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.
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