Professor Joe Goldblatt
“Three, Two, One!” One of my earliest childhood memories is of a short man with wavy silver hair standing next to a huge television camera with several rotating lenses holding up three fingers and silently moving his lips to count down the seconds until we were live on air.
Papa decided early on in my childhood that due to my short stature and slight build that I was probably not going to be a major sports star and therefore he not so gently nudged me toward performing magic. Before I was ten years old I became “Joe Jeff the Clown Prince of Magic” and as soon as I could drive I was travelling around my home town in a small green convertible performing at children’s birthday parties.
However, first my five year old sister and I were early television stars upon a local children’s programme entitled Party Time featuring a jolly giant of a gentlemen dressed as a cowboy. Uncle Tiny introduced us to his television viewers and then we performed magic. One of my father’s friends, the man with the wavy silver hair was named Eddie Halleck and he was the producer, floor manager, booking agent and everything else in the very early days of live television where a small handful of people were inventing this new medium.
The live show that aired directly before Party Time was entitled Studio Wrestling and featured giant men in thongs performing fake moves including the famed and supposedly deadly Fritz Von Ehrich “Iron Claw” that required that Fritz grip his opponents heads with his giant hands and attempt to crush their skull. Trust me, when you are nine years old and being doused with the sweat of live wrestlers as you watch them grunt and scream in pain as their heads are crushed you will never forget that moment.
Therefore, when I recently read in the Guardian about collector’s of U.K. television props it rekindled my own memories and how they are often triggered by a physical object. One example of this trigger is best captured by the remains of the day when a loved on passes on.
My mother collected beautiful things and during her eighties she began to quietly label them with the names of my sister and wife as the rightful heirs to these family treasures. One day I asked mama why none of the objects had my name upon them and she smiled knowingly. A few minutes later Papa walked through the room and unbeknownst to him there was a small sign pasted upon his bum that boldly announced “Joe”. I suddenly realised that Papa would be my prize!
When our mother followed my father in death, my sister accepted responsibility for arranging for our family home to be sold. Part of this process was to distribute the treasured contents to loved ones, charities and others. Although this is often a difficult time for adult children as they remember for good and bad their childhood memories, in my case it was very positive indeed.
My sister instructed me to go to the back of the house and open a large yellow cabinet and empty its contents. The cabinet had been secured by Mama for many years by a small silver padlock. Failing to locate the key, I was forced to break the padlock and when the doors sprung open I found inside a small bag of children’s teeth and locks of hair. Mama had carefully preserved our baby teeth and first locks of hair for over fifty years. This moment brought back a flood of memories and my sister and I hared a flood of happy tears.
This past week I escorted a friend who suffers from Altzheimers disease to the City Art Centre to see the Auld Reekie exhibition of objects of the past and the stories that accompany them. My friend also had stories to share about many of the precious objects on display. He loved the old films and photographs as well as the ephemera depicted by items such as a television from the 1950’s and an old washing machine.
One of the photographs featured a local barbershop from the 1970’s and included a sign listing the prices for services such as “Clipper Cut: 60 pence”. When I pointed this out to my friend who was a former barber he quickly snapped “Not mine!” as he suddenly connected with the moment and instantly knew that this price did not reflect his own personal experience of many years ago.
One of the collectors of television props and other memorabilia actually purchased for his terminally ill dad, at great expense, an original costume from the famous TV character Mr Blobby and displayed it at the foot of his father’s hospital bed. His dad roared with laughter and the son instantly recognised that you may never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
Perhaps that is why I am committed now more than ever before to treasure each moment of today so that future memories become even richer and more permanent tomorrow. My childhood memories of television wrestlers spraying me with sweat and Uncle Tiny firing his cap pistol are still fresh and vivid some six decades later to perhaps help me navigate the uncertain future to come.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University. His views are his own. To learn more about his views please visit www.joegoldblatt.scot