Just when I was fearing that I’d completely run out of ideas for a new post – blogger’s block? – I sat down this evening to watch Countryfile on BBC 1. Readers living in the UK will know what I mean. For people from faraway lands (as they used to say in fairy tales) it’s a weekly programme which goes out on a Sunday evening and covers all matters relating to the countryside. It’s been running for 33 years – yes, I Googled it! – and is a Sunday evening ritual for many people regardless of where they live. It can come from any part of the UK and might focus on farming, nature, tourism, environmental issues, weather, and many, many more countryside related subjects. Tonight’s episode came from a large annual agricultural show in Staffordshire called the Manifold Valley Agricultural Show. Ping! I suddenly had an idea for a blog post!
When I was a child living in a tiny village in a remote valley in mid-Wales the annual shows, which were held in the summer, were something to look forward to. The biggest one in Wales was, and still is, the Royal Welsh Show. We loved going to that one as it was almost like visiting a city to children from a small village. There were so many interesting tents, stands and displays. The ‘show’ bit comes in when farmers show their best livestock and prizes can be won. However, as children, we weren’t interested in that. We saw sheep and cows every day. We wanted to see ice-cream vans, rides, tents selling crafts and souvenirs, to just enjoy being in such a buzzing atmosphere amongst so many people. It was half an hour from where we lived so was rarely missed.
At the next tier down, every county had an annual show. Within those counties the rural towns had their own annual shows. But right at the bottom of the ladder – or the top for us as children – most farming villages also had a show in the summer. My village was tiny. It spread for miles as all the farms were so widely scattered but you could drive through it and miss it. To give you an idea, my village school which took all the village children from aged 4 to aged 11 had just under 30 pupils each year. Many of the villages in the area were as small, in some cases smaller. But there used to be some great shows to go to on a summer weekend.
A prize-winning Welsh Black.
Another Royal Welsh prize winner,
I thought this was a good time to celebrate the world creeping back to normality – very slowly – after the pandemic nightmare of the last eighteen months. There were no shows last year. As open air events they have crawled back into place this year. Let’s hope next year is completely back to normal.
Today, March 1st is St David’s Day and a very important day in Wales.
Saint David is thought to have been born around 500 AD in Pembrokeshire on the Welsh west coast. David’s reputed mother Non was also a saint, and he was trained as a priest under the tutelage of St Paulinus.
Various miracles are attributed to him, including restoring the sight of his teacher and, most famously, creating an entirely new hill (now the village of Llanddewi Brefi) during an outdoor sermon. The version of this story which we were told in school was that he was preaching to a large crowd, many of whom couldn’t see or hear him properly. A man stepped forward and put his coat on the floor for David to stand on. When he stood on the coat the ground rose up and a small hill was formed.
Saint David became a renowned missionary in Wales and beyond, and is credited with founding monasteries in his homeland, the south-west of England (including Glastonbury) and Brittany.
When I was in Primary School I remember that our village always held a St David’s Day concert. Our little school was used as a village hall for this sort of event. Various people – adults and children – throughout the evening would take turns to sing, recite or play the piano. One local farmer had a beautiful tenor voice and always sang ‘Jerusalem’. There would also be singing where we all sang together, many of the songs in Welsh.
The traditional dish which all families would eat on that day was ‘cawl’ – pronounced cowl – which is a simple but hearty and nutritious stew made with lamb, root vegetables and leeks. Oddly, it’s the smell of it cooking in our kitchen which I can remember more than the taste.
When I was in the Secondary School there was always a St David’s Day Eisteddfod in the school hall. Pupils who were known to be able to play and instrument were often pressured into taking part. Others were happy to volunteer. Most children would have a daffodil pinned to their jumpers. Those who hadn’t been able to locate a daffodil would have a leek pinned to them instead, some of them enormous! I can clearly remember the all-pervading smell of leeks as some of the kids got bored in the audience and started nibbling on them.
