Apparently, there are now academic papers on the ‘Teddy Girls’ of the late 1950s. One paper submitted by a woman from a liberal arts college in the middle of the Canadian grain belt defines Teddy Boys and Girls as ‘passionate spectators of urban life who incorporated aspects of the Baudelarian dandy with a more vigorous embodied relationship to the city.’ Or not…
Anyway, forget Baudelaire; here is a real story of one of these Teddy Girls, plucked from the ever-giving Peter Haining archive. It’s a contemporary account that appeared in the sensationalist weekly ‘ Fling ‘ c 1959 by a self-confessed ‘moll’ who calls herself ‘ Mary Grange ‘ and who entitles her salutary story ‘ I was a Gang Queen ‘.
Mary Grange isn’t my real name. I’m twenty, but I’ve got to conceal my identity to escape from my past—-an ugly, shameful past which landed me in a magistrates court and might have sent my friends to Borstal.
To-day you might meet me while making your holiday arrangements. I work as a receptionist in a travel agency. It you’re a man, you’ll admire my long dark hair, blue eyes and model-girl figure. You’ll classify me as pretty, eager, hardworking and full of fun.
BUT ONLY A FEW MONTHS AGO I WAS A GANGSTER QUEEN
I was boss of ten Teddy Boys. I saw myself as one of those women you read about in books, whose beauty casts a spell over the men around her. I loved exerting my power. I loved excitement and adventure.
I used to “dare” the boys to steal gifts for me, just for the thrill of it.
First it was bottles of gin, then dresses, then the week’s taking from a shop till.
At the time they seemed like daring games. Now I see them as the stupid, criminal antics they were.
Why, you’ll ask, am I reviving a past that’s best buried and forgotten? Because I want to warn others against the pitfalls which put my name on police records.
I can’t plead the excuse of a slum home, a pavement playground. I live in what you might call a “select neighbourhood” in the suburbs of a large town in the north of England.