Tea

When I was a child, the drink everybody drank was tea. There was hardly any coffee around in the 1950s, not where I lived, anyway. Children drank milk (warmed in winter, cold in summer), orange squash or weak tea with occasionally cocoa, Horlicks or Ovaltine at bedtime. Adults drank tea (most of them took sugar in it, unlike now) and sometimes a warm milky drink at night. People didn’t drink water the way they do now. In cafes and restaurants you were never offered water with your food and many would refuse if you asked for a glass of tap water. We knew nothing about caffeine or about the importance of keeping your body hydrated. This post focuses on just tea, that quintessentially British drink. I really fancied using the word quintessentially, for some reason!

The Tea we Drank.

There were no tea bags then and very few brands to choose from. Tea leaves were the only form the tea came in. I remember Broooke Bond being around and in some grocery shops you could buy loose tea weighed out on scales. Once home, you transferred your loose tea to a tea caddy. Green, decaffeinated, herbal varieties etc. didn’t exist.

The Tea Pots we Used.

Of course, loose tea can’t be made in the cup so we all used teapots. Stainless steel ones didn’t come on the scene until the mid sixties. The everyday family teapot was a sturdy earthenware one, usually dark brown. When anyone came to visit a more decorative china pot would be brought out, often part of a ‘tea set’. A lot of people had a very best set which had usually been given as a wedding present and which never left the glass-fronted china cabinet.

Cups and Saucers

It’s hard to believe now, but nobody drank out of mugs in the 1950s. Every hot drink was drunk out of a cup and saucer. Everyday ones were fairly robust, best ones prettier and more fragile. I have a lovely tea set from the 1920s which was my grandmother’s.

Other Essential Equipment

In addition to the ubiquitous teapot, everyone needed tea strainers to filter out the leaves. As with the pots, there were plain everyday ones and fancier ‘best’ ones. Tea cosies were essential for keeping the tea warm while it brewed in the pot for the standard three minutes. Tea caddies stored the loose tea leaves and there were special little scoops for measuring out the right amount of tea into the pot.

Credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. As always, I have endeavored not to infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to my use of an image, please contact me and I will remove it.

When Tea was Tea and Bread was Bread.

This could be subtitled ‘Another Way in which Things have Changed’. It’s not a complaint, more choice is mostly a good thing. I’m just making a comparison.

Last week we were visiting relatives and whilst with them we made a trip into their nearby city. When we were ready for something to eat we dived into the first café we saw – it was pouring with rain! – to get some lunch. It was a lovely café and we were all able to choose a light lunch from their menu. When it came to choosing our drinks we looked at the drinks menu. There were eleven different teas and seven coffees to choose from. I know this is an unusually large selection but it occurred to me that even the simplest of small cafes will list three or four different teas and in the likes of Costa and Starbucks the choice of coffees is bewildering.

THEN . .

Typhoo tea vintage advertising

And NOW

UK Companies Prepare to Stockpile for Christmas Time No-Deal Brexit

Back in the 1950s and 60s, when I was a child, visits to cafes were usually associated with day trips and holidays. The drinks to choose from would be tea, coffee, orange squash, lemonade and milk. Perhaps a milk shake in some places. Then we come to the milk you put in your tea or coffee. Whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed? Oat, soya or almond milk?

THEN . . .

1950's Memories - The Milkman | Colin Pickett | Flickr

And NOW

Milks of Human Kindness | Veggies

I could cover so many menu items which are different from the 1950s but the next one I’m going to look at is bread. I never, ever remember brown bread being offered as an option when you bought a sandwich in a café. Bread for sandwiches was always white sliced bread. If you ordered a hot meal like fish and chips there was usually a plate of bread (white sliced bread) and butter served with it. In a café or restaurant now it’s normal to be asked if you want white or brown bread. The more up-market you go, the more choices there are. It’s quite usual to see a list of different sandwich fillings and a footnote saying served on white or brown bread, ciabatta, panini or baguette.

THEN . .

Cheese & Tomato – southdownscoffee

And NOW

Chicken ciabatta sandwich recipe | Schwartz
Baguette sandwiches filled with tomato, mozzarella and rocket - Stock Photo  - Dissolve

A 1950s ‘Woolies’ cafeteria. One kind each of tea, coffee and bread. I loved those cafeterias! We never even hear the word cafeteria now.

