Thermos Flasks, Primus Stoves, Deck Chairs, Postcards and Scotch Eggs.

This post is about holidays and day trips and the things we did, ate and took with us then which are not heard of now. It was prompted by a thought about postcards. With so many other ways of communicating now, the humble postcard is a shadow of its former self. When I was a child we had a two week summer holiday every year. I have very clear memories of my mum writing loads of postcards. She would take her address book and her card list – I’m pretty sure it was the same list as for Christmas cards – and would spend ages working her way through the list of contacts. We children were encouraged to send postcards to school friends. Back at home, postcards would arrive all summer. Friends and neighbours who didn’t go away on a holiday (many were farmers and couldn’t leave the farm) would send one from a place visited for the day in the school holidays.
Postcards mostly fell into two main types – examples are shown here – the views and the humorous ones. Until I moved to Yorkshire I had no idea that the ubiquitous ‘saucy’ postcard, seen all over the UK, originated in the town of Holmfirth. I remember browsing through them in newsagent’s shops and the humour going right over my head!

pc-porthcawl50s     cleethorpes-winter-gardens-1950s-1-large

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A feature of holidays and day trips was the picnic. In the 1950s there were no cool boxes, cling film or plastic sandwich boxes. People in general didn’t have the spare cash for cafe stops and there were no fast food outlets apart from chip shops. When a family went out for the day they took a picnic which consisted of some or all of the following

Note – this is a very British list and will probably bear no relation to memories from other countries and continents.

sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper

hard boiled eggs

scotch eggs

tomatoes

cold sausages, sliced ham, pieces of pork pie

fruit

cakes or buns

tea

The last item is, of course, peculiarly British.  How could a family pass a whole day without tea? It was unthinkable! The only way to have tea to drink with your picnic was either

a. to take a Thermos flask

b. to take a camping stove (Primus) and kettle and brew up.

Plastic picnic ware was not around in the 50s. The standard unbreakable picnic mugs and plates were known simply as enamel and were metal (tin?) with a white enamel coating and a blue trim.
                        

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We had a gadget – pictured here – which made toasted sandwiches. Back then the ubiquitous toasties and panninis were not heard of. We made cheese on toast at home and that was the nearest. This tool, however, was brilliant for providing some warm food at a picnic on a cold day – a feature of British summers! You take a normal sandwich, place it in between two iron plates on the end of a pair of tongs, squeeze the plates together and hold over the flame of a Primus stove.  Result – one perfect toasted sandwich! These were the first toasties I ever ate.

              

There is now a vast array of lightweight foldable chairs and tables for outdoor eating.  They are easily stowed in the boot of a car. When I was a child there were deck chairs made of wood and canvas which were available to rent for the day on beaches or were kept at home for use in the garden.  What we all did then was to take ‘picnic blankets’.  Woollen and usually tartan, these would be spread on the grass or sand for everyone to sit on and eat their picnic.  If the picnic was by the sea or a river a towel was always there to dry any feet which went paddling. The picture shows a typical 50s towel. It’s only when you see one that you realise how even towel styles change with time.

             

Simple Pleasures

Most of my posts focus on what was different when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties. This one is about what hasn’t changed.

We have just been away for a week. By we I mean me and the other half, our three daughters and their other halves plus the four grandchildren aged from eight months to five years. We had rented a house the coast of Northern Ireland and the garden led directly on to the beach. What occurred to me while we were there was just how little children need to keep them happy when there is plenty of space for them to play, run around and use their imaginations.

The beautiful stretch of beach we had next to the house had sand, stones and rock pools. We had a couple of balls and some buckets and spades and they were able to run, dig, collect pebbles and shells – even bury one of the dads in the sand (as I remember doing with my dad), leaving his head free of course!

The photographs are a mixture of our recent ones and their fifties equivalents.

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We had a lovely expanse of grass outside the house with a low bank and the children spent ages simply rolling down the bank – something I remember loving as a child!

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To the rear of the house was an enclosed garden which they named the secret garden. At dusk we went out with a torch looking for the rabbits which came out to play on the grass.

Indoor time was when they played hide and seek, got the paper and crayons out to draw, or played make-believe games. They were read stories at bedtime. On a couple of afternoons we walked along the coast towards the small local town and stopped off at a playground which had swings, climbing frames and slides.

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kids reading                                     IMG_5018

Okay, so all this sounds very twee and idyllic, I hear you say! I’m not saying they didn’t cry, argue, get jealous or grumble. They’re small children after all, and small children are good at all of that.

I’m not saying that children have too many toys these days or that children watch too much TV. There are great toys, books and TV programmes for kids now.

The message, if there is one, is that today’s children can still enjoy the same pleasures we enjoyed years ago.