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17th October 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer: Chris Joslin
Videographer: Rebekka Turner

00:04 – Chris: I always remember, I when I was young, because I come from a big family, we used to get farmed out to my grandparents that lived up in Uckfield. My grandad had a box, and he’d made the box himself for all his Meccano, and I can always, and they bought some Lego because my brothers and sisters going up there, and it was always sort of like Meccano for the boys, Lego’s for the girls, and I always remember a certain sense of disappointment almost from my granddad, and I tried making something with Lego, Meccano and got bored with it, and went on to the Lego and started playing with the Lego, and its sort of like mm yes, you’re not going to be a mechanic are you? And of course, when I was younger I did get into the Airfix models and stuff. Everybody made Airfix models, and then blew them up with fireworks.

01.02 – Interviewer: Any particular models that you focused upon?

01.06 – Chris: I always wanted to be a Second World War fighter pilot. I loved and I still do, they’ve got one just out in the hallway there. The Spitfire, I’ve always loved the shape of the Spitfire. I grew up in a time when sitting down and watching Sunday afternoon war film was the thing to, everybody did it, and yes, I think I built my own RAF Lancasters and the Mosquito as well, I loved the shape of those, but they all got blown up come November the fifth, leading up to November the fifth. There’d be the Airfix kit that I’d spent days making with a rocket strapped underneath it, or a banger strapped to the wing, but yes.

01.56 – Interviewer: Did you paint them?

01.59 – Chris: Not at first, it was that thing about, you know got them, want to make them, want to see the end product, and then as I got older it was sort of ‘yeah’.

02.11 -Interviewer: How important were these toys to you? Or these models to you?

02.17 – Chris: How important were they? When I was making them it was that that was the thing that had to be done, you know. As soon as they were made it was like okay, and then they were dust gatherers. But I don’t know whether this is relevant, or going off on a tangent, um – I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I went through various, when I first started coming off the booze, I tried going through various different recovery models, and they never worked, and I was told by my key worker that when I come off the booze I would emotionally revert to when I started to drink, and I started drinking at a very very young age, so I decided to embrace that, and started doing the models, and I actually used that as a way to help me get off the booze, so you could say in later life, in my second childhood they became far more important than in my first.

03.16 – Chris: And I always remember never putting pilots in them. Now that’s weird, why did I suddenly think of that? Don’t know why. I’d spend hours you know when I got into that stage of being really, really sort of like almost OCD and getting all the paints on and the decals the one thing I’d always leave out was the pilots. I don’t know, I don’t know whether it was me thinking oh know, if I put the pilot in I can’t blow them up or anything, but I don’t know. Bizarre.

03.53 – Chris: I’m just trying to think. I mean the associations you know, talking about teddy bears and dolls and that, the only associations I’ve really really got is as I say, my Action Man beating up my sisters’ dolls, and teddy bears and holding them at gun point or putting them up against the wall just prior to the firing squad. I don’t know, I mean I grew up in a time when blokes were supposed to be blokes, and girls were supposed to be girls, and I think that had a big influence on my choice in toys, without even thinking about it, without even being aware of it, you know, that’s just the way it was.

04.35 – ends

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17th October 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer: Chris Joslin
Videographer: Rebekka Turner

(Audio only until 3.30)

Interviewer: Welcome to the project Chris.

Chris: Afternoon.

Interviewer: Okay, I’d like to start with, can you tell us where you were born, and when you were you born?

Chris: Where I was born. I’m one of those rare breeds. I was born, literally, a mile and a half that way, back in the dim, distant past when dinosaurs roamed the earth in nineteen fifty nine.

Interviewer: And where did you spend your childhood?

Chris: We moved from just off Lewes Road up to Whitehawk. I moved there when I was, what, about three. I managed to escape when I was sixteen. But yeah, my childhood Whitehawk, mm.

00.50 – Interviewer: Thank you. We’re going on to a section called teddy bears now, and I’d like to ask you did you have a teddy bear?

Chris: Did I have a teddy bear? Do I look as if I’d own a teddy bear? I had an Action Man, and it used to beat up my sisters’ teddy bears

Interviewer: Right

Chris: Caused many ructions.