I have lived in England now since 1973. I have worn a daffodil on March 1st every year of my life as I am doing today. Occasionally if I’ve been in my local town shopping on St David’s Day (not this year, thanks to COVID-19) and seen another person wearing a daff we greet each other and have a little chat.
Happy St David’s Day to you all!!
Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus!!
As usual – images courtesy of Google Images, Pinterest, Wikipedia. Anyone objecting to my use of an image can contact me and I will remove it.
I was remembering recently a day when I fell in the playground at school and took a lump out of my knee. I still have the scar. I was taken in to school and a teacher put iodine on the wound (which stung SO much!), pressed a lump of cotton wool onto it and tied a bandage around my knee. I’m pretty sure those three things were the main, if not only, components of the school’s First Aid resources. Here are a couple of examples of First Aid kits from the 50s/ 60s. There was a heavy reliance on cotton wool, bandages and lint – to be used with iodine, no doubt.
Another First Aid incident I recall from Primary School is my friend having a nosebleed and the headmaster putting his big bunch of school keys down her back. After recalling this I, of course, felt compelled to look it up. Keys down the back for nosebleeds is very well documented! Although it has never been scientifically tested, some experts believe that there could be some foundation to this old wives’ tale as the cold keys possibly trigger something called the mammalian diving reflex. I do learn some interesting stuff when researching for this blog.
Some of the things I remember my mum having in the bathroom cupboard are: TCP for cuts and grazes (NOT iodine!), calamine lotion for rashes and sunburn , Gentian Violet for mouth ulcers, Milk of Magnesia for indigestion, Marzines for travel sickness, Hactos for coughs, olive oil (small bottle bought in the chemist’s, definitely never for cooking then) for earache and aspirin for aches and pains. The same things were probably in all homes. There were fewer brands to choose from. It’s pretty basic compared with what we have available now but definitely not as primitive as the vinegar and brown paper we know of from the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill. Once again, I felt impelled to look this up. I already knew that vinegar has been used as a disinfectant/ antiseptic for thousands of years but I was surprised to find a lot of evidence of vinegar and brown paper being used together on cuts, bruises, sprains and even nosebleeds. Here is a quote from one of Charles Dickens’ books:
In Nicholas Nickleby, Dickens describes Squeers recovering from heavy bruising which required “Vinegar and brown paper, vinegar and brown paper, from morning to night. I suppose there was a matter of half a ream of brown paper stuck upon me from first to last.”
As always, credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. I make every effort to set my search filters so that I don’t infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to the use of any image in this post, please contact me and I will remove it.
My childhood recollections of 1950s policemen (no policewomen then!) are based on the ones I knew from story books and from seeing PC’s on point duty when we went away on holiday to bigger towns than ours. Point duty was what came before roundabouts and traffic lights and they wore white oversleeves to make them easily visible. It was a very important duty because there were no motorways or by-passes so all main routes passed through towns. A journey to a summer holiday destination involved queue after queue.
Mr Plod was the kindly policeman in the Noddy stories.
Also by Enid Blyton, The Famous Five and the Secret Seven were always having adventures and sorting out misdeeds. The policeman was usually there at the end to take them safely home or to thank them.
Dixon of Dock Green and, later, Z-Cars were two police dramas of the 50s and 60s and were much loved by everyone. They were very tame and innocent compared with today’s crime dramas.
The friendly neighbourhood copper and the village ‘Bobby on a bicycle ‘ were images which formed our ideas of the police as friendly, helpful and kind.
Finally, a note about a policeman very well known in the area I live in now. Bill Harber was the iconic policeman with the distinctive handlebar moustache who was on point duty in the Barnsley town centre in the fifties and sixties before Barnsley was by-passed by the M1.
Bill, who died in 2017 aged 86, is well remembered from his decades directing traffic in Barnsley town centre and became almost a landmark. I started work in Barnsley in 1974 and used to see him on duty in the town.
Many thanks to Liz, a follower of this blog, for suggesting this post after reading the last one on new words.
