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.

Advertisements

Boys and Girls Come Out to Play.

First of all, apologies to all my followers, readers and fellow bloggers for a spell of silence! Due to a technical issue, I was under the impression I had published three posts since Children’s Favourites but was eventually informed by a reader that they hadn’t actually shown up in my blog! All resolved now, I’m pleased to say.

 

My idea for this post was to look at gender issues in the 50s and 60s in relation to children and to talk about how things have changed. I know things have changed but when I started looking into it I realised that there are still ‘boy toys’ and ‘girl toys’ and that many of them are very similar. I think children’s books is an area which has definitely changed for the better. Books for kids are now far less likely to tell stories about Tim helping Daddy to wash the car and dig the garden while Mary was washing up and dusting with Mummy.

I am not going to go into whether boys naturally prefer toy cars to dolls or whether they are given toys people think are gender appropriate. This is more of a reminiscing post so I will talk about the toys we played with in my childhood, show some adverts which now appear very sexist and hope to bring back a few memories for some of you.

 

Triang was a huge name in children’s toys in the UK and every boy (many dads too!) aspired to own a Scalextric set.

                  

Ah, Meccano! The main construction toy before Lego and a must for every boy.

           

Of course, girls became nurses and boys were the doctors – NEVER the other way around!

Well, I like the idea of bringing science into girls’ and boys’ play but . . . . a pink microscope?!

Girls baked, boys had adventures – in story books, anyway!

         

Girls appeared to be either pretending to be mums (kids still do that, of course!) or were having fun in boarding school!

                                         

Twelfth Night Reflections.

As it is the 6th of January and I have just taken down my tree and my Christmas cards, I thought I would look back at Christmas 60 odd years ago. I have covered this before but I hope to mention some things which didn’t come up last time.

The build up to Christmas was nothing like as long as it is now but one thing which was always done early was the making of the Christmas cake and the Christmas pudding. My mum used to do these several weeks beforehand and it was always exciting to be a part of the preparation. It seemed very exotic when my mum added a small glass of sherry to the cake mix. When the pudding mixture was being stirred we three children all took a turn at having a stir and making a wish whilst stirring. Then came the bit where my mum concealed a silver sixpenny piece (carefully cleaned) into the bowl with the mixture. It was said that whoever got the sixpence in their portion on Christmas Day would have good luck. I have a feeling that when we were little my mum used to put three in our pudding so that we children found one each. Nobody would dream of putting a small metal coin into a pudding now in our safety-conscious age but none of us ever choked or broke a tooth!

sixpenses                                 Image result for christmas pudding  cloth

Our stockings were long brown hand-knitted woollen ones. I believe a relative had knitted a few pairs for my dad to wear under wellingtons when he was out at work in the forests. We had the same ones right through childhood and the feeling of those stocking stiff and full on a Christmas morning is still with me. There was always and apple and an orange in the toes, some chocolate coins, a new hankie, a new flannel and a new toothbrush, some sweets and a little novelty peeping out of the top – a small toy or a sugar mouse, maybe. Anything bigger than stocking size from Father Christmas (I never heard him called Santa at that time) was under the tree. We always had a selection box each.

After stockings and breakfast and before opening the rest of the presents we would walk to the village church for the Christmas morning service which was always one of the most exciting services of the year. The church would be packed, even though our village was tiny as everyone made the effort to attend on Christmas morning.

stockings_socks          sugar_mouse_white

There would be presents from a few relatives and presents from and to each other. Board games were very popular gifts and sometimes at Christmas there might be a compendium of games with five or six board games in one box. Other presents which were often given were paintboxes, weaving, sewing, raffia and painting by numbers kits, magic sets, dressing up outfits, Meccano and card games like Snap and Happy Families.

compendium-of-games-spears-toys-draughts-dominoes-ludo-_1           happy-families

In the 1950s in Britain chicken was quite a luxury and that was what we had on Christmas Day. Turkey came on the scene later.

The afternoon was always punctuated by the Queen’s speech. We listened to it on the radio through the 50s and then watched it on TV from 1961 when we got out first television.

biscuit-tin           roses

On Boxing Day there was always a circus on the TV in the afternoon which we all watched (with the curtains drawn as we did in those days!) whilst dipping into or selection boxes.

 

50s-christmas-paper-lanterns-1                                       baubles

Tree decorations were mostly baubles and the baubles were made of glass. I still have three of the ones we had on our trees when I was small.

