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Gold stars and brownie points


If we did well in class when I was a child we would have gold stars or silver stars stuck in our exercise books at the end of our work. We would rather have had something more  tangible, like a bar of chocolate, but a gold star was an event; it was an achievement. It was an emotional reward.

Not all the teachers believed in this rewarding school of thought. There were the ones who believed in ‘discipline’, the power of the cane and other devices of corporal punishment. The physical punishments were only part of the incentive to try hard at school. The constant threats and aggression from your teacher was also meant to turn you into some sort of super performing genius. The incentives were such that you might even risk asking a parent or sibling for help with your elementary studies of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

Personally, I preferred the silver stars and the occasional gold star when teacher was in a good mood. It encouraged me far more than a whack across the fingers with a ruler by the school sociopath.

Did you know that cocoa trees grow in Sri Lanka? It wasn’t called Sri Lanka when I was a child, it was Ceylon. I learnt about cocoa trees when someone came from Cadbury’s and showed us a film about it. They also gave us a small bar of chocolate which was also an emotional reward and made me remember the occasion. That’s over 50 years ago and I still have a soft spot for Cadbury’s chocolate even though it was bought up by Kraft and is now part of Mondelēz International. Do they show films in schools and give kids free chocolate? No, it’s a different world now… Sadly…

We give ourselves emotional rewards these days. We go shopping and people even get addicted to it. Food of all kinds is available. The days of fish and chips have gone. Now the kids can choose between a myriad of foods from all over the world. They usually choose the one advertised that they think is cool and fashionable. Going for a pizza is an occasion of sorts, but is it as exciting as getting a free bar of chocolate and a film about Ceylon?

We had money with quaint Victorian sounding names when I was a kid. We had farthings, halfpennies, pennies, thrupenny bits, tanners, shillings, florins and half crowns. I bought half a pint of beer yesterday, it cost over a pound. I could buy half a pint for sixpence when I was a kid. Money was worth something in those days. There was 240 pennies to the pound too, not 100 like nowadays. I use a plastic cards for most purchases now. I’m losing the sorting through coins to find the right change skill that I used to have. I’m now in the world of pin numbers,  memorable words and a million passwords.

I miss silver stars, gold stars, Cadbury’s chocolate, proper chips,  Dan Dare, The Goons, Rupert the Bear and I even have nostalgic memories of the nit nurse. I got out of bed this morning and couldn’t tell which were the socks I had taken off last night and which were the clean ones for today. Years ago you could smell them from 100 paces… Clean socks? You were lucky if you could find a pair without holes…

Times change… Some people get nostalgic about the 1980’s. Remember the Sinclair ZX81? That was the start of Britain being bought by foreigners as all our industry was sacrificed on the altar of Thatcherism.

What decade did you survive your childhood in? Please share your memories and nightmares in the comments box. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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