1950s Woolworths Restaurant

A few more memories of British cafés in the 1950s to round this off. Salad was lettuce, cucumber and tomato. No rocket, peppers, olives and certainly no salad dressing. The only thing which was ever put on salad was salad cream. Tomato sauce was often on the table in a red, plastic tomato-shaped container. Pickle meant Branston, Piccalilli or pickled onions. Egg sandwiches were made with salad cream and some cress and were not known as egg mayonnaise sandwiches. Cafes and restaurants rarely offered tap water as a drink option and would even refuse it if asked.

THEN . .

And NOW

8 Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes You Should Make at Home | Wholefully

Pictures sourced from Google Images and Wikipedia. As always, I go to a lot of trouble 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.

Wait until your father gets home!

I was thinking the other day about things which adults used to say to children back in the 1950s which you don’t hear so often nowadays. It wasn’t just parents who said these things. Teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, adults in story books – they all dished them out.

Some readers who date back to those years will recognise these even if they didn’t hear them all said in their own households.

At meal times; 

We’d have been glad of that when food was rationed.

There are children starving in . . . my mum used to say China, I’m sure adults used used a variety of countries!

There’s no pudding until your plate is empty/ you’ve eaten your greens.

Eat your crusts or your hair won’t curl.  They  couldn’t be said to me as I had curly hair – but I still had to eat my crusts.

In the 1950s, the war was a very recent memory. Six years of hardship and rationing meant that parents had little time for children being fussy about food. It was seen as ungrateful.

WW2 Ration Book largeThese books were a recent memory for our parents.

The rest;

Children should be seen but not heard. What a dreadful thing to say to a child – but it was something we heard it said to us then. I don’t remember my parents saying it but older relatives would come out with it if they thought the children were talking to much – or just annoying them,

Money doesn’t grow on trees. This was commonly said to children when they asked for something which couldn’t be afforded. When we were a little older, my siblings and I used to joke that it actually did grow on trees for our family because my dad was a forester.

Wait until your father gets home. This one probably has a long history. It is redolent of eras in the past where the fathers were the absolute head of their households and were quite remote and strict. Punishment would be administered by the father on return from work when the work-weary mother (all mothers were home based then) related the child’s transgression. Most modern fathers would hate to be used as a threat in this way.

Your school days are the best days of your life. I promised myself when I was a teenager in high school that I would never say that to a child because at that time I didn’t believe they could possibly be the best years of your life.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Adults probably still ask children that. I hated being asked the question because it used to throw me into a panic! I always felt I should be coming out with something definite and impressive. In fact, I didn’t have a clue. Many of the jobs I fancied as a child (fireman, for one!) couldn’t then be done by women, anyway.

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. I think people talked in proverbs a lot more then. We actually had to learn a whole list of them for the 11+ exam! A stitch in time saves nine. Make hay while the sun shines. Many hands make light work. Too many cooks spoil the broth.etc. By the way, those last two totally contradict each other which always puzzled me when I was younger!

Vintage-1950s-Hand-Embroidery-Pattern-Kitchen-Proverbs | 자수 도안 ... Picture of a 1950s embroidery.

It’s worth remembering that our parents had been brought up by parents who had Victorian parents and some of the rigid expectations of children from that time were passed down through the generations. There were grisly stories written for children to shock them into behaving. These were known as moral tales. There was one collection of stories written in the 19th century which contained a dozen or so such stories. We had a copy of it at home and it fascinated us! The only two stories I remember from it now are Naughty Little Suck-a-Thumb and Shock-Headed Peter. I’ve just looked these stories up for this post and I’ve learned that they were originally written in German by a man called Hoffmann who wrote them for his young son. Having looked up the two I remember best, I am amazed to find I remember every word of both. We read and read that book! My sister was a confirmed suck-a-thumb and was both horrified by and strangely drawn to the picture of the severed thumbs!

The English Struwwelpeter: Pretty Stories & Funny Pictures

 

 

The gruesome picture above is especially for my sister – who still has both her thumbs! Just to explain; in my family we weren’t read these stories as a warning. Things had moved on since they were written. My mum found them entertaining and enjoyed reading them to us and telling us about how Victorian children were brought up.

