Because my Boro book is going to be set in 1996 which is now 25 years ago (frightening thought!) I’m having to do a fair bit of research. Not only the football (most of which I have forgotten about) but also the general and social history of the period. It feels like yesterday, but it isn’t; it really is the past now. So, this morning found me at Stockton Reference Library. It’s a very civilised place to spend a morning, watching the carp in the ornamental fish pond outside the window, and I spent a happy three or four hours poring over microfilms of the [Middlesbrough] Evening Gazette.
I discovered several interesting things, as well as who scored Middlesbrough’s first goal of the 1996 Premier League season (or rather “Carling Premiership” as it was then) – it was Ravanelli, if you care, and he scored a hat trick. I could have sworn I was there, I want to say I remember it, but I didn’t attend my first football match until the December of that year, so I couldn’t have been. It’s strange how my memory plays tricks. Hence the need for research!
So, here are some of the things that I found out and/or remembered about 1996 today.
Video was king in 1996. There is a regular weekly feature in the Gazette about which videos have been borrowed the most from the Blockbuster on Linthorpe Road, and which releases were new out. In the last week of August 1996 it was Trainspotting, Seven, Babe and Showgirls which were amongst the favourite videos of Teessiders. And who remembers videoplus? When you recorded a show on your video recorder, (which would be connected to your HUGE TV set) instead of setting it manually, selecting times and channels, if you entered a numeric code, the video recorder set itself! I used to love it; the height of technology.
And what were we recording? Well, I looked at one Saturday night, to find that some of the staples of terrestrial TV were familiar – Morse, Casualty, Match of the Day (with Des Lynam, of course). Others less so – do you remember “You Bet!” with Carol Vorderman which headlined “TTTV”‘s schedules that Saturday evening? Sky sport was a single channel (it’s listings in VERY small print compared to BBC/ITV/Channel 4 (no Channel 5!). Other popular shows included Friends, of course, at the height of its popularity, the X files, Chicago Hope … I could go on. I might, in the book! And I have to make a confession. I noticed that the TV listings didn’t begin until about 2 pm. Surely, I thought, even in 1996 we had morning TV? And then it came to me in a flash of inspiration … The Gazette was an evening paper, so the morning TV schedules would be a bit pointless!
Then there were the cinemas. The Regent at Redcar (an old fashioned seaside cinema) was flourishing, as was the new Showcase at Teesside Park – but so was the old Odeon on Corporation Road. I’d love to include a picture of this 1930s monstrosity, but it was knocked down in the early part of this century. The current Cineworld wasn’t even conceived for another 5 or 6 years. And what were the people of Teesside flocking to the Odeon to watch in August 1996? Independence Day, largely, a huge summer blockbuster of that year, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame for the kids. And a whole host of films that I can’t remember at all – for example The Stupids (along with many other things) has disappeared into the mists of history as far as I’m concerned.
It’s been a bit of an eye opener. As far as I’m concerned the late 1990s are still almost now … but today I realised that really, they’re not. They’re history. And the past, as you know, is a foreign country. They do things differently there and I’m going to have to remember how, when and where we did things!