New Diaries, New Year’s Resolutions and Thank-You Letters.

Happy New Year to all my readers and followers!

As Christmas Day becomes a memory and we start thinking about a new year, I have been remembering what this time of year felt like when I was a child. I usually got a new diary for Christmas. These were not for noting appointments and forthcoming events as my diaries are now but for recording my life day by day. My mum always encouraged us to keep diaries and she kept a daily journal for many, many years. Some years I kept it up for a couple of months, other years I carried on for a whole year. Surprisingly, I still have a few of my diaries. In the photo, from left to right are my diaries from 1959, 1963, 1964, 19l66 and 1967. I remember loving the diaries for all the snippets of information in them. The Enid Blyton one, for example, has 64 pages of general information before the diary pages even start! These include articles on pets, hobbies, party games, how to start a club, the story of the Union Jack, how to look after a bike, two pages on how to tie different knots and – this is hilarious – NINE pages on road-building, with diagrams and photographs. In addition to the first 64 pages there was a snippet of information at the bottom of each week’s page.

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In the front of each diary I have written a list of Christmas presents received from various family members which brings me to the next part of this post – the thank-you letters. There would always be one afternoon allocated for this just before we returned to school. I would be sitting with my brother and sister with writing paper and envelopes and my mum hovering nearby encouraging us while we tried to convey our thanks to aunts and uncles we rarely saw. It was hard work, particularly when we were really young, but I’m sure the relatives appreciated receiving them.

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In the back of some of my diaries I have written a list of my New Year’s Resolutions. As with the diary keeping and the letter-writing, the one encouraging us to come up with a list of resolutions was always my mum. It was very important to her that we had started our diaries, written our thank-you letters and listed our resolutions before the new school term started. My 1966 resolutions included saving more of my pocket money, writing more frequently to my pen-friends, working hard for school exams and being kind and friendly in school and at home – exciting stuff! I think I probably wrote those knowing my mum would see them!

 

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Boys and Girls Come Out to Play.

First of all, apologies to all my followers, readers and fellow bloggers for a spell of silence! Due to a technical issue, I was under the impression I had published three posts since Children’s Favourites but was eventually informed by a reader that they hadn’t actually shown up in my blog! All resolved now, I’m pleased to say.

 

My idea for this post was to look at gender issues in the 50s and 60s in relation to children and to talk about how things have changed. I know things have changed but when I started looking into it I realised that there are still ‘boy toys’ and ‘girl toys’ and that many of them are very similar. I think children’s books is an area which has definitely changed for the better. Books for kids are now far less likely to tell stories about Tim helping Daddy to wash the car and dig the garden while Mary was washing up and dusting with Mummy.

I am not going to go into whether boys naturally prefer toy cars to dolls or whether they are given toys people think are gender appropriate. This is more of a reminiscing post so I will talk about the toys we played with in my childhood, show some adverts which now appear very sexist and hope to bring back a few memories for some of you.

 

Triang was a huge name in children’s toys in the UK and every boy (many dads too!) aspired to own a Scalextric set.

                  

Ah, Meccano! The main construction toy before Lego and a must for every boy.

           

Of course, girls became nurses and boys were the doctors – NEVER the other way around!

Well, I like the idea of bringing science into girls’ and boys’ play but . . . . a pink microscope?!

Girls baked, boys had adventures – in story books, anyway!

         

Girls appeared to be either pretending to be mums (kids still do that, of course!) or were having fun in boarding school!

                                         

Twelfth Night Reflections.

As it is the 6th of January and I have just taken down my tree and my Christmas cards, I thought I would look back at Christmas 60 odd years ago. I have covered this before but I hope to mention some things which didn’t come up last time.

The build up to Christmas was nothing like as long as it is now but one thing which was always done early was the making of the Christmas cake and the Christmas pudding. My mum used to do these several weeks beforehand and it was always exciting to be a part of the preparation. It seemed very exotic when my mum added a small glass of sherry to the cake mix. When the pudding mixture was being stirred we three children all took a turn at having a stir and making a wish whilst stirring. Then came the bit where my mum concealed a silver sixpenny piece (carefully cleaned) into the bowl with the mixture. It was said that whoever got the sixpence in their portion on Christmas Day would have good luck. I have a feeling that when we were little my mum used to put three in our pudding so that we children found one each. Nobody would dream of putting a small metal coin into a pudding now in our safety-conscious age but none of us ever choked or broke a tooth!

sixpenses                                 Image result for christmas pudding  cloth

Our stockings were long brown hand-knitted woollen ones. I believe a relative had knitted a few pairs for my dad to wear under wellingtons when he was out at work in the forests. We had the same ones right through childhood and the feeling of those stocking stiff and full on a Christmas morning is still with me. There was always and apple and an orange in the toes, some chocolate coins, a new hankie, a new flannel and a new toothbrush, some sweets and a little novelty peeping out of the top – a small toy or a sugar mouse, maybe. Anything bigger than stocking size from Father Christmas (I never heard him called Santa at that time) was under the tree. We always had a selection box each.

