I suppose it's because I have so much time on my hands these days, that all these memories come flooding back to me.
Watching the news today, I saw an article about youngsters who have been expelled from school, being allowed to roam the streets, and how the government was planning to bring in a law that made the parents responsible for them. The new law would mean that if the kids were caught out in the streets, their parents would be fined £50. I saw another TV documentary recently about the behaviour of some kids all over Britain, who are being issued with ASBO (Anti Social Behaviour Order) which means they are not allowed to be out and about at certain times of the day, and are basically under curfew. The plan again being that the parents are made responsible for their kids' behaviour. Yet I cant help but think that there are a lot of parents who do not show their kids any kind of good example to follow, or indeed show any interest in their kids' behaviour in the first place. Thankfully these cases are in the minority, and in these modern times, social departments can give help in these cases. It all seems to be a far cry from the days when I was young, yes I know, you are thinking that I am going to bang on about the 'good old days', but believe me, I have no intention of doing so. As the 'good old days' were not really all that they are cracked up to be. I can well remember listening to my grandparents when they told me about what they called the 'good old days', but I cannot really grasp just how much things have changed since my younger days.
I mean, in the past I have written all about the advances in technology with computers, transport and many other modern developments including social standards. For example I am having problems coming to grips with all this new Political Correctness that seems to be taking over these days, as I find most of it to be ridiculous really, but I do not want to go down that road just now. Surf ice to say that, even if some of it may appear silly, we simply have to live with it, and carry on as best as we can.
Going back to my younger days: I remember Friday evenings being the nights when we all went to whatever groups we had joined, the lists being: boy cubs, scouts, brownies, girl guides, army cadets, boys brigade, the air training core... the list could go on, but I hope you get the idea. My sister and I joined at a young age, and I joined the cubs and my sister the brownies. We both moved up later to the scouts and girl guides. Every Friday, we would see all our friends making their way to whatever group they were in, with their smart uniforms, exchanging banter between us as to which group was the best. It gave us a pride in ourselves and taught us to respect each other and to respect our elders. It all seemed just to be the norm back then, that the kids would join these groups and go away on camping trips or visiting the camps of whatever branch they had joined, as at the time there were plenty of them based all over Scotland and England. At the time I was in the scouts, one of my friends was in the ATC (air training core) and was constantly at me to leave the scouts and join him there. I must admit the ATC did offer a lot more than the scouts did at the time, including shooting and flying, which was a lot more appealing to me than camping and tying knots.
The problem was my mother , she was adamant that I should stay with the scouts, as by leaving them I would be breaking the oath I had taken at the time of joining. My father however thought I would have better opportunities with the ATC, as he himself had been in the RAF during the war, and for a few years after. In fact, it was 1948 before he was demobilised, as he was stuck out in Palestine at the time the war ended, so was kept there for a while. Anyway, I was stuck in the middle, and my mother showed no signs of changing her mind, and I was really determined to move over to the ATC. So in the end I joined the ATC but kept my scouts uniform, so that when I left home on the Friday nights, she thought I was going to the scouts, but in fact I would go to my mate's house, where I would change uniforms, and attend the ATC with him. Of course this meant that I had to change uniforms again before returning home. This seemed to be an ideal way to solve the problem, although I got the feeling that my father knew it all the time, yet decided to say nothing, as I remember he was all for me moving over in the first place. This subterfuge worked well for a couple of months, until I had to get my parents to sign a consent form to allow me to attend a boxing tournament down in Lincoln, as the ATC had discovered that I was good at it, and I had already won a few fights and qualified for the regional finals in Lincoln. I was caught out and did not know what to do, so I asked if I really had to go. It was at the same time I found out that I would need yet another consent form to be signed so that I could go the nearby RAF Kinloss where we were going to have our first flight in a small Chipmunk aeroplane, the week after I would have got back from the boxing tournament at Lincoln.
So in the end I had to tell the truth and the resulting row caused a family rift, but eventually my father managed to convince my mother that at least I was still in one of the groups, they offered us youngsters so many exciting things in the first place. Looking back on it all now, I think it was the boxing trophy and certificate for marksman shooting, that swayed her decision not to hold it against me. That along with the fact that due to me being in the ATC, I was allowed to be in the RAF Mountain Rescue Team as a civilian volunteer; that alone was really interesting for me. I really enjoyed my time in the ATC, the choice of activity made it so good for me. I even managed to have the opportunity to fly a small Chipmunk, with the pilot sitting in front of me (it held two people: one sitting behind the pilot's seat), also to fire various rifles and weapons on shooting ranges, play football, boxing and many other activities. I was taught discipline and respect, in fact I would say that being in any of these youth groups, you learn so much, the main one being you learn how to behave and take your place in society. So much so, that I noticed that when I first joined the Royal Navy I never had so much trouble in adjusting to military life as some of my fellow recruits. I wondered at the time, that they would not have found it so hard, if they themselves had joined one of those youth groups. As for the good old days, well its a well-known fact that we always recall the good times, and tend to forget the not so good ones. We just pick ourselves up, brush ourselves down, and put it down to experience, a lesson for the future. Speaking of the future, I wonder if all these troubled kids we have today would be that way if they had taken advantage of what these youth groups can offer.