1953 And All That

Today is my birthday, and I reach the grand old age of 66. Six years ago was the day I officially retired from work although, as it was a Monday that year too, my last actual working day was the previous Friday, the 13th – an easy date to remember! To mark my milestone birthday my two wonderful daughters took me out for the day on Saturday 14th, which if you so desire you can read about in A Celebration. For the actual birthday I went to an exhibition at the British Museum (rock ‘n’ roll or what!) and also posted a piece on my blog. This was rather different from my usual – if there is such a thing – and I shared it again three years ago. As most of you won’t have been following my blog then, let alone six years ago, I thought I’d share an updated version to celebrate turning 66. As bingo fans will know, 66 is called ‘clicketty-click,’ which I think must derive from the noise our joints make at that age when we stand up.

So what was 1953 actually like? It was a year of some momentous occurrences, and that’s before you even consider my birth! This isn’t a standard narrative article: what I’m doing is giving you a flavour of the year in which I was born. There are some clickable links, some videos you can watch straight from here, some pictures, a couple of lists and some more words. I had loads of fun when I first researched this, and again in updating it: 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 before the original post 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 was 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:

28 Jan – Derek Bentley (the ‘let him have it’ case) was executed at Wandsworth Prison

31 Jan to 1 Feb – a North Sea flood killed 1,836 in the Netherlands, 307 in the UK and several hundreds more at sea

5 Feb – Disney’s Peter Pan premiered (there will be a clip of this later)


1 March – Death of Joseph Stalin, the man who loved rewriting history (a certain President seems to be adopting him as a role model!)

Seems like a nice chap!
Seems like a nice chap!

13 April – Ian Fleming published the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, in the UK. Little did he know what he was unleashing on the world! To be honest, the book feels a little dated now, but there has been the occasional movie of Bond books, I think?

Where it all began
Where it all began

29 May – Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest (video by The Guardian). Nowadays, people who attempt this climb are armed with all sorts of support which wasn’t available in 1953, which in my eyes makes this an incredible achievement:

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) was released

What a stunning pair! Or two
What a stunning pair! Or two

4 Sept – Research on the discovery of REM sleep was first published by Eugene Aserinsky and Nathaniel Kleitman. As I’ve mentioned in several posts, I had a sleep problem, so I couldn’t resist this short cartoon, which I think was originally released in the USA in 1953. Copyright Disney, of course:

26 Sept – Following the end of sweets rationing earlier in the year, the rationing of cane sugar ended in the UK, to the great relief of the sweet-toothed everywhere! I can’t imagine growing up without sweets – but in these more health conscious days sugar is apparently a bad thing. A pity, really.

5 Oct – the UNIVAC 1103 was the first commercial computer to use random access memory. It’s hard to see a connection between this brute and today’s computers, tablets and smartphones, isn’t it!

Yes, this really is a computer!
Yes, this really is a computer!

21 November – the Natural History Museum announced that the skull of the Piltdown Man was a hoax (I gather that this was a big news story at the time – they’ll be telling us that the Earth isn’t flat, next!)

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 went on sale in the US, priced at $1,175. At today’s exchange rate ($1.25 to the £) that equates to £940. In today’s money, however, that would be just over £26,000!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 who was at one point on trial for some unpleasant offences. He was found not guilty, unlike some of his peers.

As I’ve mentioned often in my posts, 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, though, 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


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; 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, now no longer with us, sadly; 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, I feel old!

And these are just a few of those who departed in 1953: Hank Williams – country musician; the aforementioned Joseph Stalin; Arnold Bax – British composer; Sergei Prokoviev – Russian composer; Dylan Thomas – playwright who wrote Under Milk Wood, set in the fictional town of Llaregub (read it backwards); Django Reinhardt – the very talented French guitarist; John Christie – the Rillington Place serial killer who has since been the subject of stage, movie and TV adaptations of his gruesome life; and Guccio Gucci, who began a fashion house – guess which one!

In these days of Brexit – and our (hopefully temporary) Prime Minster, who is a fan of his, it is appropriate that I mention Sir Winston Churchill, who won the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature, and may or may not have done a Bob Dylan in accepting it.

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, which the BBC often used to show as a filler in the 60s when live broadcasts didn’t go to plan:

And I couldn’t do 1953 without Stanley Matthews’ FA Cup Final, with commentary by Kenneth Wolstenholme, who was the voice of football as I grew up:

From a 21st century perspective this one is hysterical (they sure knew how to have fun, and that Betty – what a gal!):

Do you fancy a trade advert? It seems they couldn’t afford a voiceover, or maybe that profession had yet to be invented, thereby creating work for countless actors who couldn’t get any real roles. There was clearly a job for someone with a wobbly hand to roll the script, though:

Or a film trailer, for Peter Pan – great special effects here. The original clip I used for this is no longer available to UK viewers (thanks, Walt) so I’m sharing a more recent clip for the DVD release:

I could go on for ages, but I’ll stop here. I’ll leave you with one final one, a news story that caught my eye. At that time, this must have been revolutionary, and I can’t begin to imagine the prejudice Christine Jorgensen must have endured after this blaze of publicity :

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 I’ve given you an idea of what 1953 was like – not that I really knew, of course! It does seem, in many ways, a more innocent time, but consider that it was only eight years after the end of WW2 and was the dawning of an age of rapid social, cultural and technological growth and you’ll get a sense of the world in which I grew up.

Have fun – I hope you enjoy playing with this stuff as much as I have.


42 thoughts on “1953 And All That

  1. Thom Hickey October 2, 2019 / 6:58 am

    Congratulations Clive.

    53 was obviously a vintage year in every sense!

