The Christmas Quiz For Those Of A Certain Age: Answers

Observatory

A still from a later edition of ‘Crackerjack’ and yes, it has blackface cannibals, a standard comic trope based on cartoon clichés divorced from anything real, but still awkward now. I have an ambivalent attitude to nostalgia. Is it fun to look back? Yes. Would I want to live there? No.

The Answers

1. George Cole was Sim’s ward. He’d had a terrible upbringing and Sim and his wife raised him and taught him acting.

2. They were ‘Rinky tink’ pianists. Their unique sound is curiously tied to the 1950s.

3. Martha Longhurst. The idea was to give ‘Corrie’ a Greek chorus.

4. Rag, Tag & Bobtail. A different children’s show for each day of the week.

5. A pencil – such was the paucity of prizes at the BBC in the 1950s. And a cabbage if you lost. Looking at the episodes on YouTube now, this long-running series seems to have been conceived a century ago.

6. They were all straight men in double acts. Jerry Desmond’s finest moment comes in ‘The Early Bird’, with a golf game that ends up in a tree..

7. They drank tea and spat it out. The tea tasters stood in a row in the window doing this all day long until the mid-nineties.

8. Arnold Ridley, who played Godfrey, wrote a comedy play called ‘The Ghost Train’ about IRA gunrunners which was turned into an Askey star vehicle.

9. Wilson, Keppel and Betty. They started long before I was born and were still doing it into their dotage with the latest in a long line of Bettys. There’s a great biography; ‘Too Naked For The Nazis’.

10. Sunday. The line is from ‘A Sunday Afternoon At Home’ – at the time considered one of the most innovative radio shows ever recorded because it contained so much dead air.

11. Jubbly was an orange drink newsagents froze for kids. The others were all lollies.

12. A table. You had to fix the horse race game to the table with a clamp.

A pen, to make patterns with.

A car. For watching from the window and shouting ‘Cow!’

A potato.

30 comments on “The Christmas Quiz For Those Of A Certain Age: Answers”

  1. Phil says:

    What an excellent quiz. Quite took my mind off the latest news. If I had to name one seminal moment for me in Corrie it was the death of Martha in the snug at The Rovers. As her head rested on the table I’m sure the camera closed in on her unfinished glass of stout. Classic. As was the lad’s comment on Hattie’s gravy in that great episode.
    Many thanks Admin, for stirring up the old memory pot.

  2. Brian Evans says:

    Thanks Admin, I really enjoyed that. Can we have another, please?

    For the record, the lad’s gravy gag is-he says to Hattie (her of “Carry On” matron fame)-“Flippin’ ‘eck. I thought my mother’s gravy was bad, but at least it moved around”

  3. Peter T says:

    And even if you classified Jubbly as a lolly, unlike the others, it wasn’t a product of Lyons.

    What organisation employed the tea tasters?

  4. admin says:

    I want to say it was Tetley’s but I can’t remember. I just recall waiting at the traffic lights every morning and watching them. I was never sure if it was a bona fide laboratory or if it was a very elaborate public relations exercise.

  5. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I can never hear the words ‘ Great Portland Street ’ without thinking of Kenneth Williams.

  6. tony williams says:

    Too naked for the nazis is a great read. I saw them perform. Informed my interest in music hall.

  7. Brian Evans says:

    Tony, some years ago I went to the National Film Theatre for an evening of Wilson Keppel and Betty. It was terrific, loads of clips of their acts in variety. It was a full house.

  8. Jo W says:

    # Cornelia Appleyard
    Same here. I can hear Kenneth Williams on Just a Minute protesting that “I haven’t come all the way from Great Portland Street to be insulted!”

    Chris, Is it fun to look back? Yes. Would I like to live there? Well,a visit would be good,to see again my parents,my big bruvver, aunts,uncles and cousins, all gone.

    And don’t forget, all commenters, Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be!

  9. Liz Thompson says:

    I remember seeing Wilson, Keppel and Betty on the tv when I was a kid (1950s). It was black and white of course, but whether it was film or for real, I don’t know. I liked the act…well, at that young age, and living in an agricultural village, anything on tv was entertaining, including the intermission picture. And Crackerjack was a must. Cabbages and pencils, life was simpler then. Would I go back? Not bloody likely!

