Drug trafficking was once a much merrier affair

The boys inspect a suspicious looking plank of wood

This 1958 clip of a customs school gives a glorious insight into the very gentle affair of detecting drugs trafficking in the 1950s. The dozen or so students are taught by their training officer how to look out for secret nooks and crannies in various vehicles, such as the waterproofing on a wooden boat. As the narrator helpfully points out “Not even a death watch beetle can call his home his own”. Drugs are referred to as “habit-forming narcotics”, whilst alcohol is quaintly quipped as “spirits much tastier than petrol”. It’s refreshing to see how customer service is top on the list in this customs training class. The boys are told they should “not bully or badger, but be courteous, efficient and firm.” How times have changed.

Watch the 1950s customs training reel on British Pathé here


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