Simple Pleasures

Most of my posts focus on what was different when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties. This one is about what hasn’t changed.

We have just been away for a week. By we I mean me and the other half, our three daughters and their other halves plus the four grandchildren aged from eight months to five years. We had rented a house the coast of Northern Ireland and the garden led directly on to the beach. What occurred to me while we were there was just how little children need to keep them happy when there is plenty of space for them to play, run around and use their imaginations.

The beautiful stretch of beach we had next to the house had sand, stones and rock pools. We had a couple of balls and some buckets and spades and they were able to run, dig, collect pebbles and shells – even bury one of the dads in the sand (as I remember doing with my dad), leaving his head free of course!

The photographs are a mixture of our recent ones and their fifties equivalents.

              beach

We had a lovely expanse of grass outside the house with a low bank and the children spent ages simply rolling down the bank – something I remember loving as a child!

rolling_bw          rolling

To the rear of the house was an enclosed garden which they named the secret garden. At dusk we went out with a torch looking for the rabbits which came out to play on the grass.

Indoor time was when they played hide and seek, got the paper and crayons out to draw, or played make-believe games. They were read stories at bedtime. On a couple of afternoons we walked along the coast towards the small local town and stopped off at a playground which had swings, climbing frames and slides.

50s playground          IMG_5105

kids reading                                     IMG_5018

Okay, so all this sounds very twee and idyllic, I hear you say! I’m not saying they didn’t cry, argue, get jealous or grumble. They’re small children after all, and small children are good at all of that.

I’m not saying that children have too many toys these days or that children watch too much TV. There are great toys, books and TV programmes for kids now.

The message, if there is one, is that today’s children can still enjoy the same pleasures we enjoyed years ago.

 

 

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Family holidays

I have talked about holidays and day trips before but a reader suggested it would be worth revisiting – thanks Tom!

We were lucky as our dad had an annual holiday entitlement so we took a two week summer holiday every year. Most of the children in my school lived on farms – and farms can’t be left for two weeks! In addition, our mum and dad both came from different parts of Wales so we often had weekends away visiting relatives.

First, the summer holiday. What an adventure! Weeks of preparation by my mum – I remember having to wear only our older, scruffier clothes so that all our decent stuff could be taken away clean. Remember that family laundry was not a simple matter of pressing buttons on washers and driers.

In the 50’s, there were no motorways, by-passes, ring-roads or dual carriageways. Town centres had major routes running right through them and congestion was normal. With hardly any traffic lights, it was common to see a policeman standing at a major junction on what was called ‘point duty’. Because of the nightmare traffic jams we often set off in the evening and travelled through the night. How exciting!!!!

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We holidayed in Devon and Cornwall several times when I was very young. There was no Severn Bridge then and we had to catch a little car ferry to cross over the river. One year, when I was about twelve, we went to Scotland. We stayed in a boarding house and in those days you left the house after breakfast and had no access back into the premises until late afternoon. That would have been alright if it hadn’t rained the whole fortnight! The nearby beach had a black flag flying every day to keep people away in the bad weather. There was a swimming pool in the town – a luxury! Our nearest indoor pool at home was over an hour’s drive away. We went to that pool every day and Mum and Dad taught us to swim.

Visiting my dad’s parents further north in Wales was always great fun. We loved the cottage they lived in with its thick stone walls, tiny staircase with a door at the bottom and the toilet at the bottom of the garden. The bed I always shared with my sister had a feather mattress and I can still remember the feeling of sinking into it on the first night when it was freshly plumped up.

One thing which has probably changed little over the years is how children play on a beach. Away from the X-boxes, TVs and mobile phones, children still love nothing more than digging in sand and playing ball or chasing games. Our buckets and spades were metal not plastic but the play was just the same.

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Yes, we did at one time have knitted swimsuits, much like the one in the photo, except ours were stripey.

