1961: The Year the Colour Started To Seep Into the World…

Christmas Day 1961, the day colour started to come into the world. See if you can spot me...

The world started to become colourful on Christmas Day 1961. I know this because just before, my mother insisted my father buy a colour film for his camera so he could take some images of our family Christmas. My Grandmother was dying of cancer and mother wanted some nice photographs of Nanny with the family, one last time. Those images heralded the beginning of a process that took until the mid 1960’s to become complete.

Nanny and Aunty Lyn, with me in between sitting on the bonnet of father's Ford Anglia. Late 1950's

I have a very long memory. I remember the late 1950’s when my father would drive his Ford Anglia to Ashkins, the Jewish delicatessen in Shepherd Bush, West London where he would buy olives and salami [about the only place you could get such things in those days]. I would wait for him in the car, looking across the road at the bomb sites left over from the Second World War and the smoke blackened houses all around. The road he parked on was still cobbled, embedded with tram lines.  Everything around me looked run-down, unpainted, uncared for. People walking by were colourless and depressed looking.

Shephers Bush railway Station, late 1950's

There weren’t many cars on the road but those that did trundle along the bumpy, city streets were still predominantly black, with the occasional olive-green or cream Morris Minor thrown in for good measure. Fashionable people dressed in “sensible” colours like grey or brown and hem lines were below the knee. Men wore hats and there were still plenty of  “demob” suits in evidence, worn by people like my uncle Basil.

Shepherd's Bush, late 1950's. Around the corner from "Ashkins"

Rock and Roll music was kept off of the BBC and “popular music” consisted of sentimental ballads like “By A Babbling Brook” or “True Love” and light entertainment, programmes like “The Billy Cotton Band Show” or “The Black and White Minstrels” that we watched on our black and white, 405 line, Sobel TV.

What passed for popular entertainment in the early 1960's

May 24th was Commonwealth Day when the local shops were full of bunting flags our mothers would buy for us, so we could wave them at school during a special assembly.  The head teacher of my primary school publically complained that the name had recently been changed from “Empire Day”. She said we should be proud of our empire that extended over “pine and palm”.    

Empire Day

Amazingly, rationing had finished in Britain only the year before I was born and when my mother got together with her sister, the conversation inevitably returned to the Blitz and how a row of houses in the next street was flattened by a 1,000lb land mine, dropped by a bomber on a parachute; how a Polish bomber crash landed in the field behind the family house and how they watched the London docks burn for three days and nights from the back bedroom window. Outside the family home, the 1960’s were progressing but inside it remained 1946 for twenty or more years.

The London docks burning during the Blitz

As the tide of the 1960’s started to rise we, the younger generation began to become aware of other voices. Voices of people who had come to maturity after the war, who did not respect the old values, who wanted to live their lives in a different way. I watched and laughed at the TV satire show That Was The Week That Was, although I didn’t always understand what was so funny.

The 1963 Aldermaston march that passed my front door

The changing times were brought home to me, when an anti-nuclear Aldermaston march was directed away from the main road into London and along my street. For hours, beatniks holding placards walked eight abreast down Carr Road, Northolt. Men in beards and duffle-coats and women with wild hair  shouted out “come and join us!” as I hung on the garden gate watching the spectacle.  It must have been about 1962 or 1963 and was the first time I actually saw evidence that a Counter Culture really existed. 

The Beatles, just before the world went coloured

To be honest, the 1960’s didn’t really start until about 1964, when more young people started to grow their hair and you could hear The Beatles on the radio. All of a sudden, colour was everywhere to be seen. Shirts were colourful, cars were colourful and people started painting their houses different colours. For me, the world became full coloured in 1965 when I saw the movie “Help!” A Beatles fantasy set in the Caribbean. From that moment onwards, I was seeing in colour and the world was never the same again.   

1965: The world is in colour from now on

About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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8 Responses to 1961: The Year the Colour Started To Seep Into the World…

  1. Angela Sutton-Vane says:

    Thank you Steve! I have been trying and trying to remember the name of the Jewish deli in Shepherds Bush and of course it was Ashkins! I grew up in West London in the early 1960s and my mum walked miles to go there to buy delicious things. We were reminiscing about it the other day – there was no where else like it at the time.