    Regards Thom 6

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jacqui Murray September 27, 2019 / 4:22 pm

    Happy Birthday to you! (cue the music). You’re a youngster for those of us born in 1951. What a fun blog you have, Clive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 27, 2019 / 5:09 pm

      Thank you, Jacqui, and thanks for following – I’ve returned the compliment. What’s two years between friends? I’m glad you like what you’ve seen so far, hope you enjoy my other posts 😊


    • Clive September 27, 2019 / 1:11 pm

      Thanks, Stevie, glad you liked it. Pathe News offers hours of interesting entertainment, and reminders of cinema trips in my youth.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cindy Moore September 23, 2019 / 5:41 am

    Awesome post…and happy birthday! It was a fascinating year for sure. I’m just a few years after you. I was born in 1958.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 23, 2019 / 7:42 am

      Thank you, glad you enjoyed it. Will you try it for your birth year? It’s a lot of fun doing the research!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cindy Moore September 23, 2019 / 7:14 pm

        My birthday is in January. That’s a great idea, to research the year like you did.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive September 23, 2019 / 7:17 pm

        I look forward to seeing what you find. I started school in 1958 but I doubt you’ll find any news coverage of that 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cindy Moore September 24, 2019 / 3:01 am

        Ha ha! It was a great year then! I was born and you began your life long exploration of the world through learning.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 21, 2019 / 10:52 am

      Thanks, Enda 😊


  4. Dollie Dogood September 17, 2019 / 4:53 am

    The bestest of wishes on your birthday, Clive.
    Long may you CLICKETTY-CLICK!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 17, 2019 / 8:33 am

      Thank you, Dollie! 😊


  5. franklparker September 16, 2019 / 7:13 pm

    Thanks for the memories, Clive. I was 11 for most of 1953, My first year in boarding school ( which commenced 16/9/52).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 16, 2019 / 7:50 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it, Frank. An anniversary of sorts for you too!


  6. Pirate Patty Reviews September 16, 2019 / 6:51 pm

    Happy Birthday! That was a busy year! I may have to try that next year. Fun trivia for sure!


    • Clive September 17, 2019 / 6:48 pm

      Many thanks for this. Sorry for the delay, WordPress put it in spam for some reason I can’t work out! I think I got lucky with the year but do have a go, it’s lots of fun to research 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  7. robertawrites235681907 September 16, 2019 / 6:41 pm

    Happy birthday, Clive. You certainly were born in a most interesting year. Stalin’s death was a notable event as well as many of the other things you have mentioned. I love Peter Pan, it is one of my favourite Disney shows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 16, 2019 / 6:46 pm

      Thanks Robbie. It was a good year in which to be born, and I had to omit several things to keep the piece to a manageable length. I grew up watching those Disney films, and they were still a delight for my daughters more than 30 years later.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Clive September 17, 2019 / 4:45 pm

        Likewise! My favourites are the Sword in the Stone and the original cartoon version of the Jungle Book. Much better than the newer offerings!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. watchingthedaisies September 16, 2019 / 5:59 pm

    1953 was a very interesting year Clive. Your descriptions of a number of those famous folks sure made me laugh. Brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 16, 2019 / 6:08 pm

      I think I was lucky to find so much happening in my birth year. Maybe I was a little harsh on Nigel Mansell. But not much 😉


  9. Jean | Delightful Repast September 16, 2019 / 2:52 pm

    Clive, what a fun post! I just looked up what other songs were popular that year, and one was How Much Is That Doggie in the Window? by Patti Page. It surely must have been a more innocent time! Loved that your mention of Mount Everest mentioned Tenzing Norgay as well as Edmund Hillary. Yes, I’m afraid sugar is a bad thing, but you might find how I handle it interesting (https://www.delightfulrepast.com/2016/09/sugar-toxin-or-treat.html). #SeniSal

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 16, 2019 / 3:11 pm

      Thanks for your good wishes, Jean. Pop music is often a good barometer of a period – I can’t imagine that being a hit now! Hillary wouldn’t have reached the summit without Tenzing, so he fully merits a mention, I believe. I’ll take a look at your post, thanks for the tip 😊


  10. 3sistersabroad September 16, 2019 / 1:11 pm

    Happy Birthday. xx This was an excellent post. Loved reading all about 1953. #SeniSal

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 16, 2019 / 1:16 pm

      Thank you, both for the greetings and kind words. I think I got lucky being born in what turned out to be an auspicious year 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • 3sistersabroad September 16, 2019 / 10:36 pm

        Yes 1953! You have given me inspiration for my next birthday 2020…65….years young….1955….

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive September 16, 2019 / 11:34 pm

        Look forward to it! I hope you have as much fun researching yours as I did with mine 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive September 17, 2019 / 8:32 am

        Plenty of time! If you’re like me, your main concern will be selecting what to cover with so much to choose from!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Laurie September 16, 2019 / 12:47 pm

    Happy birthday! What a wonderful idea to research what was going on in the year you were born. I will have to do the same thing. For me, the year is 1957! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 16, 2019 / 1:14 pm

      Thank you! I hope you find as much about your birth year as I did for mine. Have fun doing it, I certainly did 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  12. tidalscribe September 16, 2019 / 12:30 pm

    Happy Birthday Clive, you have caught me up. I shall bookmark this to look at some of those clips properly later. When I once metioned to Mum about the terrible east coast floods because I had seen a documentary, she didn’t remember the event even occuring. No television, it must have been in the papers, but as it was just before I was born maybe she was too busy ‘nesting.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 16, 2019 / 1:12 pm

      Many thanks, Janet. As I said in the piece, there’s a lot here to take in! The papers and the radio were the only news sources then for most people, a far cry from today’s saturation coverage. I think your Mum can be forgiven for having other things on her mind at that time!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Clive September 16, 2019 / 11:44 am

      That’s good, as there’s a fair bit of it here!

      Liked by 1 person

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