MEMORY LANE: A look back to the dark age of 1974 Buxton

Memory Lane columnist John Phillips
Memory Lane columnist John Phillips

Former Buxton Advertiser editor John Phillips turns the pages back to the day he joined the paper – when union strife, power shortages and queues for bread couldn’t stop the fun of being young.

This is A Tale of Two Buxtons: the bits we like to remember, and the stuff we’d rather forget…

I started work as a spotty 19-year-old junior reporter for the Advertiser in 1974 when newspapers felt like part of the heavy industry which Britain’s unions were fighting a rearguard battle over.

Our typewritten words were turned into moulds for molten lead to be poured into, and the printworks shuddered like a ship setting off to sea when the presses turned.

You could get a brand new car for £749, the back copies of the day tell me. Trouble was, it would be a tank-like Soviet Russian Moskvich.

It was the era of Women’s Lib, but the Buxton branch of the Halifax Building Society could still legally advertise for “a young man,” while Otter Controls had wanted ads for ‘ladies’…

And the health and safety culture was a thing of the future –but you had to work in an office which never got painted because it had a fresh coat of nicotine every day.

Rod Stewart and Mott the Hoople came to perform – but you had to sit in the rain at Brandside to see them.

The Three-Day Week had just ended – that era when electricity was rationed during the miners’ strike and “Who Governs Britain?” was the political question of the day.

And the front-page lead on December 5’s Advertiser featured a bakers’ strike, with a photo of queues for loaves of bread stretching right along Spring Gardens.

My Advertiser colleagues had just come back off strike when I joined – and I would be with them on the picket lines a few years later.

And yet the situations vacant pages were full of jobs.

So how do we remember all this? Borrowing Charles Dickens again, were they the best of times, as we reminisce with old friends over a glass of prosecco in bars where we used to sup mild?

Or do you let your inner Yorkshireman out, and tell the kids how much rougher we had it in those worst of times?

Every month we’ll be looking back at those good old, bad old days, and we want you to get involved by sending in your photos and stories.

Which reminds me about the time in the power black-outs when we used to play darts in The London Road with only a candle at the foot of the board to see by, and hitting double 19 risked getting your flights burned off…

Oh no – I’m getting an attack of nostalgia. It never used to happen when I was a lad…

• John Phillips writes for the Buxton Advertiser’s monthly eight-page retro supplement Memory Lane. Read his latest column in the next issue on Thursday March 21, which is on the theme ‘In The Workplace’.