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.

New Foods

A few weeks ago I was doing some clearing out/ de-cluttering. I realised that quite a few of my recipe books were now looking extremely tatty. On flicking through them before throwing them out I started thinking about the food items which didn’t appear in them and definitely wouldn’t have been around in the 1950s! I will just say next that most of the foods I’m going to list here already existed somewhere in the world. They are not new, just new to us in Britain.

Reading about the history of food trends in Britain, the first wave of ‘foreign food’ cuisine was French which arrived in the late 1950s and continued to be popular through the 1960s and to the present. These trends are ones I’ve read about but I was unaware of them as a child. Fashions didn’t spread as quickly back then and the average person in Britain didn’t come across fancy restaurants or try out recipes from cookbooks like Elizabeth David’s 1950 publication A Book of Mediterranean Food.

A Book of Mediterranean Food: Elizabeth David                          A Book of Mediterranean Food (Penguin Cookery L... by David, Elizabeth Paperback

An early copy.                                                                Still in print.

This famous book came at a time when many foods were still rationed and very few people went abroad on holiday. With the rise of Italian, Chinese and Indian eating places in the large cities in the 1950s and through to smaller towns over the next few decades, new foods began to filter down into normal households.

Food trends continue to ebb and flow, almost without us noticing. Here are some of the things I hadn’t even heard of even ten or fifteen years ago.

Halloumi

This is a traditional cheese from Cyprus but I can still remember the first time I came across it, not much more than ten years ago. I loved it then and still do!

Image result for halloumi cheese  Image result for halloumi cheese

Jackfruit

I haven’t seen this here in my part of Yorkshire yet but I keep reading about it in magazines and online. It’s being particularly hailed  as a meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans. I’ll report back when I eventually get to try it!

Image result for jackfruit     Image result for jackfruit recipes

The raw jackfruit                                   Cooked jackfruit

Prosecco

Suddenly this drink is everywhere! Ten years ago I had never heard of it now there isn’t a party, wedding, dinner party or hen do without it.

Image result for prosecco  Image result for prosecco

 

 

Panini

Another first taste memory. We were in France on holiday when I had my first panini (and I loved it) and now nearly every cafe has them on the menu. They’re a version of what we here call a toasted sandwich but with different bread and more adventurous fillings.

Related image  Image result for toasted sandwich

Panini                                                     Basic British toasted sandwich

Couscous, quinoa, freekeh

Where once we had rice, now we have a whole load of alternative grains and seeds to choose from. To date I have tried quinoa and couscous but not freekeh.

Image result for freekehImage result for couscous

Pesto, balsamic vinegar, coconut oil, coconut milk,

Image result for pesto                           Image result for balsamic vinegar

 

Image result for coconut milk tin  File:Coconut Oil amp 30050.jpg

This is an assortment of items which now feature in many of our kitchen cupboards and which were unheard of here until recent years.

Green tea and herbal teas

Image result for green tea  Image result for herbal teas

Tea used to mean a hot drink made from the leaves of the tea bush. Green tea has become very popular now and is also from the tea bush but it seems you can now call any hot infusion a tea. We see every sort of leaf, fruit, herb and spice presented as a tea, often in combinations of more than one.

 

Labels

Wholemeal, wholegrain, gluten free, decaffeinated, ‘Free From’, vegan, vegetarian, meat free, additive free, sugar free, low fat, fat free. These labels are everywhere now and SO helpful when you have specific requirements in your food shopping, whether from preference or for medical and dietary reasons. Back in the 1950s, with rationing just coming to an end, food was food. Be grateful, like it or lump it was the attitude. How things change!

 

Image result for free from foods asda

 

 

 

The Stories Behind the Brands

In the 1950s, in Britain and everywhere else, electrical good were still in their infancy. Most were home grown brands and were manufactured here. Some of those brands still exist but very few still manufacture in Britain.

In the 1950s, when I was child, if you had an electric kettle, it was probably a Russell Hobbs. Your iron and hairdryer would most likely be Morphy Richards and if you were modern enough to have a food mixer it would be a Kenwood. If I wanted to buy a new kettle today, I would go online or visit my local supermarket where I would have numerous brands to choose from and a multitude of styles.

