Primary School Learning in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The school I attended from four years old until eleven was a very small primary school in a remote rural village. The year I left to go to the high school there were 28 pupils in the school which gives you an idea how small it was. Because it was such a rural area, some of the children from outlying farms came from a mile or two away. I was mostly happy in school, I liked the teachers and I worked hard. Many years later, in my early forties I trained for a second career as a primary school teacher. The differences between learning in the 1950s and decades later when I was teaching are many! I thought I’d look at some of the subjects, how they were taught and what we learned. I’m not criticising my teachers. That was just the way it was then and we were not at all disadvantaged by the education we received.

History

I have no memory of finding out about any world history in primary school. As a teacher I loved teaching children about Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, The Vikings, World War II and so on. Our history in the 1950s was very Britain centred and consisted of learning about famous people and heroes like Scott of the Antarctic, Florence Nightingale, Nelson etc. There were no opportunities for finding things out for ourselves by looking in history books or encyclopedias. We were told their stories and we copied out passages from text books.

BBC - History - Scott of the Antarctic
Florence Nightingale - Wikipedia
Scott of the Antarctic and Florence Nightingale. Two of the historical figures I remember from primary school lessons.

Maths

I didn’t come across geometry or algebra until high school. Our maths from four to eleven was strictly arithmetic. Times tables were learned off by heart. This was done by the whole class reciting them together first thing every morning. Other tables which were recited were the weights and measures ones such as ‘Twelve inches to a foot, three feet to a yard, one thousand seven hundred and sixty yards to a mile, eight eighty yards to half a mile, four forty yards to a quarter of a mile . . .’ and so on. This was repeated for weight and time. In our final year we had to sit a test called the ‘Eleven-Plus’ to decide on where you went for your secondary education. The maths we did was all geared towards this test. We had to solve written problems, work out fractions and percentages and even learn how to calculate simple and compound interest.

Exercise book
All our school exercise books had these tables on the back cover.

English

My main memories of this subject are of handwriting practice, comprehension exercises, spelling tests, writing ‘compositions’ (stories, we’d say now) and learning very serious, old-fashioned poems off by heart then reciting them. In readiness for the eleven plus we also had to learn proverbs off by heart. ‘All that glitters is not gold’, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’, etc. were learned and we were tested on them.

Music

Like our history lessons, the music we did in school was very traditional and serious. We learned to play the recorder which I loved. The songs we learned and sang – or played on the recorder – were hymns, in both Welsh and English, and songs like ‘Over the Sea to Skye’ and ‘Hearts of Oak’.

Vintage Recorders for sale | eBay
My recorder was exactly like this one. My granddaughter now has it.

Science

The only science-related activity I can recall doing is when, on a fine day in spring and summer, the teachers would sometimes take us all out for what they called a ‘nature ramble’. They pointed out various flowers, trees and birds and we picked flowers and leaves to take back to school. But I mainly remember how lovely it was to be out of school, enjoying the weather and walking along the lanes around the village. There was hardly any traffic around so road safety wasn’t an issue.

Art and Craft

We did sometimes have art sessions but the only medium I remember using was powder paints. I don’t recall any lessons on colour mixing or technique but the painting was fun. I learned about colours at home from those lovely tins of water colours we used to have back then with the names of the colours written under every little square of paint. I loved the wonderful names they had like ultramarine and burnt umber. Oh, the joy of getting a brand new paint tin for Christmas! I also enjoyed the knitting and embroidery lessons in school.

Vintage Paint Set Divers Design 1960s Children's Paint image 5
I never see paint boxes for children now with the names of the colours written under each block – and I have looked!

P.E.

We very rarely did PE although there in a storage area there were a few boxes of coloured bean bags, balls and quoits. We used to look at them longingly! A few years into my time at the school we acquired a new school radio. Once a week one of our two teachers would tune into a BBC programme called Music and Movement. For fifteen minutes we would follow the instructions on the radio and move around the classroom in different ways. Sometimes we were asked to imagine we were different creatures or to stand still and look like a tree. We absolutely loved it!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg
How we would have looked when listening to the BBC’s Music and Movement programme on the school radio.

R.E.

Religious Education consisted of singing hymns first thing in the morning while a teacher played the piano and saying prayers . Being a Welsh school we also learned the story of our patron saint, St David. We all went to church and Sunday School and learned more about the stories in the Bible there. We were completely unaware of any of the other faiths in the world such as Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism etc.

