Why the memory of Fairy Liquid still smarts

9:10pm Tuesday 3rd August 2010

By Steve Wakefield

THE formal opening and running of steam hauled trains on the world’s first heritage railway was on August 7, 1960.

So it is 50 years since the Bluebell Railway ran its first steam train at a time when Swindon had only just finished building the last steam locomotive for British Railways.

This was one of many firsts and events that occurred in 1960.

Proctor and Gamble launched Fairy Liquid with the slogan “now hands that do dishes can feel as soft as your face with mild green Fairy Liquid.”

The liquid came in an iconic white bottle with a red top and like the Fairy Snow boxes had a baby in a nappy emblazoned upon it. Its washing powder, Fairy Snow, was a high suds powder and as a child I was fascinated by the bubbles thrown out by the twin tub washing machine, which my mam was so proud of.

Now that was when wash day caused much disruption, taking several hours to complete.

My first encounter with Fairy Liquid came when playing in the front garden.

We lived on a busy main road and mam would tie up the front gates to keep me penned in.

As a promotion Proctor and Gamble were delivering free samples of Fairy Liquid to homes. The lady delivering the sample failed miserably to untie the gates. Calling me over she handed me the small bottle and told me to “take it to mummy.”

I examined it carefully and around the collar was a label that demonstrated how to open the top and use it.

Like Pandora with a box I promptly popped the lid open and peered down the tiny hole to see what was in it.

I could see none of the magical green liquid so gave it a good hard squeeze with both hands and bingo, out squirted green liquid right into my eyes!

Did it ever sting! I threw it down and went in, not knowing if I should cry or let onto my mam that I had tampered with her gift.

In the end, eyes stinging, I blurted out what happened.

Mam sat there looking at me over her knitting, studying the green slime on my face and hands, which by now I was rubbing into my clothes.

I was trying desperately to squeeze out some tears, hoping for some sympathy.

All that did was make the stinging worse, mam smiled and said “serves you right for touching things that don't concern you.”

She then propelled my head under the kitchen tap and vigorously washed my eyes.

Today Proctor and Gamble would probably be hearing from my no-win no-fee solicitor with much talk of risk assessments; oh how times have changed!

Talking of soap, towards Christmas 1960 a TV appeared in the front room.

Our local TV station, Granada, launched a new programme – Coronation Street with characters Ken Barlow, Ena Sharples, pictured below, Minnie Caldwell and Elsie Tanner.

Ken Barlow was a young, chain smoking university graduate. In one of the early programmes Ken warned that the world was shrinking and there was more to life that gossiping about Elsie Tanner’s boyfriends.

Ken was right, we now live in a global village. However Corrie characters like the Fairy Liquid bottle may have changed over the years but the contents are still soap that on occasions may bring a tear to the eye!

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