Memories are made of this.. 1971 – Dentistry, Maggie May and Diamonds

This week a coming of age in many respects.. I reached voting age, began my first permanent full time job that turned out to be very different from anticipated and I fell in and out of love. There was some great music and films that year and here are some memories….


In July of 1970 I left Highbury Technical College with a diploma in secretarial studies. Whilst I worked the summer along the seafront in my role as taste controller for the whipped ice-cream machine! I was also occupied with finding my first full-time job. To be honest I was earning around £7 a week with tips and was slightly disheartened to see that my diploma only qualified me for jobs that paid £6.50 or less in some offices.

My mother felt that at least it would be a stepping stone to better things in the future and that selling ice-creams was not necessarily a career. I persisted and indeed attended several interviews. One stands out in my mind as a watershed moment. The interview was conducted by a rather fossilised lady of a certain age who reminded me of my headmistress. The lady in question was a lovely human being I am sure, but her opening statement made me reconsider my application.

‘I have worked here for Gamble Your Money Away Solicitors since I was a gal myself you know, forty years and just coming up for retirement. I am looking for a worthy replacement that I can train into my job over the next year.’

The next day when the evening paper came out I decided to change tack and lo and behold an advert leapt out of the page at me.

Secretary/Receptionist required for Dental Practice in Southsea. £9 per week.

Two days later I was interviewed by Roland Phillips. He too was on the elderly side and in fact was 67 years old but was immaculately dressed in a suit and white jacket. I was only seventeen but we seemed to have plenty to talk about and for some reason he saw my potential. I was hired to begin the following Monday.

That was the September of 1970 but early in 1971 things evolved by accident. He was in the middle of a surgical procedure, removing a stubborn molar root, assisted by his long time dental nurse. I heard the thump as I was preparing the accounts for Mr. Phillips private patients. I feared the worst. Had the patient fallen out of the chair during the procedure or even worse had Mr. Phillips succumbed to his advanced years in the middle of surgery? It quickly became apparent that this was not the case.

‘Miss Coleman, please get in here immediately.’

I entered the surgery to find that his nurse was now sitting in a chair holding her head in her hands and looking very pale around the gills.

‘Ah Miss Coleman,’ he smiled at the patient who was looking a little discomforted at this point, mouth wide open and wide-eyed.

‘Could you be so kind to take over and continue with the suction.’

It turned out that the lovely nurse who had been with him for many years was unexpectedly pregnant and could no longer stand the sight of blood. Luckily I was not squeamish and we swapped roles. The one thing about Mr. Phillips was his dislike of change… he had no wish to break-in another chairside assistant and considered me bright enough to learn the job fast. Unlike today where it is necessary to undergo rigorous training.

I learned on the job as well as studied at home with books from Mr. Phillip’s library. Over the next two years it became just the two of us and I learned a huge amount from this former Army dentist. We enjoyed some adventures and more tales to follow in 1972.


In the February of 1971 it was to be my all-important 18th birthday. My father who had retired officially from the navy in late January was able to pull off a very special treat to celebrate. His last job in the Royal Navy was as Staff Weapons Electrical Officer stationed in Bellerophon, which was the headquarters for Reserve Ships, based in HMS Belfast berthed alongside the shore establishment HMS Excellent.

HMS Belfast was also officially retired in January 1971 but it would be July before she was moved to her new berth and restoration on the Thames in London. My father wangled the use of the Captain’s Cabin on HMS Belfast before he left the ship for an early celebration of my 18th. I was permitted to talk to the chef and choose the menu. Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska. A wonderful memory.

So to the music of 1971 and there was still a very mixed bag in the top 10 of the day. Number one was Dawn with Knock Three Times followed by Rod Stewart – Maggie May (a hot favourite at the club I frequented on Tuesday and Thursday nights), TRex with Hot Love, George Harrison – My Sweet Lord, The Tams – Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me, The Mixtures – Pushbike Song, Diana Ross – I’m Still Waiting (popular too on Tuesdays and Thursdays to end the night with!) The New Seekers – Never Ending Song of Love and Judy Collins with Amazing Grace.

The one song that stuck out like a sore thumb for most of us teens was Clive Dunn with Granddad and number 5 for the year!

Anyway in honour of Rod Stewart fans and all the times I tripped the light fantastic to the song… Maggie May.

There were a couple of gems further down the charts… At 35 James Taylor with You’ve Got A Friend, at 50 The Jackson Five with I’ll Be There and Neil Diamond with Sweet Caroline another one of my all-time favourites.

The films of the year were also a mixed bag. Clockwork Orange, The French Connection, Dirty Harry, Harold and Maude (great film if you can get a copy) The Omega Man, The Last Picture Show and of course a Bond film… Diamonds Are Forever.

The wonderful Shirley Bassey gave this movie theme song the star touched treatment.

1971 was the year that I fell in love for the first time. And got my heart broken. It was not to be the last time but like a bad cold boosts your immune system, heartbreak boosts your capacity to love…

Next time 1972… Escapades in the dental surgery, a new job and Abba…..

