Yes, this post is about drinking water – or rather, not drinking it.
Nowadays, we are all aware of the need to stay hydrated and the health hazards hidden in sweetened, flavoured soft drinks. We are now used to seeing people walking around holding bottles of water. It was not always so. My parents and grandparents would be surprised and probably horrified at the way bottled water is sold absolutely everywhere now.
When I was a child I don’t remember drinking much water at all, or seeing adults drinking it. If you asked for a drink of plain tap water in a café or restaurant you would be refused. It is now against the law for premises serving alcohol to refuse a customer tap water. I have never been refused plain water in any café, pub, bar or restaurant in many years now.
In the 60s and 70s, once people started travelling further afield, we saw bottled water on sale in shops on holiday abroad. We always assumed it was because their tap water wasn’t safe to drink. Ours in Britain was then, and is now, perfectly safe but buying bottled water here is now the norm.
As children in the 1950s we drank milk, squash or tea. Yes, we were all started quite early on with weak milky tea – usually with sugar in it. My sister is three years younger than me and I can remember drinking the National Health orange juice which was available for pregnant mothers and children aged one to five. It was meant for my sister at the time I remember but my brother and I used to be given the occasional drink of it. It was delicious! Very, very different from the standard orange squash. I’ve researched it for this post and it had an extremely large content of real orange juice – and sugar – and the instructions were that it be served diluted – and sweetened if necessary! It was issued by the government because many people in post-war Britain were deficient in essential nutrients.
My mum was very fussy about our teeth so we were rarely allowed ‘pop’ as it was known and she limited our consumption of sweets. Through lack of knowledge and information at the time she was unaware that the squash we drank, and the National Health juice, were just as sugary. Thankfully, my teeth are still in good order.
Water in the classroom.
The importance of keeping children hydrated for their health and concentration is now well known. The introduction of ‘water in the classroom’ was something I was involved with in the 90s. Some staff in schools were very against it then. Now we can’t imagine things being any other way.
Credit to Wikipedia, Google and Google Images. If anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and it will be removed.
I have loved stationery all my life. As a child if I ever had a bit of spending money, such as on holiday, I was always drawn towards the stationery counters in Woolworth’s and W H Smith. Even today, as an adult, I have an abiding love for note books, pens and pencils. In this post I’m going to look at pens and the enormous changes I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’ve covered stationery in general before but this will go into more detail about just pens.
When I started school wooden barreled dipping pens and inkwells were still being used in classrooms. We had ‘ink monitors’ who were chosen by the teacher. A different child was chosen each week. I far preferred being ink monitor to being milk monitor! Each morning blue-black ink was made up from a powder mixed with water. This was then poured into a class set of china inkwells. Each child’s wooden desk had a hole in it which held the inkwell. There was also a groove along the top to stop the pen rolling down the slope of the desk lid. The ink monitor’s job was to put a full inkwell into every hole.
The pens were the most basic design which you now only see in art cupboards in schools. Each pen consisted of a simple wooden barrel which had a very basic metal nib pushed onto the end. For those of you who didn’t live through this phase of pens the pictures might help to clarify things.
Blotting paper was essential as you couldn’t turn a page over without blotting the writing first or else it would smudge. If you pressed too hard the nib parted and you got a double pen stroke. If your nib snagged on the paper you got dots of ink spotting your book. And was there is no reservoir, you had to dip your pen in the inkwell every few words. And you always ended up with ink stains on your fingers – which didn’t wash of easily!
Ball-point pens (now known as Biros but often referred to as Bics when they were first around) were available in the 1950s/ early 60s but we were absolutely forbidden to use what the headteacher called ‘new-fangled rubbish’. The name Biro is usually credited to a Hungarian-Argentinian inventor László Bíró, whose name inspired a catch-all term for modern ballpoints. As for Bic, Marcel Bich believed in the potential for the ballpoint pen, adapted and improved the ballpoint invented by the Hungarian László Biró, and in December 1950, launched his own ballpoint pen in France under the BIC® brand, a shortened and more memorable version of his own name. To this day I would always rather write with a pencil, fibre-tip, roller-ball or fountain pen than a Biro. Mr Lewis’ legacy!
I didn’t have a fountain pen until I was eleven when I was bought one especially for starting in high school. I used the same one all the way through that school. It was a Platignum and I used to buy Quink (I favoured Royal Blue) ink to fill it with. You put the nib in the ink and squeezed the small rubber tube inside the handle (I can’t find a picture to illustrate this). Later came cartridge pens which made everything a lot easier. A nice pen was a lovely gift to give on a special occasion. There were everyday brands like Platignum and then there was Parker. There were even higher ranking pens than Parker in existence but they didn’t reach small places like ours and were too expensive anyway. Looking up pen history for this post I learned that Platignum wanted to call the brand Platinum but weren’t, at that time, allowed to register a trade name which was also registered as a precious metal.