I’ll finish with one of the joys of summer holidays – ice-cream! Our village shop had no freezer when I was little so ice-cream was a treat on high days and holidays. You only had the choice of a wafer, cornet, orange iced lolly or choc-ice and from the vans you could get soft ice-cream in a cone with a Cadbury’s chocolate flake. 99s are still a favourite of mine.

Wall's 1950s UK ice-cream

1950s UK Wall's Ice Cream Magazine Advert

1950s UK Wall’s Ice Cream Magazine Advert

 

Holidays and Travel Part 1

Reading some travel blogs recently, I thought I would look back at childhood holidays and day trips. I have mentioned travel in passing in my earlier blog Transport but this time I will be digging a bit deeper – with my bucket and spade!

Image result for kids beach wear 1950s

I flew back from Ireland last night after spending a few days with my daughter and the grandchildren. How easy, quick and affordable travel has become in the last few decades! In my childhood, family holidays were taken by road, coach or train – if you were lucky enough to have one at all. Now that I sort all my trips out on a computer, it’s hard to imagine my mum and dad planning holidays to a different part of Britain for all five of us. We didn’t return to the same place each year so new accommodation had to be found each time. Before our first telephone, this would have all been done by letter!

Image result for picnic food 1950s  Image result for 1950s uk scotch egg 

Picnics were a big part of family outings. There were no fast food outlets and most post-war families couldn’t afford to eat in cafes too often so food was taken with you.

I remember – mainly sandwiches (egg and cress, Spam or tinned ham, Shipham’s paste), peeled hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, scotch eggs. Drinks were tea in a Thermos flask and made up orange squash (I remember a brand called Quosh). There would be some pieces of home made cake after the sandwiches. I didn’t come across crisps until at least 1960 so they weren’t part of 1950s picnics.

Image result for 1950s uk thermos flask   

Driving to the coast for a holiday or a day trip often involved long traffic jams. Most beaches had little in the way of amenities, cafes and toilets often involved a walk back from the beach into the town.

What we wore – the 1950s

The reason this post is not called ‘Fashion’ or ‘Clothes’ is because I am covering the other side of the story. When we think of clothing and fashion in the 1950s and 60s we picture Audrey Hepburn, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, Mary Quant and pop icons such as The Beatles. All this is well documented and easy to research. Being a child in the 50s and a teenager in the 60s, in an area a long way from the large stores, the clothes I wore tell a very different tale.

In my Primary School days I, and all my friends, wore jumpers and cardigans knitted by our mums and dresses, skirts and pinafore dresses sewn on the home sewing machine – hand operated, of course, electric sewing machines were yet to arrive in our homes.

Because most garments were hand made and washing clothes was a once a week event, usually Monday (there were no washing machines), the same jumper and skirt (in winter) or dress and cardigan(summer) would be worn for several days, if not all week, so we didn’t have a huge selection of clothes.

Boys wore grey flannel shorts winter and summer with wool socks up to the knees. A blazer, v-necked jumper or tank top was worn over a shirt and a tie.

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Boys’ hair was cut ‘short back and sides’ with a side parting – no exceptions!

We wore knee-high grey or brown socks in winter, short white socks in summer – no tights or trousers, bare knees all year round!

My hair was exactly like that of the girl in blue. I longed for straight hair with a side parting and a bow, like the girl in pink, or long plaits like my friend Valerie. I was stuck with what was known as a ‘bubble cut’

I will be coming back to this topic as there is plenty to say. I will also be moving on into the 1960s and the clothes of my teenage years.

 

 

Technology

When we hear the word technology now we think of computers, mobile phones and tablets amongst other things. In the fifties, and then the sixties, new technology was emerging but at a very different level and a slower pace than today. 

In the early 1950’s, in the countryside where I grew up, electricity was established in homes but appliances were limited to lights, a cooker, a radiogram (a large wooden item of furniture housing a record player on one side and a radio on the other) and a vacuum cleaner. Our vacuum cleaner was this model and it was old in the 1950’s!

