Words No Longer With Us

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.

Use a little Gumption | Floor cleaner, Albemarle, Good housekeeping

 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! 

The Sedan Chair - Historic UK

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. 

Micheal Cain, dapper in a cravat | Ascot ties, Ascot, Cravat

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.

Winchester 1950 AM/FM Radio

Gramophone – This was the first term used to describe a machine which played discs. This then morphed into record player and later into deck. 

Roger Wilco's World of Time and Space Souvenirs, 1950sunlimited: Dansette,  1960 | Dansette record player, Vintage advertisements, Vintage records

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!

Radiogram (device) - Wikipedia

 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. 

 

The old sterling currency - pounds, shillings and pence. With examples and  explanations. | Childhood memories 70s, Childhood memories, My childhood  memories  The Pre-Decimal Penny in UK History and Culture | Owlcation

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.

BBC - Norfolk - Local Radio - A four-wheeled love affair

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

More Children’s TV Programmes of the 50s/ 60s

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!

Dixon of Dock Green - Wikipedia

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.

BBC One - Z Cars

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.

R.C.M.P. (TV Series 1959–1960) - IMDb

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.

Whirlybirds Next Episode Air Date & Countdown

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.

Adventures of Garry Halliday, The | Nostalgia Central

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!

From the Archives: Clayton Moore, TV's 'Lone Ranger,' Dies - Los ...

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!

Do You Remember... "Range Rider".

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.

Dr. Kildare TV Show - Season 1 Episodes List - Next Episode

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.

TV Trivia: What's My Line? | 50+ World

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!

BBC - History of the BBC, Juke Box Jury 1 June 1959

 

 

 

 

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.

What Children watched on TV

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.

Give me Ivor the Engine over any of today's TV tat - Telegraph

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.

Captain Pugwash - Himself

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

"Flower Pot Men".jpg TheWoodentops.jpg Image

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.

Crackerjack! (TV series) - Wikipedia

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 ar 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.

Adrian Hill

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.

Tales of the Riverbank - 1960's BBC TV show we watched on Sundays ...

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!

Zoo Quest BBC Archive David Attenborough Zoo Quest for a Dragon David

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.

Travel and Phones.

Last week, I arranged to meet my youngest daughter in Huddersfield for a Christmas shopping trip. I was driving about 40 mins from where I live and she was getting the train from her town. She called me the evening before from her landline phone to say that her mobile phone had died and she wouldn’t be contactable on it when we were travelling the next day. How this throws us all now! I told her we would just have to make a foolproof 1950s style plan for the next morning.

This started me thinking about how easy it is now to make arrangements and to adjust them, even at short notice. Back in the 1980s when my three children were small I often travelled to different locations, some quite near, others further away, to meet up with people. My sister and I lived about 90 minutes apart at that time and we had a couple of nice meeting up places mid-way between us. We’d make the plan by phone from our houses beforehand then we would set off to meet up with our excited children in our cars. Nothing ever went wrong for us but now we would all panic at the thought of travelling somewhere to meet someone without the backup of a mobile phone.

Going back even further, to the 1950s, we used to get packed up to go and see our grandparents who lived in north Wales. We had a telephone at home then but my grandparents didn’t and never did, even several decades later. They had a public telephone box in their village so maybe they called us sometimes. I was too young to be taking notice of things like adults planning visits.The plans were presumably made mostly by letter! Yes, the humble hand-written letter and the good old postman – no female posties in those days!

Image result for public telephone box 1950s uk    Image result for telephone kiosk 1950s uk

Phone boxes (telephone kiosks as they were called) in the 1950s.

Image result for 1950s uk post box    Image result for 1950s postman uk

!950s memories of the postal service.

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Two models of 1950s cars like ones which we had in the 1950s.

 

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A 1950s phone –  not every household had one.

 

Picture 5 of 5

The modern mobile phone – most wouldn’t leave home without it!