Saint David Biography - Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline
St David, the patron Saint of Wales.

As always, credit to Wikipedia and Google Images. I make every effort to ensure that I do not infringe copyright but if anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.

New Year, New Diary.

Happy New Year to anyone reading this!

When I was a child, a new diary always appeared at Christmas. Sometimes I found one in my stocking, other years it might be a present from a friend or relative. It was so exciting starting a new diary!! I loved filling in the details inside the cover and I always enjoyed looking through all the ‘useful’ information in the front. Back then, we had diaries to record daily events as they happened rather than to note things happening in the future. My mum loved writing. She wrote stories (several were published), she really loved writing letters and she wrote a daily journal into old age. On January 1st, once we’d written our thank you letters and New Year’s resolutions, we were encouraged to start filling in our diaries. From time to time as the year progressed, Mum would remind us to write in our diaries. I still have a few of mine and most years my daily entries only lasted the first few months. However, some of my 1960s diaries are full for the whole twelve months.

My 1959 diary was an Enid Blyton one. Even though it was pocket-sized and slim it had roughly 70 pages of ‘useful’ information before the dated pages started. Looking at it now, I see that I didn’t record much in it beyond March but I can clearly remember trying to learn Morse Code, Semaphore, the hand signing alphabet and knots from the pages shown. There were pages, too, on First Aid, history, wildlife, recipes and pocket-money making ideas.

My 1964 diary was titled Lett’s Schoolgirl’s Diary. Also a slim, pocket sized one it still managed to pack in approximately 70 pages of information thought to be useful to schoolgirls. In it there are log tables, conversion charts, lists of French verbs, weights and measures charts, embroidery instructions, photographs of famous people and much more. At the end of each week’s double page there is a snippet of information with a drawing. A small selection of these pages is shown below.

The diary below is from 1963. My sister had a matching one in red. We thought they had great covers! It’s one in which I wrote every day for the whole year, often in some detail. The interesting thing about this one is that the first two months and the first week of March are a detailed first-hand account of what’s now known as the Big Freeze. Because we lived in a remote part of mid Wales it affected us more than it did some other parts of the country. Most of the roads are narrow and twisting and became blocked when it snowed. As well as road problems we had burst pipe and boiler problems in both the village school and the secondary school I’d just started in which was five miles away. There were only three weeks out of those first nine when I was able to attend school for the full five days. I record the rain washing the last of the snow away on the 7th of March.

No credits this time as all the photographs are mine – hence the poor quality!

Christmas Memories

First of all, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers and especially to my regular followers. Since starting this blog a few years ago it has been viewed a total of 164 500 times world wide. That makes me very happy and is way beyond what I was expecting when I started it. Also, I thought I would run out of ideas after the first year or so but every so often something strikes a chord and I think ‘I could do a blog post on that!’ Sometimes somebody suggests a topic I hadn’t thought of.

What follows is a brief summary of some thoughts and memories of Christmases when I was young. I’ve done similar ones before at Christmas but I didn’t want Christmas to pass without a mention.

The 1950s Christmas

History of the Christmas Broadcast | The Royal Family
Image 1 - Vintage Spear's Ludo Board Game
A 1960s Christmas - Historic UK

The war had only finished in 1945 and rationing was still in place in the early fifties. People weren’t well off and there wasn’t the same choice of consumer goods as there is now. I remember the Christmases of my childhood so clearly and every one was magical. Turkey wasn’t yet the UK’s main Christmas meat. Chicken was still quite a luxury at that time, before the days of mass produced chicken, so that was often what people ate. Everyone made paper chains and paper lanterns. I remember making them at school and at home in the 50s and early 60s. Gifts were mostly things you needed and were often home made. Board games were hugely popular in homes and were often given as gifts. Children were given art and craft sets too. I don’t remember any of our toys needing batteries or cables. Moving toys were mostly wind-up and, when I was little, often made of tin. Bigger dolls and baby dolls like mine were still made of pottery. Plastic ones arrived soon after. I still have the one I was given for Christmas when I was about eight years old. It’s amazing she has survived because she wasn’t a shelf doll, she was payed with for many years.

Here she is!

There was always a circus on TV on Christmas Day in the afternoon. And everything stopped for the Queen’s speech! In the fifties, in our house, this was listened to on the radio. It was first televised in 1957 but we didn’t have a TV until 1962 when I was 10.