I decided to look into the rise of electrical manufacturers and learned that Bill Russell teamed up with Peter Hobbs in 1952 and began by making a toaster, an electric iron and a then the first coffee maker with a keep warm function. In 1955 they made the world’s first automatic electric kettle.

Image result for 1950s russell hobbs kettle

Donal Morphy joined forces with Charles Richards in 1936  making first electric fires then irons. By the 1950s, many households had electric irons and most of them would have been made by Morphy Richards. When hairdryers became more common – I well remember our first one – they too were dominated by Morphy Richards. The company  was one of the few manufacturers to sell appliances with a factory-fitted BS 1363 plug before this became a legal requirement.

Image result for 1950s swan electric iron

Image result for 1950s Morphy Richards hair dryer A 1950s hairdryer exactly like the one we had.

When food mixers arrived on the scene here the household name was Kenwood. The name is from the manufacturer’s name which was Kenneth Wood. Kenwood began in 1947 and made toasters first then food mixers and processors.

Image result for 1950s kenwood mixer  I remember hearing about Kenwood Chefs but we didn’t rise to those dizzy heights. My mum had a small hand mixer like this one.

The main brand in TVs in the 1950s – when television was just a baby – was Bush. The company was founded in 1932 as Bush Radio from the remains of the Graham Amplion company, which had made horn loudspeakers as a subsidiary of the Gaumont British Picture Corporation. The brand name comes from Gaumont’s Shepherd’s Bush studios. From radios they moved on in 1950 to making TVs and in 1959 transistor radios.

Image result for 1950s Bush TVs

 

Roberts is British company which has been making radios for over 80 years   They made the first digital radio in 1999.

The Roberts Revival RD60 DAB was inspired by a handbag belonging to Harry Roberts’ wife Elsie. I have one of these and I didn’t know this!

Dansette was a British brand of record players, radiograms (remember them?), tape recorders, and radios, manufactured by the London firm of J & A Margolin Ltd, The first Dansette record player was manufactured in 1952 and at least one million were sold in the 1950s and 1960s. Dansette became a household name in the late 1950s and 60s when the British music industry shot up in popularity after the arrival of acts such as Cliff Richard, The Beatles and The Shadows. Teenagers would have used various Dansette players to take to and from parties to listen to the latest records.

Image result for dansette record player Everyone of my age remembers these!

 

 

In the early 20th century the company registered The Swan brand name. In the 1920s, the company began manufacturing domestic electrical appliances including kettles and irons. They pioneered the first electric element that could be immersed in water. This was a very important breakthrough because it meant that a whole 6 pints of water could be boiled in just over 9 minutes. This led to a whole range of products based around their “immersion element”, including tea urns, kettles, steamers and coffee percolators.

Later, they developed and patented a unique safety cut-out for kettles, where the connector would be automatically disconnected if the element overheated.

swan - heritage so elementary kettles

 

Before the 1950s most homes were heating their irons over the gas ring or still putting hot coal in them. I remember staying at my grandmother’s house and she would have two flat irons (non-electric). One would be doing the ironing while the other would be heating on a rack over the fire. When one cooled down it was replaced with the hotter one and put on the rack to heat.

 

Not strictly an electrical appliance but another household name was Ever Ready. When I was a child, most torches and batteries were made by Ever Ready. They also manufactured radios from 1934 up until 1964.
Image result for ever ready torches 1950s I had to put this one in – I had one EXACTLY the same in the 1960s!
Image result for Ever ready batteries 1950s and 60s

Power

For the past week, we have had a problem in our house with our electricity. It keeps cutting out and it has taken our electrician several visits to determine what is causing the fault. There have been a few evenings when we’ve relied on candles and hot water bottles for light and warmth. Fortunately, my cooker has a gas hob (electric oven) so I have been able to cook in spite of having no oven or grill.

One cold dark evening last week, I found myself thinking ‘This is just like living in the 1940s.’ which made me think that I could turn the experience into a blog post.

It’s amazing how much we take power for granted. When our power was off, I was frustrated by being unable to carry out normal household chores such as laundry, vacuuming, ironing and I was without entertainment, communication and diversion in the evenings as there was no TV, radio or Internet. The heating system and the land lines depend on electricity too.

