Footwear

The first thing to point out about this post is that we are going back to the pre-Velcro era. Nowadays children don’t have to learn to tie shoe laces or fasten buckles before starting school. It was very different back in the 50s and 60s. Even in the mid 80s, when my children were starting school, Velcro wasn’t yet used on shoes although it had been around since the 60s. Children were expected to know how to tie their laces by the time they started school. It was a rite of passage! As a teacher I get that you couldn’t be tying 30 laces several times a day when your class changed from outdoor to indoor shoes or into PE pumps.

Shoes back then were made of leather. Indoor shoe like slippers and school pumps were fabric and wellies were made of rubber. But your main shoes were always leather and either laced or buckled. Generally, summer shoes and sandals were buckled and winter shoes laced. PE footwear was the standard issue black canvas shoes with an elasticated insert. Most people called them pumps or plimsolls. In South Wales we call them daps. This name arose, according to Nicholette Jones’s book The Plimsoll Sensation, because the coloured horizontal band joining the upper to the sole resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship’s hull, or because, just like the Plimsoll line on a ship, if water got above the line of the rubber sole, the wearer would get wet.

New shoes were bought in the autumn (ready for winter) and the spring (ready for summer). Your new shoes were ‘best’ shoes for the Harvest festival and and Easter Sunday and were then your main shoes for six months.

Our local town (tiny, 2 000 people) had one shoe shop. It sold Clarks shoes. Sometimes we had Start-Rite or Birthday shoes which we bought in a bigger town further away. There was an X-ray machine in our local shoe shop which checked the fit of the shoes once you’d tried them on. It was So exciting to look down and see your foot bones inside your new shoe. They were discontinued by the 60s when it was found that X-ray is hazardous. I have, learned through researching for this post, that these machines were called flouroscopes.

A flouroscope.

I remember a brand of shoe called Tuf which were around in the 60s. They weren’t sold in our small town but when my brother wore them in his early teens we were able to buy them in bigger towns like Swansea and Cardiff. Tuf came with a 6 month guarantee. If they wore out before 6 months you got a new pair free. My brother was very heavy on shoes at the time and it saved my parents a lot of money being able to get him new shoes a two or three times a year at no cost!

Here are a few pictures showing the standard style of buckle shoe which all children wore when they were small. The two children with the rocking horse are me and my brother (sorry Bruv!). It was common practice back in the old days, before most people had cameras, to have a studio portrait taken. The prints could then be sent to relatives. After this picture was taken my dad bought his first camera and there were no more posed studio pictures. I’ve worked it out that this photograph was taken for my third birthday.

Seeing the picture above, and the prices of the shoes, I looked up what the prices shown would be today. £5 in the mid-fifties is the equivalent of £92. If that ad is from the mid 60s the equivalent in today’s money is £64. No wonder we were only bought two pairs of shoes a year!

The ‘daps’ (pumps or plimsolls in other parts of the country) we had in the 50s were pretty much the same as the ones kids wear now.

Wellies – absolutely essential in a wet area like my valley! – were always black. Now kids wellies come in a vast array of colours and designs. Many even have little handles on the side to make them easier to pull on. How I would have loved these when I was a kid!

Credit to Google, Wikipedia and Google Images. As usual, I make every effort to ensure that my facts are correct and that by using the photographs I source I am not infringing copyright. If anyone objects to anything in this post please contact me and it will be removed (including Bruv!).

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!

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.

Wait until your father gets home!

I was thinking the other day about things which adults used to say to children back in the 1950s which you don’t hear so often nowadays. It wasn’t just parents who said these things. Teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, adults in story books – they all dished them out.

Some readers who date back to those years will recognise these even if they didn’t hear them all said in their own households.

At meal times; 

We’d have been glad of that when food was rationed.

There are children starving in . . . my mum used to say China, I’m sure adults used used a variety of countries!

There’s no pudding until your plate is empty/ you’ve eaten your greens.

Eat your crusts or your hair won’t curl.  They  couldn’t be said to me as I had curly hair – but I still had to eat my crusts.

In the 1950s, the war was a very recent memory. Six years of hardship and rationing meant that parents had little time for children being fussy about food. It was seen as ungrateful.

WW2 Ration Book largeThese books were a recent memory for our parents.

The rest;

Children should be seen but not heard. What a dreadful thing to say to a child – but it was something we heard it said to us then. I don’t remember my parents saying it but older relatives would come out with it if they thought the children were talking to much – or just annoying them,

Money doesn’t grow on trees. This was commonly said to children when they asked for something which couldn’t be afforded. When we were a little older, my siblings and I used to joke that it actually did grow on trees for our family because my dad was a forester.