The 1960s Christmas

1960s Christmas - BBC Archive

Image 1 - Sindy Doll 1960s New Look Side Part
BEATLES 1960`S NEMS Jigsaw No 4 + Box Walt Howarth Complete Puzzle Ex Box  VGC- - £120.00 | PicClick UK

The Sindy doll was launched in the early 60s followed by Action Man in the late 60s. There was also a short-lived doll which was popular in the UK called Tressy. In the first half of the 60s, the Beatles arrived on the music scene. My sister and I were nuts about them. My sister was given a Beatles wig one Christmas which she loved. It was moulded plastic, hurt her head and made her frown but she didn’t mind. She was about eight or nine years old. She also had a Beatles jigsaw. The second half of the sixties were my teenage years and I remember the joy of being given records as presents. Perhaps the latest Beatles or Stones single (on a 45 vinyl) or a new album from my parents. One year I really wanted a Beatles sweater for Christmas and was bought one by my mum and dad. A Beatles jumper was just a black polo-neck. Bath cubes were very common presents when I was young. Grannies, aunts, mums and teenaged girls all loved using them. You never see them now!

Many, many thanks to all of you! Have a great time.

Church was massively important at Christmas when I was young. It was so exciting to we three children to walk to the other side of the village to the Christmas morning service, sing carols, celebrate the Christmas story, see the extra decorations in the church and greet all our neighbours.

Credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. If anyone objects to the use of any image in my posts, please contact me and I will remove it.

When Tea was Tea and Bread was Bread.

This could be subtitled ‘Another Way in which Things have Changed’. It’s not a complaint, more choice is mostly a good thing. I’m just making a comparison.

Last week we were visiting relatives and whilst with them we made a trip into their nearby city. When we were ready for something to eat we dived into the first café we saw – it was pouring with rain! – to get some lunch. It was a lovely café and we were all able to choose a light lunch from their menu. When it came to choosing our drinks we looked at the drinks menu. There were eleven different teas and seven coffees to choose from. I know this is an unusually large selection but it occurred to me that even the simplest of small cafes will list three or four different teas and in the likes of Costa and Starbucks the choice of coffees is bewildering.

THEN . .

Typhoo tea vintage advertising

And NOW

UK Companies Prepare to Stockpile for Christmas Time No-Deal Brexit

Back in the 1950s and 60s, when I was a child, visits to cafes were usually associated with day trips and holidays. The drinks to choose from would be tea, coffee, orange squash, lemonade and milk. Perhaps a milk shake in some places. Then we come to the milk you put in your tea or coffee. Whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed? Oat, soya or almond milk?

THEN . . .

1950's Memories - The Milkman | Colin Pickett | Flickr

And NOW

Milks of Human Kindness | Veggies

I could cover so many menu items which are different from the 1950s but the next one I’m going to look at is bread. I never, ever remember brown bread being offered as an option when you bought a sandwich in a café. Bread for sandwiches was always white sliced bread. If you ordered a hot meal like fish and chips there was usually a plate of bread (white sliced bread) and butter served with it. In a café or restaurant now it’s normal to be asked if you want white or brown bread. The more up-market you go, the more choices there are. It’s quite usual to see a list of different sandwich fillings and a footnote saying served on white or brown bread, ciabatta, panini or baguette.

THEN . .

Cheese & Tomato – southdownscoffee

And NOW

Chicken ciabatta sandwich recipe | Schwartz
Baguette sandwiches filled with tomato, mozzarella and rocket - Stock Photo  - Dissolve

A 1950s ‘Woolies’ cafeteria. One kind each of tea, coffee and bread. I loved those cafeterias! We never even hear the word cafeteria now.

1950s Woolworths Restaurant

A few more memories of British cafés in the 1950s to round this off. Salad was lettuce, cucumber and tomato. No rocket, peppers, olives and certainly no salad dressing. The only thing which was ever put on salad was salad cream. Tomato sauce was often on the table in a red, plastic tomato-shaped container. Pickle meant Branston, Piccalilli or pickled onions. Egg sandwiches were made with salad cream and some cress and were not known as egg mayonnaise sandwiches. Cafes and restaurants rarely offered tap water as a drink option and would even refuse it if asked.

THEN . .

And NOW

8 Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes You Should Make at Home | Wholefully

Pictures sourced from Google Images and Wikipedia. As always, I go to a lot of trouble to avoid infringing copyright. If, however, anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.

Things people don’t do, see or say any more.

