We are all now fully aware of the potential hazards of exposure to the sun. Even here, in the relatively un-sunny climate of the British Isles, most of us know a few people who have had treatment for malignant moles or early signs of skin cancer.
Back in the 1950s, there was suntan lotion available but the emphasis was more on soothing burnt skin after the event. In our house this was done using calamine lotion.
Doing my research for this post, I have learned that the early creams were meant to reduce the burning whilst allowing you to acquire a ‘healthy tan’. We all now know that ‘healthy tan’ is a misnomer. These early creams and oils were designed to reduce burning from UVB light but didn’t filter out UVA light which gives you a tan but also causes cancer. These early potions were called suntan lotions/ creams because the aim was to help you get a tan. The term ‘sun protection’ was never heard as the wasn’t seen as something we needed protecting from.
In the 1920s and 30s, the very rich and the aristocratic were flocking to the French Riviera whereas the normal working person was not legally entitled to paid holiday leave until 1939. Until the late 1960s, the sunny holiday abroad was still the preserve of the better off. So for many decades a tan had been seen as a sign of wealth. With the rise of the package holiday through the 1970s, more and more people were able to afford to take a holiday in the sun but it was a while longer before our ideas about tanning caught up.
All images gleaned from Google Images, Pinterest and Wikipedia. I make every effort to use only pictures which I believe I am at liberty to use. If anyone feels that I have inadvertently infringed copyright please contact me and I’ll remove the offending image. Thanks too, to Britain’s Science Museum for some interesting facts on the history of sun protection.
This rather odd title will make sense (I hope!) once you read on. The number of games which can be played on phones and other devices now is unlimited. One can play with other people or alone. Most of the games are recent creations and new ones are appearing all the time – so I’m told. There are complex, role-playing games but at the other end of the scale there are on-screen jigsaws, patience, Scrabble, crosswords etc etc.
When we were young, in the days before electronic devices, we were never without games to play whenever we couldn’t be outside. There were board games, card games, jigsaws, pencil and paper games and verbal games. I’ll look at each category in turn.
As slightly older children, I remember us playing Monopoly and Cluedo but when we were very young the games I remember best are Ludo, Snakes and Ladders and Draughts.
The favourites in our toy cupboard were Snap, Old Maid and Happy Families
Such hours of fun! We began as young children with the 8 or 10 piece ones and moved up to more complex ones as we became older and better at them.
Pencil and Paper Games
We could have hours of indoor fun with scrap paper and pencils. Hangman was a favourite as was Noughts and Crosses. We had many laughs over games of Consequences.
I-Spy is probably the best known one of these. Another alphabet game we used to play was ‘I packed my case and in it I put a/ an .. ‘. There are different versions of it but whatever the words used in the opening sentence, the game then goes on like this. The first person completes the sentence with an item which begins with A. Taking it in turns, the next person has to think of an item beginning with B but also has to include the A word. And so it goes on. If you get to Z that person has to complete the sentence with all 26 items in the right order. Good memory training!
All images gleaned from Google Images and Wikipedia. I make every effort to use only pictures which I believe I am at liberty to use. If anyone feels that I have inadvertently infringed copyright please contact me and I’ll remove the offending image.
A few years ago I wrote a post in this blog about High Street shops which have disappeared from our towns. This time I am focusing one single store, our beloved Woolies which disappeared for ever more than ten years ago. Readers in other countries might not be familiar with the chain but might well have similar stores they remember as fondly.
Woolworths started out in the UK in 1909 as F. W. Woolworth & Co., part of the American company that was established in 1879. The first store was on Church Street in Liverpool and sold children’s clothing, stationery and toys. Woolworths took off in the mid-1920s with stores opening as often as every two to three weeks. By 2008 there were 807 Woolworths stores. In November 2008 Woolworths Group entered administration with Deloitte, and by early January 2009 all of its stores had closed.
As we lived in the countryside, towns with Woolworths were only visited occasionally which is what made the shop all the more exciting, especially to we three children.
