Words I Didn’t Know in the 1950s.

There are words and phrases in everyday use now which were never heard when I was a child. Some of them are technological words and refer to things which have been invented in recent decades, some are words from other countries, often food words, others are expressions which have evolved over time.

 

I will begin with food. In the UK in the 50s, especially in remoter parts such as where I grew up, the range of food encountered was far more limited than it is now. With the rise of international travel and trade new food and drink broadened our experience. I was 13 before I saw or ate in a Chinese restaurant, my first curry in an Indian restaurant was in 1969 and my first ever pizza a couple of years later. Other food and drink we think of as ours now, which were unknown in the UK then, are;

baguette, bagel, croissant, panini, pasta (we had tinned spaggetti, macaroni cheese and that was it!), sushi, cappuccino, latte, Americano and espresso, green tea, mayonnaise, chilli, couscous, wholemeal, wholefood.

heinz-spaghetti              1941Menu2 What, no pizza?!

Household objects which were unknown, not even dreamed of then include;

TV remote control, microwave, mobile phone, Internet, website, laptop, email – this particular list is endless.

Some words and expressions which have evolved over time or been invented are;

road rage, gridlocked, anger management, food allergy, chronic fatigue syndrome, post traumatic stress, hyper, OCD, ADHD.

Several decades ago if you were green it meant you were somewhat naive, it had nothing to do with your attitude to the environment. If you were cool you were not warm. A tablet was something you swallowed when not well. If something was brilliant it shone brightly. If you were chilling you were becoming colder. Coke was a fuel for an open fire. Olive oil lived in the bathroom, was bought at the chemist’s shop in tiny bottles and used for earache. If you were gay you were jolly and happy. A mouse was always a small furry creature with a tail. If you were in possession of grass or weed it was in your garden and legal. Camp meant to holiday in a tent and was also a brand of coffee substitute. Fanny and Gay were girls’ names. Spam was a tinned, processed meat.

gay ad     gay ad 2      fanny ad 2

camp ad      spam ad 2

To finish with, here’s a random list of words which didn’t exist (as far as I know!) or meant something completely different in the 1950s – digital, chargrilled, logistics, browser, strimmer, recycle, shredder.

 

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Ten quirky, unusual and forgotten facts about growing up in the 1950s.

  1.   There was no tissue paper for personal use. Toilet paper was hard and crunchy – very like greaseproof paper/ baking parchment – and often impregnated with disinfectant so very strong-smelling. The two brands I remember are Bronco and Izal. in my dad’s workplace the toilet paper was printed on every square with ‘Government property. Now wash your hands.’ Noses were blown with cotton handkerchiefs (hankies) even when a person had a heavy cold.

7951310318_03a60ef32d_n                                   hankies

2.   Pineapples, peaches, salmon, cream and mandarin oranges were only seen in tins. I’m sure I didn’t see real peaches or pineapples until the late 60s. Tinned salmon was a treat for Sunday tea or when visitors came. Cream (usually served on trifle or a bowl of tinned fruit) was always Carnation or Ideal. I imagine this was because domestic fridges were uncommon in the UK in the 50s and it was a problem keeping things fresh.

nestles cream                                              Tinned cream

3.    We had never heard of Velcro and all zips had metal teeth. Most female garments had hooks and eyes or press studs somewhere.

4.   Underwear was all cotton and all white or cream. Everybody wore vests all year round – summer vests in warm weather and winter vests in the cold.

mens undies.jpg     ladies vest     A knitting pattern for ladies’                                                                                                                          vests.

vintage-childrens-long-vest-unused-c-1930s-cherub-short-sleeved-girl-boy-26-30--14589-p   A child’s Cherub brand vest.

5.   You always went to bed when unwell – even if it was just a cold. 

6.   Hair was washed once a week, no more.

7.   Gay meant happy, jolly, merry, carefree.

gay

8.   Household light bulbs were all the same size and the same fitting – bayonet. When I go to buy replacement lightbulbs now I take a sample of the one I want with me as the choice is bewildering!

9. There were no tiny batteries such as watch ones. I don’t remember having anything which needed batteries apart from torches.

10.  There were no calculators. In the late 1960s, as a student, I came across my first ever calculator. It was mechanical and made of metal. It had a lever lever on the side and a roll of tape which showed the calculation printed put. I thought it was amazing. Up until then the only aids to maths I had come across were log tables and slide rules.

s-l300

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

I will just add my usual disclaimer – these are my recollections and things might have been very different for people living in different parts of Britain, particularly those in towns and cities where things were perhaps a bit more advanced.