First of all, there are exceptions to ALL of these! But here is a brief rundown of things we just don’t come across any longer. It should raise a smile among those of you who are of the same vintage as me. Some have been mentioned elsewhere in various blog posts of mine from the last few years.

Motoring.

When I was a child people had special gloves specially for driving in. They were known – predictably – as driving gloves and they had leather palms and woven string backs. They made great Christmas presents for those dads and uncles you struggled to buy for. Cars were still a relatively new phenomenon and not every family had one so people often gave driving-related gifts to others. People also had car coats, car rugs and some (my mum for one) kept certain shoes for driving in.

60 Christmas gift ideas for classic car fans | Classic & Sports Car

Cars had to be ‘warmed up’ after standing overnight. My dad used to go out and start the car up five minutes before he left for work.

In the countryside, at the top of a mountain road, there would always be a car or two parked on the verge with the bonnet up and steam issuing forth from the radiator. Once the car had cooled down, the journey continued.

On the TV

There were many hours in the day, and at night, when no programmes were broadcast and if you turned the set on you would see the ‘test card’.

Anyone recognise this test-card? – Black & White Television – VRAT Forum
The first test card I remember, in the early 60s, was like this.
The history of the BBC trade test transmission (part 1/4) - Clean Feed
This test card appeared with the dawn of colour TV in the late 60s/ early 70s.

After the last programme of the evening had finished, the National Anthem was played. I only heard about that, never saw it, as I was a child and was never up at 10.30 or 11.00 when the programmes finished. When the set was turned off there was a white dot on the screen which very slowly shrank until it disappeared.

TVs often suffered from interference due to the weather or transmission issues and the effect on the screen was always referred to as ‘snow’.

Early TV presenters all wore evening dress – dinner suits and bow ties for the men, an evening dress for the women (of which there weren’t many in the 50s!) – and they often smoked whilst conducting an interview.

Answering phones

Households only ever had one phone in the 1950s. I remember huge excitement in our house in the mid-1960s when we acquired an extension! Everyone answered their phones with a greeting followed by their full number, complete with exchange. A made up example would be ‘Hello, Hightown 363.’ To digress a bit, our first telephone number was 9. There was a small telephone switchboard in our village Post Office (it’s now in a museum) and you called them (they were 1) to ask to be connected to other numbers. We were the ninth phone in the village – hence the number!

Taking Photographs

Remember the joy and anticipation of collecting your latest pack of prints from the shop or receiving them in the post? Remember too, the disappointment when some of them hadn’t turned out well – finger in front of lens, subject moved, over-exposed etc.? But they all had to be paid for, and the film had to be bought in the first place. We were so careful not waste shots!

127 film - Wikipedia
Everyone my age will remember winding the start of the film onto the spool in the camera, taking great care not to let light into the film accidentally.
Kodak Brownie 127 Film Bakelite Camera with case and manual  image 0
My first camera was like this and was a birthday present in 1960. I still have it.
Zenit E Vintage Russian 35mm Film Slr Camera with Industar image 0
My second camera was bought in about 1975 and was one of these.

Wearing Hats and Gloves All Year Round

In the 50s, when I was very young, most men didn’t leave the house bare-headed. Men in hats vastly outnumbered hatless men. They were always taken off indoors. Most women also wore hats outside. My grandmothers, for instance, never left the house without a hat – felt hats in winter, often straw or linen in summer. My grandmothers always to wear hatpins in their hats,

Working class Brits did not ditch the Labour Party … it ditched them
Readers reply: when and why did men stop wearing hats? | Hats | The Guardian

I also remember that women all wore gloves to go out, especially when going to church. They had winter gloves and summer gloves. In the 1950s, when girls were dressed in small versions of what their mums wore, I remember me and my sister having to wear white cotton gloves with out best summer dresses to church.

1950s Woman In Hat & White Gloves Photograph by Vintage Images

Looking after vinyl records

Remember the care we used to have to take when handling records? Hold by the edge only. Wipe dust off with a special cloth. Always slide an album into the inner paper sleeve before putting away in the outer sleeve. A scratch on a record could render it unplayable. There were little brushes too for getting fluff off the needle.

VINYL RECORDS : ECO-FRIENDLYISH ? - Diggers Factory

Writing Letters

I have always love writing and receiving letters. There is something about a hand addressed envelope arriving in the post. We still write letters, in a way, but they are emails and it’s somehow not quite the same.

