The Old Scrapbook
A Pub History Mystery
After giving a talk to the Pub History Society, a man approaches Jack Adams with an old scrapbook which is falling apart. He says, "I think you are the right person to give this to.", hands it over and then wanders off. The book is just about holding its pages, the covers are gone, pages are missing but what is left of the content is spellbinding. This resource is like a game of chess, a Times cryptic crossword and a Sodoku puzzle all bundled together and then presented without any rules on how to play the game. A treasure trove to delight anyone interested in history, culture and British pubs.
Now that you have had a chance to look at the archive which the scrapbook contains and, hopefully, create your own notes, observations and questions, I will share with you the perspective I have taken with this source material. When I started to look at this book with a defined purpose, as I have already said, what I began to see became ever more fascinating. This resource throws up so many challenges and questions, it is like a game of chess, a Times cryptic crossword and a Sudoku puzzle all bundled together and then presented without any rules on how to play the game.
What makes the game so fascinating is the possibility, however remote, that we could identify the person who put this scrapbook together. This is a Who Dunnit puzzle to challenge our skills as history detectives. Along the way, we also get the opportunity to look at and consider the culture of pubs in the 1950s. This was a time when things were changing in our cultural landscape. We still put pennies into phone boxes after we had queued for our turn, a family in the street who owned a television was seen as posh or ‘up themselves’. Car ownership was still for the few and holidays abroad meant you were ‘rich’. Wages were mostly paid weekly and came in brown envelopes containing cash. Black human beings were described, at best, as ‘coloured’ and no general understanding of this being prejudicial was understood. We believed we had won the Second World War and remained a global power and everyone still knew, but then only whispered, that God was an Englishman.
The cinema was the main media entertainment and source of news. A trip to the ‘pictures’ was a weekly event for most people and more cinema tickets were sold every week than there were people in the population. The telephone exchanges still carried local names and four-digit numbers to locate a domestic phone; ours was Silverthorne 4395. Sundays were the lord’s day and all the shops were closed. You could walk down any high street and practically no one was there. In those main roads and shopping centres you might just have a Chinese restaurant, if there were hens’ teeth lying around you might have an Indian restaurant but otherwise Lyons Corner House and Wimpy ruled.