Interviewer: I see. So you didn’t have a teddy bear as such?

Chris: No. No. I’m just trying to think if I had any cuddly toys, no, I don’t think I did, ever.

1.30 – Interviewer: Okay. You mentioned dolls in a way. Did you play with any dolls?

Chris: Well, [laughs] it’s one of those things it’s one of those things, do you count using my Action Man to beat up my sisters’ dolls as playing with dolls?

Interviewer: [long pause] Yes.

Chris: [Laughs] Oh, okay I played with dolls. Interviewer: And can you tell me about this doll?

Chris: The Action Man was great. It got me into an awful lot of trouble because I’d dress him up in his combat uniforms and put him in the back garden, and then go and nick my dad’s darts, and run round the garden throwing the darts from different angles at the Action Man. And it gets slightly more disturbing than that. Afterwards when I was in the bath, I’d take the Action Man into the bath and drown him, and then hold him up by his head and watch all the water spurt out of all the different holes all over his body.

Interviewer: Did it have a name?

Chris: No. No. I don’t think I ever gave him a name. I didn’t expect him to live long enough to have a name.

Interviewer: How did you feel about this particular doll?

Chris: Um. How did I feel about that doll? That’s really really weird. Seeing as I put him through so much, very very little I think. And it was just another thing, another thing to play with. I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about that question, to be honest, um, no. I come from quite a big family, I’ve got two brothers and two sisters, and thinking about it now, I think I took out a lot of my frustration for my brothers and sisters on my Action Man doll, because he couldn’t fight back.

Interviewer: So was this doll important to you?

Chris: [long pause] No. I can’t even remember what happened to him, so no, I don’t think so.

Interviewer: And you’ve shared some memories of it already, are there any other memories that you’d like to share?

03.30 – (Video from here)

Interviewer: So Chris, we’re going to talk a little bit now about, ask you a little bit now about construction toys [Chris: Okay] and would you like to tell me what you understand by the term construction toy?

03.43- Chris: Construction toy is anything from Lego to Airfix. You know, with stopping off at Meccano and these new little ones you’ve got which are balls where you put little sticks in, and its anything that you make anything out of. So, yes.

Interviewer: Any further examples you’d like to give?

Chris: Construction toys, I suppose you could even say that pottery, you know, if you’re making porcelain or clay dolls or whatever, that could be classed as construction.

Interviewer: Okay, and how do you feel about construction toys?

Chris: [long pause] I always remember, I when I was young, because I come from a big family, we used to get farmed out to my grandparents that lived up in Uckfield. My grandad had a box, and he’d made the box himself for all his Meccano, and I can always, and they bought some Lego because my brothers and sisters going up there, and it was always sort of like Meccano for the boys, Lego’s for the girls, and I always remember a certain sense of disappointment almost from my granddad, and I tried making something with Lego, Meccano and got bored with it, and went on to the Lego and started playing with the Lego, and its sort of like mm yes, you’re not going to be a mechanic are you? And of course, when I was younger I did get into the Airfix models and stuff. Everybody made Airfix models, and then blew them up with fireworks.

Interviewer: Any particular models that you focused upon?

Chris: I always wanted to be a Second World War fighter pilot. I loved and I still do, they’ve got one just out in the hallway there. The Spitfire, I’ve always loved the shape of the Spitfire. I grew up in a time when sitting down and watching Sunday afternoon war film was the thing to, everybody did it, and yes, I think I built my own RAF Lancasters and the Mosquito as well, I loved the shape of those, but they all got blown up come November the fifth, leading up to November the fifth. There’d be the Airfix kit that I’d spent days making with a rocket strapped underneath it, or a banger strapped to the wing, but yes.

Interviewer: Did you paint them?

Chris: Not at first, it was that thing about, you know got them, want to make them, want to see the end product, and then as I got older it was sort of ‘yeah’.

Interviewer: How important were these toys to you? Or these models to you?