Paul Feeney on Twitter: "British postman in the 1950s. Two post deliveries  a day including Saturdays and no van or hand-cart. /bit.ly/1alhmZX  http://t.co/SVXgJutWly"

Having doorstep milk delivered in glass bottles

Remember the sound of the milk float, the clink of the bottles? Rinsing out your bottles and putting them on the step? Hardly anyone I know has a milkman now. It’s all bought from the supermarket in plastic containers. Living where I did as a child, we didn’t have a milkman We went to a nearby farm every evening at milking time with our washed out bottles and filled them up straight from the cooler. All my life, the sound of a milk float has reminded me of visits to relatives who lived in towns. I used to find town sounds and sights so exciting as a child from the countryside. I do have a milkman now and I’m very happy about it! But there as aren’t many of them around these days. I love the fact that I get my milk in returnable glass bottles and my eggs, which are free range, in recyclable card containers. So I’ve done this change the other way around and am one of the exceptions I referred to at the start of this post.

Former Milkman's book DELIVERS the secrets of the 'Romeos of the road' |  Books | Entertainment | Express.co.uk
Milkmen drove ‘floats’ like this which were powered by batteries and had a very distinctive, quiet sound.

Credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. As always, I have endeavored to ensure that nothing used in this post infringes copyright. If anyone objects to my use of an image, contact me and I will remove it.

Space Part 2 – the Music

Thank you to my readers and followers. I had some really lovely comments after my last post – Space. Also, last week I topped 150 000 hits which I’m very happy about.

I have always listened to a lot of music and since writing the Space post a few songs have been running through my head so I’ve decided to add Part 2. I wrote about our long-standing fascination with space and space travel and I mentioned several books comics relating to space travel, some of them published well before the first attempts at travelling to outer space. The same applies to music so here is a short list, in more or less chronological order, of pieces of music and songs which are about Space and Space travel. I apologise if I have missed any really obvious ones – or your favourite. Feel free to comment. I have crept into the 70s, 80s and 90s for this one!

Gustav Holst’s work The Planets Suite was written in the period 1914-18 and although not about Space travel, it reflects our ongoing curiosity about Space. He gives each planet a character related to the ancient Greek and Roman gods they are named after and he portrays the characteristics of that god as if they were also the planets’. For example, the planet Mars is named after the Roman god of war and the Mars part of the Planets is an angry sounding piece. Classicists, please forgive my layman’s explanation!

In 1954 Bart Howard wrote Fly Me To The Moon and there have been many versions recorded. The one we all think of when we remember this song is Frank Sinatra‘s version released in 1964.

Purple People Eater. I can remember this song from when I was a child. A novelty song, it was a minor hit for Sheb Wooley who released it in 1958. It was a favourite for several years on Children’s Favourites on Saturday mornings. People at that time still talked about ‘Martians’ and little green men and wondered whether there was life elsewhere in Space.

David Bowie‘s album Space Oddity album, released in 1969, is considered by many to be one of his finest works and even those who don’t know the album are probably familiar with the words ‘Can you hear me Major Tom?’ and are able to hum the tune if not sing the whole song.

Bowie‘s Life on Mars? came out in 1971.

Elton John‘s Rocket Man released in 1972 is familiar to all, I’m sure. The recent film about Elton John’s life is called Rocketman.

Also released in 1972 was The Carpenters‘song Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft. This one, like the previous three, was around at the time when Man was actually going up into space and even landing on the moon. Space was massive news.

In 1978 Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip recorded I lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper.

DE3043 7"-45 giri" I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper VINYL -  Amazon.co.uk

The Police recorded Walking on the Moon in 1979.

Walking on the moon. The police song.

1986 saw Europe release The Final Countdown.

The Final Countdown (song) - Wikipedia

This song is a favourite at sporting events, often being played to rally crowds. On 2 October 1990 just a few hours before the German reunification, the English segment of international radio broadcaster of former East Germany RBI, played the intro of the song.

REM‘s Man on the Moon came out in 1992

R.E.M. - Man on the moon | Sheet music for choirs and a capella

In 1998 Belle and Sebastian recorded A Space Boy Dream which was about a boy who dreamed that he had the opportunity to fly to Mars with his dad and his sister but in three separate spaceships.

While I was drafting this post yesterday I heard on the radio that William Shatner had become the oldest person to travel to Space and back. Which led me to think that I haven’t yet covered films and TV programmes about Space through the decades. Possible Part 3?

