Comic Songs and Variety Shows

After writing about The White Heather Club in my last post I started thinking about other similar shows. It left me wondering what happened to variety shows. The early days of TV were full of them. Now I believe the only one we have left here in Britain is the annual Royal Variety Performance. Yet I hadn’t noticed them disappearing. I’m thinking now that they were probably direct descendants of the Music Hall which thrived in the Victorian era and was pushed out by the arrival of cinema.

Back in the 50s and 60s families all watched TV together. There was only one TV in each house and just one channel at first, later two. The variety shows of my childhood had a main host and a selection of guests including magicians, singers, dancers, ventriloquists, comedians, puppeteers etc etc. Here are some of the shows I remember from British TV in the 50s and 60s..

The Black and White Minstrel Show

This was a family must every week and hugely enjoyable. But it definitely wouldn’t be made now as it featured white people ‘blacked up’.

The White Heather Club

I wrote bout this in my last post. It was a New Year’s Eve ‘must watch’.

The Good Old Days

This show was set up as a Victorian music hall and the acts, the host and the audience were all in period costume. My grandmother absolutely loved it.

Sunday Night at the London Palladium

Another regular family watch. the photograph show Bruce Forsyth who hosted the programme for several years.

Some of these shows gave rise to comic the songs we knew back then. For example, Andy Stewart, who presented The White Heather Club, released a single called ‘Donald, Where’s Your Troosers?’

Where did the comic songs go? I’m not talking about the ones aimed at children like ‘The Laughing Policeman’, but the ones which were for everyone and which got loads of radio play. Here are some of them which I remember. I appreciate that my readers in other countries might not know these songs but this post might remind them of some they do remember.

The Gas Man Cometh by Flanders and Swann

Flanders and Swann were a British comedy duo.. Lyricist, actor and singer Michael Flanders (1922–1975) and composer and pianist Donald Swann (1923–1994) collaborated in writing and performing comic songs. The one I remember best is The Gas Man Cometh.

My Old Man’s a Dustman by Lonnie Donegan

British skiffle singer, songwriter and musician Lonnie Donegan was referred to as the King of Skiffle and influenced 1960s British pop and rock musicians. My Old Man’s a Dustman was one of his most popular and a big favourite in our hose.

Donald Where’s Your Troosers? by Andy Stewart

As mentioned earlier in the section on the White Heather Club.

Goodness Gracious Me by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren

As with the Black and White Minstrel Show, this would definitely not be released nowadays as Peter Sellers was impersonating an Indian Doctor – although not in a deprecatory way.

Credit to Google, Google Images and Wikipedia.

As always I make every effort not to infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to my use of any imafe, please contact me and it will be removed.

Happy New Year! Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Those of you who have read this blog before will know that I from Wales and will realise that the second greeting is in Welsh.

Thank you to all readers. This humble blog has just topped 250 000 hits worldwide since I started it about five years ago. This covers everything from my signed up followers to the people who stumble on it by accident when searching for something on Google. But I’m happy that it’s being read and maybe even enjoyed by people all over the world.

When I was a child there was often a New Year’s Eve Party in the village school which doubled up as a village hall. The event started late afternoon/ early evening with tea and party games for the children. Then any children who had a song to sing or a poem to recite could stand up and perform to the audience of mums and dads. As young children were taken home the evening morphed into an adult’s party/ concert. There was a lot of singing by everyone and solo performances by some of the better singers in the village. One farmer had a beautiful tenor voice and always finished his singing slot with a wonderful rendition of Jerusalem. My favourite song was one called Oes Gafr Eto? which involves one singer leading each verse and the audience singing the chorus – which gets longer and faster and is huge fun!

We got our first television in 1962. TV viewing was so new and exciting then. We only had one channel for the first few years but that didn’t matter. The whole viewing thing was simply amazing! The years when there wasn’t a village party the whole family would watch the New Year’s Eve edition of a programme called The White Heather Club which was Scottish and was all singing and dancing. The compere was called Andy Stewart and regular guests on the programme were singers Moira Anderson and Kenneth McKellar, a duo called Robin Hall and Jimmy McGregor and a group of dancers dancing traditional Scottish reels and jigs. The men all wore kilts and the women long white dresses with tartan sashes. Looking it up today I see that the programme finished in 1968. To quote Wikipedia ‘It put forward a ‘tartanised’ view of Scotland that was becoming very dated by the late 1960s’. But for a few years, The White Heather Club was a big part of many people’s New Year’s Eve.