06:19 – Chris: How important were they? When I was making them it was that that was the thing that had to be done, you know. As soon as they were made it was like okay, and then they were dust gatherers. But I don’t know whether this is relevant, or going off on a tangent, um – I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I went through various, when I first started coming off the booze, I tried going through various different recovery models, and they never worked, and I was told by my key worker that when I come off the booze I would emotionally revert to when I started to drink, and I started drinking at a very very young age, so I decided to embrace that, and started doing the models, and I actually used that as a way to help me get off the booze, so you could say in later life, in my second childhood they became far more important than in my first.

Interviewer: And the toys from your childhood, can you remember, you mentioned some names and some models.

Chris: Oh yeah, the Spitfire and the Mosquito and the Lancaster, and I still do have a love, whenever there’s an Airshow, see them flying, it’s like Yeah. I’ve never flown, I’ve never actually been up in the air in an aeroplane. But just seeing them sitting there or seeing them on TV I love to see it. It does make me feel, I hate to sound really really horribly clichéd, but it still makes me feel a kid whenever I see it, or whenever I see them, but yeah.

Interviewer: How did you come to own these construction toys?

Chris: Paper round. Do the paper round, have the money in my pocket, and it sort of like, [drawn out] yeah. And even the artwork on the boxes, the artwork on the original Airfix boxes were quite gruesome, you know, you look at them now, and it’s been sanitised slightly, but in the old days you could see the bullets going into the Messerschmitts, or the bombs dropping, and houses blowing up. Really really gruesome pictures for their time.

Interviewer: Can you remember where you bought these?

08.56 – Chris: There was a shop. When I used to get taken up, and I used to spend summers up in my grandparents, up in Uckfield, there was a shop literally at the end of the road, five minutes’ walk down the road, and there was another one on Uckfield High Street. I can’t remember any specific toy shops in Brighton I used to go to. I think I bought a couple from the old Woolworths along Western Road. But no, most of the kits I got. And again, looking back at it, I can see the influence from my granddad. You know, Second World War memories and all that. I can see the influence now, that plane was like yeah, Second World War. Because Airfix did all the different models you know. You could have buses or taxis but I never made any of those. It was always that, you know, from that era, from that specific era, and from the RAF you know. Wouldn’t do a German plane, oh no. The Germans were bad, English were good. Bizarre.

Interviewer: Presumably the battleships didn’t get a look in then?

Chris: Um, no, not really, no. Even tanks and that. I did have a collection of Airfix soldiers, ground troops but no, the kits were always the planes.

Interviewer: So these toys. Were these toys important to you would you say?

Chris: Ha ha ha. Again, its one of those things. I know I blew up most of them, but no, not really. I mean at the time it was more important to do them.

Interviewer: Okay. And do you have any more memories that you’d like to share with regards to these construction toys?

Chris: Construction toys. Um, I’m just trying to think – It’s a strange one, let me think, give me a moment. And I always remember never putting pilots in them. Now that’s weird, why did I suddenly think of that? Don’t know why. I’d spend hours you know when I got into that stage of being really, really sort of like almost OCD and getting all the paints on and the decals the one thing I’d always leave out was the pilots. I don’t know, I don’t know whether it was me thinking oh know, if I put the pilot in I can’t blow them up or anything, but I don’t know.

Interviewer: Thank you. I’m just going to ask you again if you can remember whether you had a teddy bear at all? A cuddly toy?

11.55 – Chris: No. And I’m sure its not just me trying to reinforce my blokiness, I never had a cuddly toy, but no, even from a young age, I mean the first toy I can ever remember is an old battered little matchbox Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But no, no cuddly toys at all.

Interviewer: And, just a couple of closing questions now. Did you ever want a teddy bear, doll or construction toy that you couldn’t have?

12.30 – Chris: Did I ever want any doll or construction toy? I always wanted Lego, I always craved Lego, I always loved making Lego. Usually made guns out of Lego. Dolls, no. I always wanted the top of the range [finger clicking] Action Man figure – don’t know, no, I don’t think I ever wanted a doll or a teddy bear – that’s an interesting one, no.

Interviewer: But you wanted the top of the range Action Man?

Chris: Yes.

