Words I Didn’t Know in the 1950s.

There are words and phrases in everyday use now which were never heard when I was a child. Some of them are technological words and refer to things which have been invented in recent decades, some are words from other countries, often food words, others are expressions which have evolved over time.

 

I will begin with food. In the UK in the 50s, especially in remoter parts such as where I grew up, the range of food encountered was far more limited than it is now. With the rise of international travel and trade new food and drink broadened our experience. I was 13 before I saw or ate in a Chinese restaurant, my first curry in an Indian restaurant was in 1969 and my first ever pizza a couple of years later. Other food and drink we think of as ours now, which were unknown in the UK then, are;

baguette, bagel, croissant, panini, pasta (we had tinned spaggetti, macaroni cheese and that was it!), sushi, cappuccino, latte, Americano and espresso, green tea, mayonnaise, chilli, couscous, wholemeal, wholefood.

heinz-spaghetti              1941Menu2 What, no pizza?!

Household objects which were unknown, not even dreamed of then include;

TV remote control, microwave, mobile phone, Internet, website, laptop, email – this particular list is endless.

Some words and expressions which have evolved over time or been invented are;

road rage, gridlocked, anger management, food allergy, chronic fatigue syndrome, post traumatic stress, hyper, OCD, ADHD.

Several decades ago if you were green it meant you were somewhat naive, it had nothing to do with your attitude to the environment. If you were cool you were not warm. A tablet was something you swallowed when not well. If something was brilliant it shone brightly. If you were chilling you were becoming colder. Coke was a fuel for an open fire. Olive oil lived in the bathroom, was bought at the chemist’s shop in tiny bottles and used for earache. If you were gay you were jolly and happy. A mouse was always a small furry creature with a tail. If you were in possession of grass or weed it was in your garden and legal. Camp meant to holiday in a tent and was also a brand of coffee substitute. Fanny and Gay were girls’ names. Spam was a tinned, processed meat.

gay ad     gay ad 2      fanny ad 2

camp ad      spam ad 2

To finish with, here’s a random list of words which didn’t exist (as far as I know!) or meant something completely different in the 1950s – digital, chargrilled, logistics, browser, strimmer, recycle, shredder.

 

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Forgotten Brands

I have talked about lost and forgotten shops and brands before but there are so many I thought I would revisit. My first one is Gordon Moore’s Cosmetic toothpaste. It was heavily advertised on Radio Luxembourg (also a disappeared brand!). I was a teenager desperate to try it out as it was meant to make your teeth look dazzling white. When I eventually had enough pocket money for it, and was in a bigger town where it was actually stocked, I bought some. What a disappointment! It was a toothpaste with a red dye in it. The idea was that by darkening the colour of your gums it would show your teeth as extra white in contrast. Did it work? No! I had hideous red gums and my teeth looked less white rather than more white.  Sno Mist deodorant was also advertised on Radio Luxembourg – I could sing the jingle now, but I won’t! It was the first deodorant I ever used, My mum favoured Odorono but I was sure Sno Mist was better (the gullibility of youth!). It was very sticky and after applying it you had to hold your arms up for about five minutes waiting for it to dry.

Gordon Moore Advertisement, 1950       radio lux    sno-mist-deodorant1-243x300

Next, here are some forgotten foods. I say forgotten but when I am researching these things from the past I sometimes find that they still exist but in other countries. C and A’s for instance. It disappeared from the UK in 2001. The first time I saw it anywhere else (Prague, in this case) I was amazed! It was such a popular High Street store here for so many years I had always believed it to be British whereas it is in fact Dutch. I saw one in Berlin last week. I digress, back to food. Surprise peas were an alternative tinned or dried ones and they were supposed to be exactly like fresh garden peas. when very few homes had freezers, you either bought the pods (or grew them) or you used tinned or dried peas. Dried peas needed soaking overnight and when cooked were mushy. Surprise peas were freeze-dried and cooked in minutes. With the rise of the domestic freezer, they were eventually superseded. I have always loved crackers of any sort and one of my favourites were Macvita, now long gone. My grandmother used to buy them for me specially when we went to stay. My favourite biscuits were Milk and Honey – a sort of oval version of Jammy Dodgers. One year when I was about 14 I gave up biscuits for Lent. At the end of the six weeks I was more excited about tucking into some Milk and Honey biscuits than about my Easter egg. My mum used to buy Lemon Puffs from time to time. They were OK but when put in the biscuit tin they made the other biscuits go soggy and taste of lemon. When I was looking them up I found that they are still very popular in Sri Lanka.

surprise-peas-copy   huntley   macvita

Here is a random selection of forgotten brands to finish off with. Curry’s still exist but look at what they sold then! My first bike was from Curry’s. Cheese triangles can still be bought but do you remember the flavoured ones?

