Those of us of a certain age remember well the Public Information Films of the 70s and 80s. Back then common sense was still de rigueur and words like ‘face time’ and ‘troll’ had an altogether different and more innocent meaning. During the long summer holidays my parents would rarely see me, until hunger, gravel-rash or sheer exhaustion saw me racing back home on my very fetching Raleigh Chopper.
I can remember playing “Kick-the-Can”…with a real can…for hours on end. I fell out of trees, jumped over canals and distributed more of my skin and bone across Birmingham streets than is probably healthy. But I was never bored. My admittance file at Selly Oak Hospital was about two inches thick before I had even reached 12! Doubtless these days my parents would have been prosecuted for child abuse and I would have been handed over to Social Services, but back then it was called having a childhood.
To try and save us from ourselves, the government of the day invested time and money into producing an array of Public Information Films that were aimed at keeping us, if not on the straight and narrow, then at least out of the morgue. We had cats telling us not to talk to strangers, cowled figures tempting us to a watery grave and even Darth Vader (yes really) offering us advice on crossing the road. I look back on those days with a certain thankful nostalgia, but it would appear that I had forgotten just how much danger we were apparently in.
Many of us remember Rolf Harris and The Green Cross Man attempting to instil in us a sense of social responsibility, before they both turned to the dark side. But how many can still recall Donald Pleasance as a shadowy grim reaper, tempting children to their deaths in the dark cold waters of lonely quarries and quiet riverbanks?
“Lonely Water” was made in 1973 and probably remains one of the most chilling productions to ever come out of the government’s Central Office of Information. It was like a cross between Jaws and Evil Dead! Back then we were also being run over by trains, chopped up by farm machinery and electrocuted by substations. It was tough being a kid. No “Call of Duty” for us, we were too busy avoiding outbreaks of rabies, death by incineration and strange characters hanging around the park swings. I wonder sometimes how I actually made it to adulthood!
And if you did manage to survive this ever-growing catalogue of domestic dangers…there was always nuclear war to worry about.
Sweet dreams kids!…