 

 

 

Credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. As always, I have endeavored to ensure that nothing used in this post infringes copyright. If anyone objects to my use of an image, contact me and I will remove it.

 

 

Space

Those of us who were children in the 50s and 60s were witnesses to the dawn of space travel. I remember hearing about the Sputniks and being excited by the thought of anything travelling into space. When they launched Sputnik 2 in 1957 I was haunted by the thought of the poor little dog Laika being sent up there and not coming back alive.

In 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel into space, my school acquired its first ever television set specifically so that we could watch the lift-off live as a whole school – all 28 of us and two teachers! This was incredibly exciting.

The launching of a man into space was exciting in itself but this was at a time when many families, especially in remote countryside locations like ours, didn’t yet have a TV set in the home. We all know that next came the Explorer, Apollo and Shuttle programmes. Space systems continue to become more and advanced and now space travel itself doesn’t often make headlines but many facets of our lives, are influenced and even sometimes controlled from space. Just think of our SatNavs and Sky dishes!

Although space travel didn’t begin until the 1950s, people have always been fascinated by space and the possibility of extra-terrestrial beings. Here is a brief summary of some of the science fiction which predated real space travel.

The First Men in the Moon is a scientific romance by the English author H G Wells, originally serialised in The Strand. His work The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel. Its first appearance in hardcover was in 1898. and it is one of the earliest stories to detail a conflict between mankind and an extra-terrestrial race.

H.G. Wells - Books, Time Machine & War of the Worlds - Biography
The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells

 Mr Skygack, from Mars is considered the first science fiction comic to feature an extra-terrestrial character in the history of comics. It ran from 1907 to 1911.

In 1942, Isaac Asimov published the first of his Foundation stories—later collected in the Foundation Trilogy in the 1950s. The books recount the fall of a vast interstellar empire and the establishment of its eventual successor. 

Image 1 - isaac asimov foundation series 6 books collection set - (foundation,foundation a

Arthur C. Clarke was a lifelong proponent of space travel and in 1934, while still a teenager, he joined the British Interplanetary Society. When originally formed in January 1933, the British Interplanetary Society aimed not only to promote and raise the public profile of astronautics, but also to undertake practical experimentation into rocketry.

In 1948, he wrote The Sentinel for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected, it changed the course of Clarke’s career. Not only was it the basis for 2001: A Space Odyssey but “The Sentinel” also introduced a more cosmic element to Clarke’s work. 

Dan Dare was a British science fiction comic book hero (1950 – 1967), created by Frank Hampson who also wrote the first stories. They were set in the late 1990s, but the dialogue and manner of the characters were reminiscent of British war films of the 1950s.

Eagle cover 1989.jpg

Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images, NASA, ESA, BIS. As always, I have endeavored to ensure that I have not infringed copyright through the images I have used. If, however, anyone objects to the use of a particular image please contact me and I will remove it.

The Annual Show

Just when I was fearing that I’d completely run out of ideas for a new post – blogger’s block? – I sat down this evening to watch Countryfile on BBC 1. Readers living in the UK will know what I mean. For people from faraway lands (as they used to say in fairy tales) it’s a weekly programme which goes out on a Sunday evening and covers all matters relating to the countryside. It’s been running for 33 years – yes, I Googled it! – and is a Sunday evening ritual for many people regardless of where they live. It can come from any part of the UK and might focus on farming, nature, tourism, environmental issues, weather, and many, many more countryside related subjects. Tonight’s episode came from a large annual agricultural show in Staffordshire called the Manifold Valley Agricultural Show. Ping! I suddenly had an idea for a blog post!

When I was a child living in a tiny village in a remote valley in mid-Wales the annual shows, which were held in the summer, were something to look forward to. The biggest one in Wales was, and still is, the Royal Welsh Show. We loved going to that one as it was almost like visiting a city to children from a small village. There were so many interesting tents, stands and displays. The ‘show’ bit comes in when farmers show their best livestock and prizes can be won. However, as children, we weren’t interested in that. We saw sheep and cows every day. We wanted to see ice-cream vans, rides, tents selling crafts and souvenirs, to just enjoy being in such a buzzing atmosphere amongst so many people. It was half an hour from where we lived so was rarely missed.

The Royal Welsh, 1950s.
The Royal Welsh 1963 – I was probably there! But I wouldn’t have been looking at the prize-winning pigs.
File:The Royal Welsh Agricultural Show at Bangor 1958 (7636807478).jpg -  Wikimedia Commons
A 1950s scene from the Royal Welsh. I think it might have been raining!