Gumption – This was a term for common sense. ‘Use your gumption.’ ‘She’s got no gumption.’ were the kind of things heard in conversation. My mum even used to shorten it when exasperated ‘Where’s your gumpsh?’ would be the sort of thing we’d hear her say. You can’t photograph common sense so here’s an ad for a household cleaner which was very popular here in the 50’s and was called – Gumption! I haven’t seen it for donkey’s years. So I had a rummage on the Internet. It’s long gone from here but is still available in Australia. I found a big tub of it for sale on Ebay. It was £4.13 to buy plus £23.06 postage.
Cheerio – We all know there is a cereal called Cheerios. Cheerio hasn’t completely disappeared as a word but is much less heard than in the 50s. Cheerio! for goodbye was very common back then. Even though it’s not completely dead and is still used, albeit less so, I’ve put it in here because I wanted to tell you how it originated. It was used first in London in the 17th Century and came about because when rich people wanted to hail cab, which was actually a sedan chair, they would call out of a window ‘Chair, Ho!’ The sound of this call became associated with leaving on a journey and evolved into Cheerio!
Drawers – No, not the ones you keep your underwear in. This is your actual underwear. In Victorian times knickers/ pants/ underpants were known as drawers. It was still in use by older people when I was a child and now is probably only ever used humorously – by those who remember what drawers were. I won’t bother with a picture for this one!
Cravat – The word and the item still exist but I can’t remember when I last saw a man wearing one or heard the word spoken. Here is the lovely Michael Caine sporting a jaunty number.
Natty – My mum used to use this. I never hear it now. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as ‘(of a person or an article of clothing) smart and fashionable.’ If we were out somewhere and saw a gent in a loud or bad taste suit she would quip, quietly, ‘That’s a natty bit of gent’s suiting!’ Her dad, my grandfather, was a tailor so perhaps she got the expression from him.
Trews/ Slacks/ Flannels – All words for trousers, all now somewhat archaic. Slacks were more casual and could be men’s or women’s. Standard grey men’s trousers, usually worn with sports jackets or blazers, were always called flannels. Flannel is a soft woven fabric, of various fineness, originally made from carded wool or worsted yarn, but is now often made from either wool, cotton, or synthetic fibre.
Wireless – Once a noun, now an adjective. We still use the word wireless and it now describes an electronic connection made without wires. When I was a child in the 50s, the radio was never referred to as a radio. It was the wireless.
Gramophone – This was the first term used to describe a machine which played discs. This then morphed into record player and later into deck.
Radiogram – This was a radio and record player (gramophone and wireless) combined and cleverly disguised as a sideboard. Some also had a space for storing records. My mum and dad bought one when I was 8 or 9 and I thought it was amazing!
HP/ Never-Never – From the 1930s, if you wanted to purchase goods but couldn’t afford to buy them outright, there was the option of a hire-purchase agreement also known as the never-never. Credit cards, standing orders and direct debits didn’t exist.
Florin, shilling, sixpence, threepence, farthing, halfpenny, ten bob note, crown, half-crown, guinea etc – these are all words from our old currency. When we decimalised we only kept the pounds and the pennies (pence). When I was very young, and for many years before that, public toilets always had a slot on the door which took one penny. This gave rise to the very British expression ‘spend a penny’ which isn’t heard as much now.
Shooting Brake – These quirky vehicles were popular in the 50s and for some reason were known as shooting brakes. Basically an estate car with a wooden trim, they had a very distinctive look.