Although I grew up in a home which had electricity, I knew homes in our area which didn’t. Looking back, the power we had was basic as it was mainly for lighting with a few sockets. We had an electric cooker as there was no gas in our area but in the early 50s you would only really need electricity for lights if you had a gas cooker as many homes in Britain still didn’t have fridges or TVs. I remember us getting our first fridge. Up until then my mum kept food cool on a stone slab in the pantry and in warm weather put milk bottles in the stream. I was ten years old when we first acquired a TV. Our heating was by coal fire with supplementary heating in the bedrooms in the coldest winter weather by paraffin heaters at bedtime and in the morning.

wee_DSCN8487-GAS-2017       OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bakelite switches and a phone like our first one with a cloth covered cable.

d728e4596c898cff9ea91fde6b77f3d8    images (1)

Before we had a washing machine, clothes were heated in this type of boiler which was basically a giant kettle and wrung out outside by a mangle.

hoover7_Advert_1952_

Then came our first washing machine – exactly like this one.

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The first vacuum cleaner I remember was exactly like this one and lasted for years. It was already old in the 1950s and had been left behind in a house we moved into in 1955 as the previous owners considered it too old to take with them!

s-l300    Rare-Vintage-1950s-Paul-Warma-Paraffin-Oil-Heater

Paraffin heaters like the ones we had in the 1950s to take the chill off the bedrooms at bedtime.

1950selectricfire        Vintage-Retro-Morphy-Richards-Electric-Heater

In the 1960s each of our bedrooms had an electric fire instead of paraffin. We had two like these.

Bush_DAC90A       images (2)

1950s home entertainment was via the radio and record player. The radiogram combined both in a ‘stylish’ cabinet. We thought ours was very smart!

7659c4f2-edbb-40ff-a302-27cd27bbbd21-2060x1707       download (1)

We acquired our first TV in 1961 when I was 10 –  such excitement!! In the mid 1960s my dad bought a reel to reel tape recorder (the same model as this one) which we had loads of fun with.

Vintage-GEC-Electric-Dry-Iron-1950s-1960s-not    Retro-Vintage-Morphy-Richards-Noiseless-HAIR-DRYER-Boxed-_1   s-l500

Early electric iron, kettle and hair dryer like ours in the 1950s.

Home Baking

A lot of my posts end up mentioning food and I have touched on baking before but this one is all about the cakes mums baked in the 1950s in Britain.

All the cakes in our house were baked by my mum. ‘Shop cake’ was a luxury and was reserved for when visitors came to the house. Every week, usually on a Friday or Saturday, Mum would bake enough cakes, buns, scones and tarts to last a week. I can still remember the difference in taste and texture between day old Victoria sponge and a slice which was five or six days old. But food wasn’t wasted in those post-war days! Dry scones could be split and toasted. Sponge cake which was too dry to be enjoyed was used in trifle. Stale fruit cake was used in one of my favourites – Cabinet Pudding.

In Britain in the 1950s, we hadn’t heard of chocolate brownies or cup cakes – we had chocolate cake and fairy cakes. The word gateau hadn’t yet arrived – we had cake or pudding. We had apple tarts rather than apple pies and flapjacks not muesli bars. Cakes never had any sort of cream in them. This was because few houses here at that time had fridges. Sponge cakes had jam or butter icing in the middle. For special occasions both! Sugar was sprinkled on the top. Chocolate cake had melted chocolate spread on top.

Here are some of the things commonly made at the time. The photos are mostly modern – not many people took photographs of their weekly baking session – and as always, come courtesy of the Internet. (If anyone objects to me using one of their pictures, get in touch and I will remove it.)

cake What happened to butterfly cakes? I haven’t seen one in years!

rock buns        jam tarts

Rock buns and jam tarts – two of the first things I baked as a child.

choc cake   sponge

grannys-scottish-scones.jpg                 medium-292-5382-fruitcake

Sponge cake, chocolate cake, scones and fruit cake – regularly baked by my mum.

maids of honour         swiss roll

Maids of Honour – a pastry base, some jam with a sponge topping and a Swiss roll.

apple-pie-702719__340                 lemon meringue

treacle tart                   apple-crumble-pie-718029_960_720

Here are some baked treats we used to have for dessert – the always known as pudding.       Fruit tart – apple, rhubarb, gooseberry, blackberry etc, depending on what was in season, lemon meringue pie, treacle tart and fruit crumble with one of the fruits I’ve just mentioned.