Posts Tagged ‘disguise outfit’

Surprises in disguises

March 14, 2011

Visitors who have been following the posts in this blog for some time might remember one about my secret society. If you need reminding or if you haven’t seen it, just copy the address below and put it in your address bar to view the post:

In that post you will see two pictures of the books I bought. One of them is called “Detection and Disguise”. It contained all manner of advice about how to disguise yourself as somebody else so that even your close friends won’t recognise you. This was the sort of thing that Sherlock Holmes often did in the stories we were so fond of reading. He was so good at this that even Dr Watson didn’t recognise him. Eric and I spent hours reading through the disguise techniques recommended in the book.

Also, on page 121 of the same book a disguise outfit and instruction book was advertised as in the picture above. The picture below gives the contents of the disguise outfit which are quite comprehensive. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to get the 4 Quaker figures and save up the 3d to send for the outfit

One of the recommendations in the book was about making yourself look a lot older, so, as we were only about 14 or 15 at the time, this sounded like a good idea. It recommended one of the ways to do this was to pad your shoulders out with newspaper, and also do the same with your chest and stomach. This was intended to make us look slightly taller and a bit more corpulent. Under some pretext or other we both managed to borrow overcoats and trilby hats from our fathers as these would offer comprehensive covering over our assorted newspapers which might stick out from beneath our own jackets.

Having assembled all our kit we decided to try it out for the first time under cover of darkness. In Eric’s front room we busied ourselves padding our anatomies with newspapers by tying on large bundles with string so that they would stay in place. When we’d finished this we were fairly satisfied that we looked a lot more bulky and when we put on the overcoats and trilby hats we were quite thrilled. By sticking on the false moustaches we were absolutely satisfied that our transformation was complete.

By then it was reasonably dark so we crept out of the house and down Wern Terrace eventually making our way down the Bell Pitch and into town. As the shops were shut there were not many people about and those we passed didn’t even give us a second glance. The trouble was that we didn’t see a single person that we knew and that would have been the acid test of our enterprise. Having reached Woolworth’s we decided to stick to our plan and walk further, so we went up Osborne Road. As we approached the vicinity of Merchants Hill we heard running footsteps behind us, then a child’s voice shouting “Daddy! Daddy!” Immediately a little boy of about six ran up to Eric’s side and looked up at him. It was only then that he realised that Eric wasn’t his daddy so ran off again. It was just as well he did because we both almost collapsed with laughter at the event.

There was a certain amount of satisfaction as far as we were concerned. At least we must have looked like grown up men. Now, I don’t know whether it was the result of shaking with laughter or all the movement involved in walking a couple of miles but, as we turned up Merchants Hill some of our newspaper stuffing and bits of string worked loose and fell down onto the ground. This, of course, caused more laughter with the inevitable result that more newspaper stuffing started to work loose and fall down. Eventually we ended up with large bunches of newspapers under our arms making us look like latter-day Argus sellers.

Our moustaches had stuck manfully to the job. The only trouble was removing them before we returned home. Just trying to pull them off proved rather painful but by applying liberal quantities of spit we finally managed it. We found a suitable place to ditch our newspapers and then returned home. We were reasonable satisfied with our exercise in disguise but we were realistic enough to allow that Sherlock Holmes definitely had the edge on us.

Pontypool’s Secret Society

March 6, 2009


Few people know that, in 1945, there was set up in Pontypool a secret society which operated clandestinely under the name of the “Q.O. Secret Society”. Its meetings were held regularly, well away from the public gaze and its meeting place could only be accessed by using the secret password. The society also published a monthly document which contained details of its operations and also of its finances. The document was passed around and read by members of the society only.

Visitors to this blog will know that, in order to protect national security, cabinet papers and a host of other documents were not released to the public for 30 years after they were written. The Freedom of Information Act subsequently amended this arrangement and anyone can now make an application to all manner of bodies to acquire information under the Act. Therefore, before I get masses of applications from members of the public, Scotland Yard and the Security Services demanding that, after over 50 years of secrecy, I release all I know about the Q.O. Secret Society, I thought I’d better come clean in this post. 