  10. Wayne Mook says:

    Could never remember the name of the third old lady in Coronation St. but as characters they were spot on. I part grew up in a pub and I remember my dad flattering the old ladies sat in the best room in the same way as was it Billy walker did. I still remember hearing the line from Ena Sharples, ‘The problem with you Minnie Caldwell….’ I remember women only drank from half pint glasses, but a pint was cheaper than 2 halves, so after the first half some then would buy a pint and use it to top up their half.

    Well I got eight (or 11 if you gave 4 for 12) (I forgot the table for the horse racing, so only got 3 of the four) So I failed on 3, 4, 7 and 12.

    Thanks for quiz Admin, much appreciated.

    Wayne.

  11. Peter Dixon says:

    Wilson and Keppel went on for years but Betty changed a number of times over the decades.

    On the subject(s) of nostalgia and Kids TV, one of the most poignant things I ever saw was at Toyfair – the trade fair for toys and games – at Olympia, London. I was there to promote a board game me and my pals had launched (called ‘Social Insecurity’ if you’re still awake). One of the stands had an event with Jan and Vlasta Dalibor and their famous stars ‘Pinky and Perky’. The Dalibor’s must have been about 90. Watching the show wrap up in the evening, I spotted the pair, arm in arm, carrying a huge holdall with Pinky and Perky’s trotters hanging out of the end, trailing on the ground. Wish I’d had a camera.

  12. David Ronaldson says:

    George Cole was almost certainly Sims’ Son; he slowly turned into him looks-wise down the decades.

  13. admin says:

    The Pinky & Perky image is lovely. I’d forgotten about them, probably because they were so characterless.

  14. Brian Evans says:

    Dad took me to see Pinky and Perky in a Liverpool department store Christmas grotto circa 1959 and I couldn’t stick them. I was only little yet I found them embarrassing. Ditto Billy Smarts circus Dad took me to around the same time. I was embarrassed for the animals due to the demeaning way they were being treated, and also for the stupid clowns. And that is not with the benefit of hindsight.

  15. Barbara Boucke says:

    Thank you also Peter Dixon for the Pinky & Perky story even though I live in the States. Both children and adults have interesting reactions to puppets and/or marionettes. One of my favorite old films is “Lili” with Leslie Caron (later on the musical “Carnival”) and the whole relationship between Lili and the puppets. On the other hand, I grew up watching “The Howdy Doody Show” which never really appealed to me. I much preferred “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie” which seemed quieter and gentler in the recesses of my memory.

  16. Helen Martin says:

    Barbaara, I’m with you, although we didn’t get a tv until I was twelve and past the Kukla as well as Howdy age. I did chant with the Howdy audience, though. What really spooked me was ventriloquists. Lots of films with unnatural relationships between puppet and manipulator and lots of tv references, too. I could always feel the hair on my neck rising. Frankly false is fine, it’s the cloudy area that gets to me.

  17. Barbara Boucke says:

    Thanks, Helen. Looking back, I think what I didn’t like was the loudness – Clarabell the Clown and his honking horn for one. I agree about ventriloquists.

  18. Ian Luck says:

    Brian – I’m so glad that it’s not just me that found a lot of things that were meant for kids, to be dull, tedious, and embarrassing when I was a kid. Furthermore, I couldn’t understand why other kids liked them. I never enjoyed the overtly childish children’s TV shows, either – I loved, and still do, the oeuvre of Gerry Anderson – yes, it was for kids, but there were still some very adult ideas there. I’d much rather have watched an adult show like (the tremendously violent for it’s time) ‘Man In A Suitcase’, or ‘The Avengers’, than some git clown or shrieking pigs any day.

  19. Brian Evans says:

    Well, Ian, we seem to be kindred spirits! If I could choose one TV programme to put into a time capsule it would be the Diana Rigg “Avengers”. Having the boxed set, I still enjoy them. “Man in a Suitcase” was mandatory viewing as Mum fancied Richard Bradford. Also, I liked Gerry Anderson.