When I was a student fibre tipped pens appeared on the scene. We had a stationery shop on the campus and I remember buying my first one, a Tempo. I thought it was wonderful. Whilst researching for this post, I learned that the development of fibre tipped pens was based on the brushes which had been used to write with in the East for centuries.
The choice appears endless now. I still love fountain pens best and also like using fibre tips and roller balls. We can add into the mix:
gel pens, marker pens, highlighter pens and, one of the most recent types, the dry-wipe pen which I made great use of when teaching.
As always, I make every effort not to infringe copyright. If, however, anyone objects to my use of a photograph in my blog, please contact me and it will be removed. Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images and Pinterest.
This is not a proper blog post. I have one nearly ready which will go out in a few days.
This morning I just want to thank everyone who has ever called in, whether by accident or on purpose. When I began this humble blog, about life in the countryside in the 1950s and 60s, a few years ago I had five or six ideas for posts I could write. I imagined perhaps as many as a few dozen people might find it interesting. I had no idea that it would be visited in so many countries by so many readers! This morning I have just topped 200 000 hits. I am overwhelmed by this. I’m small fry compared to many but I’m very happy to have reached so many people. Some will only have dipped in and back out again if it wasn’t what they were looking for but 200 000 is way beyond what I ever expected.
I have a good number of subscribed followers now and I really enjoy the comments readers post, often sharing memories which have been triggered by what I’ve written.
I still very much enjoy writing my blog. I also like reading blogs written by other people. It’s a world I never knew existed until I started out as a blogger.
I haven’t run out of ideas yet although I’m expecting this will happen eventually.
As we approach summer and people start thinking about holidays I thought I’d take a look at the traditional seaside holiday in Britain, particularly the era of my childhood – the 1950s and 60s.
I’ll start by filling in a bit of background.
Although rich people were taking breaks by the sea from the 1700s, and entering the water using ‘bathing machines’, the working population still worked a six day week with no paid holidays and had no access to transport for long journeys. This changed with the coming of the railways and in 1871. The Bank Holidays Act declared that certain days throughout the year were official holidays (when banks and offices closed). The speed of railway transport meant that people could then travel more easily to the seaside. Coastal towns like: Blackpool, Scarborough, Llandudno and Brighton quickly grew into popular holiday resorts. In the UK, the Holidays with Pay Act 1938 gave workers whose minimum rates of wages were fixed by trade boards, the right to one weeks’ holiday per year.
I never heard of anyone going abroad on holiday when I was a child. I lived in a farming area so most of the families we knew couldn’t leave the farm for a holiday. Every year in the summer our village ran two day trips to the seaside for mums and children. One was just known as the village trip, I have no idea who organised it. Perhaps a group of parents got together. The other was the Sunday School trip. A coach would be hired and we would all pile onto it outside the village post office armed with picnics, buckets and spades, swimsuits etc. We sang songs on the coach and had a brilliant day out even if it rained. If it was too wet for the beach there was always the funfair and the shops in the town where we could spend the little bit of pocket we’d been given. We thought Woolworth’s was heaven!
Our family holidays were always taken by the coast. Devon and Cornwall were our nearest coastal destinations outside Wales. We have some great beaches in south west Wales too which are nearer to where we lived. We used to go to those for family days out on fine Saturdays in summer. The annual two week summer holiday always saw us going over the border to England.
Traffic jams were a big part of holiday travel at that time. There were no motorways or dual carriageways, towns didn’t have by-passes and had very few roundabouts and traffic lights. Now you can travel across the country sweeping past large and small towns on a motorway, ring road or by-pass. Not then. It was such a pain that we often set off for a holiday at night, arriving at our destination early in the morning. We children thought that was so exciting.
Back then, everyone took picnics to the beach. Sandwiches and flasks were the norm. Deck chairs were available for hire but most people sat on rugs or towels. We knew nothing about long term sun damage. If you got burned your mum would apply calamine lotion to the burnt skin at bedtime.
At some point in the day there would be a visit to the ice-cream van. What a treat! Homes didn’t have freezers then and neither did the shops around us. When we were small ice-cream was only associated with day trips and holidays. I loved 99’s – and still do!
Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images and woolworthsmuseum.co.uk.
I make every effort to avoid infringing copyright. If, however, anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.
I was talking with some friends the other day and the subject of budgies came up. We all remembered so many households where there was a pet budgie. It always fascinated me that if you wanted the budgie to be quiet you put the cover over the cage and it immediately thought it was night and went to sleep. Most of the ones I knew seemed to be called Joey. I don’t know anyone with a budgie now. This got me thinking about how the change in pet-keeping since the 1950s and 60s.
