Memories: “…one cannot get another set.”

You see, there are all those early memories; one cannot get another set; one has but those.

Willa Cather, Shadows on the Rock

I sometimes think of Cather’s words when I visit the classrooms or the playground or attend the performances and events at PDS. It is there that our teachers are helping students build their storehouse of memories. And I think – what lucky children – to have so many experiences where the challenge is joyful, the learning active and interactive, and the moment memorable.

I was jarred into thinking of Cather’s words by this week’s fortieth anniversary of the release of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper album. (The cover even appears on a first class stamp from the Royal Mail). The reverie led me to recall when I first heard of the album – sitting in sunshine on the platform of Cardiff General Station reading Wilfred Meller’s review in the New Statesman. (Since taking on the persona of a serious student I had stopped reading the Melody Maker where no doubt I would have heard of the new Beatles album much sooner.) . It was June and I was waiting for a train to take me to a summer job at the Bridge Hotel in the Lake District. (A very beautiful place between Buttermere and Crummock Water, at the foot of Buttermere Fell and a very long way from anywhere in 1967.)

It was to be a summer of making beds, washing vegetables, serving petrol from the single pump and waiting tables. On one of the first days off, and with my first wages, I took the bus into Keswick and bought the album. I think it cost about 32 shillings and it was certainly a sizeable chunk of my weekly wages. One of the other hotel workers had a Garrard turntable and we shared the few records we had.

A week or so later, after I had saved enough, I bought a transistor radio. Sgt. Pepper was to be part of the soundtrack of that summer together with A Whiter Shade of Pale -Procul Harem, San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) – Scott McKenzie , Itchycoo Park -The Small Faces and anything else that Radio Luxembourg and the pirate radio stations beamed into my ear. Somewhere else, I could tell, something big and important was going down and it was my job to find out where and get there as soon as possible. (Plus graduate, of course.)

The radio survived until it fell in the bathtub sometime in the mid seventies.

Here is the stamp and the hotel. And below, some possible memories in the making for PDS students.



  1. Jenny Davis:

    Who else could manage to come the Beatles with Buttermere, Willa Cather and waiting tables? Such a delightful combination of PDS and the personal. And – yes our memories are precious. And the ones we help to build for children are precious too.

  2. Eileen:

    Who was your favourite Beatle?

    • I liked the music well enough. I bought the singles and albums when I could and eagerly looked forward to the – then – rare opportunities to hear it even on the radio. It was all exciting. This was “our moment”.

      However, I was not transfixed. I was not a Beatlemanic. I read the Music Maker on Thursdays and sometimes the New Musical Express. I was into Woody Guthrie not Bob Dylan . I was aspiring to be a purist

      “Who’s your favourite Beatle?” was always the question and from adults especially. It was their way of showing connection! So to head it all off I had to have an answer.

      Paul was the most popular as he was said to be the best looking. So it couldn’t be Paul. Ringo was said to be not so smart and didn’t write the songs – so not Ringo. John was said to be the clever one but he was almost as popular as Paul. So not John. And that left George. All this – of course – had moved along by the time of Sgt. Pepper. The Beatles were individually and collectively stumbling into something beyond pop fame.

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