    I didn’t even like “the Goon Show” when I was little. They were just silly. I loved “Life with the Lyons” on the other hand. I listened to an episode a while ago on Radio 4 extra and I still laughed out loud twice.

    I love comedy as an art form, and study it a lot. Stephen Fry does the same, and he made me laugh when he said: “Mind you, it’s like watching porn without getting a stiffy.

    Double acts I like, but more for the straight man, as I like the comedy of reaction. I always thought Ernie Wise funnier then Eric. I was also a great fan of “Sooty and Sweep” as a lad. But it was Harry Corbett I laughed at, because of his wonderful reactions. It has never been the same with anyone else as stooge.

    Will Hay, was a great favourite as a lad when I discovered him, and still is. I think “Oh Mr Porter” is the funniest film ever made. It is because of the way Hay reacts to Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt. And look out for any film with Cecil Parker. He steals every scene by the way he reacts.

    Finally, if I haven’t bored you into a coma, look out for Elsie and Doris Waters as “Gert and Daisy” on youtube singing “Everybody’s Pinching my Butter.” It is a text book example of immaculate delivery and brilliant timing.

    Well, I’m sorry I have jumped put of my box, but I can never resist an opportunity to natter about comedy. I would love to hear your and other people’s views, and please forgive me Mr Admin for suggesting it and carrying on.

    PS…and don’t forget Sandy Powell doing the vent act. It still cracks me up.

  20. Joel says:

    I loved and still do, the Goon Show – maybe someone has to? This week, Radio 4 Extra broadcast one of my favourite episodes, ‘A Christmas Carol (and custard)’ – I’m almost word-perfect on that one, along with ‘Dishonoured’, ‘The Call of the West’ and ‘The (real) last tram [of London]’, but they still make me laugh deeply. The Goons pricked pomposity and greed, recognising the honest failings of people. Some dated attitudes and characterisations but the structures hold up well, or at least until the avoided pay-offs,,,

    Loved the quiz (yes, more please) even if I only scored about two-thirds.

  21. Peter Dixon says:

    I loved all of the Gerry Anderson stuff – his designers were wonderful and well ahead of their time. I often look at new vehicles and buildings and think ‘that’s just like Thunderbirds’. Mind you, Anderson was a bit of a frustrated director because he always wanted to do live action but failed to build tension in his movies and TV series. My old English teacher was scathing about him; ‘A man who makes puppets look like people and people look like puppets’ was one of his comments.

    Will Hay is one of my favourites – there’s a scene in one movie where he runs a fire station and attempts to have a new pole installed, ending up with it going through a lorry, an invalid’s bedroom and coming out through the roo of the house opposite. Pure genius.

    Sandy Powell deconstructed the traditional vent act beautifully. The idea of a well past it music hall act, dressed as a Chelsea Pensioner and with a female assistant aged about 70 (with an ostrich feather in her headband) is splendid and is part of the theatrical world where Count Arthur Strong comes from. Where did all those acts where a bloke in evening clothes who made a 20ft ladder out of a rolled-up newspaper go?

  22. Brian Evans says:

    Funnily enough Peter, in the mid 70’s I saw Sandy Powell and his assistant-his wife-in week of variety at the Wimbledon theatre and there was on the bill with him an amazing lady paper-tearer. Also on the bill were Mrs Mills, Wee Georgie Wood and Cardew (the cad) Robinson.

    My fave bit with Sandy (Can you Here Me Mother?) Powell is about half way through the act when the head of the dummy falls off, and he just looks pityingly at the audience and says: “I wish I could win the pools, I’d pack this bloody lark up for a start”

    Joel, I think what does it for me with the Goons is that I just find Spike Milligan about the most irritating man ever to walk across a stage, after Roy Castle, of course.

  23. SteveB says:

    Tea Tasters!!! Well I never would have known that. Nice one.

    Harry Corbett with Sooty and Sweep was really funny. A few of them are on YouTube I think.

    As well as Arnold Ridley, Stephen Lewis / Blakey was a playwright and wrote the play on which Sparrows Can’t Sing was based.

    The black and white Diana Rigg episodes of the Avengers were by far the best. (The Diana Rigg version of Bleak House was also far superior to the Gillian Anderson version, I keep hoping it will come out on Bluray one day).