The Q.O. Secret Society was founded in August 1945 by Eric Smith, Elgar Counsell and I and several other boys we knew. Our ages ranged from about 12 to 14 at the time. The original idea of the society was the brainchild of the manufacturers of Quaker Oats – hence the Q.O. bit. Doubtless in an attempt to sell more of their Quaker Oats, the company engaged in a campaign to interest children. You will all have seen the small oval frame on their boxes of oats with the head of the Quaker man inside it. By cutting out these little ovals, all sorts of benefits could accrue such as choosing free toys from their list, or, if not free, then obtainable at a very nominal price. They also published several books: “The Master Book of Secrets”, “Detection and Disguise” and a book on how to run a Q.O. Secret Society.

 picture-1Two of the books published by Quaker Oats Ltd

My brother Garyth, who was four years older than I, really got organised on this matter and went around all the members of our family asking them to save their Quaker Oats ovals for him. They readily obliged and soon he was able to send in an order for no less than eight  model aeroplanes that flew, and they flew well. He kept one himself, gave one to me and shared the rest amongst his friends. The aeroplanes were powered by a wound up elastic band but they stayed up for quite a while and when they ran out of power they glided quite well. One of our favourite places for flying these were up the Tumps – but more of the Tumps and the Tranch in a future post.

At the backs of the books mentioned above were several pages with illustrations of the goods on offer. Here are two of them:

gun-etcGun and disguise outfit advertised in the books

I bought both the above items. The gun could be obtained free for 12 Quaker figures or for 2 Quaker figures and 1/6 (one shilling and six pence). The disguise outfit was 6 Quaker figures or 2 Quaker figures and 6d (sixpence) in stamps. The gun was wonderful. It came with a roll of ammunition which was merely a roll of thin paper. This was led over a hole and when the gun was fired, air was forced through the paper making a hole and a realistic bang. I manufactured my own ammunition by cutting up strips of newspaper of the required size.

Our meeting place was my father’s shed at the rear of our house in School Lane. It was reasonably large so that housing six or eight of us was no problem as long as we didn’t mind the strong smell of stored onions and other garden produce. In the colder weather we lit the valor paraffin oil stove to provide warmth, but it added another ambient smell rather more unpleasant than the onions.

The monthly document I refer to above was our own magazine. Fortunately, my oldest brother, John, when he left West Mon went to work in the chemistry laboratories at County Hall, Newport and was anxious to learn to type which would have been a big help to him; so my father bought a second-hand Imperial typewriter from someone in Griffithstown and, one evening, he and John carried it all the way to Wainfelin. Those old typewriters were very heavy, so it was no mean feat.

I was eleven when the typewriter was purchased, so after three years of practice, I could type reasonably well – with two fingers. This was the reason that I was able to edit and produce just one copy of “The Q.O. Secret Society Magazine”. It consisted of ten 8×10 one-sided pages of very off-white and very thin wartime paper and was passed around from member to member. I still have these magazines and I note that the December Christmas issue was a bumper 25 page effort. This experience sparked off my interest in magazine editing and writing which is something I’ve been doing ever since in an honorary capacity.

The contents of the magazine were very varied and members were asked to contribute as they were able. There was some information about the society itself and also things like a crossword puzzle, jokes, poems written by members, a science section, competitions,general knowledge items and even a serial story. It also carried some adverts where members were able to advertise for sale things like model aircraft kits etc.

The Christmas number, unlike the other issues, also contained illustrations. Eric and I were very keen at that time on pen and ink drawing and below are a few of our original works which were used. When Eric sees these I hope he won’t be too embarrassed. I am!

christmas-greetingsEric’s Christmas greetings to all members.
The verse is part of the hymn, “Now the day is over”. 

autumnMy rendering of autumn. I think I can claim to have improved since doing this.

camelEric’s rendering of “The Mysterious East”.

Also in the Christmas number was our balance sheet after five months in operation. Our total income was £1:4:0 (one pound four shillings), our expenditure was 8/- (eight shillings) leaving a balance in hand of 16/- (sixteen shillings). This was most pleasing and meant we’d been running on just one-third of our income. What financial skill! If the Chancellor of the Exchequer needs someone to sort out the current financial crisis, we might possibly be persuaded to help. But, naturally we’d expect a fee of at least £5:7:6. Now – what’s that in this new fangled money?