Sweet Treats.

I have covered this before in the very early days of this blog. That post covered sweets, biscuits and chocolate. This time, in a revisiting of the subject, I am sticking to children’s pocket money treats which they could buy in the local shop. There was always a mixture of packet, branded sweets on the counter. I particularly recall Spangles, Fruit Gums, Fruit Pastilles, Refreshers, Love Hearts, Polos. The chocolate bars I remember best are Fry’s Chocolate Cream, Turkish Delight, Mars, Milky Way, KitKat, Crunchie.

Then there were the loose sweets, usually sold out of jars and weighed out on scales into a paper bag. The usual amount children asked for was ‘a quarter’. This meant four ounces or a quarter of a pound. Sometimes you would order two ounces – especially if it was the end of your pocket money week! The smaller portions were weighed out into a cone shaped paper bag, the quarters into a square one. The loose sweets were myriad. I will name a few which I remember best. Shrimps (which always looked more like ears to me), aniseed balls, barley sugars, Everton Mints, butterscotch gums.

Britain's Most Popular Sweets: 1950s - Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe          Original Vintage 1950s- 'Spangles' - Picture Post Magazine ...

Love Hearts                                           Spangles.

The Adventures of Bertie Bassett 1950s UK. Liquorice Allsorts ...        Flying Saucers

Liquorice Allsorts.                                Flying Saucers.

1950s sweets - a delicious trip down memory lane.

A 1950s sweet shop.

Lollies and Sweets Original Sweet Shop Tenby. 1950s Sweets Memory Pack        Mouthwatering Barley Sugar: Gluten & Gelatine Free

Sherbet Fountains.                             Barley sugars.

 

 

Bath Night

Now there’s an expression from the ‘olden days’! When I was a child, hot water was a precious commodity. Although we had an indoor toilet and bathroom and an immersion heater for hot water in our house, many of the farms and houses in our village didn’t. My grandparents in North Wales didn’t have indoor plumbing either. In the fifties, they still carried their water in buckets from a public tap 50 metres or so from their house – it had been converted from a village pump to a village tap. Their toilet was in a shed at the end of the garden and involved buckets which needed emptying daily. Even people who had indoor plumbing and hot water in the fifties remembered how life had been, just a short while back, so the use of hot water was very carefully controlled. I also believe that electricity was more expensive back then in relation to income which was an additional factor.

There was always a ‘bath night’. Just once a week, usually on a Sunday so that you would be clean and ready for the week ahead at school. Back in the 20s, 30s and 40s, when our parents were growing up and water had to be carried into the house, hot water had to be heated in pans on the coal fire. The bath was a tin bath which was brought inside and filled with the hot water. Is it any wonder people only bathed once a week?

 

1964-Tin-Bath

 

So in the fifties and sixties, even in houses with indoor bathrooms and hot water, people were still really, really careful with hot water and bath night was still strictly once a week.

The bathrooms of those days were not places designed to relax in like the bathrooms of today. No thick, fluffy towels warmed on the radiator, no scented oils, candles. There was no heating in British bathrooms in the fifities so bath night in winter was an ordeal – especially on the way into the bath and on the way out.

Toiletries were basic and the choice was limited.

vintage-lifebuoy-toilet-soap-original_360_00e06dc4be75bb4920be084937656172      Wrights coal tar      Imp Leather

Some basic soaps from the 50s.

 

loofah     forsters_natural_sea_sponge_    Pumice Stone Mouse 5060528741590 | eBay

Apart from the ubiquitous flannel, the only washing equipment found in 50s bathrooms were the loofah, the sponge and the pumice stone. Also a back brush and nail brush. What is interesting about the three items shown above is that none of them are man-made. The loofah and the sponge were living organisms and the pumice stone (why was it always mouse-shaped?) is a volcanic rock. The back brush and nail brush were always made of wood with natural bristles.

 

Bath cubes     bath cubes

radox bubble bath 

Toiletries were minimal. A bar of soap and a shampoo. Mums and Grandmas liked a bit of ‘scent’ in their bath water so there were things called bath cubes which were dissolved into the water. Bath cubes were one of the things you bought your mum or your granny as a present. Bubble baths became associated with luxury and glamour so bubble bath started to become popular as a bath additive and Hollywood stars were often shown relaxing in a bubble bath. Then came bubble bath for children and I well remember the arrival of Matey. The idea was that this fun-looking bottle had a liquid in it which made bubbles but also washed you clean! Radox was widely advertised in the 60s on TV as an additive which helped with aches and pains. I believe it was Epsom Salts or similar with a bit of added perfume. Epsom salts and some other salts and minerals are still hailed as being beneficial to the body when used externally such as in a hot bath

Below is a selection of toiletries and the washing aids available today. Just a few, there are hundreds, if not thousands!