In the ‘old days’, we had maps and guide-books to help us navigate and to locate places of interest and their opening hours. If we needed to contact someone or needed help, we waited until we spotted a phone box and pulled over to make a call. I still have a book of road maps in my car but the modern phone is not just a phone it is also a road atlas, bus, plane and train timetable, guide book to anywhere and everywhere, live weather and travel advice, newspaper, in-car entertainment etc etc.

Mental Health

This post looks, from the title, as though it could be a bit more weighty and serious than many of my others. I hope it won’t turn out that way. What I’m going to look at is the difference in attitude and outlook where mental health is concerned between the 1950s and now. I have to bear in mind that I was a small child in the 50s and so what I remember is a child’s view and might be different from an adult’s. However, the point of this blog is to share my memories of growing up in the Welsh countryside in the 1950s and 60s and I like to stay true to that and avoid putting in all sorts of researched facts and figures and quoting other people’s opinions.

It is a fact that mental health is now discussed more openly than it used to be. I have seen that change in my lifetime. There has been a big push here in Britain recently to bring mental health issues out into the open. There have been famous people telling their stories, mental health awareness events and various films and documentaries. This is excellent – but we still have a long way to go. People still find it much easier to say they’re suffering from arthritis, bronchitis, migraine or flu than to admit to going through a spell of depression or to talk about a lifelong battle with anxiety.

Back in the 1950s, these were some of the expressions you would hear adults using quietly when they thought you weren’t listening. ‘Had a nervous breakdown’, ‘bad with her nerves’,  ‘suffers with her nerves’. We all know now that that mental illness can affect any age, any gender, but at that time I only ever remember hearing women talked about in those hushed tones. Sometimes a person was described as being ‘not right in the head’. Occasionally you would hear about someone who had ‘taken to her bed’. Apparently my grandmother had an aunt who ‘took to her bed’ at some point in her life and never left it.

What we did know about was the large mental hospitals where people ‘ended up’ if they were really bad with their nerves or had a breakdown. Some people with very severe mental disabilities spent their whole lives in them. Fortunately, these places don’t exist any more. Originally they were called ‘lunatic asylums’. This was often shortened to ‘loony bin’. It seems appalling now that we could use such expressions.

st david's

The mental hospital which was nearest to us when we lived in South Wales, called St David’s. It was operational from 1865 until 2002.

denbigh

The one which was nearest to us when we lived in North Wales. Both vast places! This one opened in 1848 and also closed in 2002. I have looked at maps showing the distribution of these institutions in the UK at that time and it seems there was at least one per county. Many are still standing and are either crumbling or have been converted into conference centres, apartments, hotels etc.

Since drafting this post I have been looking in two old books I have here on my shelves. They are ‘home doctor’ books. I believe many homes had one on their shelves for looking up any family ailments and deciding whether a visit to the doctor was needed. In fact I had one which I bought when my first child was born in 1980. After all, we didn’t have the Internet in the 1980s. Neither of these two old books have publishing dates but from some of the adverts and diagrams in them I’ve worked it out that the oldest one is from the late 1800s and the other one is from roughly the 1920s. Always an avid reader, over the years I have often enjoyed looking through them and marvelling at some of the weird and wonderful advice which was given.

IMG_1164

The oldest one (above, it’s lost its cover) came from my grandmother’s house after she died. I remember taking it down from her bookshelves as a child and browsing in it. It used to amuse me that unwell people seemed to be offered a lot of gruel, broth and bread soaked in or tea in Victorian times.

IMG_1162

The newer one (above) was from our house but, as it would already have been old when my mum and dad married in 1950, it might also have come from one of the grandparents’ houses.  I decided to see what was said about mental health issues. In the oldest one I could find no reference to any of the terms we now use such as anxiety, depression and stress. The only item relevant to mental issues which I could find in the older book was Nervous Disorders.

IMG_1167

The main recommendations at this time were active exercise in the countryside, regulation of the bowels and early rising.

Progress had been made by the 1920s and the newer book has Anxiety, Depression and Nervousness listed.

IMG_1166        IMG_1165

By the this time, complete rest and exercising in the open air were still suggested but also the help of a doctor was mentioned.