    Enough rambling…

  24. Barbara Boucke says:

    I’m probably too late in writing this for either Brian Evans or Peter Dixon to see, but I appreciated the comments on Will Hay. Since I live “across the pond” he wasn’t someone whose films I would have seen. However, there’s a website called Sinister Cinema based in Oregon that has managed to stay afloat since they are mailorder only. At some point in time I bought “The Ghost of St. Michael’s” which I have watched multiple times. I think they have “Oh, Mr. Porter” so I will have to look after the holidays at the site. Thanks again for mentioning him.

  25. Brian Evans says:

    Happy Christmas Barbara!

    My nan had a penfriend who lived in Eugene. They corresponded for years, and she used to send me little presents for Christmas and birthday. They never met. I have been through Oregon on the train. Beautiful!

    Anyway, back to the plot….I have just checked on You tube, and there is a surprising amount of his films up on the site, including “Oh Mr Porter”, so why pay more! Though the quality of reproduction is not that great on some of them. Sit well back from the screen and they look better.

    Did you notice the later “Carry On” star, Charles Hawtrey (as a precocious schoolboy), in “The Ghost of St Michaels”? Also, if you watch “The Goose Steps Out” you can see a very young and handsome Barry Morse who spent about 2 years in the 1960s chasing David Jansenn in “The Fugitive.”

    Good luck!

  26. Barbara Boucke says:

    Thank you Brian Evans and Merry Christmas to you also! I apprecite the Youtube info, but I will probably send for the film. Sinister Cinema’s prices are very reasonable, so I don’t mind that part. I also have a cat who objects to too much of my time spent at the screen that lights up – i.e. my computer – so I can at least stop the film if needs be. Eugene is a great city. My younger nephew went there to the University of Oregon which has a beautiful campus. Thanks for the other actor info. as well. Happy New Year!

  27. snowy says:

    A word about ‘The Goose Steps Out’ for anybody considering watching it, be aware that there are 2 [or 3] versions floating about.

    The 84 minute theatrical cut, and the 66 minute video cut, the cuts are terrible.

    Some lunatic with a razorblade seems to have attempted to convert a light satirical comedy into an espionage thriller by hacking out the key scenes where Will Hay does his ‘Will Hay’ bits. [The classroom scene is missing as is most of the ‘Pincer – Panzer’ scene near the end].

    The digitally restored version comes in at 75 mins, puts some material back in and does come with some extras, but the only complete versions seem to be copies made from VHS tapes.

    [Standing between Hawtrey and Morse you will find Peter Ustinov, but perhaps only the keenest eyed will spot William Hartnell in a later scene].

  28. Brian Evans says:

    Barbara-same here. Our pussycat Jasper does the same. When he wants attention he walks all over the keyboard. Never, mind, we love him to bits.

    Barbara and Snowy. Thanks Snowy, yes, it’s a travesty. The best bits missing, esp the school scene when Hay gives Hitler the “V” sign and beautifully breaks the “fourth wall” and plays it directly to the audience. I can imagine the wartime audience loving this. (Barbara, you may know, but that is the British way of doing the single middle finger salute). However, I think you can see them on youtube. I had the video and stupidly got rid of it when I got the DVD.

    Just about every comedy star had a vehicle in which he (I’m not being sexist-it was usually men) played a dual role, or as Brian Rix put it in his autobiography, when it was his turn in “The Night We Dropped a Clanger”, ended up playing with himself. “The Goose Steps Out” is Hay’s go. Sadly though, it is a bit under used and there are only a couple of scenes.

    If either of you are interested, and don’t already know, there is a Will Hay Society-

    https://www.photogra-fix.com/willhay

  29. Barbara Boucke says:

    Thanks for this Snowy. Years ago I learned via an online blog that the British produced mysteries which I watched on my local PBS channel were missing 10 to 15 minutes of film so that the program would fit into the local time slot since PBS technically has no “ads”. At the present time, if one wants to buy the DVD set of something such as “Endeavour”, you have to wait for the set which has UK Version on the cover. Then you get “the whole nine yards” so to speak.

  30. Peter Dixon says:

    Crikey – I seem to have hit a Will Hay goldmine!

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