Today’s song is ‘Knock Three Times’. This song was simply credited to ‘Dawn’. Tony Orlando was not named on the record. The actual singers were Tony Orlando, Toni Wine, and Linda November, prior to the creation of ‘Dawn’ with Thelma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson. The song was released as a single which hit Number 1 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ in January 1971 and eventually sold six million copies. The song registered well at Adult Contemporary stations, reaching Number 2 on Billboard's ‘Easy Listening’ survey. Outside the US, ‘Knock Three Times’ also claimed the Number 1 spot on the ‘UK Singles Chart’.
The composers of this song, L. Russell Brown and Irwin Levine, were thinking of the song ‘Up on the Roof’ and they wanted to write a song with that kind of lyrical flavour, about tenement living. In the song, the singer has fallen in love with a woman who lives in the apartment directly below him but has no clue as to her interest, so he asks her to respond by either knocking three times on the ceiling (yes) or banging twice on the pipe (no), and the chorus includes sound effects of the two choices.
When this song was first released, I had just completed a one-year academic course at Newcastle Polytechnic (since re-designated Newcastle University) and had secured a position as a trainee Probation Officer in the West Yorkshire Probation Service, based in Huddersfield. I would spend the next year as a trainee in the post, learning on the job before being confirmed as a fully-fledged Probation Officer. Today, only university graduates are accepted to be Probation Officers and the full training involves a 3-years degree course and I-year in a trainee position.
Having been given my wings, so to speak, I was eager to fly to parts that no other Probation Officer had ever dared to fly to. The world was my oyster and I intended to learn as much as I could about human nature and the reasons why people do the things they do, in order to better understand them and help them. I was soon to learn, however, that life’s learning curves don’t come straight at you, but instead, usually, send you off down a wrong path of thought so many times before you appreciate that nothing is simple in this life of ours and that there are no easy solutions to people problems.
I will never forget one young girl I worked with during my first year at the Huddersfield Probation Office. She was a 16-year-old who had got herself into a load of bother at school. She either failed to turn up to be registered in a morning or arrived late and missed the first lesson or absented herself from school part-way through the day. She frequently got into fights with other girl pupils and overall was not a happy youngster. There was reported to exist, a poor relationship between the girl and her father, and her father had always been the strictest of parents with his children.
The Social Services would normally have been allocated contact with her via the making of a court Supervision Order, but her mother objected strongly to the Social Services being involved in the case. The girl’s mum had been brought up in Care of the Social Services and had bad memories of her years in Care and her contact with ‘nosy social workers’ as she described them. So, the court made the girl the subject of a two-year Supervision Order under a Probation Officer.
Whenever allocating the cases of young girls to be supervised, the Senior Officer executing the allocation process would automatically select a female officer to supervise the girl. However, on this occasion, the Senior Officer allocating the case asked me to supervise the girl instead. His rationale was simply that because the girl had no positive male role-model in her life, he felt it was important that she learned to trust a male before she was likely to open up in respect of her feelings.
Three or four months into supervising the girl, I appeared to be getting nowhere. She hardly spoke during our meetings. She obviously seemed resentful of having to report to a Probation Officer weekly when she didn’t want to be there and had much better things to do with her life. It took about six months seeing the girl weekly before I decided to switch tact and start visiting her at her home weekly instead of having her visit me at the Probation Office after school was out.
It was the right choice to make, and after a few visits, it became clear that her parents objected to her seeing a boy who lived in the same village and was two years older than her. Her mother feared her firstborn and only daughter might get pregnant, as she had done herself at the age of 16 years. Her father (whom I later learned had married her mother but who wasn’t her blood father), threatened to kick her out of the house if he ever found out that she was still seeing the young man in question.
The girl was obviously not wanting me to continue my weekly visits to the home and asked me if we could revert to weekly office visits. I agreed, providing she started talking and entered into an honest dialogue with me. She agreed and kept her word to the bargain struck.
It transpired that she felt strongly and lovingly about the young man and couldn’t wait to eventually set up house and home with him. She then told me about all the times she would sneak off school or fail to attend in order to secretly meet up with her boyfriend as her parents kept her in every night. There were no phones in homes then and mobiles had not yet been invented. Unless she truanted or sneaked off school, she said they would never have been able to meet up.
During one office conversation, she told me about the elaborate lengths they would go to communicate with and see each other. She would place a light in her window if she intended to truant from school the following day and he would often speak to her through the school railings. He was reportedly three years older than her. Both would leave love letters secreted in a wall in Scholes, Huddersfield (close to her home) and they would secretly deposit and collect their exchanged correspondence whenever they could. It was like some story out of my good friend’s novels; the late Catherine Cookson.
This song reminds me of this young girl, whom I sadly lost contact with after one year into her Supervision Order when she left school and obtained work in a hotel somewhere up in the Lake District. I arranged to have her Supervision Order revoked early on the grounds of ‘good progress’ and stated to the court that its continuation would be an impediment and not a help in her new life. She never confirmed if her boyfriend would be moving up to the Lake District also, but I strongly suspected that he did.
Whenever I hear this song, I think briefly of her and a part of me wonders how she fared. Given all the years that have passed since we first met, she would be soon collecting her pension now, come to think of it!
Love and peace Bill xxx