The Things That Made Me: part 1

Here’s my list. It may appear random, but all the things on it have been significant to me. They were the accompaniments to my finding myself, the books, films, TV programmes and objects that had profound effects on me when I was a child. (And in some cases, the allure of what I yearned for but never got, like a Topstone latex rubber mask!) Some of what’s here you might expect to see, and much of it, probably not. It’s also my ‘coming out’ list, inasmuch as there are items here that my parents didn’t approve of. The horror magazines and the Mars Attacks collector-cards were frowned on by my mother, and I quickly learned to put them away where she wouldn’t see them. This made me uncomfortable. Conflicted. They were pleasures tarnished with guilt.

I’ve been conflicted most of my life about the things I’ve loved that might be considered lowbrow. Next month I’ll be six-five. A nicely rounded figure, though inconceivably high. It’s time I got over being troubled about what made me who I am. There’s nothing wrong with any of the things that thrilled me in those formative years. Time to celebrate them. Time to own up!

No words and no explanations. Just the pictures. I leave it to you to put titles to the films represented by photographs.

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37 thoughts on “The Things That Made Me: part 1

  1. Pingback: The Things That Made Me: Part 4 | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

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  3. So many fascinations in common, but particularly the first three. I have a running gag with Scott about The Weirdstone in that I periodically threaten to read it to him aloud. He has developed claustrophobia in mid life and can’t bear the mention of the tunnel section. I suspect he might actually enjoy it if I plied him with enough wine first… Or maybe not. Perhaps I should stop teasing him…

    • That is SO funny. After years of me banging on about The Weirdstone, Peter recently picked it up and read it and said exactly the same thing. He found the tunnel section almost unendurable and claimed he’d had nightmares about it. But he got over them and went on to read The Moon of Gomrath and Boneland, and enjoyed all of them.

      Maybe you need to bind Scott to a bed, turn out the lights and then read it to him, very closely, whispering in his ear, so that he gets the full claustrophobic under-earth effect. Ha ha! Or maybe not!!!

  4. I would love to post up my stuff, but am not at home. In London right now. Still have some of the childhood books. Much treasured even now.
    LXxx

  5. That Pan book is significant for me since it was one of the few paperbacks that my parents owned, together with a motley selection of Dennis Wheatleys and other occult-related things. Being younger than you, my sister and I were simultaneously thrilled and traumatised by that cover painting, and used to dare each other to look at it. (The painting, incidentally, is the work of WF Phillipps.)

    A few years later I was reading the Pan horror books myself, although by the 1970s they’d stopped reprinting old stories and were using poor contemporary pieces that are like the written equivalent of the Saw films. I’ve still not read the third book; every so often I think I should order a copy. I was surprised some years ago when I saw a list of the story contents to discover that we’d had stories by Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson, and even Hans Heinz Ewers in the house without my knowing.

    • Those van Thall Pan covers are emblazoned in my memory. It was tough call to choose between one of them for this post, but the creature pushing back the tomb-lid pipped the black cat by a whisker. And thank you, John, for supplying the name of the artist responsible.

      I suppose that the limited supply of horror tales from distinctive authors for these anthologies was always going to mean that the publisher would have to lower standards to keep the series going. I recall that the best of the older stories rather annoyingly appeared repeatedly in the anthologies of other publishers, which always had me tallying which titles on the contents pages I’d already read elsewhere.

      I also recall that when my mother looked rather coldly at those covers, I could sweetly show her that the likes of Charles Dickens and Guy de Maupassant had written short stories to make the goosebumps rise, and so I was really just reading the ‘greats’!

  6. Fantastic post, for so many reasons, thanks Clive. These images are like talismans, I can think of so many things I would see in shops when I was little, things I couldn’t afford with my pocket money but that I SO yearned for, books, toys, posters, and if I saw these things now they would produce exactly the same excitement. They are very important, I think, they are the real deal, and I love the coming out aspect too, and those gory horror cards and masks. Thank goodness you’ve kept the connection, if not the actual objects themselves, it shines through your work and is such a joy 😊 .
    I think this post may generate an avalanche of reminiscences and similar ‘comings out’. I remember when I entered my teens and I was still playing with teddy bears, toy cars, cardboard castles etc. and my mum threw some of it out to try and encourage me to put away such childish things and grow up – failed! Lol

    • It’s interesting, Phil, that parents seemed to feel the need to ‘move children on’ back then, rather than trusting to the natural development that would have seen the changes of interest take place anyway. It’s an undeniable fact that when my parents spirited away my rocking-horse and replaced it with a bike without so much as a by-your-leave to me, I was so resentful of the loss that I refused to engage with it. To this day I’m not safe to be let out on a bike, so inadequate are my cycling skills. And don’t get me started about my toy farm! (Part 2!)