Budgies – or Budgerigars, to give them their full name
I haven’t seen a budgie for many years now but when I was a child they were very popular pets. I often used to see them in the homes of elderly relatives we used to visit. I’m sure there were other names but I used to know a lot of budgies called Joey. They were either blue or green. People used to train them to say a few words. I wondered whether I don’t see them now because it’s illegal to keep them so I looked this up and found that it’s not against the law to keep a budgie as a pet. The decline in numbers is simply changing fashions in pets.
I never had a tortoise but they were very popular pets in the 50s. Children in storybooks and comics often had pet tortoises. I remember reading about owners painting their initials on the shell in case the tortoise ever escaped.
It was very common to see goldfish in bowls when I was a child. One common practice, which is still legal here and shouldn’t be, was the winning of goldfish at fairs. This was still happening when my children were small in the 1980s but is far less common now. The ‘lucky’ child was given a small plastic water-filled bag with a goldfish swimming in it. If it was going back to a household which didn’t already have fish there would have been no tank or bowl and no fish food so the chances are the poor fish would be dead by the next day.
Whilst researching for this post I learned that just last year my nearby town, Wakefield, banned fairs from giving goldfish as prizes to children.
Cats and Dogs
I lived in a farming village so most of the families we knew were farmers and they all had cats and dogs. These were working animals. The dogs were sheepdogs and were trained to work with flocks of sheep. Most of the ones I knew on our local farms were called Fly, Moss or Belle. Cats were there largely to keep the mouse population down in the hay barns. These weren’t indoor pampered pets. They lived outside and in the barns and outhouses.
When I was 13 we moved five miles from our village into the small town nearby. Here there were more people with pet dogs who were taken out for regular walks on leads. We acquired a pet dog, a Golden Labrador, when I was 15 and we all absolutely adored her.
Perhaps the range of pets available in the 50s and 60s was greater than I’m remembering. It could be that my experience was different from others from that time because we didn’t have a pet shop anywhere nearby. However, this is how I remember things and I am only speaking from personal experience.
Credit to Wikipedia and Google Images. I endeavor to ensure I am not infringing copyright when using photographs obtained from the Internet. If anyone objects to my use of a photograph, let me know and I will remove it.
When I was a child, the drink everybody drank was tea. There was hardly any coffee around in the 1950s, not where I lived, anyway. Children drank milk (warmed in winter, cold in summer), orange squash or weak tea with occasionally cocoa, Horlicks or Ovaltine at bedtime. Adults drank tea (most of them took sugar in it, unlike now) and sometimes a warm milky drink at night. People didn’t drink water the way they do now. In cafes and restaurants you were never offered water with your food and many would refuse if you asked for a glass of tap water. We knew nothing about caffeine or about the importance of keeping your body hydrated. This post focuses on just tea, that quintessentially British drink. I really fancied using the word quintessentially, for some reason!
The Tea we Drank.
There were no tea bags then and very few brands to choose from. Tea leaves were the only form the tea came in. I remember Broooke Bond being around and in some grocery shops you could buy loose tea weighed out on scales. Once home, you transferred your loose tea to a tea caddy. Green, decaffeinated, herbal varieties etc. didn’t exist.
The Tea Pots we Used.
Of course, loose tea can’t be made in the cup so we all used teapots. Stainless steel ones didn’t come on the scene until the mid sixties. The everyday family teapot was a sturdy earthenware one, usually dark brown. When anyone came to visit a more decorative china pot would be brought out, often part of a ‘tea set’. A lot of people had a very best set which had usually been given as a wedding present and which never left the glass-fronted china cabinet.
Cups and Saucers
It’s hard to believe now, but nobody drank out of mugs in the 1950s. Every hot drink was drunk out of a cup and saucer. Everyday ones were fairly robust, best ones prettier and more fragile. I have a lovely tea set from the 1920s which was my grandmother’s.
Other Essential Equipment
In addition to the ubiquitous teapot, everyone needed tea strainers to filter out the leaves. As with the pots, there were plain everyday ones and fancier ‘best’ ones. Tea cosies were essential for keeping the tea warm while it brewed in the pot for the standard three minutes. Tea caddies stored the loose tea leaves and there were special little scoops for measuring out the right amount of tea into the pot.
Credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. As always, I have endeavored not to infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to my use of an image, please contact me and I will remove it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
First of all, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers and especially to my regular followers. Since starting this blog a few years ago it has been viewed a total of 164 500 times world wide. That makes me very happy and is way beyond what I was expecting when I started it. Also, I thought I would run out of ideas after the first year or so but every so often something strikes a chord and I think ‘I could do a blog post on that!’ Sometimes somebody suggests a topic I hadn’t thought of.
What follows is a brief summary of some thoughts and memories of Christmases when I was young. I’ve done similar ones before at Christmas but I didn’t want Christmas to pass without a mention.
