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 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Belfast_%28C35%29