      • oh no, the toy farm, that sounds devastating!
        Hmm, i think there’s a children’s novel in here somewhere; a gang of kids set out to discover the secret place where all their toys have been spirited away by well meaning but misguided parents. They have many adventures along the way, of course, and learn lots about the nature of childhood and growing up. When they finally find the great toy repository, it’s like an alternative universe and all the toys are alive hehe. Ok, so Toy Story has explored some of these themes already, from a slightly different perspective; Jessie’s song makes me cry every time. not sure if i can post links in a comment

  7. Oh Oh Oh…well of course I knew we shared Weirdstone and much else, (in fact I truly can’t remember if you suggested it to me or if I’d already read it!) BUT I don’t know if I knew, or had just forgotten about the Just So stories, (as being a connection with you.) I loved and love them still, the humour of The Elephants Child and the rather ‘adult’ titters in How The First Letter was Written AND my probable favourite The Cat That Walked By Itself.

    As ever dear chum another glorious ramble down a sweetened memory lane.

    Huge hugs and love as always
    B xxx

    • My Kipling books had belonged to my dad, and were rather sober affairs with densely rendered line illustrations that I grew to love. Mowgli in The Jungle Book will always be for me, the way he appears in those early images. And the animals too, un-anthropomorphised and rather frightening. I never got Disney’s version. It was so childish and reduced when set against the world I knew from Trevor’s passed-down-to-me books.

  8. Here’s a name drop memory. The Mars Attacks cards remind me of the American Civil War series, equally as gory. My younger brother was an avid collector. Just down from us on the seafront in Whitstable, lived Peter Cushing, also a great collector (bright armies of painted lead soldiers). On his way back from the Red Spider Café (run by cheery ex theatrical red haired twins), he will have bought a few cards (they came with pink gum) and would stop and ask if we had any swaps. He usually gave us the gum. Imagine him in blue blazer, white flannels, and sailor’s cap at a jaunty angle.

    • Oh WOW!!!!! Be still my beating heart!!! What a memory. Thank you for sharing it here. I almost feel as though I was present! I remember that jaunty, nautical look of his. He was such a dapper gent!

  9. I love the first image, it positively glows with light. And Rupert…….I must confess I recently bought a couple of Rupert annuals and indulged in reading them on a rainy day. Scrolling down through the rest is not only a reminder of my own memories of growing up, but describes your journey so well through the influences of the printed image and word, that I feel fond of every single one of them!

    • So many of our memories must consist of many of the same things. The Garner paperback was one I loved, and I have it still, fragile and detached from its contents. I’m going to have to get one of those plastic paperback wallets for it. You can read a little more about it HERE.

      I think maybe children’s books hung around for longer in the shops back then. I’m sure some of the books of my childhood, while acquired new by my parents, dated from a decade earlier. I guess in those post-war years the publishers were not turning over in the quantities we see today. Perhaps, too, the shops still had pre-war stock to shift.

  10. I loved Tarzan movies. When I was in 5-7th grade, I loved watching them every morning of the summer. Who wouldn’t want to swing around in the jungle in a loincloth?

    • Indeed! I so badly wanted Tarzan for a friend that I made a park in my head for him to live in, and regularly visited. Champion the Wonder Horse was there too. Imaginary denizens came and went, but I was always true to Tarzan. One day I just stopped going. I wonder whether he missed me.

  11. What a nice thing to do… Getting older does make one sentimental sometimes, but it is inevitable and you can only embrace getting older in reasonable good health. I sold stuff from my childhood or threw it away long ago and some things i do regret. The monster Rupert… I had a lot of these books…gone. But all in my head. Thanks for sharing Clive.