Wellington Boot/ Gumboot/ Galoshes – now always just called wellies. At some point in the early 1800s Arthur Wellesley, then Viscount Wellington, asked his shoemaker, Mr George Hoby of St James’s Street, London, to make a boot which was easier to wear with the new, fashionable, tighter-fitting trousers. Hoby removed the tassel and cut the boots lower to make them more comfortable for riding. Meanwhile, in 1856 the Edinburgh-based North British Rubber Company had started to manufacture Britain’s first rubber or ‘gum’ boots. With the name of the duke still retaining a patriotic pull on consumers, these new boots were soon also renamed Wellingtons in Britain. Their popularity did not become widespread until the First World War, when in 1916 the company was commissioned to produce millions of pairs as standard winter kit for ordinary soldiers, to prevent ‘trench foot’, a medical condition caused by prolonged exposure to damp. At the end of the war, soldiers brought them home and introduced these extremely practical items of footwear to farms, gardens and allotments all over the country. A century later, music festivals and fashion catwalks are still benefiting from this wartime legacy.
As always, I need to say that all my images are sourced from the Internet using filters in the hope that I don’t infringe copyright. If anyone objects to the use of any image please contact me immediately and I will remove it.
Credit to Wikipedia, English Heritage, Pinterest, OED, Historic UK
This follows on from the last blog post. In that one I looked at the TV programmes aimed at young children and timed to fit in between getting back from school and the family meal. After the six o’clock news there was another slot where programmes were shown which could be enjoyed by whole families before the kids went to bed. Pre-watershed we would say now! Here are the ones which are etched into my memory which were shown in one of those two slots or on Saturday afternoon. Yes, there was some daytime TV on a Saturday! Mostly sport and some family entertainment.
Dixon of Dock Green – Oh, how we loved this programme! I see now that it had already been running several years when we got TV and that it carried on into the seventies. Police dramas are big in TV now and this was one of the first. But it was so mild, so everyday, so genteel and polite! If you watched it – you’ll know exactly what I mean. Evening all!
Z Cars – This was the second police drama in my life. For a while they ran concurrently. It was a bit more high speed and punchy – but still very tame compared with police dramas of today.
R.C.M.P. – A Canadian (obviously!) made series which ran for a couple of years in the early sixties, we loved this! I can’t now remember any of the characters or stories but we looked forward to every week’s episode.
Whirlybirds U.S. – As favourite TV shows go, this one is in the top five for me and my siblings. Again, I don’t remember any of the actual adventures or the names of any characters but it left me with a lifelong love of helicopters.
Gary Halliday – This was British made and another HUGE favourite with me and my siblings. Halliday was a pilot for a commercial airline and flew to his adventures in an aircraft with the call sign Golf Alpha Oboe Roger George. He was assisted by co-pilot Bill Dodds. Their enemy was The Voice who was never seen by other characters, so that at the end of each series he could escape and reappear in the next. I remember one summer holiday when I, my brother and sister became Gary Halliday characters for days, maybe weeks on end. Even when we went inside for lunch or tea we built it into our role play. Our front porch was the cockpit of our aircraft.
The Lone Ranger This was a US series which was launched in the mid 50s and arrived several years later here in Britain. The masked horse rider, the horse called Silver, the trusty Native American mate called Tonto – it was wonderful!
The Range Rider This was another US import of the late 50s / early 60s with a horse-riding hero. We loved this too but I must have loved the Lone Ranger more because I remember his horse’s name!
Emergency Ward 10 – Running from 57 to 67, this was the precursor to the current medical drama series we have on UK TV here now, Casualty and Holby City.
Dr Kildare – The US import which was the equivalent of Emergency Ward 10. The main doctor character was the impossibly handsome Richard Chamberlain.
What’s My Line? – This was an early version of the TV panel game. Each week, a few guests mimed their job and the panel – the same people every week – tried to guess what they did for a living. My family absolutely loved it. I can still remember one of the mimes when a zoo keeper acted out the washing of an elephant.
Juke Box Jury – The perfect programme for those early days of ‘pop’ music! I seem to remember it was on at around ‘tea time’ on a Saturday. We got to hear new singles and we watched the panel like or dislike them. It was a lot more fun than it sounds!
As always, if anyone objects to my use of any image sourced from the internet – as carefully as I can – please contact me so that I can remove it.