Interviewer: And did you manage to get those Action?

Chris: No, no. And my Lego collection was never as big as I ever wanted it to be.

Interviewer: When you had your Lego collection, what did you do with it?

Chris: Mainly built guns, and spaceships.

Interviewer: Right. Okay. Are there any other memories of teddy bears, dolls, or construction toys that you’d like to talk about?

Chris: I’m just trying to think. I mean the associations you know, talking about teddy bears and dolls and that, the only associations I’ve really really got is as I say, my Action Man beating up my sisters’ dolls, and teddy bears and holding them at gun point or putting them up against the wall just prior to the firing squad. I don’t know, I mean I grew up in a time when blokes were supposed to be blokes, and girls were supposed to be girls, and I think that had a big influence on my choice in toys, without even thinking about it, without even being aware of it, you know, that’s just the way it was.

ENDS 14m 20s

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17th October 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer: Chris Joslin
Videographer: Rebekka Turner

Chris Joslin: Welcome to the project Chris.

Chris Ellis: Afternoon.

Chris Joslin: Okay, I’d like to start with, can you tell us where you were born, and when you were you born?

Chris Ellis: Where I was born. I’m one of those rare breeds. I was born, literally, a mile and a half that way, back in the dim, distant past when dinosaurs roamed the earth in nineteen fifty nine.

Chris Joslin: And where did you spend your childhood?

Chris Ellis: We moved from just off Lewes Road up to Whitehawk. I moved there when I was, what, about three. I managed to escape when I was sixteen. But yeah, my childhood Whitehawk, mm.

00.49 – Chris Joslin: Thank you. We’re going on to a section called teddy bears now, and I’d like to ask you did you have a teddy bear?

Chris Ellis: Did I have a teddy bear? Do I look as if I’d own a teddy bear? I had an Action Man, and it used to beat up my sisters’ teddy bears

Chris Joslin: Right

Chris Ellis: Caused many ructions.

Chris Joslin: I see. So you didn’t have a teddy bear as such?

Chris Ellis: No. No. I’m just trying to think if I had any cuddly toys, no, I don’t think I did, ever.
01.24 – Chris Joslin: Okay. You mentioned dolls in a way. Did you play with any dolls?

Chris Ellis: Well, [laughs] it’s one of those things it’s one of those things, do you count using my Action Man to beat up my sisters’ dolls as playing with dolls?

Chris Joslin: [long pause] Yes.

Chris Ellis: [Laughs] Oh, okay I played with dolls.

Chris Joslin: And can you tell me about this doll?

01.50 – Chris Ellis: The Action Man was great. It got me into an awful lot of trouble because I’d dress him up in his combat uniforms and put him in the back garden, and then go and nick my dad’s darts, and run round the garden throwing the darts from different angles at the Action Man. And it gets slightly more disturbing than that. Afterwards when I was in the bath, I’d take the Action Man into the bath and drown him, and then hold him up by his head and watch all the water spurt out of all the different holes all over his body.

Chris Joslin: Did it have a name?

Chris Ellis: No. No. I don’t think I ever gave him a name. I didn’t expect him to live long enough to have a name.

Chris Joslin: How did you feel about this particular doll?

02.34 – Chris Ellis: Um. How did I feel about that doll? That’s really really weird. Seeing as I put him through so much, very very little I think. And it was just another thing, another thing to play with. I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about that question, to be honest, um, no. I come from quite a big family, I’ve got two brothers and two sisters, and thinking about it now, I think I took out a lot of my frustration for my brothers and sisters on my Action Man doll, because he couldn’t fight back.

Chris Joslin: So was this doll important to you?

Chris Ellis: [long pause] No. I can’t even remember what happened to it in the end, so no, I don’t think so.

Chris Joslin: And you’ve shared some memories of it already, are there any other memories that you’d like to share?

Rebekka: sorry, can we stop very briefly for a moment? I think there’s something not quite right with the SD card.

Chris Ellis: Are we going to have to start again then?

Chris Joslin: [laughs] All that spontaneity

Chris Ellis: I know.

