December 8, 1941, was, of course, the day Sir Geoff Hurst, cricketer and England’s 1966 hat trick hero, came into the world.
Not that very many people knew at the time that it had happened. His mother, his father – assuming war duties allowed him within reach of the good news. Close relatives, friends too perhaps.
That’s the thing with “great events” – it’s relatively unusual for them to be happening right in front of us, and although we’ll remember a date by the momentousness we’d failed to be an eyewitness to, the day we actually lived through and experienced won’t relate to it directly. Great events don’t drill down to us. Not immediately, at any rate.
Geoff Hurst’s parents would have heard the news about Pearl Harbour sooner or later – within 48 hours, depending on young Geoff’s ability to keep them away from radio and newspapers. Even people who had Pearl Harbour forced on their attention – who were living in the city where the first decisions were made in response – found their normal lives flywheeling on regardless of the attack.
By 1941, sound recording technology had long since improved to the point where accidental background noise had to be eliminated, rather than – as with yesterday’s recordings – its pickup being out of the question. As with photography, when background noise does come in, with the passage of time it can assume far greater interest than whatever the microphone-wielder thought their purpose was.
Click here (RealPlayer file) to hear recorded man-in-the-street interviews made on a Washington DC street corner within hours of Geoff Hurst’s birth. The opinions of random people on the street are interesting enough – but listen to the soundscape behind.
A year or two after the 1966 victory – perhaps in 1968, my year, when Hurst was involved in England’s attempt at the European Championship, on the other side of the world, this. It makes me reflect, at any rate, on just how much experience, and of what kind, is possible, not just in a human lifetime, but during and alongside an individual’s human lifetime.
This, after all, is far closer to home for baby Geoff, (UPDATE: perhaps not next door, as he was born in Ashton Under Lyne, Lancashire) and also happened within the year: