Christmas traditions, although based on the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ, many have evolved over time; like the red Santa [1930’s Coca Cola], decorated trees [1840’s - Victoria & Albert] and Christmas pudding [Medieval times].
New Year’s Eve is also steeped in history, Hogmanay, Big Ben and Aud Lang Syne. There is an old custom called First Footing.................
The day we moved in to 40 Marlborough Rd 1963
In 1963 my dad’s business was doing rather better. He needed money to invest in new machinery. Wary of taking in partners he was advised that the best way to raise money was to buy a house and then second mortgage it. A recipe for disaster, if you ask me. So in 1963 he bought 40 Marlborough Road, Castle Bromwich and raised some of the money he needed. It had always been his ambition to live there because he had visited the village as a youngster in the 1930’s and remembered how beautiful it was. The weeks before we moved in saw dad and me renovating the somewhat forlorn property; fitting central heating, a new kitchen for mom, but most important making the front room into a “Party” room.
That homemade bar!
We built a lowered ceiling with discrete lighting. A new-fangled stereo was fitted and sound piped through the house.Best of all we built a bar, with optics for spirits and storage for the beer.
The family parties were a legend in a lunchtime within their circle of friends. Dad’s mantra was Christmas is for family, New Year’s Eve is for friends. But family were always invited too. Mom and dad would stockpile booze all year for this one night. The bar stocked, oodles of food laid out on the table with all kinds of delicacies on offer. As usual the marathon party began in spite of it looking a bit dark over Bill’s Mother’s, with snow still on the ground.
Richard [head of table] Meal out NY day 1966
Any road up, mom had this superstition about New Year.
The first person to come into the house after the stroke of midnight HAD to be a tall dark haired handsome man. No one could leave either until this ritual had been concluded. This man had to bring: a lump of coal, piece of bread, a silver coin and a sprig of greenery. He had to be let in, he couldn’t use a key. All the house doors would be opened and he would have to go into every room shouting “Old year out, New Year in!” whilst blowing a trumpet or ringing a bell, making lots of noise to scare the demons away, and leave by a different door.
Another pic of band NYE at Fire Station
By 1965 I was in a “pop group” as we called them then. I had started playing drums in 1964 and with some school friends formed a group. By the following year were popular because we were only 15 and could play reasonably well. We were booked to play at the Central Fire Station, Lancaster Circus, for their New Year’s Eve do. After the resident band had played in the New Year, our group did the final 40 minutes or so, dad then telephoned home to see if all was well. He was aghast to hear mom in floods of tears because there was no tall dark haired man to let the New Year in! What a disaster? We packed up quickly and set off home.
Arriving, by now about 1:30 a.m. there was a commotion, there were people waiting to go home and we were then stuck outside, freezing, with all our gear dumped on the snow covered drive, being refused entry.
Dad then took the bull by the horns [he was stone cold sober] and decided to knock on neighbour’s doors till he found someone willing to perform the duties. Fortunately our next door neighbour’s son Richard had arrived home shortly before, very drunk and gone to bed. He was our saviour, a tall, dark handsome man.
So a bemused Richard was roped in for the job. Still in his pyjamas with an overcoat, he staggered through our front door proffering the hastily gathered offerings. He wandered around the house, falling over being prodded by my joyous mom, wiping away her tears, to speak up, blow the toy trumpet and we all sang the required “Old Year out, New Year in”, following him in a conga chain. He could hardly stand the poor chap. This hubbub went on to loud cheers and much merriment. He was universally praised, plied with more whiskey and promptly passed out on the sofa. 1966 saved. Everyone happy, the party continued until around 4:30 a.m.
And 1966 was a lucky, very good year, wasn’t it? England even won the World Cup! Mom always claimed it was all thanks to Richard bringing us all good luck. Richard today lives a few hundred yards away from me in Sutton Coldfield and still remembers that strange night fondly.
Lead photo is NYE playing at Central Fire Station.