Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Remembering Johnny

Some more memories of Johnny and stuff I've come across while we've been sorting out the wheat from the chaff at the house he shared with my late Nan for over 35 years:
  • While I knew he was a keen rifleman, I didn't realise how good he was. For a spell in the 1970s he won at least 12 trophies at Epsom Rifle Club and was good enough to win free entries into three national newspapers' open championships.
  • I was wrong about the MG - he didn't prang it in the '60s. The car he crashed on the A23 (on a stretch of road now covered by Gatwick Airport) was written off. The MG was bought in 1962 (for £423) and used until the late '60s when it was put into storage in Tommy Crossley's garage. Tommy was Johnny's best friend and lived two doors down when they were kids.

  • He built a canoe (and "pinched" a pair of paddles) which he soon overturned in a deep part of the river, nearly drowining himself.

  • In the early 1950s he would go to the pictures, with his mates or alone, 4 or 5 times a week. But then, so did lots of people back then. There were more cinemas and more films back then!

  • Johnny was a good harmonica player and played in bands in his time. We've found 4 Hohner Chromonica harmonicas, in various states of repair - I'm sure that at least 2 of them are playable.

  • His work as a cartographer for the Overseas Development Administration demanded great accuracy and attention to detail. This spilled over to his love for graphic design, typefaces and cartooning. We found dozens, maybe a couple of hundred, sheets of paper and cardboard covered (sometimes literally) with doodles, sketches, designs and hand-drawn and painted lettering - most of it so well done that it would be taken for Letraset at first glance, but then you notice the construction lines underneath. Some sketches seem to indicate that he had a small sideline, maybe unpaid, in sign-writing and designing business cards or adverts for businesses.

  • For around 3 years in the mid-1960s, Johnny was a member of Lasham Gliding Club and he learned to fly gliders.

  • We uncovered a notebook with some handwritten notes that seem to read like a memoir. Some parts are obviously autobiographical. Some could be fictional. But they are written in an easy, almost informal style, but with a real sense of flair and poetry. It's impossible to tell when they were written, or if he ever intended to write more. If only he'd shown them to someone - the talent he had for writing shines through. I'll reproduce parts of it here soon.
This is all random stuff now, much of which I had no idea about before this sad week. The one thing I don't really know - and haven't found any clues about - is what sort of music he liked. I would have thought he'd be a rock'n'roller, but Dad doesn't seem to think so. All their records were stolen at a party, so there's no clues to go on - unless we manage to dig something up tomorrow.


jonnythecomedian said...

HHEEYYY...my name's jonny :P
btw nice profile photo i made one of those once too


Kerry said...

Hi - The MG was in use well into the early 80's... (it may well have only been driven on special occasions though!)
I remember being taken for a spin when I was about 7 years old. That MG made the long journey from Tommy's garage all the way to sunny Gloucestershire

chux said...

Would love to see some of the sketches. Such an interesting life too by the sounds of it.