Dr Derek J. Ripley looks back to the 1950s in Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 10:38 09 February 2015 | UPDATED: 18:03 19 January 2016
Our resident historian looks back at a torrid time in the history of this Lancashire delicacy
I believe it was the late William Robins who said: ‘If you can remember the 50s you must be over 60.’ Wise words, indeed.
Who could forget momentous events such as the signing of the Warsaw Pact in 1955, the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik in 1957 and the opening of the Preston bypass in 1958?
The Empire may well have been crumbling (it was eventually demolished and replaced by a Fine Fare supermarket in 1961) but, according to my research, the 50s was a golden age of unprecedented prosperity, stability and opportunity. It was a time when every child had rosy cheeks and the local bobby would give you a friendly clip round the ear if you were cheeky to the park-keeper, stole a bottle of milk from the milkman’s float or were found guilty of causing an explosion likely to endanger life or property.
The post-war period had witnessed a dramatic improvement in the standard of living, with a 40% increase in average real wages from 1950 to 1965. In 1957, a typical weekly family shopping basket cost 6d (or 1/9 if you threw in a few basic foodstuffs such as bread, milk and dripping). People were becoming increasingly prosperous. By 1958, every home had a gramophone, an upright piano and a TV in their front room, particularly if they were friends or relatives of the Kay Twins, Tony and Terry, one of the many criminal gangs operating out of the tough East End of Lytham.
But increasing prosperity wasn’t good news for the Lancashire tripe industry. The 1950s saw the introduction of fish fingers, washing machines and soft toilet paper, all of which tasted better than tripe.
People were getting fussier and were turning their noses up at the foodstuff which had once powered the industrial revolution. Children in particular were no longer prepared to enjoy a steaming bowl of stewed tripe and onions for their tea and preferred more exotic foods such as spaghetti hoops.
Tripe sales plummeted as a result of the end of rationing and the situation was made even worse by cheap foreign tripe imports.
The post-war tripe mountain became so huge it was considered a danger to public safety and even defeated attempts by a team of crack mountaineers and sherpas to reach the summit on at least three occasions.
British Tripe Council chairman Sir Roland Pratt looked on enviously as sales of potted meat, macaroni cheese and spam went through the roof. Acutely aware of the power of television, Sir Roland noticed that ITV was broadcasting not just adverts for these foods but also children’s programmes featuring characters sponsored by rival marketing boards such as the Fish Marketing Board’s Captain Cod, the Cornish Tourist Board’s Mr Pastie and the Pork Council’s Porkpie The Tailor Man.
Desperate times required desperate measures. Sir Roland held crisis talks with the BBC and demanded that they broadcast a TV programme which would encourage children to eat more tripe. Following prolonged negotiations, the BBC eventually agreed, partly out of a sense of public duty but mainly because Sir Roland’s brother-in-law was head of children’s broadcasting .
The result was Tripe Club, to this day the only official tripe-based programme ever broadcast on terrestrial TV.
Next month, I plan to examine how the programme influenced a whole generation of youngsters until it was quietly dropped from schedules in the 1970s.
What are your Tripe Club memories? Do you have any Tripe Club memorabilia?
Contact Dr Ripley via twitter @Mr_Lancashire