Wait until your father gets home. This one probably has a long history. It is redolent of eras in the past where the fathers were the absolute head of their households and were quite remote and strict. Punishment would be administered by the father on return from work when the work-weary mother (all mothers were home based then) related the child’s transgression. Most modern fathers would hate to be used as a threat in this way.

Your school days are the best days of your life. I promised myself when I was a teenager in high school that I would never say that to a child because at that time I didn’t believe they could possibly be the best years of your life.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Adults probably still ask children that. I hated being asked the question because it used to throw me into a panic! I always felt I should be coming out with something definite and impressive. In fact, I didn’t have a clue. Many of the jobs I fancied as a child (fireman, for one!) couldn’t then be done by women, anyway.

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. I think people talked in proverbs a lot more then. We actually had to learn a whole list of them for the 11+ exam! A stitch in time saves nine. Make hay while the sun shines. Many hands make light work. Too many cooks spoil the broth.etc. By the way, those last two totally contradict each other which always puzzled me when I was younger!

Vintage-1950s-Hand-Embroidery-Pattern-Kitchen-Proverbs | 자수 도안 ... Picture of a 1950s embroidery.

It’s worth remembering that our parents had been brought up by parents who had Victorian parents and some of the rigid expectations of children from that time were passed down through the generations. There were grisly stories written for children to shock them into behaving. These were known as moral tales. There was one collection of stories written in the 19th century which contained a dozen or so such stories. We had a copy of it at home and it fascinated us! The only two stories I remember from it now are Naughty Little Suck-a-Thumb and Shock-Headed Peter. I’ve just looked these stories up for this post and I’ve learned that they were originally written in German by a man called Hoffmann who wrote them for his young son. Having looked up the two I remember best, I am amazed to find I remember every word of both. We read and read that book! My sister was a confirmed suck-a-thumb and was both horrified by and strangely drawn to the picture of the severed thumbs!

The English Struwwelpeter: Pretty Stories & Funny Pictures

 

 

The gruesome picture above is especially for my sister – who still has both her thumbs! Just to explain; in my family we weren’t read these stories as a warning. Things had moved on since they were written. My mum found them entertaining and enjoyed reading them to us and telling us about how Victorian children were brought up.

 

 

 

 

 

As always, I acknowledge that I have sourced my images from the Internet and made efforts to copy only those which are marked as available for re-use. If anyone objects to my use of any image, please contact me and it will be removed.

 

 

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.

 

 

Make Do and Mend

Now that most of us are holed up inside until the virus has passed I have no excuse for not keeping up with my blogging. First, I sat down and caught up with some saved posts from some of my favourite bloggers. Having time to enjoy reading them and to add a comment is a novelty. So here’s my latest offering for you to read at your new-found leisure!

I grew up with the expressions ‘Make Do and Mend’ and ‘Waste not Want not’. After a suggestion from my friend Ina, I decided to bring make do and mend up to date. Now we know it as recycle, reuse , repair but it’s not a new idea. Make Do and Mend was the title of a leaflet published by the UK government during World War 2 after clothes rationing was announced. It’s based around clothing for that reason, but the principle has taken on a new, wider meaning now that we are all trying to be more environmentally friendly.

Some of these points have been covered in earlier posts on this blog. Call it recycling!

So, does anyone remember any of these?

Dusters and floor cloths made from old cotton underwear.

For many years I only ever saw dusters made out of discarded cotton vests. Floor cloths were cast off cotton pants. Cotton fabric does make the best household cloths and back in the 1950s all underwear was made of a cotton knit fabric.

 Stale bread and stale cake being used to make puddings and savory dishes.

Puddings were an important part of the British diet in the 50s and 60s. If you look back in a recipe book of the time it’s surprising how often you see stale breadcrumbs or stale cake listed in the ingredients. Many sweet and savoury dishes were bulked up with stale cake or bread. Now you can actually buy frozen breadcrumbs and trifle sponges are still available for dessert making.

 

bread and butter pudding    bread recipeshoney-bread-pudding-recipe  RECIPES-HEADER

A few old recipes using stale cake and stale bread crumbs.

Unravelling old knitted jumpers to reuse the wool for a new one.

I can remember my mum and my grandmother doing this. Unravelled wool has kinks all the way through it and I remember my mum winding it around a glass bottle, wetting it and allowing it to dry out – which removed the kinks.

Darning socks and woollen jumpers.