When I was young a visit to Woolies was second only to a visit to Santa’s Grotto. Our trips to a major town with a Woolies happened only a few times a year. Cardiff, for example, was a two hour drive away so a it was major expedition on 1950s roads with three children in the back. Necessities were seen to first. If it was a Christmas shopping trip we looked for presents, if it was to buy new winter coats and shoes or new summer clothes for anyone – never the whole family at once, money was tight! – we went to C and A’s, Littlewoods or British Home Stores first. Then, when the serious shopping was done, we went to Woolies. Our reward for not moaning too much as we trailed around the shops was that wonderful treat – the Woolies Pick and Mix. It was always near the entrance so you could smell the sweet, sugary smell as you went through the door. My mum was really fussy about our teeth so being given permission to choose a bag of Pick and Mix was heaven! Near the sweet stall there was always a peanut roaster and my dad, who loved nuts, would buy himself a bag of hot, rosted, salted peanuts. They were measured out from the roaster into a paper bag. He was happy with his peanuts, we were more than happy with our bags of Pick and Mix.
When we were very young, if we ever had a bit of pocket money to spend on one of these outings, my sister and I used to head straight to the jewellery stall in Woolies. We’re not talking Cartier here! They were cheap trinkets – and we loved them! My sister once spent her pocket money on a little ‘gold’ ring which promptly got bent and then completely stuck on her finger. My dad had so much trouble getting it off before the circulation in her finger stopped altogether! When we were older the three of us used to choose stationery or books or occasionally a record. Not an LP, just a single ( a 45), which would then be played to death when we got home.
I remember that the floors were always wooden in Woolies. I also remember buying a Christmas tree decoration there once – which I still have.
Major shopping centres such as Swansea and Cardiff were such a long drive away from where we lived that it was always a full day’s expedition. Inevitably, this involved a lunch stop in a cafe or a cafeteria. Such a treat for we country bumpkins!! The Wimpy Bars were one of our choices, also a cafe called Peter Jones, and lastly, a big favourite – the Woolies cafeteria. The cafes we went to when we were on holiday were places where waitresses in black with white pinnies took your order on a notepad at your table – which had a tablecloth on it. Cafeterias, were new, modern, shiny, wipe-clean and self-service.
Years later, as an adult in the 1970s, I appreciated Woolworths in a completely different way. By this time I was living and working in a town and could go to Woolies any time. I could buy dress patterns and fabric, saucepans and crockery, even plants and bulbs for the garden.
In the 1980s, I would go to Woolies with my children to buy stationery, socks, PE T-shirts and bags for school. There was a photo booth there where I would get their bus pass photographs taken every August ready for the new school year. Whenever I was in town and needed something which didn’t fit in to any other shop category I knew I’d find it in Woolies.
As always, credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. I make every effort to use only images which are available for use but if anyone objects to the inclusion of any image in this post please contact me and I will remove it.
I’ve left it longer than usual between posts. Call it lockdown negativity perhaps! To get me back into it I thought I’d do a quick list of things we no longer hear or see. Most of these have been covered in previous posts at other times. It’s a brief resume.
Indicators which stuck out
Gear change on the steering column
Handbrakes in the dashboard
Bench seats in the front
Reel to reel tape recorders
Blackboards and chalk
The test card
The National anthem at closing time
Presenters smoking pipes and cigarettes
Loose groceries weighed out on scales into paper bags
As always, credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. I make every effort to ensure that i don’t infringe copyright. If anyone objects to my use of any image, contact me and I will remove it.
I was remembering recently a day when I fell in the playground at school and took a lump out of my knee. I still have the scar. I was taken in to school and a teacher put iodine on the wound (which stung SO much!), pressed a lump of cotton wool onto it and tied a bandage around my knee. I’m pretty sure those three things were the main, if not only, components of the school’s First Aid resources. Here are a couple of examples of First Aid kits from the 50s/ 60s. There was a heavy reliance on cotton wool, bandages and lint – to be used with iodine, no doubt.