For the rest of the memories…

Photograph HMS Belfast –




53 thoughts on “Memories are made of this.. 1971 – Dentistry, Maggie May and Diamonds

  1. Pingback: Memories are made of this.. 1971 – Dentistry, Maggie May and Diamonds | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. Reblogged this on Barrow Blogs: and commented:
    Loved Shirley Bassey in her/ my younger days. Sally. Seen Rod Stewart a couple of times – he had a girl trombonist with him in the Cardiff event – she was brilliant! How funny how we got into jobs by accident in our younger days – great story re dentist.Jx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Maggie May..if I hear it on an oldies radio station, it stays with me for days. Clockwork..Stanley Kubrick always freaked me out…but I adored Harold and Maude…so underrated for its time. And you could never go wrong with James Taylor and Michael Jackson. I always enjoy your trips to 70’s memories. Awesome, Sally. 💕

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank God you were there to help with surgery! I was surprised to ‘hear’ the acoustics of Rod’s band were not all that great in the beginning of his early career. Sure didn’t matter. He was and is still one of the greatest. Loved your post, Sally! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      • Wow, 3 meals x 140… that’s some job! I seem to remember the food wasn’t bad, at my school. Not all the memories were bad, either, to be honest. It was where I made my first attempt at writing a full-length novel. We didn’t have creative writing classes, so I wrote it under the desk during more conventional lessons then farmed it out to various friends to take home and type in the holidays as I didn’t have a typewriter. The intention was to publish, of course, but like most first attempts it was never quite finished!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mary.. Clockwork Orange was withdrawn from UK cinemas for over 25 years. To be honest if it was released today with an R or X rating it would be treated as violent fantasy. Not a film that I managed to get into see then anyway as I was too young. I was usually too busy out dancing to go to the movies and watched films on television that was allowed to show films that were more than a few years old.. caught up on all the 60s films I missed. I was also still into the 40s and 50s musicals at this stage.. Thanks for commenting.. hugs Sally

      Liked by 1 person

      • I went to see it and it was horrible. I’ve never liked Malcolm McDowell since that film and whenever I hear Singing in the Rain, I think of him. I was probably too young to see it back then and it wouldn’t have the same effect on me now. A very different film I remember goign to see although I was too young was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – that was totally different.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh Dear, a sudden squeamishness at the sight of blood isn’t ideal in a dental nurse. Still, it was well timed to help you. A year where I din’t see many of the films that were out but I never missed my music.I like the Rod Stewart song and obviously the Supremes but from further down the charts I’d have gone for James Taylor and Judy Collins, not forgetting the wonderful Burly Chassis who is just magic.
    Of course you’re a youngster compared to me but at least I’m not in the category of being ‘On the Elderly Side’ at 67 lucky for you. A great tale well told Sally.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • When you are 17 – 67 seems to be ancient but I soon forgot that as I worked with him.. we had an interesting time during the power cuts of the early 70s which I will relate next week. I saw James Taylor in concert when I lived in Houston.. open air with 20 of us from our appartment complex with picnic and beer.. great night.. hugs..XXX


  6. Such lovely memories – and what a way to work into a job! wonderful story! So many of your songs were mine, too, along with the movies. I saw a lot more movies in those days. I did see the latest Mission Impossible movie whilst on vacation, and even though I am not a Tom Cruise fan, he is always good in this series and this was a really fun movie. Lots of thrills!


  7. Reblogged this on Jo Robinson and commented:
    Down memory lane with Sally. LOVE Rod Stewart, and this really takes me back to my own start on the career journey. One boss in particular thought that his lap was a good place to sit while taking notes. 😀 😀


  8. Ahhhh Rod my all time favorite from way back when he was little known….and then he lived near me ( and still would if I went back) Best part is and its taken years my son now plays his cd’s ( see I knew I would get him to admit to liking him to) ha ha and who says a bit of gentle torture doesn’t work?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Saturday Round Up | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  10. I was a bit worried at that sudden thump in the other room, and mighty relieved that it turned out to be something so happy for everyone involved.

    I was far too young to be working in 1971, just a small boy, but I do remember most of the songs you mentioned. I think My Sweet Lord and Maggie May have stood the test of time pretty well. They’re still very “listenable to” today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are lucky that we have the technology to preserve the music from the last century..I love the jazz classics but finding recordings is expensive and time consuming but most of the standards are on Youtube.. I can only imagine what will be available in another 100 years as far as technology is concerned but I hope that music is still out there for everyone to listen to. glad you enjoyed thanks..

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I just love these trips back to the past with you, Sally. From being an Ice cream seller to becoming a dental nurse is something I would have thought nobody would have ever achieved. However, and as they say, I guess you were in the right place at the right time? I wonder, does the sound of that drill ever grind on you?

    I’m looking forward to your ABBA moments. You are now getting to the stage of your life where many of my early memories are. It will be very interesting to see if what you write and publish bring back any memories I’d long forgotten about.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I loved this time in my life! I actually started a blog for songs from the 60’s-80’s called “” but put it aside for my current blog. You can still visit it if interested…



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