I have covered TV before but this time I’m looking purely at the children’s programmes I, my brother and sister watched in the very first few years of family TV. I was ten years old when we first got a television, in 1961. For several years we only had one channel – BBC1. Many people my age remember Muffin the Mule but he is not covered here simply because I never watched the programme. I have looked it up and it ran from 1946 to 1955 which was well before we had TV.
The first ones listed are the programmes made for children and shown in the slot which covered after school until the 6.00pm news or, in the case of Watch With Mother, just after lunch. The dates show the years they were shown on British TV.
Noggin the Nog 1959 – 65 Peter Firmin was inspired to create the characters by a set of 12th century Norse chess pieces – discovered on the Isle of Lewis – that he saw in the British Museum. The cartoon was written and produced by Oliver Postgate, who was also a narrator. Firmin and Postgate produced many children’s programmes for the BBC, including Pogles’ Wood, Ivor the Engine, Bagpuss and the Clangers.
Captain Pugwash 1957 – 66 This was a delightful cartoon about a Pirate ship called the Black Pig and the pirates who sailed in it. They had plenty of adventures, none of which I remember now, but the theme tune and the cartoon characters I recall with great pleasure.
Watch With Mother 1952 – 75 This was broadcast at 1:30 pm each day and comprised:
Picture Book – Mondays, from 1955
Andy Pandy – Tuesdays, from 1950
Flower Pot Men – Wednesdays, from 1952
Rag, Tag and Bobtail – Thursdays, from 1953
The Woodentops – Fridays, from 1955
It was aimed at pre-school children but I remember it so well and how much we loved it – even though we had no TV until I was ten. I think we must have watched it in the school holidays or if we were ever home from school poorly. TV didn’t start until 4 pm when the children’s programmes started. Watch With Mother was the only daytime TV back then so it was a novelty!
Crackerjack 1956 – 84 Looking this up, I was amazed to see that it ran for nearly thirty years. I remember it being a ot of fun and that the children who were guests on it seemed to win a lot of prizes. I also remember that if they got a question wrong they got a cabbage instead.
Sketch Club 1958 – 61 We loved this programme! It was hosted by a man called Adrian Hill and he gave tips and hints on how to draw and paint. I have looked him up and found that he served in the Army in WW1 and was the first artist commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to record the conflict on the Western Front. After WW1 he worked with returning soldiers encouraging them to draw as part of their recovery. He also helped set up a scheme whereby works of art were loaned to hospitals across the country. He believed that art activities and art appreciation greatly assisted the recovery of those injured and traumatised by the war. He is credited with coining the term ‘art therapy’. I knew none of this when I watched his programme but I loved Sketch Club.
Tales of the Riverbank 1960 – 63 Everyone my age growing up in Britain in the 1950s and 60s remembers this programme, the voice of Johnny Morris and the beautiful theme tune – which I now know is Andante in C by Guiliani.
Zoo Quest 1954 – 63 This was Sir David Attenborough’s first TV programme. I remember loving it and thinking he was wonderful – he still is! I loved seeing all the different animals and I seem to remember they were often in Madagascar which I hadn’t heard of until watching Zoo Quest. Doing my research for this post I have learned that the programme was all about a team from London Zoo on a mission to find and capture animals to bring back to the zoo. Wildlife programmes are very different now with the emphasis more on observing and preserving than capturing!
I was going to list some of the early evening programmes we enjoyed (such as Dixon of Dock Green) but the post would be too long so I’ll cover them in a separate one.
As always, if anyone objects to the use of any of my photographs, sourced from the Internet, please contact me so that I can remove it.
No, not the garden variety! Those wonderful, colourful, hardbacked books full of articles, photographs, cartoons, puzzles, competitions, facts, jokes, craft ideas and SO much fun! The books we loved to be bought at Christmas and which were eagerly awaited every year. Those mines of fun, facts and entertainment which you could carry on dipping into all year – until the next one came out. Most children had a regular weekly comic and that comic would produce an annual every winter. Even as an early teen when I and my sister were taking magazines like Jackie, they, too had annuals. Radio and TV programmes, newspapers, clubas, organisations etc etc ALL published annuals.