I can remember my mum teaching me how to darn using her wooden darning mushroom. Jumpers, cardigans and winter socks were all made of wool. There were no synthetic yarns or synthetic/ wool mixes in the 1950s and wool, although warm, is not as hard-wearing as man made fibres. The heels and toes of woollen socks went into holes as did the elbows of sweaters. Clothes were not cheap and disposable as many are now and were less easy to come by. Woollens were mostly hand knitted which was labour intensive and not to be discarded just because of a hole. When any garment eventually had to be thrown away because it was beyond repair, reusable things like buttons and zips were removed and saved for future use.

darning mushroom

 

 

 

Returnable glass drinks bottles and jars.

There was, of course, the good old milkman. I do still have doorstep milk delivered in glass bottles but there aren’t many milk rounds left! It was a very early form of recycling. I didn’t live in a town but in the depths of the countryside. There were no milk rounds there but there were plenty of farms. We went to a nearby farm every evening as they were doing the milking. We always took washed out glass bottles with us, those with the swing-top stoppers, and the farmer would tap it straight from the cooler into our bottles. Pop bottles were returnable in those days and you got a few pence for each one returned to the shop. My mum used to tell me that even further back, in the 1930s when she was a child, all glass jars and bottles had returnable deposits on them. She used to be able to go to the cinema on a Saturday afternoon with her friends and pay with empty jam jars! Glass jars were saved throughout the year for holding jams, pickles and preserves. There were also the beloved Kilner jars used year after year. I still do all that as I make jam and chutney in the autumn. Once refundable deposits on glass containers stopped, it was another few decades before glass was being sorted separately and recycled. I nearly forgot to mention the good old soda syphon! My mum and dad thought they were the height of sophistication when they bought one of these refillable glass soda makers.

vintage-glass-soda-siphon-syphon-waters-robson-artesian-abbey-well-morpeth-northumberland-british-syphon-company-limited-circa-1950s-2086-p[ekm]320x720[ekm]           swing top bottles

 

2-1950s-vintage-the-kilner-Jar-Improved-reg

Kilner jars were originally developed and produced in Yorkshire from 1842. They can still be bought and are as good as ever although not made in Yorkshire any longer.

Repairing broken toys.

We didn’t give up on toys readily back then, either. We had an old baby doll someone had passed on to us. It had a soft stuffed cloth body and a china head. My brother wanted his own doll because I had one and so did my sister so he got it. He decided he was called Billy. When his body started going into holes my mum and my grandmother made a whole new body, arms and legs using old stockings (clean!) stuffed with cotton wool. Then they made him a pair of blue flannelette striped pyjamas using an old pair my brother had grown out of. He was as good as new in our eyes and my brother loved him!

Billy doll

Not Billy but this is the sort of doll he was.

Other assorted things I remember.

Items made using wooden cotton reels. We used to do what we called corkwork, now more often referred to as French knitting. My dad used to hammer small metal fencing staples into the top of wooden cotton reels to make the corkwork spools.

Adult dresses cut down when finished with to make girls’ dresses.

Shepherd’s pie made with hand minced leftover roast beef.

Tab ends of soap bars melted together to make a ‘new’ bar of soap.

Stale, dry ends of cheese (no plastic keeping it fresh in those days!) grated and used in cooking.

 

 

 

 

As always, I have endeavoured to source images which are listed as free to use. If anyone objects to an image I have used just contact me and I will remove it.

 

 

School Dinners

When I was a child there were two choices. If you lived near school you could go home for your midday meal. Otherwise you had school dinners. There was not an option to bring your own packed lunch. If you had school dinners there was one choice. You ate what you were given. One main course (dinner), one dessert (pudding). No alternatives and you absolutely had to eat what was put on your plate. I think this is why so many people of my age in Britain have bad memories of school dinners. It wasn’t that they were all terrible. I remember some nice things. Baked sponge puddings, for example. It was the complete lack of choice and the obligation to clear your plate which was the downside. We all received a bottle of milk a day (third of a pint) and this could be delightful in winter when really cold and pretty disgusting when it had been sitting outside in the crates all morning in summer sun!

Image result for 1950s school dinner menu"    CLASSROOM CALORIES All children were given a daily bottle of milk

To put this in context, World War II had only finished in 1945 and I believe rationing was still in place in the early fifties. Whether at home or in school – you ate what you were given and didn’t complain. The adults at home and in school had lived through the war and had no time for children being fussy. So we weren’t!

One of my main memories of our school dinners was lumpiness. There were lumps in the custard, the gravy, the mashed potato. One meal I remember is Spam served with mashed potato and beetroot. Then they poured the beetroot juice over your meal as if it was a sauce or a gravy. Not my favourite! I remember stews and mince of little flavour, pale in colour and with small quantities of indeterminate vegetables floating around – probably swede and turnip. These runny meat dishes were also served with the ubiquitous mashed potato and a veg, often boiled cabbage.