  
There was big excitement in the family upon the arrival of our first fridge. Milk could be kept fresh for longer in warm weather. Previously, my mum used to hang bottles of milk in the stream in a string bag. Best of all, there was an ice-box. Mum used to pour orange squash into the ice cube tray with a cocktail stick in each cube. Result – our first home-made iced lollies! 

The phone came next. First the lines had to be extended out as far as our house. How exciting it was to watch the workmen putting in the wires and telegraph poles! There is more about telephones in the village in my earlier post Shops and Brands Part 1. 

We didn’t have television until I was 10 in 1961.  I have covered TV in more detail in an earlier post. We had seen televisions previously a few times when staying with relatives who lived in towns but to have one of our own at last was hugely exciting. 

       

Later, in the 1960’s, we acquired a hair dryer, a hand whisk, our first portable ‘transistor’ radio,  a washing machine (a very early model with a single tub which had a heating element and was filled using a hose connected to the kitchen tap and with a mangle on the top) and a few electric fires to take the edge off cold bedrooms in winter – no central heating! 

   

 

Public Transport

First of all, I want to point out that I grew up in a remote part of Wales so my memories will not be the same as many other people’s. I hope there is still plenty for you to identify with and I welcome any contributions.  We had no service buses but the village railway station was a walk of about a mile from our house. Trips to the town (five miles away) when my dad was using the car for work, involved my mum walking up to the station with the three of us to catch the train. We hated the walk because we kids inevitably caused us all to be late leaving the house so it wouldn’t be a walk, more of a route march along the lanes to the station. We loved that station! Although a remote, rural station, it had a full-time station master who was wonderful with kids. The waiting room was always cosy and welcoming and in winter had a coal fire burning. I don’t ever remember waiting on the platform with anybody else or seeing any passengers alight at our stop. Even so,  John the station master kept that station immaculate. The trains were amazing! That smell! Each carriage had several compartments. A sliding door led from the corridor into the compartment.    The only time I went on buses or trams was when we went to stay with friends and relatives in Swansea and Cardiff. I loved the trams with the sparking poles connecting with the overhead wires – apologies for the very un-technical jargon! The buses had conductors, an entrance and exit at the rear and – joy of joys! – a stairway to an upper deck. As children, we thought this was the very best way to travel!      

Transport

   

    
My memories of car travel in the 50’s includes – and this is a child’s view, so there will be no observations on models, performance etc – bench seats in the front, handbrake coming out of the dashboard, the dip operated by a pedal on the floor, indicators which stuck out at the side of the car, no seat belts, no car radio, older cars being mostly black and smelling strongly of leather, frequent breakdowns.
My sister, the youngest of three often sat in the front on the bench seat in between Mum and Dad. At the top of a steep hill – and I grew up surrounded by hills! – there were always cars pulled over with the bonnets up and steam escaping from the engines. On long journeys, there being no in-car entertainments, we sang songs, played games and spotted things to tick off in our I-Spy books. The books were small and perfect for taking on a walk or a journey. My favourite of the ones we had was I-Spy The Unusal.
In the 60’s there were cars with individual car seats, wider rear and front windscreens, blinking indicator lights instead of flag ones sticking out and more colours including, I remember, some two-tone cars. As kids we spent hours playing outside in the mud and dirt with our Dinky, Corgi and Mathboxcars. We were impressed with the new two-tone look and used Airfix model paints to give our cars a more fashionable look. If we still had them, and we don’t, they would be worth nothing. Unlike the pristine ones in their boxes which can sometimes be seen on programmes like Flog it and Antiques Roadshow. But we had many hours of fun with ours so no regrets there!

in the 60’s came seat belts and reversing lights.  When reversing, the driver switched the reversing light on and had to remember to switch it off or risk getting a £50 fine! I remember this particularly because it was a recent development when I was first learning to drive in 1968.

This is all from my childhood memories.  I haven’t looked anything up (apart from the photos) so I’m sure there will be some slight inaccuracies. My intention is to spark off readers’ own memories of motoring in those two decades.

Although I called this post Transport, so far I have only covered cars. I will re-visit soon with more about trains and buses.