At the next tier down, every county had an annual show. Within those counties the rural towns had their own annual shows. But right at the bottom of the ladder – or the top for us as children – most farming villages also had a show in the summer. My village was tiny. It spread for miles as all the farms were so widely scattered but you could drive through it and miss it. To give you an idea, my village school which took all the village children from aged 4 to aged 11 had just under 30 pupils each year. Many of the villages in the area were as small, in some cases smaller. But there used to be some great shows to go to on a summer weekend.

A prize-winning Welsh Black.

Lleyn Sheep Society :: History of the Society upto 2020 by H Stoney-Grayshon

Another Royal Welsh prize winner,

The modern day Royal Welsh. Still a great day out.

I thought this was a good time to celebrate the world creeping back to normality – very slowly – after the pandemic nightmare of the last eighteen months. There were no shows last year. As open air events they have crawled back into place this year. Let’s hope next year is completely back to normal.

Mail

Something occurred to me recently. Now that we have moved into the digital age, we are fully conversant with the language which goes with electronic communication. Email is so very different from writing a letter on paper and putting it in a post box. Yet we use the same words – write. post, mail, inbox, etc.

One of my grandfathers was a rural postman in Wales for many, many years. He delivered to remote villages and isolated farmhouse all over his designated patch. He had a little hut several miles from his home where the mail was delivered and where he sorted it. As he was often waiting for a second delivery and it wasn’t worth cycling home and back again, he had a little vegetable garden next to the hut which he could tend whilst waiting. When he retired the GPO calculated how many miles he had cycled in his time with them. They presented him with a special medal and a certificate.

Here are some things I looked up about post in general to inform and entertain us.

Mail/ Post

The meaning “system for the conveyance of letters” is from 1660s. In the 1590s the definitions included the words “vehicle used to convey mails;”. In the 1670s mail/ post was defined as “a dispatch of letters from or to a place.”

mail coaches | Horses, Horse carriage, Postcard
Mail Guard's Frockcoat. Manufacturer: Herbert & Co, London 1875-1882
Royal Mail issued its first uniform in 1784, for mail coach guards
Summer uniform with double peaked shako. London postman of 1904 (POST 118/2060)
A 1904 photograph of a London postman.

We use the word ‘mail’ for physical communication and now also digital. If you look up a definition of the word you’ll find that it is interchangeable with the word post. Post is the word mainly used in the UK – post-box, post a letter, post man etc – whereas in the US the word used is mail.

Type

Late 19th Century
Early 20th century

We still refer to typing, a word which has been in existence since the invention of typewriters in the 1860s.

Post box/ Mailbox/ Letter-box/ Inbox

BBC - A History of the World - Object : Baldock's First Letter Box
Baldock’s First Letter Box

People didn’t have letterboxes in their houses until about 1849, when the Post Office started encouraging people to have them. Generally the only letter box was in the building known as a letter receiving house, where people posted their letters to be delivered. There were no pillar boxes at the side of roads until 1853. So this may have been the first letter box in Baldock, probably the aperture or letter box in a Letter Receiving House, the communications hub of the area at the time. This was before postage stamps and Baldock’s position at the junction of several major roads made it a focus of coaching activity. The Royal Mail used the coaching system at this time to transport letters.

Britain's oldest red postbox is still in use after 161 YEARS - and still  bears Queen Victoria's initials | Daily Mail Online
Britain’s oldest red postbox is still in use after 161 YEARS – and still bears Queen Victoria’s initials | Daily Mail Online Credit: © SWNS.com

Post-box, also mail-box, was defined in 1797 as a “box for mailbags on a coach,”. By 1853 letterbox was defined as “a box placed in some public place for the deposit of letters to be gathered by the postman,” .

Address

In 1712 the word address was defined as “the superscription of a letter, guiding it to its destination” and by 1816 the definition had become “place of residence”. The word began to be used in computer programming from 1948.

Signs and Symbols

Two of Britain’s familiar logos.

Retro Letter Box With Horn Outline Illustration. Vintage Mailbox.. Stock  Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 99914124.
This image, often seen on domestic letter-boxes, is a link to the post horn used by the coach guards on the mail coaches in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Below is a selection of the icons connected to electronic mail which all relate to physical objects or processes.

