Bristol Chronicles 1960 - 1965
'Three Steps To Heaven'
1960 - The death of a rock and roll legend on the local scene didn't even make page one of the Evening Post on April 17th, 1960. Whoever was in charge of choosing that day's main stories for the Post had never heard of 'Summertime Blues', 'C'mon Everybody' or 'Three Steps To Heaven'. And the name Eddie Cochran clearly rang no bells at all when the morning news conference was called.
Although one of the most influential figures in late 50s teen culture and later a hero of the great hall of fame of young, dead rockers like Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Otis Redding and John Lennon had died in a tragic road crash on the Post's 'patch', the event was only given sparse coverage. Turn to Page One that Monday and you'll search in vain for the tale of Cochran's death. You have to turn the pages to find the news, and even then Eddie Cochran's demise isn't the introduction.
'Two American recording stars, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, who headed the bill in a rock'n'roll show at Bristol Hippodrome last week, and were due to fly home to America, were involved in a crash yesterday. 'Mr Cochran died, without regaining consciousness, at St Martin's Hospital, Bath yesterday afternoon. Mr Vincent, with a fractured collarbone, is still detained there. 'Within an hour of leaving Bristol for London after the last performance on Saturday, the hire car in which they were travelling collided with a lamp standard at Rowden Hill on the outskirts of Chippenham.
'Mr Cochran's body will eventually be taken back to America for burial. 'There were two other passengers, Miss Sharon Sheeley (20), an American song- writer and Mr Patrick Tompkins (29), a theatrical agent of St James Road, Camberwell, London. 'They too are detained at St Martin's Hospital,in the city of Bath. Miss Sheeley with injuries to back and thigh, and Mr Tomkins with facial injuries and a suspected fracture of the base of the skull. 'Neither Mr Vincent nor his two friends were said last night to be on the danger list.
'The driver of the car, Mr George Martin of Bristol, was unhurt. 'There were no other vehicles involved. Mr Tompkins said: 'Just outside Chippenham the front tyre blew out and we skidded sideways into a lamp standard'. 'He added that he had been planning to take a train back to London from Bristol but Mr Vincent suggested travelling by taxi.' The Everly brothers, Don and Phil, were in Bristol the next day and were deeply shocked by the news.
They rang the Bath hospital to ask if Sharon Sheeley could receive visitors and later came to her bedside to comfort the gifted, sparky young songwriter who lay injured and devastated by the tragedy. She recovered and returned home. The taxi driver was later fined and disqualified for dangerous driving. As for Eddie Cochran, his reputation as rock'n'roll's equivalent of James Dean grew and grew. His small collection of songs are now regarded as some of the classics of early rock'n'roll.
1961-The Arnolfini is established by Jeremy and Annabel Rees above a bookshop on the Triangle. Clifton.
1962 -The skyline of Bristol, historic city of hills, towers and spires, changed dramatically in the early 60s. And 1962 was the year Bristol started to reach for the sky with the two first-ever 'skyscrapers' which would usher in two decades of building up and up and up. They weren't on the New York scale, but to Bristolians they looked like giants.
The printing company Robinson's space- age headquarters by Bristol Bridge was a whopper, a mega-block of light colour which stood out dramatically against its redbrick, low-rise neighbours. Clifton Heights on the Triangle wasn't as big, bulky or tall but its position on the Clifton hillside made it visible for miles around. High rise was a novelty when the Post sent reporter Roger Bennett to take a look at the two giants rising over the Bristol scene.
Colour bar against black bus crews
1963 - Paul Stephenson leads anti-racist protests against Bristol Omnibus Company following the company’s refusal to consider black people for jobs.
On the 30th of April 1963 local West Indian activists publicly exposed Bristol Omnibus Company's long standing colour bar against black bus crews. The bar was perfectly legal, for although an Immigration Act had been passed the year before, no law yet existed against racial segregation or discrimination.
The Bus Company initiated the ban after a union ballot of workers in 1955. The Passenger Group of the TGW Union in Bristol reportedly passed a resolution in January of that year that coloured workers should not be employed, as bus crews.
Ron Nethercott, the TGWU’s regional secretary, adamantly denied any decision to ban West Indians had been made: ‘...there is no colour bar. We have a lot of coloured members in Bristol, most of them on the labouring side.'
Strictly speaking, Nethercott was right. The TGWU as a whole did not operate a colour bar. Indeed, the Quaker owned Fry’s chocolate factory employed several hundred black workers who were bona fide members of Nethercott’s union. But what Nethercott omitted to explain was that the TGWU had not opposed their Passenger Division from passing a colour bar on the buses!
The bus company’s General Manager, Ian Patey was a bit more forthcoming. A few West Indians, he reportedly explained: 'were employed in the garage but this was labouring work in which capacity most employers were prepared to accept them.'
Malcolm Smith’s article concluded that a formal colour bar probably did exist on the buses, despite the denials of both union and management. Sometime in 1962, Ena Hackett, Roy Hackett’s wife, applied for a job as bus conductress and was turned down, despite the reported labour shortage on the buses: 'it always been in the newspaper, the Evening Post that, ‘we cannot run the buses because we haven’t got any staff ‘And at the time my wife had applied for a job on the buses. Unfortunately, it was always, ‘No, we can’t have you.’ Then there was no law against discrimination.' 'People tend to forget there were no laws against racism'
1965 -The Race Discrimination Act is passed by Parliament after Bristol East MP Tony Benn takes up the campaign started by Paul Stephenson.
The Cumberland Basin road and bridge scheme opens
1965 - Wednesday April 14th The Cumberland Basin road and bridge scheme opens. It should have been a day for motorists to celebrate in road-crazy Bristol. After all, the city's leaders were demolishing Georgian relics on the edge of Broadmead as fast as they could to clear the way for the Bond Street dual carriage-way. Old Market was being dismembered for the great slice of underpass and bridgework to make Temple Way a swifter journey for the motorist.
There were firm plans to send a four-lane a motorway charging through inner suburbs like Totterdown, Clifton and Cotham. And Bristol's proudest achievement, its very own spaghetti junction to make life easier for the commuters pouring in from the new satellite towns of Nailsea, Portishead and Clevedon, was being opened by Transport Minister Mr Tom Fraser. Mr Fraser, however, wasn't in cel bratory mood. . .he sounded more like a prophet of gloom.
'Transport Minister Mr Tom Fraser warned motorists that he is considering a congestion tax' to beat city jams. 'He is planning further steps to discourage people from using cars in and around city centres. 'Parking controls, loading and unloading and no waiting restrictions have to be used more strongly in the future, he said.
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