Home Made Clothes and Entertainment

When I was a teenager in the mid 1960s my friends and I were all caught up in the fashions and music of the times. We lived in a remote area,  money wasn’t plentiful and as we were still at school we didn’t have spending money apart from a bit of pocket money.

The latest single (known as a 45) was saved up for or, if you had a birthday coming, up you might be bought it as a present. At home, my dad bought a reel to reel tape recorder, I remember it was a Grundig TK14. We used to tape pop songs from the radio (I believe it was illegal but we didn’t know that) by holding the microphone near to the speaker of the transistor radio. The quality must have been terrible but we were happy! You had to be smart on the record button to make sure you didn’t get the presenter’s voice at the beginning and end of the song.

dansette01      TK14 good pic

My brother, sister and I used to have fun pretending to be radio presenters and putting our own commentary on the tape in between songs.

I loved Honey magazine and used to read each issue cover to cover many times. My mum was an excellent knitter and sewer and made most of our dresses, jumpers and cardigans. Once I spotted a delightful green dress in my magazine and showed it to my mum. She copied it for me by combining three different dress patterns and I was SO proud of it! I think I wore it all the parties and dances I went to that year. The picture and the patterns aren’t the actual ones but similar.

green dress                    Dress5                         mccalls-8755

I had a lovely pair of cream T-Bar shoes for best which I wore throughout one year with a camel coloured A-line dress. The following year camel was out and turquoise was big so I bought a Lady Esquire shoe dye and dyed the shoes turquoise. My sister and I also used to use Dylon dyes to give clothes a new look.

60s shoes                                     shoe dye

One winter, when capes were in fashion, I longed for one. My mum had an old policeman’s cape which had belonged to my dad’s policeman brother. She cut it down for me, put new fastenings on it and lined it with emerald green satin from one of her old dance dresses. I thought it was fabulous!

 

cape

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Children’s Books

Children’s books now are brilliant and the choice is bewildering. We had fewer books in my childhood but we loved our books and bedtime stories. For small children the picture books were usually (as far as I remember!) about fairies, puppies, children playing with toys and happy family scenes.

$_12           Bedtime Stories

Even when we were very young our mum used to read to us from the ‘harder’ books. We loved listening to all the ones now referred to as ‘classics’ such as Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh and Black Beauty. Good stories were read over and over again. I knew Black Beauty inside out!

railway-children-book-cover                                                         five-on-a-treasure-island-book-cover

Sambo  Nobody would write a book like this nowadays!

We were also read the The Water Babies and Paddington Bear. Other books we had were the collections of;  traditional tales, children’s poetry, nursery rhymes and fables.

Nursery Rhymes                Boys annual  Boys' Stories

When I was a little older I loved The Children of the New Forest, Heidi (the whole series), The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Boys’ books tended towards adventure and heroes – Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe –  whereas girls’books were of a gentler nature! There was very much a gender divide especially in the collections and annuals.

image  These are some of my own books from my childhood. I think I badly wanted to be Heidi for a while!

The books which all three of us (two girls and a boy) loved were the Enid Blyton Famous Five and Secret Seven series. Unusually for the time they appealed to both boys and girls. They were so easy to identify with as the kids were our ages and they had such exciting adventures.

Dressing Up

All children love dressing up. Dressing up outfits are plentiful and cheap nowadays. My two grandsons, aged five and three, love to be dressed as Power Rangers, Storm Troopers, Spider-Man and Iron Man.

Image result for dressing up outfits for kids       

When I was a child dressing up at home involved whatever we could find – Mum and Dad’s clothes and shoes, drawn on beards and moustaches, Nana’s hats, any belts and bags from around the house plus various other props. One year we (that is me, my brother and sister) were given a dressing up outfit each at Christmas. Mine was a nurse’s outfit, my brother’s a cowboy one and my sister’s was a cowgirl’s costume – cowboys were huge at that time in films, books, comics and on TV. We thought they were amazing and wore them for as long as we could squeeze into them as we grew. When I wore my outfit and had my red, plastic pince-nez on the end of my nose (they hurt me, but I didn’t care!), I really felt like a proper nurse.