After stockings and breakfast and before opening the rest of the presents we would walk to the village church for the Christmas morning service which was always one of the most exciting services of the year. The church would be packed, even though our village was tiny as everyone made the effort to attend on Christmas morning.

stockings_socks          sugar_mouse_white

There would be presents from a few relatives and presents from and to each other. Board games were very popular gifts and sometimes at Christmas there might be a compendium of games with five or six board games in one box. Other presents which were often given were paintboxes, weaving, sewing, raffia and painting by numbers kits, magic sets, dressing up outfits, Meccano and card games like Snap and Happy Families.

compendium-of-games-spears-toys-draughts-dominoes-ludo-_1           happy-families

In the 1950s in Britain chicken was quite a luxury and that was what we had on Christmas Day. Turkey came on the scene later.

The afternoon was always punctuated by the Queen’s speech. We listened to it on the radio through the 50s and then watched it on TV from 1961 when we got out first television.

biscuit-tin           roses

On Boxing Day there was always a circus on the TV in the afternoon which we all watched (with the curtains drawn as we did in those days!) whilst dipping into or selection boxes.

 

50s-christmas-paper-lanterns-1                                       baubles

Tree decorations were mostly baubles and the baubles were made of glass. I still have three of the ones we had on our trees when I was small.

50s-toys                  toys-walldisplay

We always received a new diary each for Christmas and in the back of the new diary I would carefully write down my New Year’s Resolutions. The other writing task was the composing of thank-you letters to relatives who had sent us presents. My mum always made sure these were done before we went back to school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorable Firsts.

This one is for my friends Judy and Heather (aka Flo). It’s a slight departure from my normal posts as it fast forwards a few years. Instead of talking about life in the 50s and 60s this post talks about the differences between rural life then and city life in the early 70s.

In September 1969 I began my three years at university in Nottingham. Times were changing rapidly in the late 60s/ early 70s  On top of that, I was moving from rural Wales to England; from a tiny community miles from anywhere to a bustling city. This is about some of the things I experienced for the first time during the three years I was a student. These experiences are forever linked in my mind with the city of Nottingham and on a recent visit to the place I decided to revisit those times in my blog.

Service Buses. In the area where I grew up there was not a bus service in the way towns and cities have them. We had a local coach firm called Thomas Brothers who provided the school buses for children in outlying areas They also ran a weekly coach from the villages village into the town a few miles away. The coach left from outside our village post office on Fridays (market day) at 11 am and left the town at 2pm. Regular buses with numbers on the front and, in particular, double decker buses were such a novelty! I loved being able to walk from my uni down to the main road and catch a bus into the city centre.

Thos bros coach.jpg           nottm-bus

Tea bags. On my free Saturday afternoons (I even had lectures on Saturday morning in my first year!) I loved to wander around the city centre and in and out of the shops. Shops like that were a two hour drive from where I grew up and major shopping trips were made infrequently. My afternoons in the city centre always involved a cafe stop. I can still remember the names of two of my favourites which were called The Gingham Kitchen and The Pepper Mill. There is still a Gingham Kitchen in Nottingham but I haven’t been able to find out whether it’s the same one or not – I remember the name but no more.

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It was on one of my cafe visits when I first came across a tea bag. I asked for a cup of tea and was given a cup of what looked like milky water with a strange object floating in it. It took me a minute to work out what I was meant to do!

Indian Restaurants. During my first term a group of friends suggested we went for a curry in town. I had come across curry before – made at home using curry powder – but had never been to an Indian Restaurant. I was helped by friends more sophisticated than I was to choose suitable food from a bewildering menu. My starter was Onion Bhaji and I thought I had never tasted anything better. I don’t even remember my main course – and I still love onion bhajis.

onion-bhaji

 

Colour TV. In early 1970 one of the big events was Apollo 13 which was to be launched on the 11th of April. The hall of residence I was in did have one TV which was black and white. Students at that time didn’t have TVs in their rooms like now. In the days leading up to Apollo 13’s launch word got around that the Union Building on the campus was going to acquire a colour TV especially for the event. I can remember cramming into the main common room on that day – as excited about the colour TV as I was about the space launch!

1970s-tv                            apollo-13

Guinness. I had drunk beer when at home in Wales – and still do! – but I was introduced to Guinness during my second year and absolutely loved it.

guinness        guinness-ad

Pizza. My first taste of pizza was during my three years in Nottingham. I had read about this Italian favourite and thought it sounded like something I would enjoy as I’ve always loved bread, tomatoes and cheese. A friend (who had tried one before in London) and I went into an Italian cafe and ordered one between us. This was partly because we didn’t have much money but also in case we didn’t like it. I loved it!

