood in the garden, proudly propped up against the fence. Oh dear! My parents paid for my private education and, to be fair, I think it kept them fairly short of money. Some of my friends had very smart bikes indeed – one lucky boy had had his handmade for him. They had gears, drop handlebars, bells, dynamos and all the gizmos. My bike? Well I think the wheels must originally have been rusty and knowing my father he had done his very best to clean the rust off but it had gone too far so he painted the rims with gold paint. And it had a curved crossbar, a basket on the front and upright handlebars – very similar to the one in the photograph above. It was not exactly the dernier cri in bicycles but I loved it to pieces!!!!!
I called her Priscilla because she was so old-fashioned and was what I termed the `Sit Up and Beg` type of bike. She was marvellous. I can`t count how many miles we travelled together. She would often take me to school (about 7 miles) I would then cycle home, have my dinner and cycle the five odd miles to meet the others at the Youth Club in the summer and then we would go out together for a bike ride or down to the river for a swim. She had no gears but I was able to keep up with the best of them after a while.
Dear Priscilla. I know she languished unloved after quite a while, gaining more rust whilst I `borrowed` my Aunt`s much newer shinier bike but then Aunt demanded her bike back so it was back to Priscilla who bore me no ill-will.
Now I am very amused because today bicycles like Priscilla are still being manufactured and are very, very desirable and expensive – so you see I was a tend-setter before my time!