Compare these extremely brief entries with the abundance of self-help books on the subject which are available today.

self help books

 

Christmas Then and Now


A busy couple of months means that I’ve been neglecting my blog. Apologies and Happy New Year!

I’m going to get back into it by doing a very simple point-by-point comparison of Christmas now and the way I remember it. I have done posts on Christmas before so I hope not to be too repetitive!

Santa Claus. As a child, I knew him as Father Christmas. I never heard the name Santa or Santa Claus mentioned apart from in songs or books. Everyone I knew called him Father Christmas. The name is now seldom heard. Children I know now only know him as Santa.

Since beginning this post I have looked up Santa Claus and Father Christmas only to find that they are completely different characters in origin who, at some point, became merged into one. I do learn a lot researching my facts for this blog!

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A traditional image of Father Christmas.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is santa.jpg
Santa Claus.

The Christmas Pudding. This tradition probably doesn’t extend outside Britain. The traditional Christmas pudding (a rich, spiced, boiled fruit pudding – I know, sounds gross but isn’t!) is made several weeks in advance, usually late October. It’s supposed to get better with age, hence the early cooking date. My mum always kept with the old tradition which was that as the mixture is being stirred everyone in the household takes a turn at stirring and makes a wish at the same time. This all seemed so exciting to me as a child. Partly because making a wish is always exciting when you’re little and partly because it was the first sign of the Christmas to come. The other pudding tradition was that a silver sixpenny piece was hidden in the mixture. My mum was scrupulous about boiling and scrubbing them first! It was said to bring good luck to whoever found the sixpence in their portion on Christmas Day. With three children to keep happy, my mum was very fair (or maybe wanted to avoid any arguments!) and used to put three coins in the pudding. She then used to dish up carefully so that we got one each.

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A Victorian illustration.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is christmas-pudding.jpg

Advent Calendars. These were made of card with twenty-four little windows to open one day at a time. And there the resemblance ends. There were pictures behind ours – and NO chocolates! And  people actually reused them. We had the same one for years and we loved it. The excitement we felt when opening the last and biggest window on Christmas Eve and seeing the beautiful picture of the manger with baby Jesus lying in it is still with me when I think about it.

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Ours was a bit like this one.
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What children expect now.

Church.  When I was growing up, everyone in the village went either to church or to chapel. The Nine Lessons and Carols service on Christmas Eve was particularly exciting and it was an honour to be one of the children chosen to read a lesson. It was always really well attended as was the morning service on Christmas Day. It was lovely to walk to church all excited after opening our stockings and to see everyone we knew. Of course, it was probably often raining. I grew up in a particularly wet valley in Wales, after all. But in my memory we always walked to church on a crisp, cold, sunny day!

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The church we attended as a family.

Television.  We didn’t have a television until I was 12. Daytime TV was non-existent back then apart from a short children’s programme each day just after lunchtime and sport on a Saturday afternoon. But on Christmas Day there was always a circus on TV in the afternoon. The whole family would sit and watch it – with the curtains drawn as you couldn’t see the picture in the daytime. The image projected by TVs then was a lot weaker than today.

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A 1950s family watching television.

Christmas Stockings.
My grandmother who lived with us in the late 50s and 60s was a great one for telling stories from her childhood, many of them very funny as she had a great sense of humour. She was born in 1892 and it occurred to me years later when I was an adult that the stories we heard from Nana were first-hand Victorian tales. She used to tell us that as children (she had sixteen sixteen siblings!) they used to hang up stockings. Inside, on Christmas morning, there was always an apple, an orange and a shiny, newly minted penny. There was nothing else in Nana’s stocking and she always knew what was going to be in it but Christmas morning was as exciting then for children as it is now.
To this day, children here often find and an apple and an orange and some gold-covered chocolate coins in the toe of the stocking. Our stockings were brown hand-knitted knee-high woollen socks which had been knitted by an elderly relative years earlier for my dad to wear under his Wellington boots when he was out working in the forests. He had never actually worn them as they were coarse and prickly.