 

oilgh-shampoo-for-dry-hair-1549639786

body scrubber scrubbers

 

Strange Times.

I have started drafting a few different posts recently but have kept abandoning them. The focus of this blog is life in the 1950s and 60s in Britain as seen through the eyes of a child and I try to stay true to this. However, it didn’t feel right not to even mention what we are all living through just now. Prompted by my friend H, I began to cast my mind back over ‘plagues and pestilences’ I remember from when I was growing up. I do like to brighten my posts up with pictures but this topic doesn’t lend itself to nostalgic photographs so there aren’t many.

This is meant to be interesting, informative, positive and somewhat relevant to the current problem.

Anthrax. Maybe a strange choice to start off with. I heard about it when I was really very young. I’m pretty sure I overheard adults discussing it, and I became seriously worried for a while that I and my family were going to catch it and die. As a child I was a natural worrier with an over-active imagination. Not always a good combination. I picked up on the fact that it could be caught from cows and I lived in a farming area. I have looked anthrax up and I realise that it was in the news a fair bit in the 1950s because that was when a vaccine was developed. I and my family were never in any danger of catching it from the local cows as my childish mind believed but it is very, very nasty indeed and has even been used in what used to be known as germ warfare. Gruinard Island, a remote uninhabited island off the coast of Scotland was used by the Ministry of Defence in the 1940s for anthrax experiments. It remained contaminated until its eventual decontamination in the 1980s using formaldehyde and sea water. It was declared safe for humans and animals in 1990 and returned to its rightful owners. It remains uninhabited.

Gruinard Island is located in Ross and Cromarty   The location of Gruinard Island.

Smallpox is a real success story. It was massive, all over the world. When I started looking into it I realised that it deserves 1 000s of words just to itself. Here are some facts courtesy of Wikipedia.

During the 18th century the disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans each year, including five reigning monarchs, and was responsible for a third of all blindness.

Between 20 and 60% of all those infected—and over 80% of infected children—died from the disease.

During the 20th century, it is estimated that smallpox was responsible for 300–500 million deaths worldwide.

 

An 1802 cartoon of the early controversy surrounding Edward Jenners vaccination theory, showing how the use of a cowpox-derived smallpox vaccine was causing cattle to emerge from patients.

The link with the 50s and 60s is that I remember a smallpox outbreak here in the UK which sent everyone running to get vaccinated. We went as a family to our GP’s surgery in the nearby town to get vaccinated and it’s the only time I remember being there and seeing people queueing out of the door and along the pavement.

Thanks to vaccination it has now been eradicated from the whole world. How good is that?

Polio was a very familiar word when I was a child. We all knew people who had either died from it or recovered and left disabled to a greater or lesser extent. I remember hearing about the ‘iron lung’ used in the treatment of polio. In the late 1950s my dad lost a good friend to polio who was 32. It was an isolated case and left two little boys without a father. I well recall the first time we all received the oral vaccine against polio. I was in secondary school then and we all had to queue up a class at a time to go into the library and be given a sugar cube to eat. I’ve been looking all this up and the development of the first live oral polio vaccine was in 1962 and was ground-breaking. With mass immunisation, polio became a distant memory. It still exists in the world but is under control. Europe was declared polio free by WHO in 2002.

From 1956-8 there was a pandemic known as Asian flu. I remember little about it. I was five years old in 1956 so, like my daughters are doing now with their small children during Covid-19, parents probably shielded their children from the full facts. Also, we lived in the depths of the Welsh countryside and people didn’t travel so widely then. Researching it now I see how appalling it really was. Here are some statistics, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Estimates of worldwide deaths caused by this pandemic vary widely depending on source; ranging from 1 million to 4 million, with WHO settling on about 2 million.

Hong Kong flu, also known as 1968 flu pandemic, was a category 2 flu pandemic whose outbreak in 1968 and 1969 killed an estimated one million people all over the world.

In comparison to other pandemics, the Hong Kong flu yielded a low death rate, with a case-fatality ratio below 0.5% making it a category 2 disease on the Pandemic Severity Index. I read somewhere that this was because populations had some resistance following the 1958 flu pandemic as the viruses were closely related.

I was more aware of this one as I was a teenager and we had a TV by then so saw national and world news screened every evening. However, I don’t remember anyone panicking where I lived. People my age who were in towns and cities might remember it differently.

It has been fascinating digging into all this and there is so much more I could have covered – measles, rubella, TB to name but a few. I have tried to make it upbeat rather than morbid and I hope I have succeeded.