Forgotten Brands

I have talked about lost and forgotten shops and brands before but there are so many I thought I would revisit. My first one is Gordon Moore’s Cosmetic toothpaste. It was heavily advertised on Radio Luxembourg (also a disappeared brand!). I was a teenager desperate to try it out as it was meant to make your teeth look dazzling white. When I eventually had enough pocket money for it, and was in a bigger town where it was actually stocked, I bought some. What a disappointment! It was a toothpaste with a red dye in it. The idea was that by darkening the colour of your gums it would show your teeth as extra white in contrast. Did it work? No! I had hideous red gums and my teeth looked less white rather than more white.  Sno Mist deodorant was also advertised on Radio Luxembourg – I could sing the jingle now, but I won’t! It was the first deodorant I ever used, My mum favoured Odorono but I was sure Sno Mist was better (the gullibility of youth!). It was very sticky and after applying it you had to hold your arms up for about five minutes waiting for it to dry.

Gordon Moore Advertisement, 1950       radio lux    sno-mist-deodorant1-243x300

Next, here are some forgotten foods. I say forgotten but when I am researching these things from the past I sometimes find that they still exist but in other countries. C and A’s for instance. It disappeared from the UK in 2001. The first time I saw it anywhere else (Prague, in this case) I was amazed! It was such a popular High Street store here for so many years I had always believed it to be British whereas it is in fact Dutch. I saw one in Berlin last week. I digress, back to food. Surprise peas were an alternative tinned or dried ones and they were supposed to be exactly like fresh garden peas. when very few homes had freezers, you either bought the pods (or grew them) or you used tinned or dried peas. Dried peas needed soaking overnight and when cooked were mushy. Surprise peas were freeze-dried and cooked in minutes. With the rise of the domestic freezer, they were eventually superseded. I have always loved crackers of any sort and one of my favourites were Macvita, now long gone. My grandmother used to buy them for me specially when we went to stay. My favourite biscuits were Milk and Honey – a sort of oval version of Jammy Dodgers. One year when I was about 14 I gave up biscuits for Lent. At the end of the six weeks I was more excited about tucking into some Milk and Honey biscuits than about my Easter egg. My mum used to buy Lemon Puffs from time to time. They were OK but when put in the biscuit tin they made the other biscuits go soggy and taste of lemon. When I was looking them up I found that they are still very popular in Sri Lanka.

surprise-peas-copy   huntley   macvita

Here is a random selection of forgotten brands to finish off with. Curry’s still exist but look at what they sold then! My first bike was from Curry’s. Cheese triangles can still be bought but do you remember the flavoured ones?

175px-LifeboySoap (1)     flavoured dairylea       Cig adgibbs  tweed  exercise book

 

 

 

 

Space Exploration in the 50s and 60s.

As I follow Tim Peake’s travels in the news I have to remind myself how much Space travel has advanced in my lifetime. We take it all in our stride now and read Tim Peake’s adventures much as we would follow a Polar expedition. But then I stop and think. It is absolutely amazing that travelling to Space has become ‘normal’ in a handful of decades.

My memories are just that – my own personal recollections and impressions. This is not a scientific account. I have checked dates for accuracy but the rest is my own thoughts.

When I was a very small child the sky had stars, the Sun and the Moon in it and that was the sum total of my knowledge of Space. Children’s stories and rhymes of the time talked about the Man in the moon. We used to gaze up on a clear night and try and make out his face.

Moon          moon (1)          Moon

In 1957 the first satellite was launched into Space and the name Sputnik became a household word. I was distressed to hear about a little dog being sent up to Space by herself. Several dogs went up into Space and the idea haunted me. I particularly remember hearing about one whose Russian name meant Little Lemon. All of this was followed on the radio as I was ten before we had our first television.

Laika_(Soviet_dog) Laika, the first dog in Space.                                         Laika_ac_Laika_(6982605741)Her monument in Moscow.

Bush-radio

My next main memory of Space travel is that of the first man to be launched into Space, Yuri Gagarin. This was in April 1961. I was in my last year at Primary School. My little village school had around 30 pupils and two teachers, Our Head Mr Lewis acquired the school’s first television in time for us to watch the TV coverage of the launch as it fell on a school day. This was such an exciting thing to happen! The first man in Space and the school’s first TV!!

It would probably have looked like these and the picture was, of course, in black and white.

tv 2    1961 tv

A lot of other things happened before and after Yuri Gagarin – more dogs went into Space and some returned, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in Space and the first men stepped onto the moon. In 1970 I was a first year university student and although there were televisions in most Common rooms (definitely none in students’ rooms!) the only colour set on the whole campus was in the main Union building. In April 1970 Apollo 13 was launched and loads of us crowded into the common room with the colour TV to see this major event. I couldn’t actually see very much as I was right at the back behind a huge crowd of other students who had got in there first – but I didn’t care, I was there! Apollo 13 was the ill-fated one which suffered an explosion and had to limp back sooner than planned – with no loss of life, fortunately!

tv4 The 1970 TV was probably something like this with a larger screen than the 1961 models and a few more buttons.