MANY of us remember with great fondness Maldon’s famous Victorian Evenings.

They started in 1984 through the auspices of Maldon’s Chamber of Trade – Jon and Chris Wenlock, Trevor Parmenter and John Keeble being the key players.

The annual event became so successful that other towns followed suit.

Countless participants, locals and coached-in visitors alike, swamped the town every Christmas and it became the talk of the county and country.

The Maldon and Burnham Standard (then based at 107 High Street) ran a supplement to complement the event (I wrote pieces for some of those annual editions).

After many successful years, the time-honoured gathering eventually outgrew itself and stopped, much to the regret and disappointment of many.

But, Maldon being Maldon, a successor Christmas evening evolved, more recently organised by Maldon Town Council and with different themes.

It’s a ‘Flower Power’ Christmas this year, with a focus on the heady days of the Sixties.

The era in question was a wild decade of ‘free love’, but marred by the Vietnam War, the assassinations of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

However, it also saw a man land on the moon and the test flight of Concorde.

On the domestic front, Coronation Street was first aired in 1960, audio cassettes were invented in 1962 and in 1966 we won the football World Cup (and we are still talking about it!).

The charts were dominated by the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones (their LPs could be bought from Caters record shop at Maldon’s 78 High Street).

All in all it was a time of modernity and fun-loving hedonism and it was later said that “if you remember the Sixties, you really weren’t there”.

Well, I was there (albeit I was only ten as it turned into the 70s) and I do actually remember what some things were like here in Maldon.

At that time we had a population of around 10,000, we had both railway and bus stations, we learnt to swim in the lake, and the major employers included firms such as Ever Ready, Sadds and Bentalls.

So as we enjoy the festivities in our High Street in 2019, let’s take a nostalgic journey back to the mid-Sixties and focus, in particular, on the commercial hub of our town.

Thankfully, unlike other places, it still has an open road ensuring passing traffic can be drawn to what is on offer from our many and varied shops.

As evidenced by a local almanac of 1966, some of them have survived the intervening 50-plus years.

Take, for example, the butchers, Ansell & Sons, continuing in its timeless way at number 5.

There is also still a Wenlocks, albeit now at 77, as opposed to what is currently the Emporium building at 85-87. Another butchers, Buntings, remains at 89.

Most of the pubs are also still open – including the Blue Boar (then a Trust House), the White Horse at 26, the Swan at 73, the Rose & Crown (now Wetherspoons) at 109, and the Warwick at 185.

And while Reeves remains on the corner of Wantz Road, we do lament the passing of other unique places, among them the high-class grocers, Collins at 9, Wells Upholstery at 19, the photographer M Seymour at 35, Knightbridge the tobacconist at 55, Balls the fishmonger at 119, Copsey the fish and chip shop at 199, and Frank Horton menswear at 50.

Then there was the Rendezvous chocolate shop, Nicholls toyshop at 120, Orrs Stores at 160, Leech the ironmonger at 43, Gowers at 57, the antique shops McNally (22) and Wells (11 and 17), and the Home and Colonial at 42.

There was much less traffic passing by in the Sixties, when the cars included Fords, Austins, Standards, Triumphs, Singers and Hillmans, some of them bought from Houldings, Ruggles, Does, Quests, Bates, Hunters and Gregorys.

The shoppers also wore quite different dress compared with today. You could easily identify the hippie sub-culture by their ponchos, moccasins, love beads, peace signs, medallion necklaces, chain belts, polka dot-printed fabrics and long, puffed “bubble” sleeves.

Both men and women wore frayed bell-bottomed jeans, tie-dyed shirts, work shirts, Jesus sandals, and headbands.

Those colourful garments might well make a re-appearance at this year’s Flower Power Christmas and it is good to know that the underlying shopping character of the Sixties can still be experienced today.

Not only that, but thanks to the injection of money from a number of local entrepreneurs, new outlets have supplemented the older businesses in areas like Edward’s Walk, the King’s Head Centre, Bright’s Path and Wenlock Way.

We are really spoilt for choice in relation to specialist shops and services – jewellers, gift shops, hairdressers, beauticians, clothes shops – and there is a plethora of excellent places to eat of varied tastes and cuisine and to drink both alcohol and coffee and tea.

So at this year’s successor to the Victorian Evenings, soak up the hippie past (and, as Timothy Leary put it, “Turn on, tune in, drop out”), enjoy the present and look forward to a great Maldon Christmas. The event takes place today in Maldon’s High Street from 4.30pm until 9pm.