50s-toys                  toys-walldisplay

We always received a new diary each for Christmas and in the back of the new diary I would carefully write down my New Year’s Resolutions. The other writing task was the composing of thank-you letters to relatives who had sent us presents. My mum always made sure these were done before we went back to school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arts and Crafts – some more.

Since posting last week I have carried on remembering other things we liked to make when we were entertaining ourselves indoors. Many of them involved paper and scissors.

We enjoyed folding paper into boat or hat shapes – the same method.

paper-boat      paper-people     paper-chain

We loved to cut out chains of paper people and at Christmas we made paper chains to decorate our bedrooms using gummed strips of coloured paper.

vintage_paper_doll

Paper dressing up dolls were really good fun. Sometimes they came in a box and were received as a present. Other times they were free in a comic. You cut the figure and clothes out yourself (taking care NOT to cut the tabs off!) then dressed the dolls in different outfits. The other thing we loved making out of paper were these things.

paper-fortune-teller We didn’t have a name for them but researching for an image on the Internet I found them described as paper fortune tellers.

The spinners you could make with cardboard and string were really good fun, especially if you took the trouble to colour them in with a bright pattern which went crazy when the spinner whizzed around. The ones which always seemed to work best, though, were the ones which came free with cereal packets.

fun-colorful-spinners.jpg

There was always spare wool in the house as my mum did a lot of knitting so making pom poms by winding wool around card discs was another childhood pastime – and one which I still enjoy doing!

making-pom-poms            mouse

The funny little picture on the right is showing how to make a mouse out of a handkerchief. I remember my dad showing us how to do this this when we were small.

Two more things I can recall are making perfume from rose petals in the garden and putting it into small bottles such as aspirin bottles. These were given to give to our mum and grandmothers. Also making brooches from a kit which contained a pin backing and felt shapes which we fashioned into flowers etc. My maternal grandmother, Nana, lived with us for the last few years of her life and was so good at putting a home made brooch on the lapel of her coat and dabbing on rose petal perfume before going to the village shop.

 

 

Bows and arrows, guns and penknives.

The subject of children playing with toy guns, knives etc. is a controversial one. Many parents will not allow their children to play with any toys resembling weapons. I am not going to explore the rights and wrongs of that here, my thoughts in this post are about the large number of toy guns, swords and bows with arrows we played with as children in the 1950s. We also had penknives, sheath knives and catapults (not toy ones).

First the toy guns. There was quite a choice! Cap guns had a little roll of paper with dots of gunpowder on. When you pulled the trigger a little metal hammer hit the gunpowder spot and there was a satisfying click followed by a puff of smoke and a lovely firework-like smell. Excuse my very un-technical description of the mechanism!                                               Pop guns fired out a cork from the barrel which was attached by a string so couldn’t actually hit anything but made a great noise.                                                                                              Potato or spud guns fired small pellets of raw potato. My memory of the details fails me a bit here but I believe the gun was pressed into the raw potato and a pellet was punched out ready for firing.                                                                                                                                                   Lastly, there were the water pistols. I never enjoyed playing with them as much as I didn’t like getting soaked with cold water!

 

potato gun.jpg                               pop gun 1

 

marshal-2 cap gun                                                   cap rolls

 

watergun03.jpg

 

To understand our love of toy guns, it’s important to remember how massive Westerns were at the time in the form of both TV series and films. Who remembers The Lone Ranger, Laramie, The Range Rider, Rawhide and Bronco? The gun-toting cowboys versus the arrow-firing ‘Red Indians’ were the stuff of our childhood – even here in the UK. As children we had cowboy (and cowgirl) and Red Indian dressing up outfits. Which neatly moves us on from guns to bows and arrows. The bought sets had suckers on the end of the arrows which would stick (if you were lucky!) to a door or window. The cheaper ones, however, were the ones we made ourselves using wood from hedges and trees. Willow was the most flexible for a bow I seem to remember.

 

bows and arrows 1                  bows and arrows

 

 

 

outfits.jpg                             lone ranger

 

50s toy sword

 

Whereas the guns were toys,  the penknives, sheath knives and catapults we had as children were real. It was the norm for kids, especially boys, to have a child-sized penknife. They might have been smaller than adult ones but they were nonetheless real. They were great for whittling sticks! Because we all had them, we knew how to handle them and not misuse them. The same applied to catapults. The picture shows a typical bought catapult but we also made them from twigs and small branches.

 

roy rogers penknives                         sheath knife

catapult