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This is one of the stockings my children used to hang up in the 1980s and early 90s.

Most of the images I have used are freely available on the Internet. As usual if anyone objects to my use of any photograph, please contact me and I will remove it.

Space, Weddings and Funerals – on TV.

Here in Britain, we have just had a royal wedding. I’m sure you all heard about it so I won’t say any more on the subject. I was away on holiday in another country when it was on but even so, my friends and I were able to watch it together.

50s tv set    60s tv set

The following memories are of my very early TV experiences and are more about the excitement of viewing a live occasion than about the events themselves.

alexandra's wedding

I have very clear memories of some big state occasions (weddings and funerals) in the early 60s. In 1960, Princess Margaret the Queen’s sister, married Anthony Armstrong Jones. We knew it was being televised. My mum and her friends and their children really wanted to watch it – but none of us had TVs. Then my mum’s friend Miriam, who lived on a farm in our village, said that her Aunty Gladys had a TV. Gladys lived in the tiny town (which seemed big to us!) five miles away. TV had reached there before it stretched out to the remote surrounding villages. Anyway, this dear old lady said we could all watch it at her house. We children were enthralled with being able to watch TV – the content was less important to us. The mums really enjoyed watching their first televised state occasion. There was, of course, tea, cakes and biscuits.

yuri

In April 1961 the world saw the first human being, Yuri Gagarin, launched into space. There were still no homes in my village with a TV but – amidst huge excitement – my primary school headteacher decided to buy a TV for school use and to buy it in time for the whole school (all 28 of us!) to watch the launch live. Space travel and live TV at the same time – we were SO amazed and I’ve never forgotten it.

kents wedding

Also in 1961 was the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. I remember it very clearly. We also watched this at Aunty Gladys’ house and I remember thinking Katherine, the Duchess of Kent, was absolutely beautiful.

alexandra's wedding

In 1963, Princess Alexandra married Angus Ogilvy and, once again, the mums and children of the village wanted to watch it. By this time we had a TV of our own. Some friends in the village didn’t have a TV yet and came to us to watch it.

churchill    ch fun

Similarly, in 1965, the country mourned the death of Winston Churchill. Friends came to watch it at our house. These occasions were daytime events and at that time there was hardly any daytime TV. When you watched anything during daylight hours the curtains were always closed. The image transmitted was so weak that in the light of day it was very hard to see.

Advent Calendars

I was shopping the other day and I noticed a bewildering array of Advent calendars each one containing twenty-four treats. I thought I’d do a short post on how I’ve seen Advent calendars changing.

When I was a young child, back in the 1950s, we had an Advent calendar. We had the same one for years. It had windows with what we thought were delightful little pictures behind the little card doors. The biggest one, right in the centre, had a picture of baby Jesus in the manger and I remember the picture being coloured in a lovely yellowy glow. We knew what was coming on Christmas Eve when we opened that double door (the other days had single door flaps) but we never, ever peeped during the preceding days. Our calendar was about A4 size and was a picture of a church window. I remember a grey stone colour and other colours for the stained glass window. I have found some photos of the sort of calendar we had – which was the only kind around at that time. We loved it and getting it out on the first day of December was SO exciting!

3d42e9100edd5dea54ca872bf7bfe755     87a85d632fc7cf1e6826ee99b0e30a9e   3694627451cca3dec9b74142f0109567--forest-animals-advent-calendars      a46c4210c8b39cf6acf16153209efa2d--seven-dwarfs-christmas-pics

An assortment of 1950s Advent calendars which resemble our well-loved one at home.  

When my children were young, in the 1980s, I also had an Advent calendar for them which we got out each year. At some point in the 70s or 80s somebody had the idea of selling calendars with chocolates in which seemed all wrong to me at the time. It meant the anticipation felt by children in December became focused on the next day’s chocolate. Anyway, that’s just my personal feeling, many of you will disagree!

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The now standard chocolate Advent calendar.