175px-LifeboySoap (1)     flavoured dairylea       Cig adgibbs  tweed  exercise book

 

 

 

 

Where did they go?

Recently I was reading with some children in school. The book was Michael Morpurgo’s Butterfly Lion (brilliant writer, fantastic book!). Chapter One is called Chilblains and Semolina Pudding. Before doing any reading, I had to explain the two things to the children. I know people do get chilblains and you could, if you wanted to, buy semolina and make a pudding with it. Yet as far as the kids of today are concerned they are unheard of. We were very familiar with both in the 1950s. I suffered from chilblains every winter and semolina pudding was a regular (if rather unpleasant) feature of school dinners. This started me thinking of other things which were part of our lives as we grew up which today’s children have no knowledge of.

I will start with food. Semolina pudding had several relatives in the milk pudding family. I think rice pudding is the only one which has survived into the 21st century in the UK – and even that isn’t very common. The others were macaroni (yes, pasta in a dessert!), ground rice, sago and tapioca (nicknamed frogspawn – the reason for this can be seen in the photo).

 

 

 

                 

 

 

With the advent of ice-cream, mousses and brands like Angel Delight, the traditional dessert blancmange has disappeared from the face of the earth. It was a milk-based, coloured and flavoured dessert thickened with cornflour and set in a mould. It was often served with jelly. For our birthday parties when we were little my mum used to make a rabbit-shaped blancmange and surround it with chopped up green jelly.

         Mum had a rabbit jelly mould like this.

A warm drink in the evening was also largely milk-based and could be cocoa or perhaps Ovaltine or Horlicks. I think they can still be bought but I don’t think many  children drink them or have even heard of them.

Image result for ovaltine                 

Moving on now to school and school uniforms. All school uniform for boys included a school cap which had to be worn every day throughout school if the boy stayed on until 18 years old. Long trousers were not worn by boys until they were thirteen and uniform shorts were worn with long woollen socks.

                     Image result for school duffle bag 1950s                      

Girls wore gymslips until thirteen when they could wear skirts. There were no tights (they hadn’t been invented) so long socks were worn in winter, ankle socks in summer – even if you were a sixth-former! In our school the girls had to wear a beret (known as a tam) and woe betide you if you ever stepped outside school without it on!

                                 1950's Leather School Satchel

The school bag – for boys and girls in secondary school – was a leather satchel. Games and P.E. kit was carried in a duffle bag.Two more expressions unknown to today’s children! The school uniform coat was a gabardine mac or raincoat, usually double-breasted and belted.

Here are some other things today’s youth have not heard of (I’ll cover these in more detail in Part 2):

Meccano,  plimsolls, cycling capes, leather footballs, Dinky toys, Liberty bodices, golliwogs, Spangles, leather footballs and bus conductors. Watch this space!

St David’s Day

St David is the patron saint of Wales and St David’s Day (Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant in Welsh) is celebrated on 1st of March – hence this being posted today. We say Happy St David’s Day with these words.

image

These are my memories of St David’s Day in Wales in the 1950s and 60s. All towns and most villages held events such as a concert or eisteddfod with music, singing, poetry and dancing – and still do. Our school always held a St David’s Day concert. The national emblems are the daffodil and the leek and we wore one or the other to school on the day. The smell in our school hall was overpowering, especially when those wearing leeks became peckish and started nibbling! I wear a daffodil on every March 1st and have done all my life – even though I live in England now.

The traditional St David’s Day dish is a stew made with lamb, leeks, carrots and potatoes. It is called cawl (pronounced cowl) and communities would often hold a concert with a cawl supper. The little currant-studded griddle cakes known as Welsh cakes (delicious, too!) would usually follow.

image

Sweets, Chocolates and Biscuits.

All children love sweet things. The fact that we didn’t have them all the time (mum was fussy about our teeth, money wasn’t plentiful, we didn’t live near any shops) made them even more of an attraction. When Nana came to live with us, she started giving us 6d each on a Saturday morning. We would either walk the mile to the village shop to buy sweets or, if Dad was working on Saturday morning, we would go in the car with him to the town and spend it there.

As well as the packets and bars, some of which are shown here, there were the large glass jars with loose sweets in which were weighed out in 4oz portions into a paper bag. If you bought 2oz, the paper bag was triangular. Some loose sweets I remember
– aniseed balls, barley sugar, Everton Mints and pineapple chunks.


T


I remember there often being a sugar mouse poking out of the top of my Christmas stocking.

The biscuits I remember being offered most often when out for tea are – Nice biscuits, those horrid pink wafer ones, custard creams, Bourbon and ginger nuts. Cadbury’s chocolate fingers were strictly for birthday parties!

What we Ate.

