Christmas with the County Times 50 years ago

From Beatles mania and the village prize turkey to school concerts and club parties, 50 years ago the County Times celebrated Christmas somewhat differently to today’s paper.
JPCT 021213 West Sussex County Times story from 1963. ( copy by Derek Martin ).JPCT 021213 West Sussex County Times story from 1963. ( copy by Derek Martin ).
JPCT 021213 West Sussex County Times story from 1963. ( copy by Derek Martin ).

Horsham businesses adorned the pages advertising Christmas cheer in the run up to the 1963 holidays.

West Street’s Curry’s was selling record players at just 20 1/2 gns (that’s guineas) and Wakefield’s told you that the way to a man’s heart this Christmas was with a new suit!

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We may not be far off, however, with One Direction pinups tacked to every teenage girl’s wall, village Christmas markets still going strong, and the traditional school concerts making an annual appearance, but let us take a look back at the main stories that graced your local weekly paper 50 years ago (December 20 1963 to be precise).

Pop culture was going through a dramatic change - The Beatles second studio album ‘With The Beatles’ had just been released the month before, and ‘Hold Me Tight’ was ringing in people’s ears from every car radio. Whether you liked them or not, The Beatles were sweeping the nation, and they were yet to conquer America.

Three female members of Horsham Young Liberals made it to the paper when they were presented with Beatles calendars at the Young Liberals Dance.

The happy competition winners were secretary Irvine Challes, press officer Merylyn McKenzie and treasurer Linda Addison, who all got a special preview of the new calendars (pictured).

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The entertainment at the dance was, in fact, not the fab four, but provided by local band Johnny Anger and the Wild Ones - far out!

It has always been a charitable time of year and Horsham’s ‘Pins and Needles’ magazine headquarters in East Street was particularly generous when it came to children’s hospitals and orphanages in 1963.

Astoundingly, they managed to accumulate more than 2,000 dolls valued at a total of £3,000 - all donated by readers who entered the ‘Dress A Doll’ competition, which was judged by Sir Miles and Lady Thomas (pictured).

One of the winning dolls came from a Coventry resident who created a bride with real hair and a net dress trimmed with silver - that is not all, the bride also came with its very own groom. Another winner fashioned a Father Christmas with a black sack containing 30 presents, no more than two inches in length each - now that’s dedication!

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The focal point of many people’s Christmas day is the turkey, and clearly nothing has changed in the last five decades.

A large crowd gathered in awe at Horsham Market as Pulborough resident Mr A Davis’ prize turkey was weighed in at an impressive 31 lbs, and sold for a whopping £5 7s.

The competiton attracted an all-time record entry of turkeys, but unfortunately the number of chicken and geese was down on the previous year - sad times.

Schools have always celebrated the run up to Christmas with big shows for all the parents and local residents to attend, and 1963 saw Steyning Grammar School try something a little different.

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Instead of the usual carol services and Christmas plays that the pupils had been known to perform since the 1930s, the school decided to switch to a presentation of dramatic readings and festive music - all taking place in the gymnasium.

However, sleet and ‘biting wind’ swept Chanctonbury in the half-hour proceeding the start of the concert, which resulted in a poor attendence.

One of the dramatic readings was of Robert Frost’s ‘The Witch of Loos’ performed by students, Peter Boulton-Lea, Jeremy Nicholls and David Stone.

If you recognise anyone in these stories, please get in touch and share your memories with the County Times.

Here is to the next 50 years!