John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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The jammy letter

Early Days
***Strong language!***
 1. One day, both Chris and Trevor were at my house. We were in my bedroom, bored as usual, when one of us had an idea of something to do: “Let’s send Jones a letter!”

 2. This was at a time when we thought it hugely funny to send abusive or threatening letters to people. We once got a street map of Middlesbrough
[1] from somewhere; and we figured that on a certain road—it was a long, main road—there would be a house-number, say 156; and we sent a letter to “The Occupier” there. It was something to the effect that he had greatly offended someone we knew, and that if he didn’t immediately comply with our demands—perhaps send the offended person “a written apology”—then he or his family would “suffer an irreplaceable bereavement”. We didn’t post the letter in Thornton—we were a bit worried that it might be traced back to us—so Trevor took it and posted it in Kirkham, because it would have a Preston postmark. Trevor went to Kirkham Grammar School.
[1] It was Middlesbrough, according to Chris, in conversation in 1979. Trevor thought it was Huddersfield. Perhaps we sent more than one.
 3. This is a digression: we thought it highly amusing to make insulting or threatening telephone calls as well. You could get free calls on the old “Button A”, “Button B” telephones by “tapping” them.
 The correct mode of operation was to put the money in (four old pennies),[2] and when the call was answered press “Button A”. If the call failed, you could press “Button B” round the side of the coin box to get your money back. To “tap” the phone, we would dial each individual number, then as the dial was returning tap the receiver-rest that number of times before it got back. When dialling “0”, we didn’t tap the receiver-rest at all. Numbers with a “9” in them were difficult to tap, but Jones’s phone-number was dead easy: “Thornton 2200”![3]
[2] A penny (1d) was worth about 0.42 new pence.

[3] What we didn’t realise was that you didn’t have to turn the dial at all: just tapping the number was sufficient. The “0” would have required ten taps but for the fact that it was set up for calling the operator without any prior payment being made. Similarly, dialling “9” without any taps would have got through, because “999” was the number for the emergency services, available without prior payment.
 4. Trevor remembers making making a call (or calls) from the phone boxes at The Crescent, Cleveleys—that we judged from the phone-book entry that it was some old lady living on her own, tapped the number, and when it was answered said, “Fuck off, you cunt!”, and, “We’re coming to kill you!” I have no memory of this, but do not deny being there when it happened.

 My only memory of the abuse of public telephones is very tame by comparison. It was in the phone-box down Beechwood Drive, Thornton. Come to think of it, tapped calls to Jones’s number would have to be made in Thornton; to call a Thornton number from Cleveleys in those days would have required a prefix-code (probably with a lot of 9’s in it). In the Beechwood Drive phone-box I seem to remember dialling “0” and saying “Monkey nuts!” to the operator. On one occasion, she said, “Ha, ha! Same to you!” Click! On another occasion, a different lady said sternly, “Replace the receiver and leave immediately!” Of course, these were solo efforts; I suppose I would show some bravado if I was in a group.
 5. Back to the letter to Jones: we decided to send Jones a letter, and not a friendly one! I inserted a sheet of paper into my Underwood typewriter, and began.
Undear Jones,
I could hardly make it “Dear Jones” if it was going to be an abusive letter!
This is to inform you that you are the most useless
The others chipped in with suggestions for the stream of abuse that formed the text of the letter before I typed my own name as the signature of the letter. What I typed after that was wholly my own idea:
P.S. You are a toad.
The others gave vent to bursts of unsuppressed laughter when they read it.

 6. We were all getting very carried away with this game, so it is not surprising that at this point Chris came up with the idea, “Let’s spread it with jam, like a piece of bread!” Visions of Jones opening the envelope, putting his long white fingers into the envelope and getting them covered in jam, increased our giddy glee. And we did just that; we took the letter downstairs to the kitchen, and slapped a knife-full of jam onto it. Then we carefully folded it and put it into a pre-typed envelope. (The envelope had to be pre-typed, of course; it couldn’t be typed when full of jam.)

 7. The letter could not now be sent through the post, however. Chris wasn’t associated by name with the contents of the letter, though, so he volunteered (or one of us volunteered him!) to deliver it to Jones. This would also allow him the dubious thrill of witnessing, first-hand, Jones opening it, and hopefully putting his long white fingers into the envelope. He took Fairhurst with him to Jones’s house, for moral support, just in case Jones turned nasty when he opened the letter. Fairhurst lived near Chris at 36 Ascot Road, on the way to Jones’s.
[4] See Chris’s comment, below, where he describes an additional event en route.

Jones’s house, 53 Victoria Road, Thornton, 2003 photo
 8. Suppressing their excitement, Chris and Fairhurst went up to Jones’s front door and rang the bell.
Ding-dong ding-dong.  Pause.
 Jones appeared. “Hello, Chris!” he said quietly, noticing also Fairhurst who in his apprehension had taken his stand well behind Chris.
 “Oh, hello, David!” said Chris, trying to inject as much blue-eyed innocence into his words as possible. “I’ve got a letter from Cooper for you.”
 Jones was both intrigued and suspicious. “Really!” he said. He wasn’t daft, wasn’t Jones; he must have sized up the expressions on both Chris’s and Fairhurst’s faces soon after opening the door. There they were on the doorstep, anticipation written all over their faces, with bated breath to see what would happen. Would Jones open the envelope? Would he put his fingers inside? Would he get covered in jam?
 Jones took the letter. They waited, eyes fixed on him. Jones must immediately have thought, There’s something wrong with this envelope—because he felt it with his fingertips, and said, “’S funny— this envelope’s lumpy!”
 They continued to try to pretend that they hadn’t noticed. “We don’t know,” they might have said: “open it and find out!”—secretly thinking, Ooh, put your fingers in it and get all covered in jam!
 But Jones just opened the corner, tore off half the top and looked inside.
 “It’s got jam in it!” he said with disdain, without surprise—as if this was what could be typically expected from someone like “Cooper”.

 9. So, for all our expectant laughter in preparing the jammy letter, we failed in our trick and Jones got no jam on him, except perhaps a very small amount on the tip of his finger when probing to see if the letter really was filled with jam.

Thank you for this beautifully written and well illustrated account of the Jammy Letter incident. As you can probably imagine, when I first read it, I laughed until my sides ached! According to my own recollections, it is indeed a very accurate description of what happened. The only additional thing which came to mind as I read it was this: as Fairhurst and I were walking along Victoria Road, on our way to deliver the letter to Jones, we stopped at about the junction with Hawthorne Road in order to allow ourselves a final fit of laughter. We wanted to get it out of our system so as to arrive at Jones's place as composed, and indifferent to the contents of the letter, as possible. But, like you said, Jones wasn't daft, and I think he had the situation sized up from the outset!
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