 

 

 

 

 

As always, I acknowledge that I have sourced my images from the Internet and made efforts to copy only those which are marked as available for re-use. If anyone objects to my use of any image, please contact me and it will be removed.

 

 

Time Travelling

This is a fun one. Not a virus in sight! Much of it has been covered in earlier blog posts but I’ve put a few ideas together for a quick, hopefully entertaining read.

 

If I, or anyone else who was alive in the 50s and 60s, had been suddenly transported in a time machine to 2020, what would puzzle, amuse, or confuse us?

 

Paying for goods in a store by touching a small rectangle of plastic onto a gadget.

UK: half of all debit card payments now contactless | Mobile ...

Cars being plugged in to charge up instead of filling with liquid fuel.

England home electric car smart charger

People walking their dogs with little bags of dog dirt dangling from their fingers.

The Best Dog Poop Bags | Reviews by Wirecutter

People walking along talking on a phone which doesn’t look a bit like a phone and fits into the palm of a hand.

People pointing the same object at a thing, person or view and photographing it.

person, talking, mountain focus photography, mobile phone, smartphone, taking photo, wireless technology, communication, smart phone, portable information device

People using the above gadget to find the way somewhere, check the time or the weather, look at their bank balance, buy something, etc etc etc.

Choosing from dozens and dozens of different television programmes – without touching the TV.

Brits have 100 names for a TV remote control - what do you call it ...

Sending a written communication to someone in another country and receiving a reply within minutes – without any paper being used.

Add Gmail and Other Email to Windows 10 Mail & Calendar (Updated)

Reading a book or a newspaper which is not made of paper.

Why Amazon is tracking every time you tap your Kindle - The Verge

Being able to buy strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, and many, many more food items in the middle of winter. For readers out of Britain, you will be able to think of equivalent seasonal produce.

Buying books, electrical goods, clothes, holidays, food and much more – without actually speaking to anyone, visiting a store, or using a mail order catalogue.

Tesco - Click & Collect Groceries - Logo Design - Portrait… | Flickr

Homes having several different refuse bins outside on the path or drive – each one with a different function.

Kendall Drive – bins collection | Howard Sykes

 

There are many, many more of these! I could go on and on.

 

 

 

As usual, all photographs are sourced from images available on the Internet. If anybody objects to the use of a photograph please contact me and I will remove it.

 

 

 

Sweet Treats.

I have covered this before in the very early days of this blog. That post covered sweets, biscuits and chocolate. This time, in a revisiting of the subject, I am sticking to children’s pocket money treats which they could buy in the local shop. There was always a mixture of packet, branded sweets on the counter. I particularly recall Spangles, Fruit Gums, Fruit Pastilles, Refreshers, Love Hearts, Polos. The chocolate bars I remember best are Fry’s Chocolate Cream, Turkish Delight, Mars, Milky Way, KitKat, Crunchie.

Then there were the loose sweets, usually sold out of jars and weighed out on scales into a paper bag. The usual amount children asked for was ‘a quarter’. This meant four ounces or a quarter of a pound. Sometimes you would order two ounces – especially if it was the end of your pocket money week! The smaller portions were weighed out into a cone shaped paper bag, the quarters into a square one. The loose sweets were myriad. I will name a few which I remember best. Shrimps (which always looked more like ears to me), aniseed balls, barley sugars, Everton Mints, butterscotch gums.

Britain's Most Popular Sweets: 1950s - Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe          Original Vintage 1950s- 'Spangles' - Picture Post Magazine ...

Love Hearts                                           Spangles.

The Adventures of Bertie Bassett 1950s UK. Liquorice Allsorts ...        Flying Saucers

Liquorice Allsorts.                                Flying Saucers.

1950s sweets - a delicious trip down memory lane.

A 1950s sweet shop.

Lollies and Sweets Original Sweet Shop Tenby. 1950s Sweets Memory Pack        Mouthwatering Barley Sugar: Gluten & Gelatine Free

Sherbet Fountains.                             Barley sugars.