Singers Kenneth McKellar and Moira Anderson and the duo Robin Hall and Jimmie McGregor who all regularly sang on the programme The White Heather Club in the 1960s.

On New Year’s Day (which wasn’t made a UK Bank Holiday until 1974) we children loved starting the new diaries we’d been given as Christmas presents. Oh, the joy of all those empty pages, the brand new number on the front and the titbits of information and pictures which were always printed in children’s diaries. After filling in all your personal details at the front you entered all the family birthdays then turned to the back where there were blank pages for notes. Here we made two lists. One list was of the presents we’d received and who had given them so that we could write our all-important thank-you letters before starting back at school. The second list was our New Year Resolutions. I still have several of my old diaries. I’ve shown them on here before so no pictures this time. One of my resolutions lists had the amusing commitment to be nicer to my sister! I love her to bits now but as children we often bickered and annoyed each other.

As an older person now I don’t relish the passing of the years but I try to think positively and I’ve enjoyed looking back at New Year’s Eves from years ago.

Credit to Google, Google Images and Wikipedia.

As always I make every effort not to infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to my use of any imafe, please contact me and it will be removed.

R.I.P. Queen Elizabeth II

I have been a while without posting on here even though I have several draft posts waiting to be finished – and for me to be inspired.

Since the Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 Sovereign States, died on Thursday I thought I would put together some of my own thoughts and memories, although I never actually met her.

Whether you are pro- or anti-royal it would be wrong not to have some respect for someone who reached the grand age of 96 and who was still performing some light public duties until a few days before she died – notably greeting our new Prime Minister and inviting her to form a government.

I was born two years before the Coronation. We lived at that time in a small market town called Brecon (population approx 8 000) and I remember my mum telling me how they took me to the coronation celebrations and how I kept my little flag for days and called it my wag. Well, I was less than two years old! Because of this childhood tale I thought for several years when I was little that the Queen had been crowned in Brecon and that I’d been to the actual coronation!

Brecon as it would have looked when I lived there.
Brecon Cathedral. When I was small I believed the coronation had taken place here!

When we were very young we children really identified with the royal children as they were often shown in the newspapers and magazines at the time. When I was a bit older I remember me and my friends being so excited when the queen had two more babies. I was thirteen when Edward was born and we girls were fascinated by the photographs of the new baby and lapped up all the details – weight, name etc.

My brother and I used to look a bit like these two when we were very young, although we grew up to look entirely different. It was mainly due to similar early 50s clothes and hair – my hair was EXACTLY the same as hers! Back then we used to imagine that if we met them they’d like to play with us.
The Queen with Prince Andrew and baby Prince Edward. One of the pictures my school friends and I would have pored over in 1964.

These are just some of my own recollections from my childhood. I don’t remember a time before the Queen and I felt like commemorating her passing in my own small way.

Credit to Google, Wikipedia and Google Images. As usual, I make every effort to ensure that my facts are correct and that by using the photographs I source I am not infringing copyright. If anyone objects to anything in this post please contact me and it will be removed.

The Traditional British Seaside Holiday

As we approach summer and people start thinking about holidays I thought I’d take a look at the traditional seaside holiday in Britain, particularly the era of my childhood – the 1950s and 60s.

I’ll start by filling in a bit of background.

Although rich people were taking breaks by the sea from the 1700s, and entering the water using ‘bathing machines’, the working population still worked a six day week with no paid holidays and had no access to transport for long journeys. This changed with the coming of the railways and in 1871. The Bank Holidays Act declared that certain days throughout the year were official holidays (when banks and offices closed). The speed of railway transport meant that people could then travel more easily to the seaside. Coastal towns like: Blackpool, Scarborough, Llandudno and Brighton quickly grew into popular holiday resorts. In the UK, the Holidays with Pay Act 1938 gave workers whose minimum rates of wages were fixed by trade boards, the right to one weeks’ holiday per year.

