Look and Yearn
You need to be of a certain age to remember Treasure, the illustrated children’s magazine first launched by Fleetway publications in January 1963 as a junior version of Look and Learn, the publication aimed at 10-to-14-year-olds which pre-dated it by a year. The first issue of Treasure (price one shilling) was advertised on children’s television, in the black-and-white era of presenters Christopher Trace and Valerie Singleton on Blue Peter and Leslie Crowther and Peter Glaze on Crackerjack, and as a six-year-old growing up on an outer-suburban council estate in the North-West of England, I was immediately entranced. In fact I can date my love affair with printed matter to that first-ever Treasure, its brightly-coloured cover – by house illustrator Clive Uptton (with two ‘t’s’) – depicting a huge wooden chest from which spilt a cornucopia of objects as two enthralled children looked on.
Aimed at 5-to-9-year-olds, Treasure presented a reassuring world of nicely dressed, well-mannered middle-class kids in the years before moon landings and screaming teenagers at Beatles concerts. It was a world rooted in the social codes of my parents younger days; Britannia still ruled the waves, and prices in Commonwealth countries were shown on Treasure’s cover (seventeen-and-a-half cents in South Africa; two shillings in Rhodesia). The faces in its pages were predominantly white, with the occasional ethnic presence in stories about foreign lands; in John Worsley’s wonderful illustrations for regular character Wee Willie Winkie for instance, about the pixie-faced boy who travelled the world free of charge courtesy of his special green ticket, his pet baby elephant Hannibal in tow. Stories in that first issue included ‘The Stone Age People’, with Peter Jackson’s brilliantly-detailed illustrations, ‘Seven Sorts of Wild Cats’, and ‘A Road Safely Lesson with Tufty’, the squirrel mascot of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents who became another Treasure fixture.
With its strapline ‘Early steps to looking and learning’, Treasure’s remit was educational, with an emphasis on history, nature and geography, though fairy stories, poems and puzzles served to alleviate a potential excess of worthiness. Its editor was Fleetway veteran Arthur Bouchier, whose assistant Edward Northcott moonlighted as Mr. Answers, each week replying authoritatively to reader’s questions such as ‘Which is the world’s biggest stamp collection?’ Art Editor Phil Gilles commissioned illustrators including the aforementioned Clive Uptton and legendary wildlife artist C F Tunnicliffe to produce exquisite cover illustrations.
Businessman Laurence Heyworth bought the rights to Look and Learn and Treasure four years ago, and with help from a dedicated team has set up a digital archive, which acts both as educational resource and on-line picture library, bringing the material alive again for my own and other generations. The richly informative website contains a fascinating downloadable history of the publications by Steve Holland, and biographies of the major illustrators.
Eventually, and with reluctance, I gave up on Treasure around the age of ten (Mum said I was a bit old for it by then), although it continued, with attempts to update its format and contents until, outshone by colour television and myriad childish temptations, it ceased publication in January 1971. A few years ago, my own trove of Treasures long-lost, I bought a copy of that first-ever issue on eBay. With its rusty staples and puzzles completed in blue biro, its faded pages pored and pawed over long ago by some other child of the Fifties, it serves as a potent relic of time past; a reminder of those Saturday morning visits to the newsagent to collect the copy set aside for me, and my excitement as to what it might contain.
This is a slightly edited version of an article first published in Varoom magazine, 2010.
• Image: the cover of Treasure Annual 1965, with illustration by Clive Uptton, also used as the cover illustration on the first issue of Treasure in 1963.