Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Dentists and Drivers

Bullet No.1644 (1949)
Tactlessness – Doors marked “Pull”!
The waiting room may have comfy chairs and creased magazines stuffed with celebrities and recipes, but there’s no getting away from the reality. On the other side of the intercom, dentists offer a whole suite of cruelties to their hapless clients involving drills, scrapers, needles and pliers.
This is one of the more accessible Bullets, Bill’s riff being obviously on people arriving at the dentist not wanting to be inadvertently reminded of what they are about to endure. I can’t help thinking, though, that in his mind there may have been another, more direct, relationship between doors and teeth.
Dentistry has always had its amateurs, from the barber surgeons of the 18th century to those who today are priced out of the surgery and into the pound shops for a DIY filling kit. But the classic home remedy has always been the old string door slam.
This is one of those things that makes you wonder if anyone, other than Laurel and Hardy, has ever actually done it. In fact, it seems to be fairly common, especially among youngsters wanting to help a wiggly first tooth on its way. Their orthodontic antics have even become a faintly disturbing YouTube genre with some downright dangerous variations, including a tooth tied to the back of a car.
Family corner:
Did Dad like Laurel and Hardy? 
Is it true that the dentists on Parsonage Street used to deliberately drill holes in our teeth when we were kids so that they could let students practice filling them up again (I think Mum told me this)?
What toothpaste brands did we use? 
Did any of us have braces?

Send me your comments. 
Bullet No.1644 (1949)

Licence costs us “Crown”!
At the time Bill was thinking this one through, the UK had only recently returned to requiring a full licence based on a competence test for drivers. The first licences had been obtainable from 1903 by simply popping along to the Post Office and paying 5 shillings (otherwise known as a Crown), without the need to prove that you knew how to control a car.

Given that in the mid-1890s it was estimated that there were about 15 cars on the roads of Britain, a figure which had risen to about 800 by the turn of that century, this was probably not too much of a problem. But by 1934, the chances of clattering into a fellow motorist had dramatically increased, with 1.5 million cars on the road. In 1935, the first driving tests were introduced as a precondition to getting a licence.
Four years later, the tests were put on hold. Perhaps fearing that apprehensive novices struggling to double declutch on a wet hill would hold up troop movements around country lanes, the only licences issued between 1939 and 1946 were provisional, untested licences. Tests were resumed in 1947, but as Bill’s Bullet suggests, the cost of a full licence seems to have remained one Crown.
Family corner
Did we have a car/cars? 
Could Dad drive/did he ever try to learn? 
How did we get around the country?

Send me your comments.


  1. I think mum told me that dad was working as a taxi driver when she met him in Chorley Wood. So he could drive, but there was never a family car - no money of course. I do remember one family holiday at Jaywick on Sea with dad, so before he died, and I only really remember that holiday because he built us a brilliant sand car on the beach. I cannot remember going anywhere else with both mum and dad but after he died I can recall a number of trips by bus and train. So overall I would say, yes he could drive and I think there is enough evidence to suggest he was interested in cars.

  2. Thanks Rabble No 3. Would be good to find out more about Dad's time as a taxi driver - if it was in an official capacity, there may be records. Not sure if I was ever on a Jaywick holiday, but it was a popular destination in the 50s (lots of caravans, I think). These days it is one of the most deprived areas in the whole of the UK.

    1. Uncle Ted confirms that dad was working as a taxi driver but I didn't ask him whether he knows the firm's name. Probably not as he was only about 10 years old at the time!

  3. I did not have braces but did have a canine removed to make room for my other teeth when I was 13 or 14. Other than that I do not remember going for regular checkups. I thought the dentist was in Auckland Road but maybe that was just the baby clinic where we got malt (which we also got at school) and lovely orange juice. I think we may have had dental checkups at school? My memories of tooth paste are small round tins of pink powder (Gibbs SR?)
    I too was told that Mum met Dad when he was a taxi driver but that it was in Pinner. We certainly never had a family car and I remember what seems like quite a lot of journeys by coach to Cardiff and Newport to be looked after by relatives when Dad (and on one occasion Mum as well) was ill.
    I can also remember a seaside holiday in Jaywick - particularly the glass porch on the front of the bungalow that we were staying in. I have no memories of Dad being there though and do not know how we got there. We used the train to get to and from Hunstanton (the starvation holiday!) after he died.

  4. Another memory is travelling to see relatives near Wigan,
    not long after Dad died, in a white van driven by the "B" man- a travelling salesman who sold clothes and household items on HP. I especially remember having to duck down when we went through the Mersey tunnel so that it was cheaper- and that Rabble No 5 popped his head up at just the wrong time! I actually recently heard a similar story from Noel Gallagher on Desert Island Discs!


Hello Rabble (and others) I have changed the settings on comments so you should be able to have your say without jumping through hoops!