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South Arbury '70s Sundays - Part 2: Donny, Joy and Fun, and Trouble on the Hills...

Two of my South Arbury childhood joys - the hump and the hills. The hump, where we kicked up dust and rode our Chopper bikes, is sadly no more.

Something I always tried to avoid on rainy Sundays way back then was listening to the Osmonds with cousin Sharon. Cousin Sharon had an old record player - a 1960s portable which had belonged to her mother - and she loved listening to records in her bedroom in Rutland Close. I have strong memories of her rain spattered window and the view of the Kingsway and lead grey sky beyond.

Sharon was so overflowing with enthusiasm for Donny Osmond I felt quite unwell. This fixation was followed by another with the Bay City Rollers, then David Soul, and then John Travolta.

None of them appealed to me. 

We always listened to the charts at teatime on the radio. I think that only the Top 20 was broadcast then, but the pop scene was well established by the early 1970s. We even bought a magazine of current chart songs lyrics. I think this was published because, quite often, people couldn't understand what pop stars were gabbling.

That's certainly why we bought it.

This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both of Us? What was that bloke out of Sparks going on about? 

Essential reading from 'Stopsiz' in Carlton Way. Even so, I never deciphered certain songs. I was surprised to discover, on hearing a crystal clear, digital version of a 1970s Diana Ross song in the 1990s, that she didn't sing ' Hilda, there's no way for me,' and the lyrics were actually, 'Little girl, please don't wait for me...'

I remember Terry Jacks's cover of Seasons In The Sun in 1974. Me (aged nine) and Sharon (aged eleven) were deeply affected by the song. I recall one particular occasion when we left Rutland Close having listened to it 'on the charts' one sunny early evening in spring.

The weather was gorgeous. The birds were singing, the sky was blue...

We both had lumps in our throats and tears were being furtively wiped away. Sharon was walking ahead towards the Kingsway hills and suddenly stoutly declared: 'I'm not crying!'

'Neither am I!' I lied.

The fact we protested at all revealed the lie.

Funny, the aversion to crying - or at least to be seen crying. My mother was always scornful if I did so after the age of about four: 'You're a big boy now!'

Straying over to North Arbury - a 1960s view of Campkin Road.

Boredom on a Sunday led us into a near-scrape with the police on one occasion.

In our neighbourhood, a gaggle of kids of differing ages used to gather at the Kingsway Block ('The Block') near Rutland Close in the early 1970s, play Klackers, recite the latest popular (often rather saucy) rhymes and basically 'hang out' as the saying goes today.

One summer Sunday, we were led by a teenage girl, who sometimes joined our gaggle, over to the Kingsway hills. She was a girl our mothers called 'Trouble' and they also said she 'had a mouth like a barn door,' a popular insult of the time, and told us NOT to mix with her. I was a good, faintly 'soppy' little boy, and wouldn't have, but cousin Sharon, two years older, was entering a rebel phase. She was beginning to chafe under any command her parents issued - and so we joined the teenage girl's entourage and went over to the hills.

I don't think we'd been there long - a group of about nine of us - when an elderly woman appeared on her balcony and called: 'Clear off! I'm sick of your noise! Clear off - or I'll call the police!'

I was aghast - but 'our leader' - her with the 'mouth like a barn door' - turned and called back tauntingly: 'Go on then! We'd love to see the police!'

'Right then!' said the elderly woman, very grimly, and disappeared into her flat.

'Probably not even on the phone,' said Miss Barn-Door Mouth (most of us weren't back then) and she laughed loudly and carried on as before.

Somehow, I couldn't break away from the group and saunter off back to the safety of Cunningham Close, although I longed to. Scared of ridicule, I suppose, but I was terrified of the police coming and can still feel the electric shock-like tremors through my body as I tried to stand firm and nonchalant and guffaw along with the gang.

And I sensed that cousin Sharon, although she appeared as hardy as ever, was not actually feeling terribly brave either.

Finally, after what seemed like an age, 'our leader' said: 'Come on. It's boring here. Let's go somewhere else!'

I suspect now that the time elapsed had actually been less than five minutes - no time for a panda car to appear at all - but, back then, it had seemed like an age.

And so we swaggered over the hills and far away - well, at least as far as the Rutland Close Block...

More from 1970s Arbury soon...


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