I remember back in the 60s, all the kids of a certain age would compete to get the best looking Guy Fawkes. This wasn’t anything to do with the competitive spirit, but something much more important. Back then, from a small pit village in Barnsley, it was all about which street had the biggest bonfire and of course, the best fireworks. Organisation of the event being left to us kids for collecting the wood and funds for our festivities. Back in an age before the health and safety executive kindly looked after our health for us, and us “kids” were able to buy our own fireworks without any questions asked, our driving force was the money we could get for bonfire night.
The better-looking guys would bring in the most money, so it was in our interest, to rake in as much as possible, sometimes walking into the local town some five miles away pushing a wheelbarrow with our effigy proudly resplendent. The best spots for ‘guying’ would be taken up early and you really didn’t want to get into a turf war over this so far from home. Betting shops seemed to be an ideal place to “tout for business” hoping for a lucky win on the gee-gees to come our way – or a few pence of it anyway.
In 1960 the average take-home wage was around £7 a week and a firework fountain would cost as much as 4d for a good one. This was a lot of money to a young lad of 8, pocket-money for me and my brother back then being a tanner or 6 pence. 4d (there were 240 pennies in a pound back then) nowadays equates to 36p, 6 pence of which is VAT (which was introduced to the UK in 1973), which means that when you consider that our magic fountains better values now than they were 40 years ago.
And much safer these days thanks to our good friends the H.S.E.