Chipper Club: Were you a member in the innocent 1970s? | Simon Carter

On starting work at The News almost two years ago, I was intrigued to see a dog writing for the paper every Tuesday.Chipper, I was quickly assured, was a veritable Portsmouth area institution.

Sunday, 29th December 2019, 6:32 pm
AGE SHALL NOT WEARY HIM: Chipper in action earlier this month at The News carol service
AGE SHALL NOT WEARY HIM: Chipper in action earlier this month at The News carol service

He’s at least 43. I know that because I recently glanced through a copy of the paper from December 1976 and saw a feature then known as ‘Uncle Mike’s Chipper Club’ – four words which (sadly) seem a bit more seedy today than they would have done back then.

A pang of nostalgia quickly enveloped me as I read the letters Chipper Club members had sent to ‘Uncle Mike’. It was a different world, for sure, back then.

Here’s one from Bridget Blakely, 10, writing about her family holiday at Nodes Point, on the Isle of Wight. ‘There was a topsy-turvy contest in which men dressed up as ladies and ladies dressed up as men.

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‘There were beauty contests every Wednesday (my dad judged it once)…there was a cat that sat on our chalet window sill every night.’

Annoyingly, there was no mention about what Bridget’s mum thought about her husband’s judging commitments…

Lynne Farndell, aged seven from Purbrook, saw a firework display at Fratton Park. ‘There was a big bang and no-one was expecting it. It made everyone jump.’ I find that hard to believe. Fireworks have always gone bang. What did Portsea Island residents in 1977 expect? A silent night?

Graham Harmer, also 10, wrote about his evening out. ‘After tea,’ he told Chipper members, ‘my mummy, daddy, brother and myself went to the hills to see if we could get a recording of an owl. When we got there it was dark and I was a bit scared.’

Elsewhere, Theresa Castle, aged six from Hayling, told this lovely story to ‘Uncle Mike’: ‘Last Saturday I went with Mummy to the pig farm. While I was there one of the sows gave birth to 17 little piglets. They were really lovely, they look as if they’re made of silk.’

I could go on and on. Those were the days, unlike now, where children wrote beautiful letters to their local newspaper fully showcasing the wonderful innocence of youth. Those days will never return, and that should make us all a little sad.

Young readers made silk purses out of sow’s ears

So that was 1976, and this is now – just a few days away from the year 2020.

Perhaps today’s kids, in this technology-saturated world, would still describe new-born piggies as having the texture of ‘silk’.

Perhaps they still go on holiday where ‘topsy-turvy’ competitions are held, and are still shocked that fireworks make a loud noise.

Perhaps they would also still jump at the chance of a night out with their parents recording owl noises.

Perhaps if you asked nicely they would still write to The News (ok, an e-mail will do) about cats sitting on windowsills. Perhaps…

However, I feel the chances of them talking about their dad judging a beauty contest are slightly less than zero.

Here’s the good news for the Snoring Twenties… it’s all about Brexit

Well, where did that decade go? It seems to have flashed past.

The 1960s will always be preceded by the word ‘swinging’, the 1970s are generally the decade which fashion forgot, and the 1980s was where Harry Enfield’s ‘Loadsamoney’ character and many others embraced Thatcherism.

So what about the past 10 years? An easy one, really.

The political turmoil caused by Brexit will create a San Andreas Fault-type crack through our society for years, decades, to come.The events of June 23, 2016, will in time dominate this period of UK history.If you’re fed up with Brexit now, let me tell you this – we’ve only just started to scratch the surface...