It doesn’t take much. Just reading about an uncle seeing Alan Johnston off in his excellent autobiography This Boy brought it all back. At Liverpool Lime Street the uncle bought a platform ticket. They were something we all used but we dont now. Why? Because back then in the 50s and early 60s going a 200 mile train journey was a very big deal. An occasion, a milestone and event and to celebrate and recognise its seriousness members of the family came to see you off. To get on the platform they needed a ticket which cost one penny.Fare dodgers used these tickets to get through the barrier.
I remember as a boarding school boys waiting in the train at Waterloo. We in the compartments larking around in the camaraderie we so enjoyed. Outside were our parents( looking at their watches) with their platform tickets waiting for the moment the train would pull out so they could wave enthusiastically. I remember how we hard hearted youths would laugh at our parents, any one waving back would immediately be debagged.
In those far off days as trains pulled and puffed through the countryside farm workers would stop and wave. The iron horse even sixty years ago still a source of wonder and pride. Twenty five years ago whenever Concorde went over head despite its excruciating noise we would look up and smile.
But those days waiting on the platform are so well remembered by Larkin in his l963 poem Whitsun Weddings. Going down to London from Hull on that bank holiday Saturday, couple of after couple of newly weds gets on the train. But its those on the platform who are so well drawn
The fathers with broad belts under their suits
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,
The nylon gloves and jewellery substitutes,
The lemons, mauves and olive- ochres that
Marked off the girls unreally from the rest
Larkin wrote that poem in my last year at school. I don’t know when platform tickets ended but they could not have had many years to go. Ironically as more and more stations have automated ticket barriers there is talk of bringing platform tickets back.