‘Twin-Screen’ Cinema.

I have always loved going to the cinema. Although my home town was tiny (pop 2,000) we were lucky enough to have a cinema. It was in a building which had once been a chapel and the films we saw were always at least a year old but that didn’t matter to us. During the break between Pathe News – also out of date! – and the main film a still photograph of the local garage/ filling station popped up on the screen and stayed there until the lights went down again. When ‘big’ films arrived in our cinema, long after they had been released in the cities, there would be people standing in the aisles and sitting on windowsills. I particularly remember this from Tom Jones, the Bond films, Bonnie and Clyde and Dr Zhivago.

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In Nottingham I discovered the joys of a cinema with a proper foyer, a refreshment stall and the latest films. Some films I remember seeing at the time in the two Nottingham cinemas shown above were The Boyfriend, 633 Squadron, The Virgin and the Gypsy, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, Staircase and The Battle of Britain. The cinema on the left was the more modern of the two and was a twin-screen cinema. I thought this was amazing! I have learnt through researching for photographs that it was actually the world’s first twin-screen cinema. The second one shown (exterior and interior shots above) was the Gaumont. I also absolutely loved this cinema for its interior. Originally built as a music hall, I now know, it had ornate plasterwork, gilt, brocade, balconies and boxes.

Microwave oven. One evening I was in our campus sports centre. I was there for social reasons not sporting ones! In the cafe I decided to order myself a pie. At that time I was particularly partial to a chicken and mushroom pie made by Pukka Pies and this cafe sold them. To my amazement, the pie was placed in a small glass-fronted oven and then spent a few minutes rotating on a turntable and puffing up at high speed as if time had been fast-forwarded. In awe, I accepted my pie which was piping hot and enjoyed it. It was several years before microwaves became household objects and I realised what I’d seen.

 

1977microwaveoven     pukka-pies

Spaghetti Bolognese. In my second year I left the hall of residence on the campus and took a room in a rented house in the city shared by a number of other students. In the autumn the annual rag magazine was printed. In it was a recipe for spaghetti bolognese which was something I’d heard spoken about but hadn’t tried. Being self-catering was novel as halls of residence in those days were mostly full board. I decided to cook this amazingly exotic-sounding dish for a few friends. I have no memory now of how the meal turned out but I do remember having to go out and buy things I hadn’t bought before like olive oil, garlic salt and tomato puree.

10 Pin Bowling, Pinball, Bar Billiards, Table Football.

table-football                    barbilliards

pinball 1.jpg               Three games I discovered and played during my student years – Table football (often called ‘rods’, bar billiards (does this still exist?) which was not quite billiards, pool or snooker but played on a similar table top, and pinball which always reminded me of an old wooden game we had at home called bagatelle. Ours was very like the one below.

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Cling Film. I went into a university cafeteria one day to buy myself a sandwich for lunch. The sandwich was handed to me wrapped in a very thin soft plastic which appeared to cling to itself. This was my first sight of cling film.

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Some of these experiences were new to me because I’d moved from the country to the city; others were new inventions and developments. I hope they trigger some interesting memories for readers.

Arts and Crafts – some more.

Since posting last week I have carried on remembering other things we liked to make when we were entertaining ourselves indoors. Many of them involved paper and scissors.

We enjoyed folding paper into boat or hat shapes – the same method.

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We loved to cut out chains of paper people and at Christmas we made paper chains to decorate our bedrooms using gummed strips of coloured paper.

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Paper dressing up dolls were really good fun. Sometimes they came in a box and were received as a present. Other times they were free in a comic. You cut the figure and clothes out yourself (taking care NOT to cut the tabs off!) then dressed the dolls in different outfits. The other thing we loved making out of paper were these things.

paper-fortune-teller We didn’t have a name for them but researching for an image on the Internet I found them described as paper fortune tellers.

The spinners you could make with cardboard and string were really good fun, especially if you took the trouble to colour them in with a bright pattern which went crazy when the spinner whizzed around. The ones which always seemed to work best, though, were the ones which came free with cereal packets.

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There was always spare wool in the house as my mum did a lot of knitting so making pom poms by winding wool around card discs was another childhood pastime – and one which I still enjoy doing!

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The funny little picture on the right is showing how to make a mouse out of a handkerchief. I remember my dad showing us how to do this this when we were small.

Two more things I can recall are making perfume from rose petals in the garden and putting it into small bottles such as aspirin bottles. These were given to give to our mum and grandmothers. Also making brooches from a kit which contained a pin backing and felt shapes which we fashioned into flowers etc. My maternal grandmother, Nana, lived with us for the last few years of her life and was so good at putting a home made brooch on the lapel of her coat and dabbing on rose petal perfume before going to the village shop.