Another First Aid incident I recall from Primary School is my friend having a nosebleed and the headmaster putting his big bunch of school keys down her back. After recalling this I, of course, felt compelled to look it up. Keys down the back for nosebleeds is very well documented! Although it has never been scientifically tested, some experts believe that there could be some foundation to this old wives’ tale as the cold keys possibly trigger something called the mammalian diving reflex. I do learn some interesting stuff when researching for this blog.
Some of the things I remember my mum having in the bathroom cupboard are: TCP for cuts and grazes (NOT iodine!), calamine lotion for rashes and sunburn , Gentian Violet for mouth ulcers, Milk of Magnesia for indigestion, Marzines for travel sickness, Hactos for coughs, olive oil (small bottle bought in the chemist’s, definitely never for cooking then) for earache and aspirin for aches and pains. The same things were probably in all homes. There were fewer brands to choose from. It’s pretty basic compared with what we have available now but definitely not as primitive as the vinegar and brown paper we know of from the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill. Once again, I felt impelled to look this up. I already knew that vinegar has been used as a disinfectant/ antiseptic for thousands of years but I was surprised to find a lot of evidence of vinegar and brown paper being used together on cuts, bruises, sprains and even nosebleeds. Here is a quote from one of Charles Dickens’ books:
In Nicholas Nickleby, Dickens describes Squeers recovering from heavy bruising which required “Vinegar and brown paper, vinegar and brown paper, from morning to night. I suppose there was a matter of half a ream of brown paper stuck upon me from first to last.”
As always, credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. I make every effort to set my search filters so that I don’t infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to the use of any image in this post, please contact me and I will remove it.
I was thinking recently about the way beards have made a massive comeback in the past few years. That got me musing on men’s facial hair trends in my lifetime.
My memory of men in the 1950s is that I rarely saw anyone with either a beard or a moustache. As we can do so easily these days, I decided to research this. It’s fascinating the way facial hair, in various combinations, and designs, has gone in and out of fashion for hundreds of years.
The beard has been falling in and out of favour for many years. Going back just a few generations, we can see a huge variety of trends which have come and gone and sometimes come back.
So first, a quick run through from the 1800’s up to the Fifties.
In the early 1800s bushy side whiskers were very fashionable.
In Europe, during World War 1, men started shaving off their beards and just having moustaches because it was difficult to put a gas mask on over a full beard. The 1920s and 1930s saw the beard become almost exclusive to more elderly gentlemen, unlike the trendy young beardies of today.
Toothbrush moustaches were fashionable for a while in the 1930s and 40s but disappeared after World War One when they became associated with Adolf Hitler.
Pencil moustaches were sported by some 1940s film stars – Errol Flynn, David Niven, Clark Gable and Leslie Phillips come to mind.
Onwards to my era now and in the 1950s most men were clean-shaven. I can’t remember any men I knew – family or otherwise, having either a beard or a moustache. The film stars were all clean-shaven too and so were the popular bands and singers of the time – Lonnie Donnegan, Elvis, Buddy Holly,
I do, however, remember that the teddy boys of the late 50s/ early 60s grew long sideboards/ sideburns. Here, they are more commonly called sideboards which always puzzled me as a child as a sideboard is also an item of furniture.
In the 60s the beatnik cult arrived and, although we didn’t see any in the rural area I lived in, I was aware of the trend and the accompanying facial hair.
By the late 60s – especially after Woodstock – the long hair and beards of the hippies were becoming more popular and by the early 70s there was a trend for the droopy moustache.
Finally, some words associated with facial hair. Some of these I have only learned from doing this research.
If anyone wants to look into the history of beards in more detail, I recommend Dr Alun Withey’s excellent blog which I have been following for a while https://dralun.wordpress.com/
Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images, historic-uk.com, bbc.co.uk. I make every effort not to infringe copyright but if anyone objects the the use of any image in this post please contact me and I will remove it. Also, any inaccuracies spotted will be rectified once drawn to my attention.
