John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Pamela’s third letter

***Warning: strong language!***
1965, the year that changed my life
Pamela’s second letter

Perhaps Monday 31st May 1965
 1. Judging by the postmark, “5.30
PM 30 MAY 1965”, I would have received Pam’s third letter the following day, Monday. She had written it the previous day, Saturday.

69, Upper Chorlton Rd.
Whalley Range,  
Manchester 16.

Dear John,
 Thanks for your letter. Glad to hear you arrived home safely. It was certainly good luck the way you all arrived home together.

I have no clear memory of what this refers to. The word “all” suggests that at least three people were involved; but Pam could have been using the word loosely, meaning both. The fact that our arriving “home” (presumably a pre-arranged rendezvous, say, at my house) “together” was considered as “good luck” (words probably quoted from my letter to her), implies that we travelled separately, which in turn implies that we hitch-hiked. On The Abortive Camping Expedition, I travelled with Peter, but perhaps on this occasion I had gained sufficient confidence to hitch-hike alone.
 Thursday 27th May 1965 was Ascension Day when we had a day off at Fleetwood Grammar School, and I could have decided to pay Pam a visit on that day. I can’t remember whether Chris’s school, Baines’ Grammar, had the day off too; but Chris was not averse to “skiving off” school anyway for the odd day, so if Baines’ didn’t have a holiday that day, it doesn’t mean that Chris couldn’t have come, to visit Hazel. However, dating the trip to Thursday doesn’t leave me much time to inform Pam by letter of the “good luck” we had in that we “all arrived home together”, and for Pam to pen her reply to me on Saturday.

 2. I have a number of memories of events which may or may not be connected to the visit in question:
  1. I remember being a passenger in a van, and if I am not mistaken I was the only passenger. It was definitely a hitch-hiking trip — I didn’t know the driver — and it was on the outward journey, not the homeward one. We were travelling through Preston, when suddenly a moped pulled out of a side-street from the right, just in front of us, so that the driver had to slam on his brakes. Overcome by a wave of indignation, he wound the window down, and shouted out the single word, “CUNT!” He then turned to me, his tension subsided, and we laughed. Although at that time, my own use of offensive language had become purified by Christian influences, I nevertheless saw the humour of his outburst; it was, after all, quite appropriate in the context.
  2. On another occasion, I was with a driver who was trying to make conversation, but I couldn’t hear him very well. All I heard was the tone of a question and one word at the end: “…fight?” I suddenly felt scared; I thought he might be proposing stopping the vehicle and giving me a beating at the roadside. When I stuttered a reply, repeating his word “fight?”, however, it became obvious that he was referring to the boxing match[1] which had been televised the previous night, and was asking if I had seen “the fight”; so breathing a sigh of relief, I told him that I hadn’t.
  3. At our church in Fleetwood there was once a visit from the black South African evangelist Nicholas Bhengu, who told a moving story about a woman who protected her baby (in an earthquake, did he say?) by covering it with her own body; the woman was killed but the baby was saved. It was, I think, a sermon illustration about Christ’s self-sacrifice in dying for the salvation of every one of us. I remember relating the tale to Pam, whom I had met one afternoon at her house; we were alone at the time. I remember thinking how attractive she looked as I spoke to her.

    Nicholas Bhengu (1909–1985)
 Could these memories relate to the same visit? If my meeting with Pam alone happened at this time, it could be that she had the day off from her job at Boots, but that Hazel was working (at another branch, I think, of Boots) and that Chris had gone off there to see her.
[1] The boxing match: It seems likely that this was the world Heavyweight Champion rematch of Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston, held in Lewiston, Maine, at 10.30pm on 25th May 1965. I think it was shown “live” on TV, i.e. at 2.30am on Wednesday 26th May, since the time in Maine is 5 hours behind ours in the UK. If this was indeed “the fight” referred to, one should read “the night before last” rather than “the previous night”.

 3. Pam’s letter continued:

 I’m staying in tonight as there is no meeting at church as they’ve gone to support a convention in Yorkshire. Hazel and I couldn’t go as we were working (as usual).
Mum’s gone with Dad to Stafford for the weekend so we’ve got to look after ourselves.
 By the way, how’s Peter’s Father? We’ve been praying for him.
“Peter’s father”, a little man, short of stature and very thin, was also quite elderly — his white hair was thin on top and he was bald at the back — and he used to have a weak, gurgling cough. We were all praying for him at this time because of his ill-health, and also because he had not yet come to the Lord for salvation for his soul.
 Well, I’ll close now, John. See you next week.
   Love, Pam.
    x x x x x
Pamela’s fourth letter

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