I never heard of anyone going abroad on holiday when I was a child. I lived in a farming area so most of the families we knew couldn’t leave the farm for a holiday. Every year in the summer our village ran two day trips to the seaside for mums and children. One was just known as the village trip, I have no idea who organised it. Perhaps a group of parents got together. The other was the Sunday School trip. A coach would be hired and we would all pile onto it outside the village post office armed with picnics, buckets and spades, swimsuits etc. We sang songs on the coach and had a brilliant day out even if it rained. If it was too wet for the beach there was always the funfair and the shops in the town where we could spend the little bit of pocket we’d been given. We thought Woolworth’s was heaven!

A coach belonging to our local bus company.
A Woolworth’s toy counter.

Our family holidays were always taken by the coast. Devon and Cornwall were our nearest coastal destinations outside Wales. We have some great beaches in south west Wales too which are nearer to where we lived. We used to go to those for family days out on fine Saturdays in summer. The annual two week summer holiday always saw us going over the border to England.

Traffic jams were a big part of holiday travel at that time. There were no motorways or dual carriageways, towns didn’t have by-passes and had very few roundabouts and traffic lights. Now you can travel across the country sweeping past large and small towns on a motorway, ring road or by-pass. Not then. It was such a pain that we often set off for a holiday at night, arriving at our destination early in the morning. We children thought that was so exciting.

A P.C. on ‘point duty in a town centre before the days of roundabouts and traffic lights.

Back then, everyone took picnics to the beach. Sandwiches and flasks were the norm. Deck chairs were available for hire but most people sat on rugs or towels. We knew nothing about long term sun damage. If you got burned your mum would apply calamine lotion to the burnt skin at bedtime.

At some point in the day there would be a visit to the ice-cream van. What a treat! Homes didn’t have freezers then and neither did the shops around us. When we were small ice-cream was only associated with day trips and holidays. I loved 99’s – and still do!

Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images and woolworthsmuseum.co.uk.

I make every effort to avoid infringing copyright. If, however, anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.

Saint David’s Day – Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant

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.

St David

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.

Our version of the traditional spiced fruit loaf is know as Bara Brith which means speckled bread. It is eaten sliced, buttered and with a paned (cup of tea).

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.

Cawl.
Welsh cakes are very popular in Wales and are sold in most bakeries and cafes. Cooked on a bakestone or a griddle pan, they are eaten all year round but especially on St David’s Day.

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.

Obsolete Household Equipment

Recently, I reached into my kitchen drawer for something and my mind wandered on to how household gadgets and equipment have changed over the years. I started thinking about items which, back in the 1950s here in Britain, were in every household. Some of these are virtually unknown now, others are still seen in some households but are no longer commonplace.

LAUNDRY

In the 1950s here in Britain there were no washing machines. My mum got her first one in the late 60s and it was nothing like the ones we use now! It seemed like luxury but was really very basic. Before that, clothes were washed by hand. the aids which most people used were 1.) a washboard or rubbing board. Wet soapy clothes were rubbed up and down against it to loosen the dirt. 2.) a mangle or wringer to squeeze more water out of the clothes than hand wringing could, thus shortening drying time, 3.) once people were electrified, a water boiler was invented – here the main brand was Burco – which was basically a very large electric kettle which enabled people (women!) to heat larger quantities of water for family laundry. My earliest memories of laundry in the 50s are the Burco boiler combined with the old fashioned mangle. The washing tongs was essential for dragging clothes out of boiling hot suds into the rinsing water. They were wooden with a meal joint at the top  Big hand wash items, such a blankets from the beds, were washed in the bath.

Mangle

MAQUINÁRIO 4 - Hand-operated mangle used to wring water from wet laundry at a mental health hospital in Victoria, Australia, circa Manufactured by Nicoll, G. Vintage Iron, Vintage Tools, Mental Health Hospitals, Old Washing Machine, Washing Machines, Vintage Furniture, Furniture Design, Wash Tubs, Vintage Laundry

Always used outside because the water just ran straight out of the wrung clothes onto the floor.

