What Happened to Whitsun?

I don’t usually do two posts back to back but this popped into my head and I need to do it while it’s still the right time of year.

When I was a child the biggest Church festivals were Christmas, Easter, Harvest Festival, and Whitsuntide. Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and Harvest also tied in with school holidays. Whereas Christian churches still celebrate all these and some others throughout the year, the general population here in Britain seems to have forgotten all about Whitsun. Whitsuntide was the name given to the whole occasion with Whit Sunday and Whit Monday being the two main days. Here in Britain now, the weekend is always the last weekend in May, the Monday is an official holiday and the week always coincides with a half term school holiday. However, the weekend, the bank holiday Monday and the associated school holiday are now always known as Spring Bank Holiday.

So I asked myself how and when this happened. Younger people now, unless they are churchgoers, don’t even know the word Whitsun. I asked a few friends about this and we all had the same memories of Whitsun. It was huge! On Whitsunday you wore your very best clothes. If you had a new summer dress and new shoes, to replace last summer’s things you’d grown out of, they were worn for the first time to church on Whit Sunday morning. We girls sometimes wore little straw hats, ribbons in their hair or white gloves. The boys all had smart trousers, shirts and ties. It was wonderful and felt like the start of summer.

Presbyterian Whitsun Walk   Image result for whitsun 1950s

Whitsun walks in Wales 1950.

Image result for whitsun 1950s  Image result for whitsun 1950s

Sheffield 1952.                                                   Leyland, Lancashire 1950s.

There were often parties and parades that weekend (I lived in a tiny village so our celebration was mainly the church service) and in many towns in the north there were Whit Walks. Those of my friends who grew up in the North of England remember the Whit Walks with great fondness.

So when did Whit weekend and Whit Week become plain old Spring Bank Holiday – or Spring Bank as it’s generally referred to? According to Wikipedia, Whit Monday was officially renamed Spring Bank Holiday in 1972. Also according to Wikipedia Whit celebrations still take place in a few parts of the country.

‘In the North of England church and chapel parades called Whit Walks still take place at this time (sometimes on Whit Friday, the Friday after Whitsun). Typically, the parades include brass bands and choirs; girls attending are dressed in white. Traditionally, Whit fairs (sometimes called Whitsun ales) took place. Other customs, such as Morris dancing were associated with Whitsun, although in most cases they have been transferred to the Spring bank holiday. Whaddon, Cambridgeshire has its own Whitsun tradition of singing a unique song around the village before and on Whit Sunday.’

This is a photograph of Manchester Whit Walk in 2010. Source Wikipedia.

So finally, for those who are not familiar with Whitsun, what exactly is it? Once more, I turned to Google for the answer

‘The name is believed to be a contraction of “White Sunday”.  Whit Sunday is the seventh Sunday after Easter, when Christians celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit to the first followers of Christ.’

So there it is. A high point on the calendar at one time for everyone, in and out of church, Whitsuntide is now known simply as Spring Bank Holiday.

 

 

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Greeting Cards

It was my birthday last week and I was lucky enough to get a lot of lovely birthday cards. It got me thinking about how greetings cards have changed in my lifetime. They have changed not only in appearance but also in the range of events we can now send cards for and in the way we send them – there are many ways of sending cards electronically including e-cards and the ones which are ordered and designed electronically but send as paper cards in the post. I will explore all of this in this post.

First, here are some examples of the sort of cards which were around when I was a child. I don’t remember ever seeing ‘arty’ cards in the shops or even many funny ones. They were either pretty and floral like most of the ones shown or they were more manly and had cars, footballs or garden spades on them. Children’s cards might have images of children, toys,puppies, kittens or cartoons on them. They all had a certain look which was no doubt dictated by the processes available at the time. Photographic images were used more for picture postcards sent from holidays. Another difference I notice is that there was always a greeting printed on the front whereas now there is often no writing at all on the front, especially on the arty cards. One of the main differences, however, was inside. They always had verses in them.  You can still get cards with verses in them, and some people prefer them, but not every card has a verse. In fact, the ‘Blank for your own message’ style of card has become more common in the last few decades – something which was never, ever seen in the 1950s and 60s! Do any of you remember the dawn of the scented card in the 1950s? What a novelty! One of my grandmothers loved to send cards which had been carefully chosen for the verse and the scent. Fortunately, scented cards are no longer with us.