            

Apart from dressing up at home there were fancy dress occasions. Every town and village had an annual carnival – in some parts of Britain this would have been known as a gala or fete. There was always a fancy dress parade with prizes for the best costumes. The mums went all out to create outfits for the children and often for themselves as adults dressed up too. People dressed up as famous characters past or present, story characters, pirates, fairies, witches and so on. Dressing up as a tramp was always good fun. At that time the ‘tramp’ was a common sight. They were vagrants who walked (tramped) from place to place living on handouts from well-wishers – and their wits. The other name for tramps was ‘gentlemen of the road’. I now know that many of them had been traumatised in the two World Wars and had been unable to settle back into normal life so took to the roads.  At that time Post-traumatic Stress Disorder was unknown or mis-labelled ‘shell-shock’ and with no such thing as counselling they were left to get on with life as well as they could.

     

Anyway, back to fancy dress. My mum was a skilled seamstress (from necessity) and was also very creative. Some of the costumes I remember her putting together are; my brother as a golliwog (I know, they’re not PC now but to us at that time they were just toys), Little Bo Peep (my sister, complete with a big black spider made by my dad and suspended by elastic) and Dr Fuchs (my dad dressed in a duffle coat and wellies accompanied by my brother’s ride-on tractor with the name Sno Cat on a sign attached to the front).For those who don’t remember the name, Dr Vivian Fuchs’ Trans Atlantic expedition reached the South Pole in 1958. The vehicles they used to cross the Antarctic were known as Sno-Cats.

This is a picture of me and my sister dressed for a fancy dress parade. My mum made the costumes on her Singer sewing machine out of crepe paper. We were dressed as the soldier and lady on the Quality Street tin – note, if you can see it, the Quality Street tin my sister was carrying! Next to it I have put a picture of an old Quality Street tin in case anyone doesn’t know the man and woman I’m talking about.

Qual St       Qual St 2

To this day I still love fancy dress and would rather put my own outfit together than hire a ready-made one. It’s more fun!

 

As always, I have used a mixture of my own photos and relevant one sourced from the Internet. If I have infringed copyright I fill happily remove any offending photo.

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.

 

 

Keeping Warm

Back in the 1950’s I knew nobody who had central heating in their home. In fact, I don’t think I ever heard the expression. We all had open fires which burned coal and logs. Even in school, the classroom was heated by a large coal fire. There was an enormous fire guard around the school fire and on a very wet or snowy day there would be loads of hats and gloves drying out on it. There were less than thirty children in the village school so the guard was big enough to dry all our things out before we went out again.

In our house we had two fires, one in the dining room and one in the lounge. In the evening the whole family would be in the lounge together listening to the radio, later in my childhood watching television. We could get really warm and cosy in front of the fire, especially our fronts! Leaving the circle of heat to use the bathroom, get a drink or go to bed was something to be put off as long as possible. . . . and then done as quickly as possible.

In the very coldest weather we children had a paraffin stove in our bedroom. We were so glad of the warmth we didn’t notice the smell of paraffin.

imageOurs was just like this one.

In the morning there was always ice on the inside of the bedroom windows. The patterns formed were beautiful like this example.

image

Later on, in the 60s, when the family lived in a bigger house, we children had a bedroom each and each bedroom had an electric fire. We were allowed to use them when we were getting up and going to bed. We would not have even tried to spend leisure time in our bedrooms in winter as the electrics fires were known to be expensive to run. We had heaters like each one of these.

 

Bedding consisted of

. a top and bottom sheet – all cotton, brushed ‘flannelette’ in winter.

. two or three blankets – these were not soft and cuddly, they were hard and scratchy. As they were purely for warmth and sandwiched between sheet and cover the textures didn’t matter.  They weren’t pretty colours either. Some were beige, others were grey or brown.

. a candlewick bedspread.

. a feather-filled eiderdown.

 

 

Books, Comics and Magazines.

