|Author: Peter Keat||Published: 24th March 2008 10:45|
I was recently flicking through the book ‘Go to Blazes' which is a short history of the fire service in Portsmouth, and written by Peter Smith, my cousin's husband way back in 1986, and suddenly I thought of the sounds of the utilities and other street noises that we hear no longer.
Before the days of the piercing two-tone horn, the klaxon and the bullhorn a fire engine was heralded by the hand or mechanical clanging of a large bell either fixed on the bonnet or on the roof of the machine. I am sure many of you can remember seeing a fire engine rush by with the fireman in the front passenger seat ringing the bell like mad. Likewise a police car was always announced by a higher tone smaller bell that was electrically rung and therefore rang much faster than the fire engine and at about the same rate as an ambulance which if I remember correctly had the same type of warning system.
Street side sounds have changed and I do not mean street vendors selling their wares, I am not that old. But as a bus passed by you, it not having any doors onto the platform, you could always here the bell being rung before a stop and before pulling away or the conductor calling out the name of the stop as the bus approached it. But that was back in the days when there was a driver and conductor on most buses. If you have a long memory you will recall the Flanders and Swan song about a London Transport omnibus called ‘A Transport of Delight' in which the chorus was ‘Hold every tight please ting, ting, Hold every tight please ting, ting'.
Then regularly on a Monday morning the dark days of the war were rekindled as the Civil Defence tested the Air Raid Sirens. Our local one was sited on a pole behind The New Inn and near Futchers School in Drayton but I never remember being around it when it was set off but I can vividly remember hearing it all over Drayton and Farlington. One remarkable thing is that it was only about ten years ago that the local siren here in Gosport was dismantled and up until then it was still tested regularly, but then only once a month, but again still on a Monday morning, its amazing what habit will do.
Then, of course, there were the distinctive chimes of the Ice Cream Salesmen as they patrolled the streets especially welcome on a hot summers day. One other sound that comes to mind and is no longer heard is that strange whooping noise that the ships of the Royal Navy used to make as they entered harbour. Gone also is the progressive clicking noise from the electric motor of the trolley buses as they accelerated away, steam train whistles are gone (although these can still be heard on occasion in Portsmouth), bicycle bells and those battery powered bicycle hooters made by Pifco.
I suppose one sound that we all remember is the school bell, a hand bell at Court Lane and an electric one at Manor Court. Do you remember the competition to be allowed to go and collect the bell from the Secretary's office at Court Lane and then ringing like mad at either end of that long corridor? I think I only did it once or twice. Whilst at Manor Court a chosen pupil would go the Secretary's office (Norah Richards) and stand by the bell push at the appointed time.
Then there were not only the sounds of our youth but these distinctive smells and aromas as well. The smell of the open fire in the living room as it crackled and roared away in the hearth; but before that the smell of trying to light the fire and draw it up with a sheet of newspaper in front of the grate; to say nothing about the smell of paraffin from the oil heaters. Then there was the distinctive smell of coke from the boilers at school, especially Solent Road when I was at Junior School, this seemed to pervade the whole of the school including the class rooms.
Moving onto more social and pleasant things, what was that perfume that one particular girl used to wear? Was it Charley, Tweed, the one from Avon called Here is my Heart or some other popular fragrance of the time, I cannot remember any others, I expect someone will be able to help me out? But I do remember Chanel No 5 and Evening in Paris, which retailed at 2/11d a bottle. Then Granny always smelt of 4711 Eau de Cologne, Ashes of Roses or Lily of the Valley, if not that mothballs! And hands up among you fellahs out there which of you actually wore Hi Karate, Brut or were you more into Old Spice, Sandalwood or Imperial Leather men!!
Having started this page with the blaze on South Parade Pier during the filming of Tommy, I am sure that we all remember that. I got to wonder if any other locations within the Portsmouth area were used for the film. With a little digging here is what I found. Fort Purbrook on top of the hill was used for the holiday camp scenes, parts of Eastney seafront featured the most of the beach scenes. Then Henderson Road in Southsea was utilized for the Church of Marilyn Munro. Some scenes were shot at Fratton Station and for the swimming pool part of the film Hilsea Lido was also used. And there I was believing that only the Ballroom on South Parade Pier had featured in the film.