1953

This is something of a departure from what I normally do. Today is my 60th birthday, and is also officially the day I retire from work. I wanted to mark my important day in a suitable manner, and this is what I came up with. This isn’t a standard narrative article – what I’m doing is giving you a flavour of the year in which I was born. The piece contains some clickable links, some videos you can watch straight from here, some pictures, a couple of lists and some more words. I’ve had loads of fun researching this, and I hope you will enjoy it too. There is a lot here and it is probably far too much to take in at one go, so do feel free to revisit if you are exhausted before the end!

I was talking about this a couple of weeks ago with a friend at work, and when I told him what I was doing he showed me the wonderful Pathe News website. This is worth repeat visits, as it carries a huge number of clips from  bygone years. It’s ideal for anyone who, like me, loves those old newsreel films with the terribly terribly posh voiceovers! The only problem is that as the site is aimed at getting you to buy the clips at ridiculous prices they don’t seem to let you embed them in the same way that YouTube does. So I’ve had to make do with some clickable links – not too many, as you can make a cup of tea while you wait for some of them to load, but they really are worth it! The first of these is the Pathe News Coronation Year Review, The Crowning Year which is a ten minute run through some of the year’s most important events. Not all, by a long way, but it’s a lovely snapshot of an historic year. Not that I was aware of what was happening, especially as the two biggest events happened while I was still an expected arrival, but I was lucky enough to be born in the year which saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the first ascent of Mount Everest. Beat that!

As another taster of what Pathe News were covering that year, and for a glimpse at fashionable home décor, here’s The Queen at the Ideal Homes Exhibition – absolutely spiffing! I have a couple more slices of Pathe 1953, but I’ll save those for later.

To give you an idea of that year was like, here is a totally random selection of things that happened in 1953:

5 Jan – Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett first performed in Paris

Not the original cast!

Not the original cast, I suspect!

22 Jan – The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, opens on BroadwayThe Crucible

28 – Derek Bentley executed at Wandsworth Prison

31 Jan to 1 Feb – North Sea flood kills 1836 in Netherlands, 307 in the UK and several hundreds more at sea

5 Feb – Disney’s Peter Pan premieres

PeterpanRKO

1 March – Death of Joseph Stalin

Seems like a nice chap!

Seems like a nice chap!

13 April – Ian Fleming publishes the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, in the UK

Where it all began

Where it all began

29 May – Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reach the summit of Mount Everest (video by The Guardian)

2 June – Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey – contrary to popular belief, this did actually happen in colour. This clip is from a full length video of the event, which you can buy from places like Amazon, I believe, and is copyright of Granada Ventures:

23 July – Howard Hawks’ film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell) released

What a stunning pair! Or two

What a stunning pair! Or two

4 Sept – Research on the discovery of REM sleep first published by Eugene Aserinsky and Nathaniel Kleitman. As I’ve mentioned before I have a sleep problem, so I couldn’t resist this cartoon, originally released in the USA on Christmas Day 1953. Copyright Disney, of course:

26 –Following the end of sweets rationing earlier in the year, the rationing of cane sugar ends in the UK, to the great relief of the sweet-toothed everywhere!

5 Oct – the UNIVAC 1103 is the first commercial computer to use random access memory

Yes, this really is a computer!

Yes, this really is a computer!

21 November – Natural History Museum announces that the skull of the Piltdown Man is a hoax

Shame, such a good-looking guy too!

Shame, such a good-looking guy too!

December – the first issue of Playboy was published, Marilyn Monroe was the nude centrefold and it sold 54,175 copies at $0.50 eachPlayboy Issue 1

30 Dec – the first colour television sets go on sale in the US, priced at $1,175. At today’s exchange rate ($1.59 to the £) that equates to £739. In today’s money, however, that would be about £17,400!First colour tv 1953

I mentioned earlier that I had another couple of links to Pathe News, to give an insight into life in 1953. The first of these is the Boy Scouts’ Soapbox Derby which really is from another age! The second is a group of Carol Singers in Ashford, Kent which is rather nice – to an oldie like me it somehow seems more Christmassy than nowadays, although it is an unfortunate coincidence that Santa bears an uncanny resemblance to a former BBC DJ currently awaiting trial!