As children my brother, sister and I loved books. There was a lot less choice than there is now and we were a long way from any shops so the books we had were read again and again. Enid Blyton featured largely in our lives; from the Noddy books when we were very young through to the adventures of the Secret Seven and the Famous Five. We even had a record of Noddy tales and songs read and played by Enid Blyton herself. When I was devouring Blyton adventure stories my sister, who was younger, adored Tales of Green Hedges. The books now referred to as ‘classics’ were also read and loved. Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, The Water Babies, Black Beauty and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are some I remember with great affection. My absolute favourites were the Heidi books. I had all of them and I believe I actually wanted to be Heidi!

My Princess cookbook and some of my        A few of my childhood books.               many recipes from Princess.

Once a week our comics were picked up from the local town when my mum went shopping on a Friday. The arrival of the weekly comic was so exciting! We had one each. My brother’s comic of choice was Hotspur. I took Princess magazine and my sister liked Bunty. We read every word. I can remember a family called the Days who were a cartoon strip in Princess. I still have a lot of my recipe cuttings and my Princess cookbook.

image.

In later years, in the mid-sixties, I was in my early teens and took Jackie magazine. After a few years of enjoying Jackie, Honey magazine came out. I immediately switched from Jackie to Honey. When I left to go to university I had a complete set from Number 1.  My mum and dad threw them out in a house move. I was mortified!

image

I love books to this day – and I still cut recipes out of magazines and save them!

 

 

 

 

 

In Sickness and in Health. 

People have always caught colds, measles, flu, have broken bones, grown old and had babies. So how were the 50s and 60s different?

When I was a child, you stayed in bed when you were unwell. Whether it was a cold, bronchitis, chicken pox or a stomach upset, being poorly meant staying home from school and staying in bed. The doctor was informed and visited regularly. We were five miles away from the surgery; nevertheless the highlight of a day confined to bed with spots or a temperature was the sight of old Dr Price (who probably wasn’t even old!) walking towards the house from his car. I can still remember how weak and wobbly the legs felt on the day you were first allowed to get up – just for a short while on the first day, of course!
At home mum put Germolene on cuts and grazes. I can still remember the thick, pink cream in the tin and that distinctive smell. However, if you hurt yourself at school they dabbed neat iodine directly onto the wound which was agony!!


We were given cod liver oil or cod liver oil and malt all winter which was supposed to keep colds away. There was kaolin and morphine for stomach upsets, boric acid for eye infections and camomile lotion for all skin complaints from sunburn to measles. A cough was treated with thick, brown cough mixture which always tasted vile. Our favoured brand was Hactos.

Other things I remember being talked about and used by older people such as grandparents are; gentian violet, kaolin poultices, syrup of figs and Epsom salts.

The  one great thing about being in bed poorly in the 1950s was – you were ‘allowed’ to drink Lucozade. In fact, it was practically compulsory! The thing which made it special was you weren’t ‘allowed’ to drink it at any other time. As soon as you were confined to bed with mumps or ‘flu, Lucozade would appear as if by magic. We were a mile walk from the village shop and five miles from the town but Lucozade was purchased for the poorly one – and only the poorly one! The siblings could just look and drool.

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.

Music

I’m going to talk about the music I remember hearing as I grew up. In the Fifties the radio was our main source of music with the occasional play of my mum and dad’s 78’s. We children loved Children’s Favourites which was on a Saturday morning and was presented by Uncle Mac. The Laughing Policeman was played every week. Others I remember are The Ugly Duckling, The Runaway Train and Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Two Way Family Favourites was always on as we ate our Sunday dinner. Some of the songs I remember are Mockingbird Hill (Patti Page), Drink, Drink, Drink (Mario Lanza), Que Sera, Sera (Doris Day) and This Ole House (Rosemary Clooney).

  

Those recollections are from the 1950’s. In the 1960’s I was old enough to have my own mind about what I wanted to listen to and I enthralled by The Beatles from when I first heard Love Me Do in 1963. When we (me, my brother and my sister) discovered Radio Luxembourg we couldn’t get enough of it. In the mid sixties we acquired out first portable radio. Once we were in bed my dad used to put the radio in the hall outside our bedrooms and leave Radio Luxembourg on for half an hour. After thirty minutes listening to some of our favourite pop songs we would hear my dad approaching to turn the radio off which was our signal to stop chatting and get to sleep.