St Helens 50 years ago this week

In this, St Helens 150th year, we take a look back at 1968, when St Helens celebrated the 100th anniversary of its formation. Read what was happening at that time, from the 3rd to 9th December 1968.

This week’s 17 St Helens stories include a sex education film at the Savoy that made men faint, Rainhill Parish Council criticise the “menace” and “monstrosity” of one-man buses, Lowe House Boxing Club is revived, Parr workers make soft toys for orphans, there’s Christmas parties for kids and more on the tropical fish in the Hotties.

However we begin on the 3rd when a “rocker” with an animosity towards “mods” appeared before the St Helens Juvenile Panel.

The 16-year-old and two other bikers had ridden their machines on Prescot Road so close to a scooter that the rider fell off.

In a statement the rocker said: “I wanted to make him sweat because he was a mod”. Detective Inspector Pickavance explained to the court what the distinction was between mods and rockers. The youth was fined £10 and disqualified from driving for six months.

‘Helga’ was shown all week at the ABC St Helens in Bridge Street. The documentary was described as a “sex education film for all”, although about twenty cinemagoers (mainly men!) would have disagreed.

They all fainted at the scenes of childbirth and the manager Mr R. Tasker had to walk around his cinema with a bottle of smelling salts in his pocket.

Some St Helens’ schools took the opportunity to use the film for sex education and a party of senior girls from Parr Central went to see it with their science teachers. None of the girls fainted, however!

Large numbers attended Christmas fairs during the ‘60s. Our Lady’s Church in Fleet Lane held theirs this week, in which 500 people perused the many stalls. The sum of £350 was raised which went towards paying off the debt for the building of Our Lady’s Primary School.

The Grange Park Morris Dancers were in Manchester on the 5th auditioning for ‘Opportunity Knocks’. The fourteen girls were aged between 12 and 14 and trained by Mary Langtree from Cumberland Avenue.

The dancers had been together for less than a year but had already been placed in several competitions.

The choir of St Cuthbert’s secondary school in Berrys Lane gave a ‘son et lumiere’ carol concert on the 5th. The 100-strong group was silhouetted behind a screen on which slides were shown as each carol was sung.

These included scenes of Bethlehem, the Holy Land and the Nativity. It was thought that this was the first son et lumiere concert that had been held in St Helens.

During the same evening 87 candidates were confirmed by Rev. Laurence Brown, the Bishop of Warrington, at a confirmation service in St Helens Parish Church. Twenty-three came from St Luke’s in Eccleston.

The National Coal Board announced on the 6th that the 970 men at Sutton Manor Colliery had hit an all-time pit production record.

Also on that day Tom Forshaw, the Mayor of St Helens, made a public appeal for contributions to a fund that paid for Christmas parties in schools. The numbers that were held in 1968 for children and pensioners was quite extraordinary.

Schools held parties for their kids; pubs held parties for pensioner customers and firms held celebrations for their employees’ children and for retired staff. The Reporter’s photographers were kept extremely busy!

One of the first children’s parties this season was Fibreglass’s, which was held at the Town Hall on the 7th. Then Rockware Glass held one two days later in the firm’s Shaw Street social club.

Also on the 7th it was reported that the oldest barber in South West Lancashire, Fred Hackett of Oxford Street in Newton-le-Willows, had retired.

The 87-year-old had been in the hairdressing business for over 70 years and remembered when haircuts were a penny and shaves were a halfpenny. Fred recalled when barbers’ shops opened at 8am and did not close until 11pm.

The Reporter was published on the 7th and described how workers at J. & P. Jacobs had been making Christmas gifts for orphans.

For several weeks seven women on the Parr Industrial Estate had been undertaking unpaid overtime to provide children at St Gabriel’s Orphanage at Woolton with soft toys and mittens.

The scheme had been the idea of machinist Freda Plumbley from Warwick Street. Her six colleagues – who gave up much of their free time to make the presents – were Jean Hunt, Maureen Elliot, Dorothy Pedley, Dorothy Burrows, Susan Smith and Christine Beech.

A lengthy letter in the Reporter supported the recent decision by St Helens Angling Association to remove the cichlid tropical fish from the Hotties section of St Helens Canal. In last week’s paper an aquarist had been highly critical of the move but this week a correspondent wrote:

“Anglers are in the large majority around here, or anywhere, so why should we leave such a good water to ruin by tropical aliens, just so that a dozen or so aquarists can go down to Church Street canal with their little fishing nets, peer into the murky depths and try to catch the St. Helens version of the piranha-fish (it eats anything and has razor-sharp teeth), take them home and stare at them in a goldfish bowl for hours?”

Another letter came from Mary Whitehouse, complaining about a hike in the TV licence fee by 20%. A further complainant, using the pseudonym “A Victim”, was unhappy about their window cleaner having raised his price to 3 shillings.

They’d timed the man cleaning their windows and reckoned it took 4½ minutes, which worked out at 36s per hour. “A Victim” wondered whether the Government’s Prices and Incomes Board were aware of this!

The newspaper also described how Lowe House Boxing Club had been revived after losing popularity in the ‘50s with the onset of television.

An average of 45 boys now attended the evening training sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at their gym in Hatefield Street. Much of the credit was given to 67-year-old Dick Cowell, who for 36 years had been head trainer at the club.

There was another Christmas gifts feature in the Reporter this week. The advertisers included Dingsdales, with stores in Higher Parr Street, Duke Street and Church Road in Haydock.

They were offering everything from Triang railways, Scalextric and Lego to pedal cars, bikes, dolls prams, vacuum cleaners and sewing machines.

The Wizards Cave were selling jokes, magic and carnival novelties at their North Road premises. Marsdens – with shops in Barrow Street, Higher Parr Street and Cooper Street – were advertising football boots for boys from 26/11 and “Pussy” slippers for girls for 14/11.

Rothery Radio in Baldwin Street was offering: “Unrepeatable bargains to help your Christmas budget”. These included a Ferguson portable transistor for 33½ guineas, a Fidelity record player for 13½ guineas and a Columbia stereogram for 41½ guineas.

Read more of “St Helens 50 Years Ago This Week”

‘St Helens 50 Years Ago This Week’ is written and researched by Stephen Wainwright.

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