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A Surreal Encounter with My Younger Self – As I Was in 1963

Published on: 12 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 12 Feb, 2023

During a random browse through the internet, Dragon reporter David Reading was stunned to come face to face with his 16-year-old younger self and with members of his family as they were in 1963. All of them were captured in a unique piece of amateur film footage shot in Guildford. He writes…

There are people in my life who are long gone: my mother, my father, my brother and older family friends and acquaintances. All remain only in memories or in photo albums. Decades before the advent of the camcorder and the mobile phone, all we were left with to remind us of those we knew and loved were black and white images, all frozen in time.

But a few families had cine cameras – a device in which a strip of film moves past the lens, usually to give 16 or 24 exposures per second, thus enabling the user to shoot home movies.

It was while randomly viewing 16 minutes of cine film discovered online – shot in the early 1960s in Guildford – that I was startled to see my 16-year-old self and family and friends come to life.

A still taken from the film footage showing Dragon reporter David Reading (left) – then 16 years old – assisting the Bishop, who is in the background. Click on images to enlarge in a new window.

The occasion that occurred six decades ago was a baptism performed by the Bishop of Guildford inside the unfinished St Clare’s church-cum-hall in Park Barn.

As many people will know, in the 1960s St Clare’s was a DIY project in which the community came together to offer help in building the original part of the church and church hall. The hall was seen as a asset for the whole community.

Dot Parker, who shot the cine film, is pictured second from left.

Dot Parker, who lived in Applegarth Avenue, shot the film to record this unique community effort. The first 11 minutes shows work in progress, when local people led by the vicar, the Revd Roy Trevivian, are filmed working on site turning their dream into reality. It is a fascinating record of a piece of local history.

David Reading’s late brother Alan, centre of the picture wearing a red ribbon. He was head choirboy.

Then suddenly the scene shifts to a service of baptism inside the unfinished church. The service is about to be conducted by the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd George Reindorp. And there in the centre of the screen is my brother Alan, who was the 13-year-old head choirboy, leading choir members to their places in preparation for the service. And there am I, a 16-year-old assistant to the bishop, dressed in white robes, carrying a candle towards the altar.

David’s mother Wyn Reading, a well-known face at St Francis Church, Beckingham Road, Westborough and St Clare’s Church, Park Barn.

After the ceremony the scene shifts again to a large social gathering held to celebrate the baptism. There you can see my mother, Wyn Reading, at that time 37 years old, chatting and smiling. Among the other people I recognise are close friends Bill and Brenda Lee, Jean White, local GP Dr Bruce Hepburn, and Don Eldridge, the policeman and part-time photographer from Weston Road.

It was a surreal few moments, being drawn back into the past like that, and all the more poignant considering my brother died two years later and my mother in 2005. I am sure that others viewing the footage and seeing family members and friends have experienced similar feelings.

Oddly, I have no recollection of the occasion, even though I well remember other times when, as a server, I assisted the Revd Roy Trevivian at early morning Holy Communion in St Francis Church, Beckingham Road, Westborough.

It turns out that the baby being baptised on that day in September 1963 was Paul Perfett, the son of Ray and Jean Perfett.

As the local historian David Rose reports in his 2003 booklet, The Building of St Clare’s Church: “It was indeed a special event as there was, of course, nothing in the way of the usual fixtures and fittings found in a church. In the absence of a font, the baptism took place over a galvanised builder’s bucket. It was, however, the perfect way to symbolise the do-it-yourself building project. It was also a grateful thanks from the Diocese of Guildford to Ray Perfett for the work he had done as site foreman.”

A new worship area was built and dedicated in 1987. The original part of the building is now solely the church hall, and currently used by the North Guildford Foodbank as its headquarters.

Dot Parker’s film can be viewed on the Facebook page Guildford Town, Past & Present, set up and maintained by Guildford record store owner Ben Darnton, who runs Ben’s Collectors Records in Tunsgate.

The post was shared by Mark Parker, Dot Parker’s son, who now lives near Wincanton in Somerset, while his 91-year-old mother is living in Charmouth in west Dorset.

Mark has given us permission to publish a link to the footage. We have uploaded it to The Guildford Dragon NEWS’ YouTube channel, as below..

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Responses to A Surreal Encounter with My Younger Self – As I Was in 1963

  1. Sheila Atkinson Reply

    February 12, 2023 at 11:46 am

    I have a copy of this film and have watched it several times but not for many years.

    My dad was one of the bricklayers. He was secretary of the local branch of the AUBTW and many of the members came along to assist in the project even though some of them didn’t live in the parish.

    To see my dad again brought me great joy and seeing old friends and neighbours as well as boys I went to junior school with brought back many memories.

    Rev’d Roy Trevivian was a regular on the TV’s Epilogue and in 1964 he asked my dad to join him. To see my dad on live TV in those days was really special.

  2. Jan Messinger Reply

    February 12, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    Such a beautiful story about local history. Lets hope we have some more stories from this piece being published and people remembering what they have stored away to share with others.

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