 

What I wanted to cover in this post was the evolution of Advent calendars from simple card ones with pictures, to the chocolate ones, the ones with toys,  hand-made ones where parents put their own surprises in the pockets, through to calendars made for adults and containing beer, wine, toiletries, spirits, expensive food items etc etc. There are even Advent calendars for pets.

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Quality chocolates                    Tea

images (3)  Lego

images (2)      Toiletries     MAIN-MAIN-advent

An assortment of what’s on sale this year

That+Boutique-y+Whisky+Company's+Advent+Calendar+(2017+Edition)

Whisky

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Advent calendars for dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils and rabbits

 

Things We Never Even Dreamed Of In The 50s and 60s.

Phones you can carry around with you, that take pictures and can make video calls.

When we had our first telephone connected in our home I was about six years old. It was SO exciting! Our number was 9 as we were the ninth telephone in the village. It was heavy, black and was connected to the wall in one corner of our lounge. Not everyone had a camera and now we walk around with phones in our pockets which can take pictures too – as well as a multitude of other amazing things! I remember fantasising with my brother and sister about phones of the future. ‘What if you could see the person you were talking to as well! Just imagine!” Now children are growing up with Skype and Face Time and think nothing of it.

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Instant access to information of any sort at your fingertips.

When I was young, and indeed right into adulthood, if you needed to find something out you looked it up in a reference book. If you didn’t have one at home – in an encyclopedia, atlas, dictionary etc – you went to your local library. Now we can turn on a laptop or whip a phone out of our pocket and find out what we need to know instantly.

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Posting parcels in pharmacies, newsagents etc.

This is in here because I had to post a large parcel last week. Here in the UK, Royal Mail were the one and only postal service in the 50s and 60s. My parcel would have cost a fortune via The Post Office (who I normally use) so I researched couriers. I used a well known courier firm and located a convenient drop off point which happened to be a small pharmacy a few miles from where I live. It felt strange to be at a pharmacy counter, next to people picking up prescriptions and buying aspirin, to hand over my parcel.

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Cars with radios which can also tell you which way to go.

Radios years ago were too big and cumbersome to be carried around and most also needed to be connected to mains electricity. Being able to listen to the radio in the car wasn’t something which ever occurred to us as a possibility. My first car radio was bought as a separate item and had to be fitted in to the car. As for Sat Navs! We had maps, road atlases and, in our family, an AA Handbook which came with membership of the AA breakdown service and contained a wealth of information about anywhere you wanted to visit. The idea of a voice reading out directions as you drove along would have been completely unbelievable in my childhood – or even twenty years ago!

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People saying that red meat, bread, wheat, dairy, tea, coffee,sugar etc etc is bad for you. 

First of all, I do know that we are now far better informed about allergies and about food which is better taken in moderation. What makes me smile is that back in the 1950s, these things were the staples of life and were all considered to be ‘good food’. My grandmother on my dad’s side loved feeding people up and really did think that sugar was ‘good for you’. She would be more than a little puzzled to see the complicated labels on food now.

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Clothes made overseas which can be bought for less than it would cost you to make them.

In my childhood nobody we knew could afford to buy all their clothes in shops. My mum made most of our clothes and evenings were spent knitting or using her sewing machine. By the time my children were in school it was cheaper to buy ready made clothes than to knit or sew your own. Mass-produced knitwear and cheaper synthetic fibres meant that it cost me far more to go into a wool shop and buy the yarn to knit a sweater. I still enjoy knitting but as an enjoyable pastime rather than an essential.

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Flying being commonplace and affordable.

Nobody I knew flew in my childhood. I used to see planes in the sky but I never considered that ‘normal’ people might one day be using aircraft as a means of travelling to visit family or go on holiday.

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Buying things with a piece of plastic.

Back in the 50s and 60s, we had cash and we had cheques. I remember my mum and dad using cheque books in shops when we occasionally did a ‘big shopping trip’ such as to buy new winter coats and shoes. The rest of the time it was notes and coins. Cheque books looked like the above for many years (courtesy of Wikipedia) with the diagonal lines across and the account holder’s address always written on the back in the presence of the shopkeeper. I would now struggle to find my cheque book although I do have one somewhere!

