Malta becomes independent, 1964: A police stabbing, a grenade, and when having a gay time was cause for an advert

Adverts from the Times’s 1964 reprint: women made tea, and instead of Netflix you had Rediffusion

Prime Minister Gorg Borg Olivier, waving the independence document on the historic occasion
Prime Minister Gorg Borg Olivier, waving the independence document on the historic occasion

It’s Monday, 21 September, 1964 and the ‘George Cross’ island of Malta is barely hours within it newly independent status within the British Commonwealth (that is, the head of state was still none other than Queen Elizabeth II – the Republic, when a Maltese head of state would take over, would come in 1974).

Today’s Times of Malta’s reprint of 1964 is a time capsule of the emotion shared by some 100,000 Maltese nationals who witnessed the hoisting of the Maltese flag as the Union flag came down.

But, as these snapshots show… not everyone was happy: Mintoff supporters and Dom Mintoff himself, were there to protest the ‘sham’ independence. A police superintendent was even stabbed in the abdomen and a Kalkara man arrested after being caught “throwing a grenade, which did not explode, near the Café Premier”.

These were still days of great tension, but luckily, page 12 had a solution waiting just a few blocks away from the Independence celebrations, at Nani (the piano guy…) on South Street, Valletta – a nice little laxative to stimulate that bunged-up colon.

And because irony still did not exist in 1964, right underneath the laxative advert was the Dragonara Casino’s invitation for “a gay Hungarian atmosphere”. Yes, it’s a lazy joke. This is 1964, the sexual revolution is still 20 years away for Malta, and ‘being gay’ is the universal aggregation of happiness at any given time unit.

Talk about the sexual revolution: all women do in 1964 is make tea for their parched hubbies or congregate in gaggles of wifeage for tombola, bakery outings, and fashion shows.

And here’s what “the majority of housewives” spend their time doing: economy on tea leaves.

Yes, these are bad days. It wasn’t just the Beatles and Rolling Stones playing on Ed Sullivan. South Africa was a country of apartheid and in a bid to stop its expulsion from the world footballing body FIFA, sent a ‘non white’ (that means black, which in 1964 did not exist, because baby-boomers used ‘coloured’…) as a delegate.

You also had to be careful with what you said. Not only was Archbishop Michael Gonzi promising hellfire for Labour voters who read seditious socialist propaganda, but an ‘Anti Communist League’ was taking out paid adverts with snarky messages at the Maltese MPs to… if I read this well… promote the cause of independence for socialist states behind the Iron Curtain.

And it was light years away from home entertainment: apart from the BBC World Service on the radio, you got two stations on the Redifussion (switch ‘A’ and ‘B’) and three TV stations, Malta TV and Rai’s primo and secondo.

If there was something GREAT about 1964, it was the cinemas: look, almost one for every village!

And, straight out of the Ladybird world of job-hunting, a post for assistant flour miller with three science ‘O’ levels…

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