Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Flags of the World, a little bit of our history

Now you can be very stuffy about history.  

At least one of my history teachers dismissed everything that had happened after 1914 and more recently my use of online historical sources was ridiculed as not serious research.

So with that in mind here is a little bit of history delivered through a collection of bubble gum cards, issued in the 1950s which I collected avidly.

They were the Flags of the World and came in waxed envelopes with a thin sheet of pink bubble gum.

For weeks after you purchased the cards they retained that faint sweet smell.

Looking back I hate to think what the gum did to my teeth or my insides.

But the cards were one of those crazes which took over me and my friends.

You bought them from the local sweet shop for waht I guess as a penny a time.

There were the serious collectors who kept their collections in immaculate condition and then there were those who used them to play card games.

I hovered between the two.

The game was simple enough, two cards were rested against a wall and the idea was to flick cards to knock them down.

The one who was successful got to collect all those that had been flicked but which had failed to deliver the knock down blow.

You could use any picture cards.  Back before the way these would have been the cards given away with cigarettes, but by the time I was growing up the “fag card” had been superseded by those that came in packets of tea.

So the tobacco smelling cards and given way to those smelling of tea and with Flags of the World came that aroma of bubble gum.

Now the Flags of the World were much favoured for the game because they were bigger and easier to flick and easier to knock down.

For most of my friends that was about it.  The flag itself and the facts that were contained on the back about each country were pretty much ignored.

And that was a pity because contained on the back of each card were facts like the Capital city, the population. Type of government, money unit and language.

Nor was that all because assuming that one day you might visit the Soviet Union. Israel or Italy there was the section How They Say.

This gave you four words which were seldom the same from card to card and offered up the translation.

So card number 26 which was Great Britain had the words Policeman, Movies, Candy and Terrific for which the translations ran BOOBY, CINMEA, SWEETS, and TOP-HO.

All of which is odd enough but places when for Italy the words were Hello, BON-JAW-NAY, Friend, AH-ME-GO, Goodbye AREEV-VEH-DEH-CHAY, and Thanks, GRATS-SEE-AH.

The cards were produced in the USA and so distances were calculated in air miles from New York.

All of which gives the cards a wonderful entree into the world of the 1950s when ait r travel which was still a distance experience for most of us was never the less becoming a more common form of global transport than the oceans.

And then there are those simple history lessons which come from flags which have long since vanished as the governmental system they represented have passed into history.

The USSR and all those east European communist states have gone as has that imperialist concoction known as Indo China along with the old Republic of South Africa and many more.

But despite all the uncertainties of the period the manufactures concluded the series with the flag of the United Nations which I always thought a nice touch.

That said I never remember coming across the blue flag of the U.N, for some of the cards were always more difficult to collect than others.

So for every flag of France I bought that of the USA always proved elusive.

I have long lost all mine and was only reminded of them recently when I came across the site Flags of the World where for a modest and in some cases less than modest out lay I could recreate my collection and in doing so savour something of the 1950s.

Now I bought them from our corner newsagents, but now all of them are available for at a tad  more than I paid for them at Flags of the World, sadly without the bubblegum.

And in that post Brexit world I will leave you with that flag of the UN and reflect on international cooperation and greater understanding.

Pictures; Flags of the World, courtesy of 
Flags of the World

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