In the lead up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, how has life, and #Southend, changed over the last 60 years?
22nd May 2012
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When the then 25 year old Duchess of Edinburgh was thrust suddenly and somewhat prematurely into the limelight and onto the throne sixty years ago, how different were our lives in 1952 to the world we live in now?


Surprisingly, whilst Her Majesty has undoubtedly seen huge leaps in technology, much of our day-to-day lives are not that different to how they were then. Yes, women in business are no longer a novelty, we can make a phone call to anyone from anywhere, and the Internet means we quite literally have the world at our fingertips, but there are some areas where quite simply, only the names and the dates change, particularly in media and entertainment.


Take the 'pop' charts. The first British singles chart was published in the November 14, 1952 edition of the New Musical Express. Taking the number one spot was Al Martino's Here in My Heart. Classic's such as Frankie Laine's High Noon and Johnnie Ray Walking My Baby Back Home were joined by enduring artistes Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Vera Lynne, Max Bygraves, Doris Day and Mario Lanza – that was one quality line up!


In cinema 1952 big screen classics included The Quiet Man, the aforementioned High Noon, The Greatest Show on Earth and the absolute best film of all time (fact!) Singin' in the Rain. 


Although only around 15% of the population owned a television set in 1952, it was customary for friends and family to get together at the home of one of the 'fortunate' ones and gather round the very small box in the corner. Indeed one of the most watched events was the Queen’s Coronation (which didn't officially take place until 1953) and this is credited with having really sparked off the boom in TV sales. Were parents already acknowledging the 'babysitter in the corner' as Bill and Ben were added to the Watch With Mother stable, and Sooty launched one of the most enduring career's in television history!? Long running quiz show Animal, Mineral or Vegetable was also first screened in this year, although Come Dancing had already been showing for nearly three years, and Panorama was to hit the screens less than two years later!


Inevitably, 1952 saw the introduction of the first TV Licence Detector Van!


In the theatre, a little known play by Agatha Christie started its run with Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim in the original cast. The Mousetrap went on to enter the record books in 1958 when it became the longest running show in the history of British Theatre. It has since gone on to become the world's longest running show, sharing its 60 year anniversary with Her Majesty. And do you know....I still don't know who dunnit! 


On the sporting front, 1952 was obviously an Olympic year. We didn't exactly clean up – one Gold medal at the Winter games in Oslo going to figure skater Jeannette Altwegg being slightly improved upon in the Summer Games where we 'scooped' one Gold, two Silver and eight Bronze medals. 


In football, Newcastle United won the FA cup for a record fifth time, beating Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley. Fascinating fact – the only goal of the game was scored by Chilean born George Robledo, the first foreigner to score in an FA Cup Final!


Prescription charges were introduced (one shilling) tea rationing ended after 13 years and Mr Potato Head was patented! Power steering, bar codes and pocket sized transistor radios also first saw the light of day. From these, self parking cars, self service checkouts and high tech home entertainment systems don't actually seem such a giant leap forward!


And what was happening in Southend in 1952?


Well, not exactly hitting the good news headlines was a polio epidemic, with the source identified as a seafront paddling pool. Westcliff Hospital rapidly filled with children suffering the disease and indeed the late rock star Ian Drury was amongst them. He went on to enjoy great success whilst devoting a significant amount of his time to causes and research into eradicating the disease. 


On a much lighter note, the Odeon Cinema played host to one of the world's most famous comedy duos when Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy came to town.


And Southend United Football Club saw the development of the Roots Hall Football ground, which of its time was one of the most advanced in the Football League, although it was not to be ready to play until three years later.


So, over 60 years, yes we have seen progress, but we have also seen the endurance of the little things – our conversations are still dominated by the latest TV programme or football result, our Society is now multi cultural but we will gather together at our street parties just as we have for all the Royal milestones.  We are in one of many recessions we have experienced over the last 60 years but history tells us there will be light at the end of the tunnel.


Having Her Majesty at the helm through all our good and bad times for me at least offers some sense of security, and cause to raise a glass to Queen and country!

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