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.

Image result for lifebuoy soap 1950s      Image result for wright's coal tar soap 1950s

Image result for Imperial leather soap 1950s  Image result for talcum powder 1950s uk

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.



10 thoughts on “Evocative Smells

  1. I remember Ponds! My mother used it as a make-up remover. I think I did to, when I first started wearing make-up. The scent she favoured was Tweed – now long gone, I think. A really evocative scent for me is that of Ayrtons Antiseptic Cream. It was bright bubble-gum pink, came in attractive flat tins, and was the go-to remedy for any cut or scratch. I think it’s still available – about 15 years ago my mother asked me to get some for her because she was troubled by eczema on her hands and she swore by it as a treatment. To my surprise I found some in a local pharmacy. No tin, just a less handsome plastic container but the smell brought back memories of scraped knees.

    Another evocative smell for me would be Johnson’s baby powder. That would bring back memories of changing my little brothers’ nappies.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We had a bright pink antiseptic cream just like yours. It was called Germolene. Still exists, but far from the only one as it was then. I can smell it now! And Johnson’s Baby Powder – I love that smell. My mum liked Tweed too. And also Sandalwood. I saw a scented candle in a shop the other day which was Sandalwood and when I sniffed it I was with my mum in the 1960S again. Thanks for reminding me of a few more smell memories!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You good people..have really ‘nailed it’..as the saying goes. Much fun to think about how our noses..can ‘take ua back’. Thanks much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, this is quite a post, Meryl! I still remember Ponds, I used it for years. Ditto Nivea. And I still drink Horlicks… but, alas, they’ve changed it (though they still call it ‘original’) and it’s really not as nice anymore. I think the pic you’ve given of it is American – can’t say I’ve ever seen a version with Cola flavour here!

    Do you remember a perfume called Quelqes Fleurs? It was an intensely sweet floral perfume that I loved when I was a child. Also Soir de Paris, which was similarly sweet but not as cloying. I loved their bottles as much as their scent. Soir de Paris came in a deep blue bottle, the other came in a sort of flat round one. I think I still have a couple of the bottles though the perfume’s long gone.

    My mum used Lavender hair oil and I adore the smell of it… as you say, Lavender water was very popular then. Did you ever make lavender bags? I’d go slightly mad collecting lavender flowers and drying them out for bags. Might have to do that again (we have some lovely lavender in our garden, but it doesn’t always flower.)

    Other half still uses Imperial Leather but that’s also changed.

    Odor-O-No was a real deodorant?! I thought it was just a pisstake tile of a song by The Who!! (On ‘The Who Sell Out’ album) Here y’go… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • And this is quite a response! I hadn’t noticed that the picture of Horlicks was a Cola flavoured one! Silly me. I’ll rectify that when I have a minute. I remember both those perfumes and could picture the bottles as soon as I read the names. My sister and I used to make lavender bags and also rose perfume which we made from rose petals, water and, for some forgotten reason, salt. We used to strain it and pour it into whatever small empty bottles we could find. We would make labels for the bottles and present our mum, grandmothers and any visiting female relative with them.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’d forgotten about rose perfume. Yes, I think I did that too – my mum had a rose garden, so there were plenty of very highly-scented varieties… but I had to wait til they began dropping their petals.

        Do you remember pomanders? Cloves stuck all over an orange and with something added to it – powdered cinnamon and something else, I’ve forgotten what. Then they were hung on ribbons in cupboards… sort of natural deodorizers.

        One day I’ll try to find you a better source of photos for your posts as it’s really not a good idea using Google Images (which is a search engine not a free-image repository) and you could now fall foul of Article 13… 😦 There are other places to get them, I’ll have a look.

        Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s