Free Send Icon of Line style - Available in SVG, PNG, EPS, AI & Icon fonts

File Icons – Free Vector Download, PNG, SVG, GIF
Trash icon, Bin icon ⬇ Vector Image by © drsuthee.hotmail.com | Vector  Stock 121739470
12,692 BEST Erase Icon IMAGES, STOCK PHOTOS & VECTORS | Adobe Stock
Email Icons Transparent White - Phone Email Address Icon Png, Cliparts &  Cartoons - Jing.fm
A summary of the common icons.

To add a touch of 1950s and 60s history to this post, it cost twopence-halfpenny or 2 1/2d (1p in current money) to post a letter in the early 1950s. This rose to threepence or 3d in 1957. There were two deliveries a day to households right up until sixteen years ago. Back in my dad’s childhood, there was still a delivery on Christmas Day. You posted your Christmas cards to arrive on the day, the way we do with birthdays. Their family always had Christmas Day on Boxing Day because the 25th was taken up with my grandfather working all day plus two visits to chapel, morning and evening.

I do my best to ensure I am not infringing copyright in my blog posts but f anyone objects to the use of an image in this post please contact me and I will remove it.

Credits to: etymonline.com xavier.edu bbc.co.uk postalmuseum.org

Wikipedia

Google Images

On Being Born in the 1950s.

So, readers, I turned 70 last week. I hadn’t been one bit excited about it as I feel the pandemic prevented me from having a normal year when I was 69. As it turned out, two days before my birthday was officially the country’s second easing of lockdown no. 3. It was a great week to have a birthday as I was able to see some family members I hadn’t seen since before March 2020.

My birthday led me to think, as it often does, of the tales my mum used to tell me about the times when I, my brother and sister were born.

At the turn of the century, birth at home was the normal. Within 50 years, the majority of women had hospital births. Maternity hospitals or homes were usually independent from general hospitals. Men were never with their wives through labour and definitely weren’t present for the delivery.

John Bull 1950s UK babies hospitals maternity wards fathers #7077383
The front cover of a 1952 edition of John Bull magazine showing new fathers meeting their offspring for the first time in the nursery – blue cot blankets for the boys, pink for the girls.

Bottle feeding started to become popular in the late 40s and by the time I was born women were actively encourage to choose bottle over breast. Years later when my mum saw her grandchildren being breastfed she bitterly regretted not having been encouraged to do it.

Back in the 1950s women stayed in hospital for a period from eight days to two weeks after giving birth. My mum used to tell of being in the maternity hospital for two weeks after each of us. This was all very well when it was a first baby but when were other children to care for, and the father had to work, it was a problem. I was three and a half when my sister was born. My brother (two years old) and I were driven to our grandparents in a different town to stay for the two weeks my mum was in the hospital.

Once born, babies were looked after in the nursery and only handed to their mothers when it was time to be fed. If your baby was unsettled in between feeds you didn’t know about it. Feeding was strictly timed. The routine for newborns and for the first few months was a feed every four hours, at precisely 10.00 am, 2.00 pm, 6.00 pm, 10.00 pm, 2.00 am, 6.00 am. Night feeds were given by nursing staff in the nursery so that the new mum could get her sleep. I remember my mum telling of nursing staff walking down the central aisle of the maternity ward with a large trolley containing babies, handing them out and announcing “Feeding time, mummies!”

Giving birth in the 1960s: 'All the mothers were terrified of the doctors  and matron so we never asked any questions'
A 1950s nursery in a maternity hospital.

Before being discharged, the mothers were taught how to bath their new babies. The system then was to fill the baby bath, test the temperature with your elbow, soap the baby all over, then lower it into the water. The first time my mum did this with me after returning home, she soaped me all over then lowered me towards the water. I wriggled and I was so slippery from the soap that I slipped out of her hands and landed face down in the water. My mum thought she’d killed me and had to shout for my dad to come.

As well as being instructed to feed to a strict schedule, new mothers were told to put their babies outside in their prams in all weathers to benefit from the fresh air. They were also told that crying was good for their babies and exercised their lungs. When they were outside, the mums couldn’t hear them crying. They would bring them in to be fed and changed at the exact times dictated by the nurses at the hospital and by the district nurses who visited the home afterwards.

Watch A Day in a Baby's Life online - BFI Player
A 1950s coach built pram.

Credit to Google Images, Pinterest and Wikipedia. As always, I make every effort to avoid infringing copyright. If anyone objects to my use of any images, please contact me direct and I will remove it.