As late as 1971, women were banned from going into Wimpy Bars on their own, after midnight, on the grounds that the only women out on their own at that hour must be prostitutes.
Remembered for Edward Heath, power cuts, strikes, shocking headlines, the donkey jacket and the Austin Allegro they were also, with the aid of rose-tinted spectacles firmly fixed on the nose, the decade of lurid wallpaper, plaster ducks, silly hair, the space hopper, the Chopper, Bagpuss and Curly Wurlies, it was the decade that taste forgot.
British life probably changed more quickly between 1970 and 1980 than during any other post-war decade, but for most ordinary people the 70’s brought new experiences that their parents and grandparents could barely have imagined. In 1971, British tourists took around four million holidays outside of the seaside resorts and holiday camps of 60’s Britain– the package holiday envisaged by Thomas Cook had finally come-of-age!
For even relatively poor, working-class families, holidays no longer meant Blackpool or Bognor but exotic locations ‘abroad’ such as Malta and Majorca. Places no longer just names on a map and once regarded with suspicion, now meant two weeks of sun, sea, sand and sangria.
From pornography in the corner shop to computers in the office, the cultural landscape of British life changed more rapidly and inexorably between 1970 and 1980 than during any other post-war decade.
The fact that so many children had Raleigh Choppers and space hoppers indicates that even working-class families now had a growing disposable income and could afford toys for their offspring. Would Star Wars, which first went on general release in Britain in early 1978, have become the success it did if there were no pennies in the piggy bank for all those expensive action figures?
Somewhere behind all those terrible economic and political headlines, ordinary British families, just ‘carrying on’ and ‘making do and mending’ were, in actual fact better off than they ever had been.