1970s Black and Orange Glass

1972 Design black and orange glasses

My first paid job was in 1972.  I had just started secondary school, aged 11 and this was the first half term.  It was a beautiful sunny October morning when someone, probably my sister Jill, suggested I should go “spud bashing” to make some money.  That is potato picking to the uninitiated.

I pulled on my trusty wellies with a green parker and a red Massey Ferguson tractor with trailer full of laughing women pulled up at the top of the Square.  I jumped in and we began the bumpy journey to the field.  Everyone seemed to making jokes and was in good spirit.

The women were mostly housewives making a few bob while they could.  A disappointing, two, were my school contemporaries. We arrived at the fields and were split into lines and given a “run”.  The length of run was determined by the driver of the tractor according to your size and strength. The shorter your run, the less you were paid, so this was the ultimate payment by results. My run was about 10 yards, while my older sister’s was about 12. Then you were given a sack bag to collect the spuds and told “Dunner miss eny”.  That was the training over!

I heard the tractor rev up down the line and it made its way up the field at a fair lick.  An attachment called a Spinner, dug up and threw out the spuds and left both a furrow and a mound in the ground.  The spuds were mostly half buried in the mound of loose earth, but a few “big uns” were left hiding in the trench.  There was no time to loose. It was down and at it.  At first you could make good speed, throwing mountains of potatoes into your empty sack. But as you worked the line, your sack became heavier – and as you dragged, it created its own furrow.   The dilemma was always whether to wear gloves or not and if so, your best woolly gloves or even Marigolds.  I chose not to wear any gloves and just learnt to enjoy the smell, feel and even the taste of the good earth.  As you picked and foraged for escapees, the farmer’s wife would run up and down the line with the obliging call of “Scrump um up!”.  Sometimes she would spot a big un you had missed and give you a nudge or daggers and a shout of “Hoy”, if you were a persistent offender

At the end of the run, you would heave your sack of spuds to the collection point just a way from the run and empty it into another half empty sack or stack it, if it was full.  By lunchtime, quite often there was a “castle” of full sacks that made a relatively comfy chair or sofa. Com fy, relative to the heart slogging work of spud bashing that is.

There was a short mid morning break. Just warm, weak, milky tea.  But you were grateful. And then back at it.  Often your run was made a couple of yards longer at this point and you took it with a groan. But if I had finished my run, and was waiting for the dreaded noise of the tractor, I would look at the soil while the women continued their banter.  Real quality loam, although with some larger pebbles.  It was full of life .  Beautiful!  Worms of course, but also millions of springtails, woodlice, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, iridescent black and green beetles and just occasionally a devil’s coach horse.  Those creatures that tip up their abdomen when you disturb them.  And if it wasn’t the soil, it was the red robins and land gulls- or just the shapes of the clouds.

Then it was back to work until lunch or dinner as we called it.  If you had been good and not scoffed everything in the morning break, you might still have a cheese sandwich and a confectionery.  Mostly Kit Kats, but just occasionally a Mars Bar or Vanilla Wafer biscuits. And more tea.  Then more back breaking “toil in the soil”.  Eventually, the tractor would make its last run.  The relief when it did not turn to make another furrow was just enormous.

Everyone would gather near the entrance to the field, while the tractor and trailer went to tip up the last load. When it came back, the farmer wife would hand out the wages in loose change. I made perhaps a few silver coins and few coppers.  But it was mine and I had earned it!  And it was a good feeling working on the land.

The next day, I was back with my sister and by now all my muscles were aching.  But I stuck it out, so that by the end of the half term I had over £2.00.  I didn’t really spend money then. So come Christmas, I took the bus to Ashby and went to the gift shop called Chinacraft.  I decided to buy mum something. I couldn’t decide what and in the end bought a set of six black and orange decorated glasses and set of red fruit juice glasses. It cost altogether about five Shilling or 25p pence in the still new decimal currency. I wrapped them, very badly, in cheap Christmas paper from Woolies and gave them to Mum on Christmas Day.  In truth, I did not really think she liked them!  70s design was not always appreciated by the older generation. And in any case, I  expect she thought I was wasting my money.

We used the glasses on and off for a few years and then didn’t.  They were put away. Four survive to this day.  While only a couple of the red fruit juice glasses are still intact.

When you look at them now, they are absolutely spot on for the era. I even had a shirt in the same colour and design.  Too cheap and mass produced to be classic, they are nevertheless real, rather than nostalgically remembered 70s style.

By Paul Bates (thepaulbates)

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