I touched on this aspect of 1950s life in my first post – The Blog Begins. This post shares some more thoughts on food in Post War Britain.

We had a much smaller range of food available to us in the fifties. Living in a backwater, we were probably a bit behind everyone else. I was 17 when I first ate a red pepper. I first came across pizza on a visit to London as a student. Cheese choices were all native – Carphilly, Cheddar, Cheshire, Red Leicester. The first exotic cheese I knew was Danish Blue.  Normal, everyday cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Ementhal, Mozarella were yet to be discovered in Britain!

Meals in recipe books and on menus didn’t have foreign names like Stroganoff, Risotto, Tagliatelle or Bolognese. Neither did they have convoluted titles like Pan-Seared Bass with Chargrilled Vegetables and a Caramelised Onion Marmalade. Or Hand-Cut, Triple-Cooked, Seasoned Potato Chips. Chips were just chips. We had meat and two veg (roast beef dinner, roast pork dinner), one pot meals (beef casserole, lamb stew), cold meals (ham salad, corned beef salad – how often do you hear of corned beef these days?) or chip meals (egg and chips, ham and chips, fish and chips). The meals which had names were reassuringly down to earth and self-explanatory – Toad in the Hole, Hot Pot, Macaroni Cheese (the only pasta we knew, but the word pasta was unknown to us at that time).

A 1950s nutriotionist’s thoughts on an ideal family menu for a week.

A 1950s Christmas menu.

 

Recipes didn’t have colour, or any, photographs. Most didn’t even have drawings like these – just text.

 Some ‘creative’ ideas for serving Spam in the 1950s.

The other old favourite was the snack on toast – beans on toast, scrambled egg on toast, poached egg on toast, cheese on toast, sardines on toast, spaghetti on toast (tinned spaghetti, of course.)

We also ate more offal than people do now; items like liver, kidney, tripe, brawn and sweetbreads.

Food was preserved by canning, salting, pickling, bottling, drying. With the advent of freezing came the arrival of delights (to we children, anyway!) such as fish fingers. Home freezers were uncommon until the very late 60s/ early 70s so fish fingers, frozen peas and Arctic Roll (mmmmm, loved it!) were bought and eaten on the same day.

 

              

 

Fruit any more exotic than apples or bananas were bought in tins. Tinned pineapple and peaches were eaten all year round and tinned pears, strawberries and mandarin oranges when the real thing was out of season. We ate fresh peas in summer when my dad grew them but tinned or dried the rest of the year.

   This was issued during rationing – which carried on after the war until 1953.

The blog begins – with food!

Hi everyone! I set this page up months ago and have been too scared to start. So . . . .  I am just going to dive in and get it going. I will tart it up at some stage with fancy backgrounds and pictures but for today I’ll begin by telling you all about it.

I was born in 1951 which means I turn 64 this year. It occurred to me recently that those of us who were kids in the 50s and 60s are now in our 50s and 60s. I thought it might be fun to share thoughts, memories and ideas which we kids of the 50s and 60s all have in common. I’m not going to do fashion just yet, there is already a lot of stuff on the internet about 50s and 60s fashions. I will be looking at radio, TV, events from the news, school life, cars, books and so on. More ideas welcome at any time! But this first post is going to look back at food.

Who remembers being given bread and butter to eat with every meal? I think this was a hangover from rationing when food had to be padded out. Shop cakes were a luxury and we bought them when somebody was coming to tea. I loved Battenburg and Angel Cake. Home baking was for the family. Milk puddings were very common – rice, semolina, ground rice, tapioca even macaroni. We were given jam to stir into these milk puddings. Posh puddings came in packets – lemon meringue pie mix and Creme Caramelle. Cream came in tins – evaporated milk, condensed milk, Carnation and later, in a packet, came Dream Topping which was the ‘whipped cream’ favoured by many for the top of trifles (these could also be bought as a dry mix in a packet).

  

Pasta also came in tins, except macaroni which, as I’ve already mentioned, was a pudding. The only pasta I ever came across in the 50s was Heinz tinned spaghetti. I don’t remember ever having rice as part of a savoury meal in the 50s, it was always a pudding.

I will finish with a random list of other foods which were everyday items but seen less commonly now. Fray Bentos pies, corned beef, tinned salmon, Shipham’s paste, tinned Mulligatawny soup ( a rare treat in our house and a change from Heinz tomato soup), spam, spam fritters (loved them!), luncheon meat, Hovis, Nimble, Lemon Puff biscuits (which made all the other biscuits in the tin go soft and taste of lemon!), Camp coffee and tea leaves instead of tea bags which arrived on the scene later.

I hope this has rung a few bells, struck a few chords, raised a smile or two. My next post might continue the food and drink theme or I might dip into something else. Who knows where this will take me?