 

Image result for 1950's greetings cards uk   Image result for 1950's greetings cards uk

 

Image result for 1950's greetings cards uk   Image result for 1950's greetings cards uk

 

Image result for 1950's greetings cards uk

Next, the range of occasions acknowledge with cards today. There were always wedding cards, get well cards, sympathy and congratulations cards and a few more. Also, the 21st birthday was a big milestone. Now we have cards for every decade and sometimes even for half decades like 65 and 75. Below is a selection of current cards – and if you wanted to send one to someone whose cat was going to have an operation, or a friend who’d been made redundant or whose relationship had just broken up, then you buy a ‘Blank for your own message’ card or one saying ‘Just to Say’ or ‘Thinking of You’.

Image result for thank you card for house sitting   Image result for happy 30th birthday card

 

Image result for happy 75th birthday images    Image result for good luck in your new adventure card

Then, we move on to the different ways we can send cards. The good old postal service is still the main one. But, as well as paper cards we now have e-cards. I subscribe to one and I really rate it. It’s jacquielawson.com and the art work is brilliant. There are many more websites doing them. I find it great if I want to send a fun card to the grandchildren as they are animated. Also, if I am away on holiday and it’s a friend’s birthday or some other occasion, I can log in and choose one and send it on my phone. Amazing, isn’t it? There are also companies like Moon Pig where you choose your card on a laptop or phone, using your own photographs if you like, add your message in a style of your choosing then the card is sent as a paper one through normal post. They are somewhere in between ‘normal’ cards and e-cards, a sort of hybrid.

Finally, here are some of the cards I received on my birthday, including a Welsh one. There is a Moon Pig one with a photograph of me on it which one of my daughters had made up for me. Also in there is a hand-made card from a friend who loves making her own cards – a style of card I nearly forgot to mention!

Cards 1    Cards 2

Cards 3

 

 

Evocative Smells

I haven’t given myself the easiest topic this time! How on earth am I going to convey smells to my readers?

This has come about following a recent conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about Ponds face creams. It turns out that we both had grandmothers who used to use Ponds. Suddenly we were recalling the size and shape of the pots, the colour of the lids and the distinctive smell which we found we could conjure up in our minds and which would forever remind us of our grandmothers.

Image result for ponds vanishing cream 1950s

Nivea was the cream of choice in our family. Mum always had a tin in the house and in winter she would rub it into our cheeks and hands before we walked to school to stop the cold air drying our skin out. In summer it was rubbed into skin which had burned in the sun – back in the 50s, people didn’t know how much damage the sun can cause. Some households favoured Astral over Nivea. Both creams are still widely available here and both have distinctive smells which can transport people right back to their childhoods.

Image result for nivea tin 1950s

Image result for astral cream 1950s

Milky bedtime drinks were an important part of life in the 1950s. In those post-war years, when food rationing had only just finished, they were looked on as cheap, filling and nutritious. Cocoa and drinking chocolate were popular and are still enjoyed by many children. The two non-chocolate drinks which had their own distinctive smells were Horlicks and Ovaltine. If I were to smell either of those again I would instantly be under twelve, wearing flannelette pyjamas and sitting in front of a coal fire.

Image result for ovaltine 1950s Image result for Horlicks tin 1950s

Perfumes are big business nowadays. There is a bewildering selection available, new ones are being released every year and if you’re a celebrity the chances are that you have one with your name on it. Back in my childhood, the main perfumes or ‘scents’ as we called them were floral in name and nature. There were others available, which were the more expensive ones, and some are still around today – L’Aimant, L’Air du Temps, White Fire etc. But the average mum, grandma, teenage girl used a floral one. If I were to smell Devon Violets now I would be back in my mum’s bedroom reaching up onto her dressing table to sniff her scents and creams. Lavender water and Lily of the Valley were also very popular.

Image result for devon violets 1950s      Image result for lily of the valley perfume 1950s

 

Back in the 1950s, deodorants were not widely used. I remember my mum using one called Odor-O-No but many people still relied on strong-smelling soaps and talcum powder. The soaps I remember with memory-evoking smells were Wright’s Coal Tar Soap, Lifebuoy, Imperial Leather and Pears. Imperial Leather and Pears are still sold but nowadays you have look hard to find the section of the supermarket selling bars of soap as squirty soap and shower gels have taken over.

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Tinned soups are still around, they are definitely not a thing of the past, but if I were to heat up a tin of Heinz Cream of Tomato soup now I would be straight back in my childhood. Tinned foods were in their infancy in the 1950s and as there were so few labour-saving devices around and very few fridges and freezers, tinned soups must have been a delight for the average ‘housewife’ – as they were called then!

     Image result for heinz tomato soup 1950s

 

 

 

 

As before, I would like to say that images used are freely available on the Internet via Google Images. If anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.

 

 

Notable Firsts in the 1950s and 60s

All decades see changes, inventions, introductions and significant firsts. This post explores some of the things which were new, exciting or important during the 50s and 60s when I was growing up.