 

 

School Dinners

When I was a child there were two choices. If you lived near school you could go home for your midday meal. Otherwise you had school dinners. There was not an option to bring your own packed lunch. If you had school dinners there was one choice. You ate what you were given. One main course (dinner), one dessert (pudding). No alternatives and you absolutely had to eat what was put on your plate. I think this is why so many people of my age in Britain have bad memories of school dinners. It wasn’t that they were all terrible. I remember some nice things. Baked sponge puddings, for example. It was the complete lack of choice and the obligation to clear your plate which was the downside. We all received a bottle of milk a day (third of a pint) and this could be delightful in winter when really cold and pretty disgusting when it had been sitting outside in the crates all morning in summer sun!

Image result for 1950s school dinner menu"    CLASSROOM CALORIES All children were given a daily bottle of milk

To put this in context, World War II had only finished in 1945 and I believe rationing was still in place in the early fifties. Whether at home or in school – you ate what you were given and didn’t complain. The adults at home and in school had lived through the war and had no time for children being fussy. So we weren’t!

One of my main memories of our school dinners was lumpiness. There were lumps in the custard, the gravy, the mashed potato. One meal I remember is Spam served with mashed potato and beetroot. Then they poured the beetroot juice over your meal as if it was a sauce or a gravy. Not my favourite! I remember stews and mince of little flavour, pale in colour and with small quantities of indeterminate vegetables floating around – probably swede and turnip. These runny meat dishes were also served with the ubiquitous mashed potato and a veg, often boiled cabbage.

Also, and any post war British readers will identify with this, there were endless milk puddings. There was semolina, sago, tapioca, ground rice, rice and macaroni. All made into hot milky puddings. If you were lucky you got a spoonful of jam to stir into your pudding which turned it pink and made it a bit more palatable. Sometimes they were served with a spoonful of stewed prunes. I didn’t touch prunes for many years after I left school, they’re still not top of my list!

Today’s school dinners here in the UK are free to all children up to the age of seven and are tasty and well-balanced, Even more importantly – there are choices. We have come a long way.

 

An example of a week’s menu in a primary school. these menus are rotated on a four week cycle so the choices are not the same every week.

Thanks to Helena for giving me the idea for this post.

The 1950s – a summary.

This is just a fun post listing some of the things we kids of the 50s remember which were different. There are many similar lists and comparisons available on the Internet but this is my version.

 

Electric plugs were brown and the cables were brown, cloth-covered and some were plaited.

Postage stamps had to be licked.

Baby teeth were worth 6d when the tooth fairy visited – 6d in ‘old UK money’ is equivalent to 2.5p in the current money system.

Spaghetti, cream, salmon, pineapple and peaches only came in tins.

Macaroni could be a pudding or a savoury (macaroni cheese was the only pasta dish I knew!).

Tea was made in a teapot using tea leaves.

Olive oil came in tiny bottles and was kept in the medicine cabinet to be used for earache.

We all listened to the same radio programmes. Then, when TV arrived, we all watched the same programmes as there was only one channel.

 

Your dishwasher was the person in your house who was doing the washing up at the time.

People put iodine on cuts and butter on burns.

Phones all had exactly the same ring tone . . . . and they stayed in one place . . . . . there was only one in the house . . . . but not all homes had them . . . . and they were only for making and receiving calls.

We went to ‘the flicks’ to see the latest film.

Soap was only came in bars.

 

Birthday cakes had icing or chocolate on the top and some candles.

Beds had top sheets, blankets, eiderdowns (quilts) and bedspreads (often candlewick).

Cars had three forward gears, no reversing lights and no seat belts.

Twitter was a noise birds made.

Many children’s toys were made from tin.

TV programmes couldn’t be recorded.

Gay was a word which meant happy and jolly.

Takeaways

I’ve had a bit of a lull in my posting as it’s been a very busy few months. At last, here I am with another one.I keep thinking I’ll run out of ideas to post about but so far I haven’t. I welcome ideas for topics for me to explore.