Also, and any post war British readers will identify with this, there were endless milk puddings. There was semolina, sago, tapioca, ground rice, rice and macaroni. All made into hot milky puddings. If you were lucky you got a spoonful of jam to stir into your pudding which turned it pink and made it a bit more palatable. Sometimes they were served with a spoonful of stewed prunes. I didn’t touch prunes for many years after I left school, they’re still not top of my list!

Today’s school dinners here in the UK are free to all children up to the age of seven and are tasty and well-balanced, Even more importantly – there are choices. We have come a long way.

 

An example of a week’s menu in a primary school. these menus are rotated on a four week cycle so the choices are not the same every week.

Thanks to Helena for giving me the idea for this post.

Happy New Year!

Image result for 1950s Happy New Year card uk "

 

On New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d take a brief trip back to the New Year’s Eves of my childhood. As regular readers know, I grew up in a tiny village in a very quiet part of rural mid-Wales. There were around 28 children in our village school aged 4 to 11. Some, like me, lived within walking distance of the school, others had a walk of half to three-quarters of a mile and many of them lived on outlying hill farms and were brought in by cars on regular hire through the education authority from the garage in out nearest town.

Our school was also used as a village hall and on New Year’s Eve there was always a big village party held there. It started in the afternoon with a tea party and games for the children. The women of the village made and served sandwiches and cakes, jugs of squash and enormous pots of tea. Whole families attended. After the tea, seats were placed in a circle at one end of the main room and the games began. The main ones I remember are spin the plate and musical chairs. There were songs and recitations from the children brave enough to stand up and perform – not me! There would be older children there as well who were now at the ‘big school’ in the town and who always seemed frightfully grown up and sophisticated to me.

As afternoon turned into evening, the party morphed (even though there was no such word then!) into an adults evening and younger children would be taken home and put to bed. Slightly older children would stay longer. The evening took the form of a concert. It was informally arranged, with people just stepping forward to sing, recite, play the piano etc. I remember first being old enough to stay for some of it then, eventually to stay to the end. One local farmer had a beautiful tenor voice and always sang ‘Jerusalem’. I think he sang other songs too but the one he was known for was that one – and he sang it beautifully. Tea was served all evening and the night would finish with everyone in a circle linking arms and singing Auld Lang Syne. It was so exciting when you were twelve or thirteen and considered old enough to stay to the end and see the new year in!

 

Happy New Year to all my readers and followers and thank you for continuing to read my blog and to comment.

Mail Order

This winter, in the build-up to Christmas, there has been a lot of discussion about online shopping being the death of the High Street in Britain. This might well be true but what occurred to me was that there have always been other means of shopping besides physically visiting a shop.

The small town I lived in when I was a little girl (population around 2,000) was five miles away from our village had all the basics. There were two butchers, two newsagents, a greengrocer, a jeweller, two pharmacies, a couple of assorted draperies and gents outfitters, a hardware shop etc etc. For requirements beyond what our town could provide, we had to travel some distance. Swansea and Cardiff were at least an hour’s drive away and ‘big’ shopping trips were made a few times a year for Christmas shopping, new winter coats for the family, new shoes and so on. I remember thinking they were amazing with their department stores, book shops, large stores with lifts and escalators and toy shops. This was the only time we saw Boots, W H Smith, C and A and – most important of all (to us as children) – Woollies (F W Woolworth) which was heaven! It was also the perfect place to spend your little bit of pocket money as it had everything and it was all affordable.

Good old Woollies – RIP.
Howells Department store in Cardiff.
W H Smith, Newtown, Wales. One of the earliest branches and still in the style and layout of the original shops. It also houses a small museum telling the W H Smith story.

 

The rest of the time, my mum relied heavily on her mail order catalogue as did all the families in our village.

My mum’s catalogue was Marshall Ward followed later by Kays. I remember a neighbour favouring Freemans and my grandmother who lived with us liked J D Williams. Women used to swap catalogues to enjoy a wider choice of goods. From the catalogues we bought bedding, household goods, underwear, toys (via Father Christmas of course), adult and children’s clothing and many more things I can’t recall now. My mum would never buy shoes by mail order.

The pages we children used to pore over longingly!

In addition to the catalogues selling clothes and homeware, my dad used to get seeds and bulbs by mail order. Dobbie’s and Doby’s are two I remember. Newspapers and magazines also had goods for sale and on special offer.

 

 

Images obtained from the Internet. Anyone with objections to my use of a particular image can contact me and I will remove it.