Rebekka: Sorry

Chris Ellis: I hate rehearsed spontaneity.

Chris Joslin: Can I turn this off now then?

Rebekka: Yes, sorry.

Recording 2
03.54 – Chris Ellis: Not a problem.

Rebekka: Okay. 1,2, 3, go [clapper]

Chris Joslin: So Chris, we’re going to talk a little bit now about, ask you a little bit now about construction toys [Chris Ellis: Okay] and would you like to tell me what you understand by the term construction toy?

04.20 – Chris Ellis: Construction toy is anything from Lego to Airfix. You know, with stopping off at Meccano and these new little ones you’ve got which are balls where you put little sticks in, and its anything that you make anything out of. So, yes.

Chris Joslin: Any further examples you’d like to give?

Chris Ellis: Construction toys, I suppose you could even say that pottery, you know, if you’re making porcelain or clay dolls or whatever, that could be classed as construction.

Chris Joslin: Okay, and how do you feel about construction toys?

05:04 – Chris Ellis: [long pause] I always remember, I when I was young, because I come from a big family, we used to get farmed out to my grandparents that lived up in Uckfield. My grandad had a box, and he’d made the box himself for all his Meccano, and I can always, and they bought some Lego because my brothers and sisters going up there, and it was always sort of like Meccano for the boys, Lego’s for the girls, and I always remember a certain sense of disappointment almost from my granddad, and I tried making something with Lego, Meccano and got bored with it, and went on to the Lego and started playing with the Lego, and its sort of like mm yes, you’re not going to be a mechanic are you? And of course, when I was younger I did get into the Airfix models and stuff. Everybody made Airfix models, and then blew them up with fireworks.

Chris Joslin: Any particular models that you focused upon?

Chris Ellis: I always wanted to be a Second World War fighter pilot. I loved and I still do, they’ve got one just out in the hallway there. The Spitfire, I’ve always loved the shape of the Spitfire. I grew up in a time when sitting down and watching Sunday afternoon war film was the thing to, everybody did it, and yes, I think I built my own RAF Lancasters and the Mosquito as well, I loved the shape of those, but they all got blown up come November the fifth, leading up to November the fifth. There’d be the Airfix kit that I’d spent days making with a rocket strapped underneath it, or a banger strapped to the wing, but yes.

Chris Joslin: Did you paint them?

Chris Ellis: Not at first, it was that thing about, you know got them, want to make them, want to see the end product, and then as I got older it was sort of ‘yeah’.

Chris Joslin: How important were these toys to you? Or these models to you?

07:13 Chris Ellis: How important were they? When I was making them it was that that was the thing that had to be done, you know. As soon as they were made it was like okay, and then they were dust gatherers. But I don’t know whether this is relevant, or going off on a tangent, um – I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I went through various, when I first started coming off the booze, I tried going through various different recovery models, and they never worked, and I was told by my key worker that when I come off the booze I would emotionally revert to when I started to drink, and I started drinking at a very very young age, so I decided to embrace that, and started doing the models, and I actually used that as a way to help me get off the booze, so you could say in later life, in my second childhood they became far more important than in my first.

Chris Joslin: And the toys from your childhood, can you remember, you mentioned some names and some models.

Chris Ellis: Oh yeah, the Spitfire and the Mosquito and the Lancaster, and I still do have a love, whenever there’s an Airshow, see them flying, it’s like Yeah. I’ve never flown, I’ve never actually been up in the air in an aeroplane. But just seeing them sitting there or seeing them on TV I love to see it. It does make me feel, I hate to sound really really horribly clichéd, but it still makes me feel a kid whenever I see it, or whenever I see them, but yeah.

Chris Joslin: How did you come to own these construction toys?

Chris Ellis: Paper round. Do the paper round, have the money in my pocket, and it sort of like, [drawn out] yeah. And even the artwork on the boxes, the artwork on the original Airfix boxes were quite gruesome, you know, you look at them now, and it’s been sanitised slightly, but in the old days you could see the bullets going into the Messerschmitts, or the bombs dropping, and houses blowing up. Really really gruesome pictures for their time.

