Gosh oh gee

Alan Allport

  • Being Boys: Youth, Leisure and Identity in the Interwar Years by Melanie Tebbutt
    Manchester, 352 pp, £75.00, February 2012, ISBN 978 0 7190 6613 9

In August 1937, Les Tebbutt, a 17-year-old boy from Northampton, attended a Boys’ Brigade summer camp in Mablethorpe on the Lincolnshire coast. One night, as he and his friends made their way back through the camp after a trip to Butlin’s Pleasure Fair and a fish and chip supper, he noticed a ‘nice girl’ watching him from one of the caravans. After a few days of shy manoeuvring he got the chance to walk with her among the sand dunes. He then returned to Northampton, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the girl, Joan Burton. He wrote to her and she wrote back in a friendly but non-committal way. In September he went to visit her for the day, cycling sixty miles each way. Tebbutt continued his pursuit by letter throughout the autumn, but though his interest in the relationship was undiminished, Joan’s replies became less and less frequent. By Christmas he felt frustrated, but wasn’t sure whether or not to break it off. So he sought advice in a distinctively modern way: he wrote to Ruth English, agony aunt of Everybody’s, a weekly tabloid.

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