Picture painted of the ‘50s is not one that I recognise

I SHARE the concerns of Charles Braithwaite regarding acts of vandalism in the borough, (Letters, July 28), but I disagree with his description of the scale of it, and his recollection of an era when he considers that behaviour of youngsters was of a much higher standard, and criminal activity was limited to what he describes as “acts of mischief” perpetrated by youngsters on council estates. The latter comment, for which it is highly unlikely to be proven, is perhaps indicative of some unsubstantiated remarks, in his polemic rant.

As regards the scale of vandalism in the borough, the indication from reports in the Scarborough Evening News, is that it is nowhere near as bad as claimed. I base this observation not only on the frequency of news stories about vandalism, but more especially on the reports published in the Friday edition of parish council meetings. At these meetings, a report will be presented by a member of the police force, usually a PCSO, which gives details of the incidents of crime in the area, including of course any vandalism, if indeed any such acts have occurred. North Yorkshire remains one of the most law abiding areas in England, and crimes such as vandalism which are duly reported locally, would never make the columns of newspapers in many other areas of the country. It is also probably unlikely that vandalism is not dealt with appropriately by “the authorities” as claimed, other than possibly when such acts are allegedly committed by our annual visitors to the Seamer Horse Fair.

In respect of those halcyon days of old, my recollection of the 1950s when I was a teenager is somewhat different to that of Charles Braithwaite. It has been well documented that in the 1950s, the country was plagued with gangs of so called Teddy Boys, many of whom regularly sought confrontation and participated in violent assaults on other gangs and others as a way of life. This behaviour was often ignored by the police forces at the time, and many avoided criminal records and were therefore not included in crime statistics. A degree of mitigation for these gangs was that at the age of 18, they would be required to serve in the armed forces for two years, and at the time this might be on active service in Korea, known as the National Service War, or other of Britain’s so called “small wars” such as Malaya, Cyprus and Kenya. They were, therefore, just letting off steam, and after their return to Civvy Street they would become model citizens. Sadly for some this was not the case, and I for one as an ex-serviceman myself, do not consider compulsory military service to be a solution to criminal activity by youngsters.

Reference was made to police officers administering a so called “clip round the ear”. This is surely a good example of apocryphal recollection. Police officers in the 1950s were never permitted to administer an assault on miscreants, and in my experience and that of others I know who lived during the period, and were apprehended for minor misdemeanours, this just did not occur. Of course, a case of resisted arrest may well have resulted in more than just a “clip” as of course it might today. I am certain that whilst some parents may have condoned such behaviour if it ever existed, many, including my parents, would have made an official complaint. In the unlikely event of a seasoned Teddy Boy thug being “clipped”, this would have invited severe retaliation and therefore escalated into an incident.

Whilst drugs and drink are not blamed by Mr Braithwaite, who has an open mind as far as causes of vandalism is concerned, many others lay the blame on bad behaviour in town centres, on an increased amount of drink and drugs consumed. It was therefore very interesting and indeed pleasing to learn that a recent report published by the NHS Information Centre, indicated a substantial and dramatic reduction in the use of drink and drugs among youngsters under the age of 16, and which is the lowest for 10 years. This is potentially signalling the start of a more clean cut generation, which is turning its back on binge drinking adults.

I hesitate to offer unsubstantiated evidence myself, but after living in the borough for eight years, and being in contact with scores of youngsters via my involvement with Scarborough Athletic Club as press officer, I fail to recognise the picture painted not only by Charles Braithwaite, but sadly others who are quick to condemn the majority for misdeeds of a minority, many of whom may not permanently reside in the borough anyway. As the town’s logo indicates, Scarborough is a great place to live, work and retire, so will correspondents please cease to indicate otherwise.

Mick Thompson

Byward Drive