Washboard/ rubbing board

Washboards | Old washboards, Vintage laundry, Washboard

Burco Boiler

Vintage Burco Boiler for sale in UK | View 23 bargains

Washing Tongs

VINTAGE WOODEN LAUNDRY washing tongs metal spring kitchenalia ...

CLEANING

Before the days of fitted carets and vacuum cleaners, there were loose rugs and mats which were cleaned by being shaken and beaten outside, There was also a non-electric gadget called a carpet sweeper which was use for picking up bits and fluff in between beatings.

Carpet beater

Rattan Rug Beater - Home Decorating Ideas & Interior Design

Carpet sweeper

Pin on Bissell Through the Ages

COOKING

Mincer

VINTAGE 1950'S MEAT MINCER - SPONG 701 WITH WOODEN HANDLE - PLEASE ...

My mum used her mincer every week. Each weekend we had a joint of meat for Sunday lunch in true British style. The leftover meat was minced on Monday and turned into something ese like shepherd’s pie. The gadget clamped on to a table and you fed lumps of meat into the top, turned the handle and minced meat came out of the front.

Jelly mould

Vintage 1950's Aluminium Rabbit Jelly Mould, Chocolate Mould ...

No children’s birthday party would have been complete without jelly! Weekday jelly was just made in a bowl but for special occasions you could use a mould. I’ve chosen this photograph because it’s exactly like the one my mum had. The rabbit jelly was always the centrepiece of the birthday tea.

Pyrex

1920s vintage Pyrex Ad

Pyrex was the what every modern kitchen had to have in the 50s and 60s! Young couples were bought Pyrex oven to table wear as wedding presents,

Hand whisk and rotary beater.

The Magic Whisk | Etsy Blog – Australia                   Stainless Steel Collectable Small Kitchen Hand Mixers for sale | eBay

The electric hand held mixer and later the food processor (remember the name Kenwood Chef?) rendered the rotary whisk obsolete.

THE BEDROOM

Chamber pot

Antique/vintage small cream china potty or planter dated | Etsy

Many of the households I was familiar with as a child didn’t have indoor plumbing. This included my paternal grandparents’ house. When the facilities are at the bottom of the garden, the chamber pot or ‘potty’ was under the bed ready for you.

THE BEDROOM

Paraffin heater

paraffin | Remembrance of Things Past

My dad had one in his greenhouse and we three children had one in the bedroom in winter to take the chill off the air as we were getting ready for bed, also in the morning when we were getting up. Central heating was a long way in the future when I was young!

 

Eiderdown

Pretty Vintage Quilt Eiderdown C.1950s Rosy Floral Shabby Chic ...

Back in the 50’s in Britain, bedding consisted of a top sheet, a bottom sheet, woollen blankets, a coverlet or bedspread and an eiderdown which was a feather stuffed quilt and a sort of precursor to the modern duvet.

Candlewick Bedspread   So new and stylish in the 1950s!

Irish Candlewick Bedspread from 1950s Pink peach color with white ...

 

 

 

A Stitch in Time

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!

 

Bath Night

Now there’s an expression from the ‘olden days’! When I was a child, hot water was a precious commodity. Although we had an indoor toilet and bathroom and an immersion heater for hot water in our house, many of the farms and houses in our village didn’t. My grandparents in North Wales didn’t have indoor plumbing either. In the fifties, they still carried their water in buckets from a public tap 50 metres or so from their house – it had been converted from a village pump to a village tap. Their toilet was in a shed at the end of the garden and involved buckets which needed emptying daily. Even people who had indoor plumbing and hot water in the fifties remembered how life had been, just a short while back, so the use of hot water was very carefully controlled. I also believe that electricity was more expensive back then in relation to income which was an additional factor.

There was always a ‘bath night’. Just once a week, usually on a Sunday so that you would be clean and ready for the week ahead at school. Back in the 20s, 30s and 40s, when our parents were growing up and water had to be carried into the house, hot water had to be heated in pans on the coal fire. The bath was a tin bath which was brought inside and filled with the hot water. Is it any wonder people only bathed once a week?

 

1964-Tin-Bath

 

So in the fifties and sixties, even in houses with indoor bathrooms and hot water, people were still really, really careful with hot water and bath night was still strictly once a week.