In the late 50s/ early 60s I, my brother and my sister took Princess, Hotspur and Bunty and the annuals were something to be looked forward to all year.
It was a Jackie Annual from 1980 which made me think of writing this post. I often buy, on EBay or in charity shops, an annual for a friend’s year of birth when they have reached a milestone birthday. I enjoy sourcing them – even if they wonder what on earth that gift was all about! I recently acquired the Jackie 1980 annual for a family 40th birthday – female, obviously! I enjoyed leafing through it before posting it. They’re such a glimpse into how the world was in another era.
As children we hadn’t been familiar with Rupert Bear until two older boy cousins passed ALL their old Rupert Annuals on to us – and we loved them! We enjoyed all the cartoon stories of Rupert’s adventures and knew all the characters. My sister once said it used to annoy her that Rupert was never told off when he was late home for tea – but that aside, we loved them. My sister and I can still fold table napkins into water lilies after learning how to do it from an origami page in one of the Rupert annuals.
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.
These books were a recent memory for our parents.
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!
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 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.
As a result of this dreadful pandemic, I have been doing a lot of sewing. I dusted off my old Singer sewing machine and surprisingly, after several years of doing very little sewing (I do more knitting these days), I was still able to thread the old workhorse up and operate it like I’d ever been away. Whilst spending hours on the machine this last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. In the 1950s, when I was small, all my jumpers and cardigans were hand knitted by my mum as were her own and those of my brother and sister. My mum also made all the dresses worn by her, me and my sister. The same applied to all the families we knew. Towns with clothes shops were a couple of hours’ drive away and also making clothes was cheaper than buying them.
My mum’s sewing machine was a hand-operated Singer. She bought it new when she got married and she told me she made all my baby clothes on it
My mum’s sewing machine was like these two.
My mum was such an excellent dressmaker that I had no incentive to learn to sew myself. I was knitting for myself by the time I was in my teens but if I saw a dress I liked in a fashion magazine like Honey, my mum could have it copied for me a few days later, often combining several different dress patterns to achieve the right result. When I went to university and was living on a limited budget, I worked out that if I wanted things I couldn’t afford I’d better make them myself. There was a sewing room in my hall of residence which was equipped with electric sewing machines. I had a brilliant choice of shops and markets selling fabrics as I was in Nottingham, a sizeable city. So I taught myself to make my own clothes. Two years later my mum and dad bought me a Singer Zig Zag machine for my 21st birthday. It’s the one in the photo below and it’s still going strong.
Most women my age can either knit, sew or do both. Young women who knit and sew now are in the minority. I looked up the history of the domestic sewing machine and it’s really interesting. The domestic sewing machine was invented by Isaac Singer in 1850. Through the late 1800s, in the US and in Britain, the sewing machine was a status symbol and ornate enamelled models were displayed proudly in high class drawing rooms. After 1900, when the sewing machine was being mass produced and could be afforded by poorer families – on hire purchase – the models on sale were less ornamental and more utilitarian. At the same time, shop-bought clothing became more readily available. The developments of the industrial sewing machine was why factory made clothing became more affordable. As a result, hand-made items were considered inferior and the sewing machine was relegated from display to a hidden corner. People buying a new machine were sometimes reassured by the company of discretion when delivering. Shop bought clothing was considered superior. This attitude reminds me of a similar one towards baking when I was growing up. My mum, and everyone else’s, baked cakes every week for the family. They baked cakes, scones, pies, biscuits. But when somebody was coming to tea they popped out and bought a shop cake. As if home baking was inferior and a sign of poverty.
My antique Jones sewing machine which is in perfect order and sews beautifully. It was bought for me as a present by my one of my daughters a few years ago. I was a Jones – but no connection with the sewing machine manufacturers!