The 1950s Christmas
The war had only finished in 1945 and rationing was still in place in the early fifties. People weren’t well off and there wasn’t the same choice of consumer goods as there is now. I remember the Christmases of my childhood so clearly and every one was magical. Turkey wasn’t yet the UK’s main Christmas meat. Chicken was still quite a luxury at that time, before the days of mass produced chicken, so that was often what people ate. Everyone made paper chains and paper lanterns. I remember making them at school and at home in the 50s and early 60s. Gifts were mostly things you needed and were often home made. Board games were hugely popular in homes and were often given as gifts. Children were given art and craft sets too. I don’t remember any of our toys needing batteries or cables. Moving toys were mostly wind-up and, when I was little, often made of tin. Bigger dolls and baby dolls like mine were still made of pottery. Plastic ones arrived soon after. I still have the one I was given for Christmas when I was about eight years old. It’s amazing she has survived because she wasn’t a shelf doll, she was payed with for many years.
There was always a circus on TV on Christmas Day in the afternoon. And everything stopped for the Queen’s speech! In the fifties, in our house, this was listened to on the radio. It was first televised in 1957 but we didn’t have a TV until 1962 when I was 10.
The 1960s Christmas
The Sindy doll was launched in the early 60s followed by Action Man in the late 60s. There was also a short-lived doll which was popular in the UK called Tressy. In the first half of the 60s, the Beatles arrived on the music scene. My sister and I were nuts about them. My sister was given a Beatles wig one Christmas which she loved. It was moulded plastic, hurt her head and made her frown but she didn’t mind. She was about eight or nine years old. She also had a Beatles jigsaw. The second half of the sixties were my teenage years and I remember the joy of being given records as presents. Perhaps the latest Beatles or Stones single (on a 45 vinyl) or a new album from my parents. One year I really wanted a Beatles sweater for Christmas and was bought one by my mum and dad. A Beatles jumper was just a black polo-neck. Bath cubes were very common presents when I was young. Grannies, aunts, mums and teenaged girls all loved using them. You never see them now!
Many, many thanks to all of you! Have a great time.
Church was massively important at Christmas when I was young. It was so exciting to we three children to walk to the other side of the village to the Christmas morning service, sing carols, celebrate the Christmas story, see the extra decorations in the church and greet all our neighbours.
Credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. If anyone objects to the use of any image in my posts, please contact me and I will remove it.
This could be subtitled ‘Another Way in which Things have Changed’. It’s not a complaint, more choice is mostly a good thing. I’m just making a comparison.
Last week we were visiting relatives and whilst with them we made a trip into their nearby city. When we were ready for something to eat we dived into the first café we saw – it was pouring with rain! – to get some lunch. It was a lovely café and we were all able to choose a light lunch from their menu. When it came to choosing our drinks we looked at the drinks menu. There were eleven different teas and seven coffees to choose from. I know this is an unusually large selection but it occurred to me that even the simplest of small cafes will list three or four different teas and in the likes of Costa and Starbucks the choice of coffees is bewildering.
THEN . .
Back in the 1950s and 60s, when I was a child, visits to cafes were usually associated with day trips and holidays. The drinks to choose from would be tea, coffee, orange squash, lemonade and milk. Perhaps a milk shake in some places. Then we come to the milk you put in your tea or coffee. Whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed? Oat, soya or almond milk?
THEN . . .
I could cover so many menu items which are different from the 1950s but the next one I’m going to look at is bread. I never, ever remember brown bread being offered as an option when you bought a sandwich in a café. Bread for sandwiches was always white sliced bread. If you ordered a hot meal like fish and chips there was usually a plate of bread (white sliced bread) and butter served with it. In a café or restaurant now it’s normal to be asked if you want white or brown bread. The more up-market you go, the more choices there are. It’s quite usual to see a list of different sandwich fillings and a footnote saying served on white or brown bread, ciabatta, panini or baguette.
THEN . .
A 1950s ‘Woolies’ cafeteria. One kind each of tea, coffee and bread. I loved those cafeterias! We never even hear the word cafeteria now.
A few more memories of British cafés in the 1950s to round this off. Salad was lettuce, cucumber and tomato. No rocket, peppers, olives and certainly no salad dressing. The only thing which was ever put on salad was salad cream. Tomato sauce was often on the table in a red, plastic tomato-shaped container. Pickle meant Branston, Piccalilli or pickled onions. Egg sandwiches were made with salad cream and some cress and were not known as egg mayonnaise sandwiches. Cafes and restaurants rarely offered tap water as a drink option and would even refuse it if asked.
THEN . .
Pictures sourced from Google Images and Wikipedia. As always, I go to a lot of trouble to avoid infringing copyright. If, however, anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.