Day four of extracts from Joe Ashton’s brilliant book ‘Joe Blow’

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Anybody who was lucky enough to be a teenager in the sixties was very, very lucky to be alive, and to grow up when the war was officially over.

The World Cup for England, the Beatles, the fashions and the attitude of ‘We’ve got no cash but who cares?’

Which came along happily after the miseries of the War and its damage.

The Sixties were fantastic, with the Prime Minister Harold Wilson in his white rubber raincoat, and Coronation Street and Steptoe and Son, all in glorious black and white. It was lovely.

It was the Sixties, with teenagers in mini-skirts and with Sheffield Wednesday playing in the Cup Final at Wembley.

Wednesday were nearly at the top of the First Division too!

By the end of the decade, TV was even in colour!

I loved it.

My missus and even MPs loved the new attitude too. And so did everybody else who was young enough.


And we’d had enough of misery, blackouts, dark streets, and entries.

I loved being on the council and loved working at Davy’s, my new, modern employers, with young people in their twenties designing, building and selling rolling mills to India and South Africa, and many other poor nations; anywhere we could fly the flag.

Sheffield was attracting visitors from all over the world and England was swinging like a pendulum do, as they say in the song, with its new fashions, music, and lager sold in shops in tins and not pubs.

Visitors from all over the world wanted to come and look at Sheffield and its redevelopment.

One Saturday in May 1963, it was the Cup Final, and Manchester United were playing at Wembley.

My old mate, Albert Quixall, a former Wednesday idol, was playing for Manchester United.

Albert was just 5’7” tall, and was a beautiful inside right, who could drop a long pass on to a two-bob piece.

What’s more, believe it or not, it was the very first Wembley Cup Final shown on colour TV, which nobody had ever seen before, and we were going to watch it on a colour TV in the City Hall.

Prior to that I had been delegated to show a group of Swedish visitors around on that day.

They were over to look at what our problems were and to see if clean air equipment could be installed on every street.

So we set off for the City Hall but we had to push the Swedish visitors the last 30 yards, to get through the huge crowds of teenagers screaming and fainting, because The Beatles were playing that night in a concert at Sheffield City Hall.

The ecstasy of the young women and teenagers was shown as they covered the City Hall pillars in lipstick.

We managed to convince the bobbies that these Swedes were going to bring jobs and money to Sheffield to make our smoking pensioners cough better – so please let us through the barrier!

For two hours, and I kid you not, I was locked up inside a reception room in the Grand Hotel, with these four daft looking, long-haired teenagers, The Beatles, who I had never heard of and never seen before, and who were not a bit interested in colour television.

The long-haired nutters (short back and sides were still regulation for men, even after the army days) were larking and acting daft and singing songs I had never heard of.

‘Where does this lot come from,’ he said, shaking his head.

‘Put the telly on,’ I asked him.

‘I can’t’, he said. ‘It’s all new, in colour and I don’t know how to work it.’ Then he shook his head again. ‘It’s more than my job’s worth to mess with it.’

He then phoned Cole Brothers across the road to ask somebody to come across and switch it on, because it was done by magic.

Even Bobby Charlton, with his hair stretched across his empty scalp on the colour television, could only keep The Beatles quiet for about three minutes, before they carried on chasing each other around the settees, and up and down the lobby, waving out of the windows.

After being locked up for two hours, I was very glad to leave.

I then had to take the Swedes back to Davy’s, and show them how our new office block even had a bowling alley for its workers.

I’d had enough.

Finally, I dropped the Swedes off again at the City Hall, with more Beatles fans screaming outside than inside.

There were no mobile phones then, so no blame could be laid when I arrived home, hours late.

I told Maggie, my missis, that some daft lads called The Beatles, who I had never heard of, had held us up in the hotel, and we couldn’t get out.

She was furious when I said I hadn’t got their autographs or some sort of a picture or a record.

And she never spoke to me for the next two weeks.

I can also reveal that back in 1963, Roy Hattersley (now Lord Hattersley) and me narrowly escaped being drummed out of the Town Hall for purveying obscene literature. True.

And it all started in my old Ford Prefect.

It came about when a red-hot book was published, called “Fanny Hill”, which was banned from all the public libraries in Britain.

There had been ructions in all the local and national newspapers when the Lord Chief Justice ruled that “Fanny Hill” was an indecent publication.

Not fit to be on the shelves of libraries, or read by young women on long train journeys.

The Lord Chief Justice said that he had seen quite enough of these obscene publications, thank you.

And anybody putting this book on sale would be heavily fined, or even locked up!

Well, there was a mighty uproar, of course.

Bookshops and papers like the News of the World had spent a lot of money on these revelations.

A huge number of churches and women’s organisations agreed also, and threatened never to vote Labour or Conservative again if this book was published.

Then a woman called Mary Whitehouse put her two penn’orth in against it, and turned out more angry women waving frying pans than the suffragettes ever did.

All the councils in the country were allowed one copy so they could decide whether to ban it or not.

We agreed on the way home in my car that Alf should be the man to pass the book round the councillors but the next day Alf rang me at work and said:

‘Joe, come and fetch that book, it’s making me badly. I can’t concentrate any more.”

So I fetched it and hid it in a drawer at Davy United where I worked.

In less than a month 35 Davy blokes had read it and another 26 councillors (men only) had read it.

We all agreed we wouldn’t tell our wives.

Sadly we agreed it wasn’t fitting for a modern council to support this type of literature.

On a show of hands we voted: ‘NO, DEFINITELY NOT!” So everyone was satisfied.

* Joe Blow costs £12 and can be ordered from The Star shop on 0114 2521299. From each sale £1.50 will go to the Salvation Army.

* Interview by Martin Smith