 

Here in Britain nowadays ‘Let’s get a takeaway (or takeout in some parts of the country).’ can lead to anything from Chinese, Indian, Thai, Pizza, burger, kebab – even the humble fish and chip meal from the local chip shop. Starting with my own memories, back in the 50s and 60s, when I was a child, the only ‘takeaway’ available (and the word didn’t even exist at that time) was the ubiquitous fish and chip shop. Some had tables where you could sit in and eat, many sold only food to take out. We always referred to ours as the chip shop. In different parts of the country the fish and chip shop is known as the chippy, the chipper and here in Yorkshire as the fish shop or sometimes the fishery. Our nearest town in mid-Wales had two chip shops and the locals were all loyal to one of them and never used the other. In Britain old newspapers were traditionally used for wrapping fish and chips until this was banned for health reasons in the 1980s. Many people are nostalgic for this traditional wrapping; some modern fish and chip shops wrap their food in faux-newspaper, food-safe paper printed to look like a newspaper.

 

Musing on this subject the other day I wondered when food to take out first became available here from eating places other than chip shops. As far as I remember, the earliest foreign cuisine here was Chinese followed by Indian and I only recall them being places where you sat in to eat. So I decided to look into the history of the British takeaway.

Image result for chinese restaurants 1950s        Image result for indian restaurants 1950s uk

1950s Chinese and Indian restaurants –  some of the UK’s earliest tastes of food from other countries.

 

Researching, I found a wealth of information on the history of restaurants in the UK but little about the rise of the takeaway. However, this extract from Consumer Culture and Chinese Food in Britain by Mike Featherstone and Tomoko Tamari gives an explanation.

‘According to data made available by the Hong Kong government Office in London, there were 1,406 Chinese restaurants in the United Kingdom in 1970. These restaurants were influenced by the economic setback of Britain in the 1970s, with people unwilling to pay high prices when they ate out. In response, many of the New Territories immigrants have opened take-out Chinese food shop, which are cheaper than restaurants. Another reason could be the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) which was resented by most Chinese restaurants and can be seen as further encouraging customers to switch from restaurants to more economical takeaways and fish and chip shops, which require fewer staff and were not subject to VAT. These takeaways could be operated by a family unit and ‘require only ‘hole-in-the wall’ premises. They were able to make good profit as a result of their low cost conditions.’

 

Related image

I didn’t know this until now.

Typical scene from a London chip shop

 

A familiar scene inside a British chip shop.

 

 

Image result for fish and chip shops uk 1950s      Image result for Harry ramsden's 1950s

 

Image result for fish and chip shops uk 1950s  Image result for fish and chip shops uk 1950s

 

Keeping Food Fresh

Nowadays we don’t have any problems keeping food fresh and safe to eat. We have fridges, freezers, vacuum packs as well as the dried and tinned foods which have been around much longer. Also, everything – even tinned food! – has a sell by/ use by date printed on it. The humble sell-by date actually has a surprisingly short history here in the UK. It was introduced in Marks & Spencer’s storerooms in the 1950s before making its way onto the shelves in 1970. It wasn’t even called a “sell-by-date” until 1973. Like a lot of people who date back to pre-sell-by date years, I still rely on the look, feel and smell of food rather than panicking and throwing food away the day after the date has passed. I appreciate that people who eat meat and fish have to be extra careful and to take no risks.

       

 

       

 

When I was very young, in the early 1950s,  we didn’t have a fridge. I remember the arrival of our first one being so exciting! In the summer, my mum used to hang bottles of milk in a string bag in the stream to stop the milk going off. We had a pantry with a stone slab in it which was meant to keep things cool. It is very easy to tell when milk has turned sour. Bread goes dry, cheese goes mouldy, potatoes go green and start sprouting, some foods start smelling bad. When these sort of foods have been kept too long or have been stored incorrectly the result is obvious. The hidden danger is when food has turned and could be hazardous but there are no obvious signs which is when sell by dates are important.

 

A 1950s kitchen with an early fridge.

UK’s first frozen food product was asparagus made by Smedley’s of Wisbech which is a fact which surprised me as I had assumed the ubiquitous pea would have been the first frozen vegetable. Although frozen food went on sale for the first time in Britain on May 10, 1937, the average UK householder did not have easy access to it until the 1950s and 60s. Home freezers first became popular in the 1970s .  Apparently, the sales of frozen food were boosted during the Second World War as metals for tins were in very short supply but I reckon that would only have been in cities and not in the more rural areas such as where I grew up.

The face of Birds Eye in the UK – Captain Birds Eye.