    • John Kay says:

      Dear Angela

      I have been directed to you by my brother, Steve Hollier, regarding life in West London in the 1940’s – 1960’s. I lived with my parents in Hammersmith at Dorville Crescent, W.6 off Paddenswick Road and started school at Westfield Infants School, in 1951, which was behind Goldhawk Road, in Goodwin Road. The school is still there but I believe the believe the name has been changed.

      As a boy, I knew Cliff Davis, a local racing driver, who owned Cliff Davis Cars and was a regular customer at my father’s restaurant, The Seven Stars at Seven Stars Corner at the end of Goldhawk Road. Cliff Davis mixed in the same social and racing circle as the young Stirling Moss and David Blakely, the racing driver. They all used to compete against each other at Goodwood and Silverstone in the early 1950’s. Blakely was shot outside a London pub by his girlfriend Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in the UK. Apparently Cliff Davis liked her and felt that Blakely had mistreated her.

      My mother also told me that John Christie, the famous mass murderer, who killed people from the war up into the 1950’s also occasionally used to come in for lunch at my father’s restaurant, and this is quite possible, as he only lived a few streets away and was not caught until 1953. I am talking about the years 1950, 1951 and 1952. As well as the people Christie murdered, Timothy Evans, who lived in the same house as Christie, was hanged for the murder of his wife and baby, when Christie pretty certainly did it (Evans had an IQ of 70 and was easily led).

      I remember tram lines in and around the London of the times and travelled on electric trolley buses many times. Whilst we were living in Hammersmith, I also remember the ‘spivs’ standing on street corners selling razor blades and nylons, which were in short supply and also stolen petrol. There were also still many bomb sites in London at the time and there was a bombed-out house at the end of our street, where you could see right down into the basement.

      Whilst living in Hammersmith, I visited the Festival of Britain in 1951 and remember the announcement of the death of King George VI on the radio and also the death of Stalin.

      Hope this is of interest.

      Kind regards

      John Kay

    • stevehollier says:

      Your mother was pretty avant garde buying food from Ashkins in the early sixties! Was she a fan of Elizabeth David?

    • michele says:

      I lived in Chiswick until I was six and I used to go with my Father to Ashkins on Sunday mornings and to the Synagogue nearby? I have always remembered the name of the Deli but no one else did so I thought perhaps I had imagined it, although I can remember the wonderful smell of pickles and the Raines cream cheese. I am so happy to have found this link

  2. stevehollier says:

    Hey, thank you Angela! Yes, Ashkins was an island of sunshine in the days before vacuum-wrapped olives and feta cheese in plastic tubs were commonplace. We were very lucky experiencing such delicacies in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. It wasn’t to many English people’s taste at that time so how come your mum was prepared to make the journey?

  3. My reply is only 4 years late (I have a very slow reaction rate) so I don’t even know if you are still looking at this site. My mother was born with dual English / French nationality to English parents living in the South of France; she grew up on a mediterranean diet – so yes in a way she did follow Elizabeth David – though not consciously. When France was invaded by Germany, being English they were obviously in danger. My grandfather had joined the French resistance and disappeared. My grandmother fled with her two daughters (leaving everything behind including the family dog) to Marseilles where they managed to get onto a coal ship leaving for Liverpool. They arrived in England with nothing and moved in with English relatives in London. They returned to the South of France after the war, where my mother met my father and they both returned to London to live. I’m sure this is why she walked weekly with her shopping trolley down to Ashkins to buy olives, artichoke hearts, pistachios, chickpeas etc – and something I’ve never seen since but we loved as children – tomato-flavoured pancake batter mix. Sometimes she would come back with fresh figs and avocados (very exotic then) so perhaps she also got them from Ashkins.

  4. I love this very slow moving commentary – also the general theme of the wonderful Ashkins. I wonder if that was the family name and whether their descendants know what an affect the shop had. As a postscript I returned to Shepherds Bush Green last year having not been back since I left in the 70s. I was completely thrown by it’s gentrification! Strange to walk out of a tube station so confidently and meet a strange world.

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