My childhood recollections of 1950s policemen (no policewomen then!) are based on the ones I knew from story books and from seeing PC’s on point duty when we went away on holiday to bigger towns than ours. Point duty was what came before roundabouts and traffic lights and they wore white oversleeves to make them easily visible. It was a very important duty because there were no motorways or by-passes so all main routes passed through towns. A journey to a summer holiday destination involved queue after queue.
Mr Plod was the kindly policeman in the Noddy stories.
Also by Enid Blyton, The Famous Five and the Secret Seven were always having adventures and sorting out misdeeds. The policeman was usually there at the end to take them safely home or to thank them.
Dixon of Dock Green and, later, Z-Cars were two police dramas of the 50s and 60s and were much loved by everyone. They were very tame and innocent compared with today’s crime dramas.
The friendly neighbourhood copper and the village ‘Bobby on a bicycle ‘ were images which formed our ideas of the police as friendly, helpful and kind.
Finally, a note about a policeman very well known in the area I live in now. Bill Harber was the iconic policeman with the distinctive handlebar moustache who was on point duty in the Barnsley town centre in the fifties and sixties before Barnsley was by-passed by the M1.
Bill, who died in 2017 aged 86, is well remembered from his decades directing traffic in Barnsley town centre and became almost a landmark. I started work in Barnsley in 1974 and used to see him on duty in the town.
After publishing Words No Longer With Us recently, I kept thinking of other words and expressions which were in use in Britain in the 50s and rarely heard now. So here are a few more!
Words connected to telephones in the 1950s.
Transfer charge call/ Party line/Crossed line/ Button A/ Button B – There is no such thing as a party line now and I don’t think anyone gets crossed lines any more. For those who don’t remember them, both involved another person coming in on your phone conversation. I don’t know if it’s still possible to make a transfer charge call but I used the system on several occasions when I needed to phone home from a call box and didn’t have the right coins.
This one came to mind the other day. Cradle is still in use as an adjective as in cradling someone or something in your arms. I remember my baby sister sleeping in a cradle when she was tiny, before she went into a cot. It was the word used in the expression ‘from the cradle to the grave’ and in nursery rhymes like Rock a Bye Baby. Now the little baskets are always called moses baskets, cribs or occasionally carry-cots.
Words to do with records
A side and B side/ 45/ 78/ LP/ Juke box – Juke boxes could be found in cafes and pubs everywhere and were such fun to use. You could select a few songs if you had the right coins and then enjoy hearing them played when their turn came in the queue. Records (vinyl discs) were often known by their size. We referred to a 45, a 78 or an LP. Because records had two playable sides there was always the A side, which was the song you bought the record for, and the B side which was a less known, often inferior song. An afterthought – what is a juke?
Pullover/ jersey/ – We didn’t have sweaters back in the ‘old days’. The word jumper was used and still is but more commonly we called them pullovers or jerseys.
Coms/ Liberty Bodice/ Petticoat – These are underwear terms. Coms was short for combinations. The word referred to an item of male underwear which was a vest and long johns combined. In the 50s, when I was young, they were still worn by old men. Less so by younger men of my dad’s generation.
Young children often wore a special sort of vest in winter called a Liberty Bodice. Most people my age remember them. My mum didn’t make us wear them, I’m not sure why, but I don’t think we missed out as my friends all say they hated them. The photo will explain what they looked like.
My mum wore a petticoat all her life. Now known as a slip or an underskirt, they are no longer an everyday item of underwear. My mum and other women of her generation would have felt undressed without one. She had summer ones and winter one and always favoured the full rather than the waist petticoat.
Pinny/ Mac/ Frock/ Sunday Best – Back in ‘the old days’ women always wore aprons in the kitchen. Back to my mum again – she wore one all her life and would put it on even if she was only going in to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and a sandwich. A dress was always known as a frock when I was little. You only ever hear it used now in a semi-serious way as in ‘I’m going to wear a posh frock’. I heard the expression Sunday Best used the other day and I realised that I hadn’t heard it in ages!