    • It seems my parents were unsentimental, because they didn’t keep anything of mine from my childhood. My father later told me that he’d stored stuff in a garage where it got damp and mouldy. He burned the lot, including my Teddy bear, La la!

      I too was quite brutal when I was a young man, casting things off because I was moving so fast. It’s odd how you yearn for the things of your past the further away you move from it. I get the whole ‘Rosebud’ thing!

      • At a recent gathering of girlfriends, one of my friends pulled out a long ’70s velvet skirt that another friend had cast off in her direction years before. The earlier owner declared in surprise how she had searched and yearned for the skirt (having forgotten that she had given it away) but after close inspection and discussion and the more recent owner offering to freely return it, the original owner was able to say that it was not as she remembered… She had magnified its beauty in its absence to mythic proportions. She not only declined to have it returned but thanked the newer owner for helping her to put it to rest, and also for helping her to dismiss another item she had been longing for, that went somewhere else. Hard to do that though, unless you actually get to lay eyes on the thing.

        • Oh I get that completely. As an adult I hunted down some of the ‘Treasure Hour’ puppet books of my childhood, and discovered them to be, good though they were, rather less than what I’d built them up to be in memory!

  12. Even though I can see just a bit of his profile I can recognize Robert Mitchum in a scene from Night of the Hunter.

  13. Oh Clive, that does bring back some memories! Rupert, The Pan series, so exciting! Of course, the magic of La Belle. Wonderful things!

    • I remember my parents not quite approving the Pan series (my mother in particular), but I adored them and kept them out of sight. They were the first paperbacks I purchased with saved pocket-money after evolving from picture books. I was reading the Pan anthologies in tandem with the more expected things, such as Alan Garner’s novels. The horror anthologies felt transgressive because I knew they were ‘adult’ books. I quite enjoyed the frisson of that, learning to keep my head below the parapet because my mum had been so shocked by my ‘Mars Attacks’ cards that she’d confiscated them, which had been quite a surprise. Horror, it seemed, was not well thought of, and that made it a secret pleasure for me.

      I found a shop that sold carnival goods. It must have been old-fashioned even then, because it had giant papier mâché heads on high shelves running along the window display. Inside was a wall of Topstone masks, draped limply on hooks. (They looked a lot more flimsy than in the small-ads in the backs of Famous Monsters of Filmland!) I used to visit and yearn for one, though they far outstripped my pocket and I didn’t dare ask my parents. Even the smell of them was exciting!

      • As we get older, these memories are very strong. Things not thought of for years come up, and you realise how much these childhood books, toys, films are a deep influence on taste, ideas, what makes us who we are.
        Great that you are remembering and writing about this. It has obviously struck a chord!

      • Our parents were such a straight generation. My Dad wouldn’t allow me to play with Lego or Meccano because they were boys toys. He used to freak out when I took my dolls apart to see how they worked and then reassembled them to make them into mutants and covered them with biro tattoos. He blew a gasket when I got a motor bike and leather jacket and jeans. No wonder we Boomers were such rebels.

        • Parents watch so closely. Once I put on an old skirt that had been stuffed into the family dressing-up box, and swished around the house in it. I can remember my mother laughing, and me playing up to her delight. Nevertheless the dressing-up box was quietly put away thereafter, and I was told that such things were not right. I must have been about, what, five. So something spontaneous and lively and creative was quietly labelled ‘not appropriate behaviour’, and it made me feel chastened. Wary.

          I think that I was very young when I began to hide things I knew would be disapproved of. I remember this when I watch the young son of friends, who regularly ‘dresses up’ quite eccentrically when going to the small village school, where no-one thinks it odd. This is a boy who arrived at Ty Isaf one Christmas dressed in fake fur, hat and costume jewellery, looking for all the world like a diminutive Anna Karenina. And this creativity is allowed, as it should be.

          • My Dad hated that I was a tomboy and argued with my mother to put me in dresses so I carried on climbing trees and making dens and mud pies and wrecked my hated frocks, which my parents could not afford, until he relented and let me go back to shorts and ‘slacks’, never trousers and jeans, too unfeminine. I loathe frocks to this day! I quickly gave up on girls comics, Bunty and Judy, and bought boys comics and then discovered Marvel and DC but I hid them under my mattress in case my Dad found them.

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