The bathrooms of those days were not places designed to relax in like the bathrooms of today. No thick, fluffy towels warmed on the radiator, no scented oils, candles. There was no heating in British bathrooms in the fifities so bath night in winter was an ordeal – especially on the way into the bath and on the way out.

Toiletries were basic and the choice was limited.

vintage-lifebuoy-toilet-soap-original_360_00e06dc4be75bb4920be084937656172      Wrights coal tar      Imp Leather

Some basic soaps from the 50s.

 

loofah     forsters_natural_sea_sponge_    Pumice Stone Mouse 5060528741590 | eBay

Apart from the ubiquitous flannel, the only washing equipment found in 50s bathrooms were the loofah, the sponge and the pumice stone. Also a back brush and nail brush. What is interesting about the three items shown above is that none of them are man-made. The loofah and the sponge were living organisms and the pumice stone (why was it always mouse-shaped?) is a volcanic rock. The back brush and nail brush were always made of wood with natural bristles.

 

Bath cubes     bath cubes

radox bubble bath 

Toiletries were minimal. A bar of soap and a shampoo. Mums and Grandmas liked a bit of ‘scent’ in their bath water so there were things called bath cubes which were dissolved into the water. Bath cubes were one of the things you bought your mum or your granny as a present. Bubble baths became associated with luxury and glamour so bubble bath started to become popular as a bath additive and Hollywood stars were often shown relaxing in a bubble bath. Then came bubble bath for children and I well remember the arrival of Matey. The idea was that this fun-looking bottle had a liquid in it which made bubbles but also washed you clean! Radox was widely advertised in the 60s on TV as an additive which helped with aches and pains. I believe it was Epsom Salts or similar with a bit of added perfume. Epsom salts and some other salts and minerals are still hailed as being beneficial to the body when used externally such as in a hot bath

Below is a selection of toiletries and the washing aids available today. Just a few, there are hundreds, if not thousands!

 

oilgh-shampoo-for-dry-hair-1549639786

body scrubber scrubbers

 

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.

File:Vauxhall Victor FA ca 1958.jpg  Image result for 1950s ford prefect uk

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

 

Image result for 1950s home telephone

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.

Mail Order

This winter, in the build-up to Christmas, there has been a lot of discussion about online shopping being the death of the High Street in Britain. This might well be true but what occurred to me was that there have always been other means of shopping besides physically visiting a shop.

The small town I lived in when I was a little girl (population around 2,000) was five miles away from our village had all the basics. There were two butchers, two newsagents, a greengrocer, a jeweller, two pharmacies, a couple of assorted draperies and gents outfitters, a hardware shop etc etc. For requirements beyond what our town could provide, we had to travel some distance. Swansea and Cardiff were at least an hour’s drive away and ‘big’ shopping trips were made a few times a year for Christmas shopping, new winter coats for the family, new shoes and so on. I remember thinking they were amazing with their department stores, book shops, large stores with lifts and escalators and toy shops. This was the only time we saw Boots, W H Smith, C and A and – most important of all (to us as children) – Woollies (F W Woolworth) which was heaven! It was also the perfect place to spend your little bit of pocket money as it had everything and it was all affordable.

Good old Woollies – RIP.
Howells Department store in Cardiff.
W H Smith, Newtown, Wales. One of the earliest branches and still in the style and layout of the original shops. It also houses a small museum telling the W H Smith story.

 

The rest of the time, my mum relied heavily on her mail order catalogue as did all the families in our village.

My mum’s catalogue was Marshall Ward followed later by Kays. I remember a neighbour favouring Freemans and my grandmother who lived with us liked J D Williams. Women used to swap catalogues to enjoy a wider choice of goods. From the catalogues we bought bedding, household goods, underwear, toys (via Father Christmas of course), adult and children’s clothing and many more things I can’t recall now. My mum would never buy shoes by mail order.

The pages we children used to pore over longingly!

In addition to the catalogues selling clothes and homeware, my dad used to get seeds and bulbs by mail order. Dobbie’s and Doby’s are two I remember. Newspapers and magazines also had goods for sale and on special offer.

 

 

Images obtained from the Internet. Anyone with objections to my use of a particular image can contact me and I will remove it.