As always, my thanks and credit to Google, Google Images and Wikipedia. I make every effort not to infringe copyright but if anyone objects to my use of an image, contact me and I will remove it.
Many thanks to Liz, a follower of this blog, for suggesting this post after reading the last one on new words.
Gumption – This was a term for common sense. ‘Use your gumption.’ ‘She’s got no gumption.’ were the kind of things heard in conversation. My mum even used to shorten it when exasperated ‘Where’s your gumpsh?’ would be the sort of thing we’d hear her say. You can’t photograph common sense so here’s an ad for a household cleaner which was very popular here in the 50’s and was called – Gumption! I haven’t seen it for donkey’s years. So I had a rummage on the Internet. It’s long gone from here but is still available in Australia. I found a big tub of it for sale on Ebay. It was £4.13 to buy plus £23.06 postage.
Cheerio – We all know there is a cereal called Cheerios. Cheerio hasn’t completely disappeared as a word but is much less heard than in the 50s. Cheerio! for goodbye was very common back then. Even though it’s not completely dead and is still used, albeit less so, I’ve put it in here because I wanted to tell you how it originated. It was used first in London in the 17th Century and came about because when rich people wanted to hail cab, which was actually a sedan chair, they would call out of a window ‘Chair, Ho!’ The sound of this call became associated with leaving on a journey and evolved into Cheerio!
Drawers – No, not the ones you keep your underwear in. This is your actual underwear. In Victorian times knickers/ pants/ underpants were known as drawers. It was still in use by older people when I was a child and now is probably only ever used humorously – by those who remember what drawers were. I won’t bother with a picture for this one!
Cravat – The word and the item still exist but I can’t remember when I last saw a man wearing one or heard the word spoken. Here is the lovely Michael Caine sporting a jaunty number.
Natty – My mum used to use this. I never hear it now. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as ‘(of a person or an article of clothing) smart and fashionable.’ If we were out somewhere and saw a gent in a loud or bad taste suit she would quip, quietly, ‘That’s a natty bit of gent’s suiting!’ Her dad, my grandfather, was a tailor so perhaps she got the expression from him.
Trews/ Slacks/ Flannels – All words for trousers, all now somewhat archaic. Slacks were more casual and could be men’s or women’s. Standard grey men’s trousers, usually worn with sports jackets or blazers, were always called flannels. Flannel is a soft woven fabric, of various fineness, originally made from carded wool or worsted yarn, but is now often made from either wool, cotton, or synthetic fibre.
Wireless – Once a noun, now an adjective. We still use the word wireless and it now describes an electronic connection made without wires. When I was a child in the 50s, the radio was never referred to as a radio. It was the wireless.
Gramophone – This was the first term used to describe a machine which played discs. This then morphed into record player and later into deck.
Radiogram – This was a radio and record player (gramophone and wireless) combined and cleverly disguised as a sideboard. Some also had a space for storing records. My mum and dad bought one when I was 8 or 9 and I thought it was amazing!
HP/ Never-Never – From the 1930s, if you wanted to purchase goods but couldn’t afford to buy them outright, there was the option of a hire-purchase agreement also known as the never-never. Credit cards, standing orders and direct debits didn’t exist.
Florin, shilling, sixpence, threepence, farthing, halfpenny, ten bob note, crown, half-crown, guinea etc – these are all words from our old currency. When we decimalised we only kept the pounds and the pennies (pence). When I was very young, and for many years before that, public toilets always had a slot on the door which took one penny. This gave rise to the very British expression ‘spend a penny’ which isn’t heard as much now.
Shooting Brake – These quirky vehicles were popular in the 50s and for some reason were known as shooting brakes. Basically an estate car with a wooden trim, they had a very distinctive look.
