Bank Holidays Kill Me
By JOHN FOSTER
ONE big advantage, back last Easter and Whitsun, of being neither a mod nor a rocker, was that you got classified as a decent, respectable, clean-nosed youngster—you know, the sort the Duke of Edinburgh approves of. And also these chaps who are always making speeches or writing reports about teenagers: they usually go on for a couple of hours about what a neurotic crew we are (our parents often come in for a right drubbing, too) and then finish up by saying that, of course—as everyone knows— only a small minority of teenagers really go off the rails. Back around last Whitsun, when all this stuff about mods and rockers was in the Papers, I thought it rather good to be able to say that no, I wasn't a mod or a rocker. Mind you, it makes you feel a bit of a creep now and then, and when adults went on about how—if they had their way—they'd have dumped all the mods in the sea or packed the rockers off to the army, they'd sort of look at you with a glimmer of suspicion as if you might be a secret sympathiser they'd overlooked.
live near Bournemouth myself, and to tell you the truth, I've never actually seen a mod in my life. Heard plenty about them, mind you — who hasn't? My mate Dug—he reckons he's a rocker, though, if you ask me, he's just a kid In a leather jacket. Don't get me wrong—he looks like a rocker, but to begin with he hasn't got a motor-bike. Well, whoever heard of a rocker without a motor-bike? That's what the men on the television said they had to have, and the Papers were quite emphatic about it.
Dug's seventeen, unemployed, although he's had loads of jobs. Keeps them for a few weeks, then chucks them in. Spends his time in dead-
end cafes in Poole—town next door to Bourne- mouth. He greets you with a sort of sheepish grin. You just can't take him seriously. He's short and thick; keeps going on about his strength— you know, makes a real issue of it.. He doesn't mean it viciously—I don't mean that. He says, 'I'm big,' and you just laugh and he laughs as well. Back last Whitsun he went to Brighton and got in some fights there. His leather jacket's covered with studs and the police booked him for carrying an offensive weapon. I don't know— you can't help liking the bloke.
I suppose the papers will start taking notice of mods and rockers again now it's getting near Bank Holiday and all that. The only bloke around here who's seemed interested in them lately is some cub reporter on the local paper. Last Whit- sun, though, a right load of reporters had a fine old time going round asking blokes like my mate Dug that Key Question: what sort of kicks do you get out of all this? Apart from sounding a downright kinky sort of thing to ask anyway, the questioners got told the usual stuff about motor-bikes and scooters, Cuban heels and bits of giggles—you must be blind if you didn't read about that stuff at the time. In Bourne- mouth mods and rockers sounded much like their Big Brothers in Clacton and Margate. But when it comes to it, I reckon it's the blokes who go around asking the questions who get all the kicks out of it: wearing duffle-coats and Tell Me the Facts expressions on their faces, armed with re- porter's notebooks and pretending to be Alan Whicker or somebody.
What gets me is the way they go on about the 'type' you get. I mean, take Mike, for example. He's completely different from Dug : quieter,
regular job, never in trouble with the police. He's twenty, has served an apprenticeship as an elec-
trician, but reckons it didn't pay money, so nowadays earns big money as a labourer. He's got a leather jacket all right, but when he wants to go anywhere 'special' dresses smoothly: suit, white shirt, tie—the lot. He talks in catch-phrases he picks up from his mates and the radio ('I hate you'). Goes round pubs, and also to a cellar club in Poole. He says there's usually an even sprinkling of mods and rockers at the club, but there's never much trouble because of too many bouncers. Mike also likes ten-pin bowling; says they won't let you in the bowling place in Bournemouth if you're wearing a leather jacket, and that 'there's thousands of mods down there.' Mike says he's a rocker at heart because he thinks mods a right load of pansies. Reckon he appreciates good clothes, though; doesn't own a motor-bike these days because it got smashed up in a road accident.
Back at Whitsun he went into Bournemouth: 'you knew where to go—word gets around.' Originally, it was rumoured mods and rockers were going to gather on the two piers on Bournemouth Front and march on each other, but that kind of plan never works. Mike went with his mate, Chris, and got into a fight for fun. Chris is the same age, twenty, has worked in his father's newsagent shop since he left school. Says he'd rather work outdoors; can dress reasonably and, for a laugh, often dresses like a mod and goes down in rocker cafes in Poole. They all know him, so it's a good laugh —anyone else'd get thumped. Says he's lazy— got a brain but won't use it. Likes boats. Says: 'S'pose things get smashed and old ladies frightened. But nobody wants to hurt them. If they could just understand that.'
August Bank Holidays kill me. Silent suburbs, hazy heat and traffic jams, a blattening of pop music from the radio, sports pages and afternoon motor-bike racing on the telly. How To Win Friends and Influence People on the mantel- piece, the paper-cup personality of juke-box cafes on the corner of council-house estates. It's all like those Giles Sunday Express cartoons: shiny-shoddy, pier pavilion laughter, hot-dogs and striped ice-cream, paperback- stalls and 'wish you were here' postcards. If you ask me, the papers ought to hold a competition this Bank Holiday. One like those where you have to put in order of importance the six main charac- teristics of some hammy film-star—only instead they could have in the photograph the picture of a mod or a rocker.
I reckon, as far as newspaper offices are con- cerned, teenagers are like foxhunts or cats—
special subjects for special treatment. When the older generation read about the latest teenage be- haviour (we try to live up to what's expected of us) that starts them off on their favourite trek of what it was like in their young days, when you could buy simple, nice things like skipping-ropes and the Magnet, and on Saturday night win cut-glass at the fair: no, it's not like that nowadays—all purple hearts and 'Saturday Spectaculars.' The papers destroyed the rock 're rollers just like they do out-of-date models at Madame Tussaud's, and I expect they'll do the same to mods and rockers when the time's right —to make way for new blood and all that. For the time being, though, I'll bet they've even got the Bank Holiday aftermath headlines all lined up at the ready.
Meanwhile, waiting back-stage, there's Dug— you know—big and tough; Mike, who talks in catch-phrases he picks up from the radio. And Chris, who's got a brain, but won't use it.