Chris Joslin: Can you remember where you bought these?

Chris Ellis: There was a shop. When I used to get taken up, and I used to spend summers up in my grandparents, up in Uckfield, there was a shop literally at the end of the road, five minutes’ walk down the road, and there was another one on Uckfield High Street. I can’t remember any specific toy shops in Brighton I used to go to. I think I bought a couple from the old Woolworths along Western Road. But no, most of the kits I got. And again, looking back at it, I can see the influence from my granddad. You know, Second World War memories and all that. I can see the influence now, that plane was like yeah, Second World War. Because Airfix did all the different models you know. You could have buses or taxis but I never made any of those. It was always that, you know, from that era, from that specific era, and from the RAF you know. Wouldn’t do a German plane, oh no. The Germans were bad, English were good. Bizarre.

Chris Joslin: Presumably the battleships didn’t get a look in then?

Chris Ellis: Um, no, not really, no. Even tanks and that. I did have a collection of Airfix soldiers, ground troops but no, the kits were always the planes.

Chris Joslin: So these toys. Were these toys important to you would you say?

Chris Ellis: Ha ha ha. Again, its one of those things. I know I blew up most of them, but no, not really. I mean at the time it was more important to do them.

Chris Joslin: Okay. And do you have any more memories that you’d like to share with regards to these construction toys?

11:25 – Chris Ellis: Construction toys. Um, I’m just trying to think – It’s a strange one, let me think, give me a moment. And I always remember never putting pilots in them. Now that’s weird, why did I suddenly think of that? Don’t know why. I’d spend hours you know when I got into that stage of being really, really sort of like almost OCD and getting all the paints on and the decals the one thing I’d always leave out was the pilots. I don’t know, I don’t know whether it was me thinking oh know, if I put the pilot in I can’t blow them up or anything, but I don’t know.

Chris Joslin: Thank you. I’m just going to ask you again if you can remember whether you had a teddy bear at all? A cuddly toy?

12:31 – Chris Ellis: No. And I’m sure its not just me trying to reinforce my blokiness, I never had a cuddly toy, but no, even from a young age, I mean the first toy I can ever remember is an old battered little matchbox Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But no, no cuddly toys at all.

Chris Joslin: And, just a couple of closing questions now. Did you ever want a teddy bear, doll or construction toy that you couldn’t have?

13:06 – Chris Ellis: Did I ever want any doll or construction toy? I always wanted Lego, I always craved Lego, I always loved making Lego. Usually made guns out of Lego. Dolls, no. I always wanted the top of the range [finger clicking] Action Man figure – don’t know, no, I don’t think I ever wanted a doll or a teddy bear – that’s an interesting one, no.

Chris Joslin: But you wanted the top of the range Action Man?

Chris Ellis: Yes.

Chris Joslin: And did you manage to get those Action?

Chris Ellis: No, no. And my Lego collection was never as big as I ever wanted it to be.

Chris Joslin: When you had your Lego collection, what did you do with it?

14:00 Chris Ellis: Mainly built guns, and spaceships.

Chris Joslin: Right. Okay. Are there any other memories of teddy bears, dolls, or construction toys that you’d like to talk about?

Chris Ellis: I’m just trying to think. I mean the associations you know, talking about teddy bears and dolls and that, the only associations I’ve really really got is as I say, my Action Man beating up my sisters’ dolls, and teddy bears and holding them at gun point or putting them up against the wall just prior to the firing squad. I don’t know, I mean I grew up in a time when blokes were supposed to be blokes, and girls were supposed to be girls, and I think that had a big influence on my choice in toys, without even thinking about it, without even being aware of it, you know, that’s just the way it was.

Chris Joslin: Thank you.

Rebekka: Shall we do a final clapper?

Chris Ellis: Got to get all the conventions right.

RECORDING ENDS 15m 32s

Chris

Chris was born in Brighton in 1957. In the short version (4m 35s) of his interview he discusses Airfix models, which he blew up with fireworks, and reflects on the role of gender in toy choice, as well as on the therapeutic value of making models. In the full version (14m 20s) he also talks about the destruction of his Action Men.