Blogging 1940s-style now gone with the wind

Posted on by Mike Evans

My grandfather, Harry MacOldie, was a great blogger. He wouldn't have recognised the term of course, but he couldn't resist putting pen to paper. Which is strange, considering he was a grocer with a relatively limited education. He had a good turn of phrase and I would consider him to be a good writer. Maybe this is where I get my writing enthusiasm from. I was a journalist, so I suppose that helps. Grandpa was a fanatical cyclist, stalwart of the Wigan CTC (Cyclists' Touring Club) and an inveterate jotter. I suppose his Sturmey Archer was akin to my Drobo; and he certainly lost no time in telling the world about his exploits, mostly in north Lancashire, the Lake District or north Cheshire. Unfortunately his world was a bit circumscribed. How he would have loved to have had an internet blog. 

Right: Blogging gear, 1943     

I have a collection of beautifully preserved accounts of wartime cycle rides, presumably on deserted roads. Paper was at a premium, probably almost unavailable, and the stories are typed laboriously on stained quarto sheets. They are bound in brown paper and stapled precisely for posterity. He was quite ingenious and obviously had a collection of typewriters to allow different styles. He had one with a smaller, italic font and he would swop his pages from machine to machine to add an emphasis. Some stories have been laboriously typed several times, each version with small improvements.

How far we have come in the last 60 years. Many of these stories were published in the CTC magazine and they convey the scent of the time and illustrate the privations of warfare on the civilian front. They also provide an insight into the life of a grocer who closed early on Wednesdays and thought nothing of riding 60 miles to the Lake District for the afternoon. He had a good sense of humour and one article tells the story of his obsession and love for Lucy who eventually turns out to be a full-size adult tricycle of wayward habits. One of his last contributions was the poignant account of a run to Cheshire on the Sunday after VE day.

Currently I am transcribing these old articles which, if nothing else, have historic and curiosity value. I will get round to posting them and will provide links from here in case anyone is interested. In these days of Twitter, Facebook and unlimited blogging--everyone can now become a publisher--we have lost sight of how primitive things were even 20 years ago. I am old enough to remember the days before computers, before cellphones; the days of carbon paper (remember that? It now exists only in bureaucracies like Greece where the introduction of more computing power would put the paper-form-obsessed Luddite public sector out of work) and mechanical typewriters with black and red fabric ribbons. Now the opportunities are so much greater but, sometimes, we take them for granted.

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