 

 

Nursery Rhymes

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I grew up hearing, reading and singing Nursery Rhymes. I brought my daughters up knowing them all too. They are a part of our history. Talking with friends the other day I was lamenting the fact that many children starting school at four years old (in my school anyway – it could be different elsewhere) know hardly any of them. They might just know Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Baa Baa Black Sheep but rarely more than that. I said that I would hate for them to be lost from out culture. A friend then pointed out that many of the words were, in fact, violent and dark.

When I thought about it I recalled cats being drowned in wells, choppers chopping heads off, babies falling out of trees, helpless blind mice having their tails cut off, robins being shot with bows and arrows, a boy and girl falling down a hill and the boy fracturing his skull and an overweight lad chasing little girls and trying to kiss them. I could go on!

Apart from the literal meanings, we now know that most of these rhymes refer to historical events and people, albeit in the form of a simple children’s rhyme. I won’t got into all the meanings and origins here, they are extensively covered in texts and on the Internet. I thought I would take a few of the ones I knew and loved best as a child and say whatever comes to mind.

HumptyDumpty

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One theory is that Humpty Dumpty was the name of a very large cannon used in the Civil War in Colchester in 1648 which fell off a church roof and become damaged beyond repair. That might or might not be true but what is known is that Lewis Carroll was the first person to illustrate Humpty Dumpty as a comical egg character.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

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This was one of my favourites as a small girl. I think that was probably because it has such pretty girly images in the words! The Mary in the rhyme is reputed to be Mary Queen of Scots.

Old Mother Hubbard

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Until I researched this picture I hadn’t realised Old Mother Hubbard had so many verses! There is a cottage in Devon which is supposedly where the real Mother Hubbard lived. I always felt sorry for the poor dog. My daughters and I always refer to having a Mother Hubbard cupboard if supplies are running low and we need to go shopping.

Lucy Locket

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When I was in primary school Lucy Locket was a circle game we played a lot in the playground. Lucy Locket and Kitty Fisher are believed by some to have been courtesans in the time of Charles II who had a quarrel over a lover.

Are nursery rhymes sweet and historical or are they gross and the stuff of nightmares?

I love them and think it would be very sad if they disappeared from children’s lives.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Hobbies

In the 1950’s, when I was growing up, hobbies were an important part of a child’s life. Now the word barely exists. Children today either have ‘interests’, which can be anything from a computer game to a TV programme, or they are in a club or team – rugby, cheerleading, karate, ballet etc.
In the ‘olden days’ evenings, particularly long winter ones, and wet weekends were not punctuated by phone, tablet, TV or trips out to groups and classes. We needed to be entertained and occupied and this is where hobbies came in.
Hobbies were mainly gender driven so if you see a girl you spent time knitting, embroidering or doing cork-work (who ever hears that word these days?). Boys made models (Airfix comes to mind), collected stamps or spotted cars.

We were given presents at Christmas and on birthdays like basket weaving sets, raffia kits, plaster modelling, felt work, painting by numbers. I also remember science sets, magic kits, printing sets (John Bull) and Post Office sets.

 

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We didn’t have all of these things at the same time. I’m recalling some of the games, sets and kits which passed through our childhood and gave us pleasure.

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Toys and Games

I will start this entry by reeling off some of the toys and games I remember best from my childhood. Board games, card games and jigsaws featured largely in our toy cupboard. When the board games started getting tatty it was lovely to get a new one for Christmas – or better still, a Compendium of Games which would have five or six games in one box. Ludo, Lotto, dominoes, draughts and Snakes and Ladders were played in every home, Two card games we loved were Snap and Happy Families. Image result for 50's toys and games UKImage result for 50's toys and games UK LUDO

We (me, my brother and my sister) also played for hours with our toy cars. Matchbox, Dinky and Corgi cars had lives of their own in our imaginations and were so real to us. We played mainly outside with them and when they became scruffy, or sometimes just because we fancied a change, we repainted them with Airfix model paint. 50’s and 60’s toy cars are collectors’ items now. Ours, if they were still around, would be worth nothing!

We also passed hours very happily playing imagination kids as children always have, on crafts, dolls and teddies, spotting things, collecting things riding our bikes and climbing trees. Some things don’t change but a lot has! As well as girls (my brother too) being taught to knit and sew, craft sets were very popular gifts. Boys were expected to be creative with Meccano and Airfix, girls were given cork work, embroidery, basket=weaving, raffia and embroidery sets.

One toy I absolutely loved for several years – yes, kids did make things last in those days! – was my David Nixon Magic Set. I must have driven everybody mad showing them the same tricks over and over again. For a while I really thought I would be a magician when I grew up.

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I haven’t covered everything but I hope I’ve brought back a few memories for all you kids of the 50’s and 60’s. If anyone is reading these posts!!