Badges of Honour.

I have a new pal! His name is Jonathan too and, if you’re any kind of film/TV geek, you should follow him on Twitter. His handle is @SquidyUK. His recent flurry of tweeting has been fantastic as he’s been clearing out his childhood home and finding incredible, awful, baffling pop culture detritis. A kindred spirit. My attic is full of boxes full of such beautiful crap and it’s a wonderful thing to see somebody else’s ‘collection’.

Recently he posted a picture of a couple of Muppets badges from the ’70s and that suddenly reminded of something lurking beside the filing cabinet in my spare room. Last year, when my mum had asked me to clear out my old bedroom, I’d found a drawstring bag at the back of the wardrobe and opened it to reveal a long forgotten collection. My first ever collection. Well, technically it was a joint collection with my sister. Although I went on to avidly collect various things, right into adulthood, this was where it began. Looking at it now, it seems it was quite a passive collection. I really don’t remember the origins of a lot of the badges but just by looking at them generally, I can’t imagine actually having asked for many of them. I can’t remember actually wearing ANY of them. I guess in the 70’s and 80’s you just gave kids badges. Like some strange ritual that neither side really understood ‘Kids seem to like these things’ ‘it seems to make adults happy to give me these things’

Does it still go on? I still see badges of band logos and stuff but do you still get weird corporate badges? They’re probably all… downloadable or something now, right?

Anyway, here are some highlights from my collection. I’d say it spans from when my sister was a baby in ’73 up until I no longer cared in 1987. I’d have been 11 then. The golden age seems to be around 1980 – 1984.

So, here we go…

What’s ‘BIG ‘G”? No idea.
What’s ICE? Haven’t got a clue.
Hall 5 of where? Nope.

What were we seeking? I don’t know, we were young. Seriously, I have no idea what we were seeking or where we got the badges from. We weren’t seafaring people.

This is one of my favourites! What’s a ‘surge’? What kind of company is trying to ‘keep business away’? Anyone in Brighton got an answer to these questions?

Proof positive that the UK was getting Matey with the Middle East in the 80’s. Oh, shut up.

A lot of modern advertising copy is just crappy aspirational non-sequitors but in the 80’s the sloganeering was almost impenetrably baffling. ‘GOOD GRIEF’ seems a strange slogan for jeans. Conversely, Austin Rover get right to the point – 1986 WAS industry year. Wasn’t it? 1986? No?

I’m fairly sure my parents didn’t read The Guardian at all. Maybe they did, wore the badge and were offered some form of counseling.

I remember these two well! I think the badges came with one of my comics – Buster, maybe. I was SO excited when these got released. Up until that point, the most exciting tomato-sauce swamped tinned pasta product was Alphabetti Spaghetti which, to be honest, was getting boring by the early 80s. I demanded and, surprisingly, received these as a replacement. Although Invaders were the single most exciting food event of my young life (replaced shortly after by a cola flavoured ice lolly in the actual shape of Mr T), I was genuinely scared of Haunted House. The advert was creepy, I didn’t trust the man doing the voice-over and I had a suspicion that there might be some kind of evil lurking within each can.

I dread to think what I might have done three times at Pizzaland to warrant such commendation.

A bit of philosophy for you, there.

True story: In 1981, when Prince Charles and Princess Di got married, my sister’s class at school went to Roxon recording studios and recorded a song called ‘You’re getting married today!’ (I still remember every word, by the way), the day before the wedding, a copy of the single – pressed on vinyl – was presented to the presumably baffled couple by Sir Jimmy Saville. Oh, and my sister lost her voice on the day of the recording and was told just to mime.

No, you’re absolutely right, that IS a gold MASTER BUILDERS Lego club badge. I might have had a photo in the Lego Club magazine. It might have been very highly regarded and I might have been bestowed the highest honour a Lego… person… can be bestowed.

Who’s John Wilman? I don’t know.
What did he collect? We may never find out.

The years 1930-1980 are generally regarded to have been the golden age of jam-based racism.

Various campaign badges: ‘Save a baby from being born spastic’ that doesn’t sound right, does it? And was there really such a widespread problem with young children not using their postcode that a neon pink elephant needed to be drafted in? Ken 4London – I assume is Ken Livingstone, who my parents hate, so I have no idea where that came from.
I’m so so so happy to have found my Green Cross Code badges! The GCC Man actually visited my school – DAVE PROWSE! The guy who played Darth Vader! The rumour spread around school fast that he was bringing R2D2 with him. He turned up in white and green spandex looking like a musclebound tube of toothpaste and told us to use the GCC (‘WE KNOWWWWWWWW!’ shouted Paul Sanders to my eternal amusement) He then performed a song. I say performed, he mimed to a record. He had to cue our teacher to start the record. Then he sang in front of a room full of children who were young but not young enough to know how hilariously stupid he looked singing ‘Stop, look listennnnnnn….. AND THINK!’ There then followed a brief question and answer session which constituted the constant repetition of ‘why aren’t you dressed as Darth Vader’ and ‘have you brought R2D2 with you?’ in various tones of mistrust.

I didn’t.

It wasn’t.

Apparently, in the ’80s, we weren’t eating enough FLOUR.

My dad used to take me to big computer industry expo things where I’d load up on freebies. I expected to find more, actually, but I think this is worth showing purely for the U.K. Gold badge. i’m amazed that it appears to be the only badge in my collection that proclaims something ‘RULES O.K.!’ As I remember, EVERYTHING in the ’80s ruled O.K.

We were a very literary family.

I’ve often wandered why, in adult life, I have retained an affection for Gordon Hudson & Co Surveyors and Estate Agents. That’s that mystery solved, then!

And finally….

I still am!

Published in: on June 11, 2011 at 5:35 pm  Comments (4)  

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  1. What an interesting picture of the years of your youth – and to think that you were really reluctant to take responsibility for the badge collection until recently! The collection began when your sister was very small when we visited a rather odd person who clearly felt obliged to present a visiting toddler with something and could only find an old badge – I think it may have been from Colwyn Bay, small, black and yellow and slightly bent. By the time you came along, the collection was already quite substantial. John Wilman was a fabric supplier who your dad dealt with. Grandma gave you the trombone one. I’ve been a Guardian reader for many years. The “surge” one is explained at but I have no idea where it came from.

    I still automatically save any badges I come across for you…

    • – that’s the Colwyn Bay one.
      You read The Independent the whole time I was growing up. And we all know what Dad read.
      That’s amazing and confusing to have an explanation for the surge badge but what I really want to know is what BIG ‘G’ AT ICE was!

  2. Dave Prowse visited our school laden with those badges too – he made a joke about how they depicted him “without any teeth.” He did a whole Q + A section on Star Wars though, suggesting that it was maybe a bit later in the ‘tour’ and he knew the questions would be coming (maybe he cut the song for it – I don’t remember him singing).

    He also brought the house down with tales of how he keeps his body in shape, chanting “I must, I must, improve my bust” while his tit muscles tensed on the beat – which looked utterly marvellous in the lycra, obviously.

    • You can buy the single on Ebay, but I\m not spending that much money for it. I remember him doing the booby dance too! Fantastic!

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