Wellington Boot/ Gumboot/ Galoshes – now always just called wellies. At some point in the early 1800s Arthur Wellesley, then Viscount Wellington, asked his shoemaker, Mr George Hoby of St James’s Street, London, to make a boot which was easier to wear with the new, fashionable, tighter-fitting trousers. Hoby removed the tassel and cut the boots lower to make them more comfortable for riding. Meanwhile, in 1856 the Edinburgh-based North British Rubber Company had started to manufacture Britain’s first rubber or ‘gum’ boots. With the name of the duke still retaining a patriotic pull on consumers, these new boots were soon also renamed Wellingtons in Britain. Their popularity did not become widespread until the First World War, when in 1916 the company was commissioned to produce millions of pairs as standard winter kit for ordinary soldiers, to prevent ‘trench foot’, a medical condition caused by prolonged exposure to damp. At the end of the war, soldiers brought them home and introduced these extremely practical items of footwear to farms, gardens and allotments all over the country. A century later, music festivals and fashion catwalks are still benefiting from this wartime legacy.
As always, I need to say that all my images are sourced from the Internet using filters in the hope that I don’t infringe copyright. If anyone objects to the use of any image please contact me immediately and I will remove it.
Credit to Wikipedia, English Heritage, Pinterest, OED, Historic UK
This follows on from the last blog post. In that one I looked at the TV programmes aimed at young children and timed to fit in between getting back from school and the family meal. After the six o’clock news there was another slot where programmes were shown which could be enjoyed by whole families before the kids went to bed. Pre-watershed we would say now! Here are the ones which are etched into my memory which were shown in one of those two slots or on Saturday afternoon. Yes, there was some daytime TV on a Saturday! Mostly sport and some family entertainment.
Dixon of Dock Green – Oh, how we loved this programme! I see now that it had already been running several years when we got TV and that it carried on into the seventies. Police dramas are big in TV now and this was one of the first. But it was so mild, so everyday, so genteel and polite! If you watched it – you’ll know exactly what I mean. Evening all!
Z Cars – This was the second police drama in my life. For a while they ran concurrently. It was a bit more high speed and punchy – but still very tame compared with police dramas of today.
R.C.M.P. – A Canadian (obviously!) made series which ran for a couple of years in the early sixties, we loved this! I can’t now remember any of the characters or stories but we looked forward to every week’s episode.
Whirlybirds U.S. – As favourite TV shows go, this one is in the top five for me and my siblings. Again, I don’t remember any of the actual adventures or the names of any characters but it left me with a lifelong love of helicopters.
Gary Halliday – This was British made and another HUGE favourite with me and my siblings. Halliday was a pilot for a commercial airline and flew to his adventures in an aircraft with the call sign Golf Alpha Oboe Roger George. He was assisted by co-pilot Bill Dodds. Their enemy was The Voice who was never seen by other characters, so that at the end of each series he could escape and reappear in the next. I remember one summer holiday when I, my brother and sister became Gary Halliday characters for days, maybe weeks on end. Even when we went inside for lunch or tea we built it into our role play. Our front porch was the cockpit of our aircraft.
The Lone Ranger This was a US series which was launched in the mid 50s and arrived several years later here in Britain. The masked horse rider, the horse called Silver, the trusty Native American mate called Tonto – it was wonderful!
The Range Rider This was another US import of the late 50s / early 60s with a horse-riding hero. We loved this too but I must have loved the Lone Ranger more because I remember his horse’s name!
Emergency Ward 10 – Running from 57 to 67, this was the precursor to the current medical drama series we have on UK TV here now, Casualty and Holby City.
Dr Kildare – The US import which was the equivalent of Emergency Ward 10. The main doctor character was the impossibly handsome Richard Chamberlain.
What’s My Line? – This was an early version of the TV panel game. Each week, a few guests mimed their job and the panel – the same people every week – tried to guess what they did for a living. My family absolutely loved it. I can still remember one of the mimes when a zoo keeper acted out the washing of an elephant.
Juke Box Jury – The perfect programme for those early days of ‘pop’ music! I seem to remember it was on at around ‘tea time’ on a Saturday. We got to hear new singles and we watched the panel like or dislike them. It was a lot more fun than it sounds!
As always, if anyone objects to my use of any image sourced from the internet – as carefully as I can – please contact me so that I can remove it.