I remember the first TV ad I saw for a credit card. It was a Barclaycard advert and it featured a girl in a bikini heading out to the beach and shops with just a rectangular piece of plastic tucked into her waistband.

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Buying things without even plastic.

My 2017 self can now purchase a huge range of goods – including rail and plane tickets from my Smart Phone or laptop.

 

Nursery Rhymes . . . . . continued.

I have covered Nursery Rhymes in an earlier post but it’s a fascinating area and full of historical facts so I’m revisiting the subject and covering different rhymes.

Nursery rhymes are an important part of our history and cultural tradition here in the UK and it would be a shame if they died out. Each one has its own tune which comes to mind as soon as you see the words.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

One theory claims that the rhyme originates in the grimy streets and packed sweatshops of Shoreditch and Spitalfields that provided Londoners with their clothing. A spinner’s weasel is a device that is used for measuring out a length of yarn; the mechanism makes a popping sound when the correct length has been reached. One imagines the spinner’s mind would wander to the more mundane, only to be brought back to harsh reality when the weasel went pop.

The third verse suggests an alternative origin, which is based upon the Londoners use of cockney rhyming slang;

Up and down the city road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

Pop

To “pop” is a London slang word for pawn. Weasel can be traced to the cockney rhyming slang of “weasel and stoat”, or coat. Even a very poor Victorian Londoner would have had a Sunday best coat or suit that could be pawned when times got hard (Pop goes the weasel), perhaps on cold and damp Monday morning, only to be retrieved on pay day. The Eagle above refers to the Eagle Tavern, a pub located on the corner of City Road and Shepherdess Walk, in the north London district of Hackney. Although the usage of the building has changed over the years, the current Eagle pub dating from the early 1900’s, displays a plaque proclaiming the building’s connection with the nursery rhyme.

Georgie Porgie,
Pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry;
When the boys came out to play,

Georgie Porgie ran away.

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It is thought that the ‘Georgie Porgie’ in question was actually the Prince Regent, later George IV. A very large gentleman, George weighed in at more than 17½ stone with a waist of 50 inches (from eating so many puddings and pies?), and he became a constant source of ridicule in the press of the time.

Despite his large size, George had also established for himself a rather poor reputation for his lusty romps with the ladies that involved several mistresses and a string of illegitimate children.

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said “What a good boy am I”

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Little Jack Horner lived in the 1530’s, the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII. Jack Horner was steward to Richard Whiting, the last of the Abbots of Glastonbury. It is said that the Abbot, hoping to placate King Henry, sent His Majesty an enormous Christmas pie containing the deeds of 12 manors. Horner was given the task of taking the ‘pie’ to London. During the journey he managed to open the pie and extract the deeds of the Manor of Mells in Somerset, presumably the ‘plum’ referred to in the rhyme. A Thomas Horner did assume ownership of Mells, but his descendants and the present owner of the house claim the rhyme is a slander.

Hush a-bye baby in the tree-top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
Down will come cradle, baby and all

Hush a-bye Baby, or Rock a Bye Baby as I knew it, was reputably written by a boy who sailed with the Pilgrim Fathers to America in 1620 and was the first English poem written on American soil. It is said to have been inspired by the Native American custom of popping babies’ cradles in the branches of trees.

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Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water;
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

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The rhyme I knew as a child contained the lines

He went to bed

to mend his head

with vinegar and brown paper

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. . . . but I recently found one which says . .

To old Dame Dob

Who patched his nob

with vinegar and brown paper   

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The small village of Kilmersdon in north Somerset claims to be the home of the Jack and Jill rhyme. Local legend recalls how in the late 15th century, a young unmarried couple regularly climbed a nearby hill in order to conduct their liaison in private, away from the prying eyes of the village. Obviously a very close liaison, Jill fell pregnant, but just before the baby was born Jack was killed by a rock that had fallen from their ‘special’ hill. A few days later, Jill died whilst giving birth to their love child. Their tragic tale unfolds today on a series of inscribed stones that leads along a path to that ‘special’ hill.
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