As I’ve mentioned before, I love music and it has always played a very important role in my life. So I thought I’d show you what was top of the hit parade (yes, they did call it that!) when I was born. Charts as we know them today had only been introduced in 1952 – previously they had counted sales of sheet music – and sources differ as to what actually was No.1 at the time. As far as I can make out, the No.1 in the UK, for the first of six weeks, was Guy Mitchell, with Look At That Girl

And in the USA it was Les Paul and Mary Ford, Vaya Con Dios, enjoying the sixth of nine weeks at No.1

BIRTHS AND DEATHS

Reviews of the year always do these, so I thought I should follow suit. Among those who share my year of birth are Lucinda Williams – wonderful singer/songwriter; Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner – President of Argentina; Carl Hiaasen – writer of some of the funniest novels I’ve ever read; Tony Blair – after dinner speaker, world traveller, waste of space; Mike Oldfield – the man with the Tubular Bells; Pierce Brosnan – been in a few films; Victoria Wood – brilliant writer, actor, comedian, singer etc etc; Michael Portillo – bouffant-haired railway traveller and former Tory government minister; Keith Allen – the Sheriff of Nottingham on the BBC, loads of other acting roles, father of two vaguely well-known kids; Cyndi Lauper – who just wants to have fun; Nanci Griffith – another great singer/songwriter; Nigel Mansell – the boring racing driver, used to go ‘Brum Brum’ to himself as he drove round the circuits; and Kim Basinger – blimey, is she really 60 this year? I feel old!

Just a few of those who departed in 1953: Hank Williams – country musician; as mentioned earlier, Joseph Stalin – the man who rewrote history; Sergei Prokoviev – Russian composer; and Dylan Thomas – playwright who wrote Under Milk Wood, set in the fictional town of Llaregub (read it backwards).

A mention for Sir Winston Churchill, who won the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Churchill accepting the Nobel, according to the caption - his wife went to Sweden to pick it up!

Churchill accepting the Nobel, according to the caption, though the Nobel website says his wife went to Sweden to pick it up!

To round off, I’m going to add a few more videos for you to dip into if you feel so inclined. They aren’t in any particular order, and the only connection between them is that they date from 1953. Firstly, the famous film of the train journey from London to Brighton:

And I couldn’t do 1953 without Stanley Matthews’ FA Cup Final, with commentary by Kenneth Wolstenholme:

From a 2013 perspective this is hysterical:

Do you fancy a trade advert? It seems they couldn’t afford a voiceover, or maybe Martin Clunes was busy that day:

Or a film trailer – great special effects here:

I could go on for ages, but I’ll stop here. One final one, a news story that caught my eye:

If you’ve got this far I really do applaud you, but there are no prizes, I’m afraid. Not even one of those shiny capes they usually give out at the end of marathons! I really do hope you’ve found something to interest and entertain you and that you have an idea of what 1953 was like – not that I really knew, of course!

Have fun!

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40 thoughts on “1953

  1. I like the way you celebrate your retirement and birthday and year. The play ” Waiting for Godot” mad a huge impression on me when I saw it on television with very good Danish actors in the sixties. We still use the expression when hanging around somewhere seems to have no meaning. I would like to watch it or even read as you mention it. When my twin brother and I had our 25 birthday our father had a copy made of the front page of the News paper from our birthday and year.
    Stalin’s death was a real blessing for many

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Maria, I’m not really sure why I decided to mark my retirement on its third anniversary, but it seems to have been well received! Another post to come on Friday, with something I thought I had already written about until a recent comments chat made me realise I hadn’t! I’m glad there were some things in this that had particular relevance for you.