The 1950s

Recently, I heard the name Roger Bannister referred to and it brought back a memory from the 1950s of the much-talked-about 4-minute mile.

Image result for roger bannister

More than 60 years ago, back on a cinder track at Oxford University’s Iffley Road Stadium in 1954, Bannister completed four laps in 3:59.4, a record-breaking performance that many believed was not humanly possible. The image of the exhausted Bannister with his eyes closed and mouth agape appeared on the front page of newspapers around the world, a testament to what humankind could achieve.

Researching for this post, I realised that I couldn’t possibly remember the actual event as I was not even three years old. This quote from Bannister himself explains just why ‘the four-minute mile’ was such a well known expression when I was a child.

“It became a symbol of attempting a challenge in the physical world of something hitherto thought impossible,” Bannister said as the 50th anniversary of the run approached, according to the AP. “I’d like to see it as a metaphor not only for sport, but for life and seeking challenges.”

Laika was a Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth. A stray mongrel from the streets of Moscow, she was selected to be the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 which was launched into outer space on 3 November 1957. This really used to upset me whenever I heard about it on the news or heard adults talking about it. The thought of a tiny helpless dog being sent up into space seemed so unkind to me. I still don’t like to think about it.

After a week in orbit she was fed poisoned food, “in order to keep her from suffering a slow agony.” When the moment came, Russian scientists reassured the public that Laika had been comfortable, if stressed, for much of her flight, that she had died painlessly, and that she had made invaluable contributions to space science. So sad!

Image result for laika dog

Here is a list of some of the other notable firsts, creations and inventions from the 1950s.

Synchromesh gear changes  Invented in the 1920s but not used in cars until the 1950s. Before this invention, changing gear involved a process called double de-clutching where you went into neutral between each gear position.

Car seat belts. These arrived on the scene in the 1950s and were made a legal requirement in 1968.

Hula hoop These were invented in the 1950s and soon became a huge craze. I spent hours and hours hula-hooping. I loved it – and can still do it.

Organ transplant. This must be one of the most important firsts in medical history.

Pacemaker (internal).  Another amazing medical breakthrough. Before the 1950s there were pacemakers being used but they were external devices.

Not forgetting – Barbie, Colour TV, Tape recorder, Velcro, the Hydrogen bomb,  the Hovercraft, NASA.

The 1960s

And so to the 1960s. After the Soviet space dogs of the 50s (and, it seems there were dozens), the next step was to send a person into space. This time the plan was for him to return alive! I was in Primary school and was ten years old when the first human travelled into space. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He became the first human to journey into outer space when his Vostok spacecraft completed one orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961. Mr Lewis, the headteacher of my tiny school (approx 30 children ages 4 – 11), decided to buy the school its first TV in time for us to watch the launch live. It must have been a weekday between 9.00 am and 4 pm UK time and during a school term for this to happen. Given that many home didn’t have TVs in 1961 where I lived, you can imagine how exciting this was for us!

Image result for yuri gagarin

Eight years later, in 1968, Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first two people on the Moon. Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, both American, landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969, and Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the surface of the moon.

Image result for first moonwalk 1969

The Beatles were my first love in pop music. “Love Me Do” was their debut single backed by “P.S. I Love You”. When the single was originally released in the United Kingdom on 5 October 1962, it peaked at number 17.

Image result for the beatles    Image result for the beatles love me do vinyl single

My sister and I absolutely adored the Beatles. We knew the heights, eye colour, birthdates, likes and dislikes of all four of them We had Beatles magazines, Beatles jigsaws, Beatles badges and my sister even had a really dreadful Beatles wig. Made of moulded plastic it hurt her and forced her forehead into a frown – but she loved it!

Heart transplant. I remember this being massive news when it happened.  On 3 December 1967, Dr Christian Barnard transplanted the heart of accident-victim Denise Darvall into the chest of 54-year-old Louis Washkansky, with Washkansky regaining full consciousness and being able to easily talk with his wife, before dying 18 days later of pneumonia.

 

Christiaan Barnard 1969.jpg

First supermarkets in Britain.  In 1951, ex-US Navy sailor Patrick Galvani, son-in-law of Express Dairies chairman, made a pitch to the board to open a chain of supermarkets across the country. The UK’s first supermarket under the new Premier Supermarkets brand opened in Streatham, South London, taking ten times as much per week as the average British general store of the time.

Image result for premier supermarkets 1950s

Then there were these – Coco Pops, the audio cassette, the laser, the ring pull and Star Trek.

I’m sure readers of a similar age to me can think of many more!

 

 

Facts and statistics from my memory and from Wikipedia. Photos all sourced from the Internet. Anyone with any issues regarding my use of any photograph should contact me directly so that I can remove the offending item.