I have always had a soft spot for Cauldon College as I always call it. I have only adopted its modern name Stoke College recently. Cauldon College of Further Education saved me from a very indifferent education at my high school in Abbey Hulton.
I was there in the 70s when teaching in FE was something of a ‘gold card’. Teachers, or lecturers as they preferred to be called, did not have the disciplinary problems associated with high schools and were largely left alone to teach the curriculum in the way that they wanted.
I did Sociology and Economic History at ‘A’ level which I crammed in one year. In October 1974 when I started at Cauldon I perhaps only had a faint idea about going to University, but I was glad to escape the mundane nature of working in a potbank.
The lecturers were good and I got on with the three of them. The two Sociology lecturers taught at a level that allowed for student participation to a level unthinkable at Carmountside and in Brian Stokes, the history lecturer, I found a mentor who I stayed in contact with up to his death.
Brian was an old-fashioned lecturer who delivered his lecturers from a bound file filled with hand written notes.
I doubt whether he would get away with that approach now, but it worked for me and he allowed for interventions and discussion.
He was a classic liberal in his approach even to the point of sharing his birthday- 29th December- with Mr Gladstone. We also had an interest in sport and Brian did a stint reporting on matches from Vale and Stoke for Hospital Broadcasts and had been a regular there for years.
He did tell me that he saw “Wor” Jackie Milburn patting his midriff when he could not reach a ball knocked out to him during the veterans game at the Matthews Testimonial match in 1965.
He also was very knowledgeable on Classical Music especially Elgar as well as a cricketer for Norton so he was a wealth of good stories.
I got on well with the other classmates, but I was focused on getting good ‘A’ levels and going to University. I would make my way to the Central Library in Hanley assiduously reading and writing up notes and producing very long essays on Talcott Parsons and functionalism as well as the Liberal Government of 1906-10, among other things.
I spent one winter’s night in the library filling in the University admission form choosing University some distance from Stoke-on-Trent like York, Newcastle, Exeter and Durham. I wanted to escape.
I did not socialise much although one interesting aspect of Cauldon College, at the time, was the sudden influx of Iranian students many not very motivated, but all rich as they drove around the College in sports cars attracting the young women interested in their wealth as well as their good looks. We were about four years off the Iranian Revolution. I wonder what happened to them?
I still had time to go to see Stoke as they closed on a possible First Division championship title. It is also to be remembered that the 70s saw the peak of the problem of football hooliganism
In February 1975 Stoke centre town was subject to prolonged attack by Manchester City supporters bruised by a 4-0 defeat at the Victoria Ground. They took their frustration out on the terraced houses and shops that surrounded the old Stoke ground.
Steven Foster a five year old was hit by broken glass when hooligans smashed a window at his parent’s home in Lonsdale Street.
Also in Lonsdale Street, Elaine Hughes who had run her grocers shop since the 50s, was subject to vandalism and theft. A police officer commented: “ We might have expected it from Manchester United fans – and it appears that the mantle of misbehaviour has descended on Manchester City supporters”.
The following game a night match against local rivals Wolves ended in a 2-2 draw. Trouble was a constant factor in the game with several pitch invasions and brawls between rival supporters. Four Stoke supporters were stabbed and required treatment.
Stoke supporters were no saints and other towns faced real problems. Marauding Stoke supporters causing havoc in Derby on 17th March which Stoke won 2-0. Another stabbing resulted and local MP Walter Johnson commented that Stoke and Manchester United, who had been relegated the previous season, were the worst. He called for compensation from Derby County Football Club for residents who had suffered from acts of criminal damage. None was forthcoming.
However the culmination of hooliganism occurred on Easter Monday at a game I attended when Stoke entertained Liverpool. The game – a key one – attracted a crowd of 45,000 and many incidents occurred well before kick-off. A middle aged man was mugged by Liverpool supporters in toilets in Hill Street. A Stoke youth was stabbed, a programme vendor was robbed and £200 was lifted from a turnstile at the Stoke End. There were 50 arrests at the game included fans accused of theft and carrying offensive weapons. The result, a minor consideration in all this chaos, was a 2-0 victory for the Potters. The season did not end in triumph as Stoke lost a crucial game at Sheffield United and the championship went, after an extraordinary close contest involving several clubs, to Derby County.
Along with the football there was the TV and one of thehighlights of the era was ‘The Comedians.’ In April 1975 the landlord of the Black Swan – the ‘Mucky Duck’ – in Leek, Barney Smith wrote of his experiences as an impresario in Manchester in the pages of the Leek Post & Times and his connections with the stars of the show
The programme began as an experiment for Granada TV. It was filmed before a live audience in Manchester, comics each performed 20-minute sets, which were then edited together into half-hour shows. Each edition featured ten stand-up comics.
Workingmen’s clubs were numerous in Britain and have been a useful training ground for artists, especially comedians. It was very popular during the earlier series.
The comedy frequently took the form of anecdotes or jokes and often involved racist or sexist stereotypes. It was the making of a number of acts who became household names.
Bernard Manning, Charlie Williams, Colin Crompton who used his smoking as a performance timing device, and a personal favourite, daft Ken Goodwin famous for his giggle and catchphrase, ‘settle down now’ playing the character of half witted North Country man.
A tradition that went back to the music hall career of George Formby Senior and his ‘John Willie’, half a century before.
A film that opened in April 1975 that was the polar opposite to the type of humour on show in the Comedians was “Monty Python and the Holy Grail “ which I saw as a break from my ‘A’ level studies in a Hanley cinema .
It is hard to imagine the size of the comic universe that encompassed Stan ‘The German Fokker’ Boardman, left, and the Knights that say Ni and their obsession with shrubbery.
On a serious note April 1975 saw the end of the Vietnam War with images of American and South Vietnamese military personnel crowding onto the roof of the US embassy in Saigon to be airlifted to safety.
Musically, the records I selected for my Moorlands Radio show suggest a topical note in the present coronavirus crisis. The John Lennon song ‘Stand by Me’ and Tammy Wynette ‘Stand by Your Man’ fall foul of the social distancing requirements.
Dolly Parton’s Bargain Store almost certainly has empty shelves. ‘Life is a Minestrone’ would be difficult to make without pasta. And ‘Trampled Underfoot’ by Led Zeppelin, may well describe the mêlée in the toilet paper aisle.