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  2. Happy Birthday, Friday….and Happy Retirement! My birthday is Sunday so after yours. Does that make you older is I was actually born before you? LOL!

    I actually was pretty little but have a vague memory of some of the coronation. The Goofy cartoon made me laugh…I remember when I was a kid and went to the movies there was often a “double feature” and sandwiched in between a newsreel and at least one of these kinds of cartoons.

    So far the only other thing I wanted was the train…I think is I ever rode in any train that fast I’d be sick!

    Fun memories, thank you Clive!
    Jo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jo. The phrase ‘clutching at straws’ springs to mind 😂

      I’m glad you liked the memories – to be honest I don’t recall anything featured here, as I wasn’t that much of a prodigy! It appears to have been a pretty good year, though, even without me! The train clip is a very famous one here in the U.K. We had a film afternoon occasionally at school and I remember them showing that one to us. I suspect it may have been edited for effect 😊

      Have a lovely birthday on Sunday, hopefully a lovely family occasion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lol-o-lol! Well, it’s a thought, but I was born right after the war, been around since 46, so you will have to be Clive the younger to me! I hope you enjoy your day Friday, and time with family on Monday. We will go Sunday after church to be with our family in Raleigh…I anticipate fun, laughter, and Cake! Jo

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Brigid, that’s kind of you. Sorry to hear the goalposts are moving there too. I’m just young enough to avoid the changes, due for the state pension in two years. It will be a welcome addition!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, Clive, you made my day, my week, my month! I’ll be going back again and again. Just so happens, the mid-century decade (1950s) has a great fascination for me—I was in my early teens, and remember each of the events you have discussed. Also, the novel I’ve started this year, “Happenings in Paradise”, (sent out to my blog subscribers periodically) is set during that decade. I’m always looking for references of events of that decade to corroborate my facts. So thank you! And Happy Birthday, BTW!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it so much, Diane! I had a great time researching the original post, there seemed to have been so much happening that year! Many thanks for the birthday wishes – I’ll save them till Friday, the actual day 😊

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  4. Reblogged this on Take It Easy and commented:

    I mentioned in my previous post that this week sees the third anniversary of my retirement, and that I would be looking back to that. My actual retirement date was 16 September, my 60th birthday, and on that date I posted this piece. It wasn’t a narrative in the usual sense, but I wanted to do something to reflect the year in which I was born. 1953 was, in many ways, a momentous year, and the clips I included in this post give you a sense of that. There are also several links to the wonderful Pathe News website, which is a real goldmine of video history. As I said at the time, I didn’t expect you to read this as a regular post, but it was one which I hoped you’d come back to, to sample some of the visual treats. To anyone who manages to read the whole piece and watch every clip in its entirety, I can only offer my admiration! Most of you reading this now will not have seen this post before, and I hope you’ll enjoy at least a few of the reminders of a bygone age, and marvel at the lists of events and the famous births and deaths of 1953. And that doesn’t even include my own birth!

    One small editing point: remarkably, three years on all but one of the links and video embeds still worked when I tested this. The only one which had disappeared was the original trailer for the Disney movie, Peter Pan. I couldn’t find another version of this but didn’t want to lose it, so I have included a later trailer for the film’s DVD release. Have fun!

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  5. Well wriiten, as ever,( vital for an old pedant like me!) and interesting.Keep up the good work nd looking forward to the next instalment,
    Sharman xxx

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  6. Happy Birthday and Congratulations as your retirement becomes official my friend.

    What a brilliant idea for a post. I will bear it mind when I reach my next big one in less than 2 years. I am not brave enough to reveal on WP the number though! 🙂

    ..and yes I got to the end. My fav has to be Peter Pan! I will be sure to take a look at Pathe News website.

    Love Gem xx

    Like

    • Thank you Gem for your good wishes! It still feels a little unreal but no doubt I’ll get used to leisure! Glad you made it through, you deserve a medal. Virtual, of course! And I look forward to reading what you do – there’s no shame in telling people when you reach 30, you know 😉 xx

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