Soap is an essential item in everyday life but we don’t often look closely at its story. It has been around for thousands of years having first been used by the Babylonians and Sumerians. Soap has been important to us for many hundreds of years but not for cleanliness and hygiene; it was an essential part of the textile making process and was used to remove grease from wool and cloth ready for dyeing. By Victorian times, there was an increased awareness of the role of soap in the prevention of disease. Working class families used bars of carbolic soap for washing floors, clothes and bodies. In the late 1800s, branded soaps were arriving on the scene.
Unbranded carbolic soap.
Lifebuoy soap was one of the first, invented in 1894. By the 1930s it was sold in two sizes – the larger bar was known as Household Lifebuoy and was for cleaning homes and clothes. The smaller bar was for personal use.
By the 1950s, when I was a child, soap powder was available so clothes were no longer washed with bars of soap. My mum favoured Daz. There were milder, sweeter smelling toilet soaps available which were advertised as being good for the complexion. Compared to using carbolic soap on the face, Palmolive, Camay or Pears must have felt luxurious. The ads would have had us believe that in order to achieve a perfect complexion all that was needed was the right soap! We always had Lux in our house.
I still love the smell of Pears soap.
This is quite a claim!
It all seemed to be about looking like a movie star and pleasing your man.
There is now a bewildering amount of skincare products available. There are cleansers, toners, serums, night creams, rejuvenating creams, etc etc. The adverts still lead us to believe in the amazing properties of these products – but advertising laws are stricter now and the cosmetics companies can no longer make the claims that were made in the 50s and 60s.
Since this post has turned into a potted history of soap, I’m including a few advertisements from before the 1950s to entertain you.
1911 – the earliest days of motoring.
In the UK this week we have heard the sad news that the chain of shops known as BHS (formerly British Home Stores) closed all its stores yesterday for the last time. I wrote a blog post some months ago about shops and brands which are no longer around, so excuse any repetition but I felt I had to pay tribute to good old BHS. It is the latest in a long line of shops and cafes we in Britain grew up with which have now disappeared.
Here are some more.
We still have Co-op supermarkets but there used to be Co-op departments stores too.
One for anyone else who grew up in Wales and remembers this chain with affection. This is the one in Machynlleth which I have been to many, many times and which only closed a few years ago.
I have talked about lost and forgotten shops and brands before but there are so many I thought I would revisit. My first one is Gordon Moore’s Cosmetic toothpaste. It was heavily advertised on Radio Luxembourg (also a disappeared brand!). I was a teenager desperate to try it out as it was meant to make your teeth look dazzling white. When I eventually had enough pocket money for it, and was in a bigger town where it was actually stocked, I bought some. What a disappointment! It was a toothpaste with a red dye in it. The idea was that by darkening the colour of your gums it would show your teeth as extra white in contrast. Did it work? No! I had hideous red gums and my teeth looked less white rather than more white. Sno Mist deodorant was also advertised on Radio Luxembourg – I could sing the jingle now, but I won’t! It was the first deodorant I ever used, My mum favoured Odorono but I was sure Sno Mist was better (the gullibility of youth!). It was very sticky and after applying it you had to hold your arms up for about five minutes waiting for it to dry.
Next, here are some forgotten foods. I say forgotten but when I am researching these things from the past I sometimes find that they still exist but in other countries. C and A’s for instance. It disappeared from the UK in 2001. The first time I saw it anywhere else (Prague, in this case) I was amazed! It was such a popular High Street store here for so many years I had always believed it to be British whereas it is in fact Dutch. I saw one in Berlin last week. I digress, back to food. Surprise peas were an alternative tinned or dried ones and they were supposed to be exactly like fresh garden peas. when very few homes had freezers, you either bought the pods (or grew them) or you used tinned or dried peas. Dried peas needed soaking overnight and when cooked were mushy. Surprise peas were freeze-dried and cooked in minutes. With the rise of the domestic freezer, they were eventually superseded. I have always loved crackers of any sort and one of my favourites were Macvita, now long gone. My grandmother used to buy them for me specially when we went to stay. My favourite biscuits were Milk and Honey – a sort of oval version of Jammy Dodgers. One year when I was about 14 I gave up biscuits for Lent. At the end of the six weeks I was more excited about tucking into some Milk and Honey biscuits than about my Easter egg. My mum used to buy Lemon Puffs from time to time. They were OK but when put in the biscuit tin they made the other biscuits go soggy and taste of lemon. When I was looking them up I found that they are still very popular in Sri Lanka.
Here is a random selection of forgotten brands to finish off with. Curry’s still exist but look at what they sold then! My first bike was from Curry’s. Cheese triangles can still be bought but do you remember the flavoured ones?