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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Space, Weddings and Funerals – on TV.

Here in Britain, we have just had a royal wedding. I’m sure you all heard about it so I won’t say any more on the subject. I was away on holiday in another country when it was on but even so, my friends and I were able to watch it together.

50s tv set    60s tv set

The following memories are of my very early TV experiences and are more about the excitement of viewing a live occasion than about the events themselves.

alexandra's wedding

I have very clear memories of some big state occasions (weddings and funerals) in the early 60s. In 1960, Princess Margaret the Queen’s sister, married Anthony Armstrong Jones. We knew it was being televised. My mum and her friends and their children really wanted to watch it – but none of us had TVs. Then my mum’s friend Miriam, who lived on a farm in our village, said that her Aunty Gladys had a TV. Gladys lived in the tiny town (which seemed big to us!) five miles away. TV had reached there before it stretched out to the remote surrounding villages. Anyway, this dear old lady said we could all watch it at her house. We children were enthralled with being able to watch TV – the content was less important to us. The mums really enjoyed watching their first televised state occasion. There was, of course, tea, cakes and biscuits.

yuri

In April 1961 the world saw the first human being, Yuri Gagarin, launched into space. There were still no homes in my village with a TV but – amidst huge excitement – my primary school headteacher decided to buy a TV for school use and to buy it in time for the whole school (all 28 of us!) to watch the launch live. Space travel and live TV at the same time – we were SO amazed and I’ve never forgotten it.

kents wedding

Also in 1961 was the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. I remember it very clearly. We also watched this at Aunty Gladys’ house and I remember thinking Katherine, the Duchess of Kent, was absolutely beautiful.

alexandra's wedding

In 1963, Princess Alexandra married Angus Ogilvy and, once again, the mums and children of the village wanted to watch it. By this time we had a TV of our own. Some friends in the village didn’t have a TV yet and came to us to watch it.

churchill    ch fun

Similarly, in 1965, the country mourned the death of Winston Churchill. Friends came to watch it at our house. These occasions were daytime events and at that time there was hardly any daytime TV. When you watched anything during daylight hours the curtains were always closed. The image transmitted was so weak that in the light of day it was very hard to see.

50s and 60s Railways and Trains.

Is it just here in Britain or are people in other countries fondly nostalgic for the railways and steam trains of days gone by? I think it could be because there are no longer steam engines and also many of our lines closed in the 60s. We still have trains but our memories of earlier train travel are tied up with the smell of coal fires, the sound of the whistles, the style of the engines and the wonderfully warm and welcoming stations with cosy waiting rooms.

Whatever the reason, we do seem to look back on steam trains with a great deal of sentiment so I thought I’d tap into some of that today. If you lived through the era of steam trains you will understand what I’m saying!

Our village station had a full time station master who looked after the station with pride. There was a signal box on one side of the line full of coloured levers and switches and a station building on the other side housing a ticket office and a waiting room – even though this was a rural station serving a tiny village. There was always a coal fire burning in the waiting room in winter and it was a joy to be able to warm our hands and faces in front of it whilst waiting for the train.

The following photographs are a random selection of photographs gleaned from various sources. I do not have one of the village station from my childhood.  (If anyone thinks I have infringed copyright, let me know and I will take the offending photograph out). They are meant to give readers over a certain age a trip back through time to when: trains chugged and whistled, engines emitted clouds of white steam, carriages were divided into compartments with plush covered bench seats in each compartment facing each other (modern train interiors are more like buses), there was an all-pervading smell of coal smoke and there wasn’t a Greggs and a W H Smith at every station.

liverpool(hcc10.1959)central_old11

 

N_Street

 

llanfyrnach(harden_c1950s)old1

2a7f7c8f9f0b7a1ec0406e4e2a41014c

 

ffcc024ba6f45f056636f4d9ee4717c6.jpg

The-W.H.-Smith-bookstall-at-Victoria-Railway-Station-London-January-1924-1280x993

Powys-20150629-05414.jpg Our signal box was like this one.

 

maps

This is partly why we in Britain are sentimental about railways. The two maps show how drastically the number of railway lines was cut in the 1960s.

Advent Calendars

I was shopping the other day and I noticed a bewildering array of Advent calendars each one containing twenty-four treats. I thought I’d do a short post on how I’ve seen Advent calendars changing.

When I was a young child, back in the 1950s, we had an Advent calendar. We had the same one for years. It had windows with what we thought were delightful little pictures behind the little card doors. The biggest one, right in the centre, had a picture of baby Jesus in the manger and I remember the picture being coloured in a lovely yellowy glow. We knew what was coming on Christmas Eve when we opened that double door (the other days had single door flaps) but we never, ever peeped during the preceding days. Our calendar was about A4 size and was a picture of a church window. I remember a grey stone colour and other colours for the stained glass window. I have found some photos of the sort of calendar we had – which was the only kind around at that time. We loved it and getting it out on the first day of December was SO exciting!

3d42e9100edd5dea54ca872bf7bfe755     87a85d632fc7cf1e6826ee99b0e30a9e   3694627451cca3dec9b74142f0109567--forest-animals-advent-calendars      a46c4210c8b39cf6acf16153209efa2d--seven-dwarfs-christmas-pics

An assortment of 1950s Advent calendars which resemble our well-loved one at home.  

When my children were young, in the 1980s, I also had an Advent calendar for them which we got out each year. At some point in the 70s or 80s somebody had the idea of selling calendars with chocolates in which seemed all wrong to me at the time. It meant the anticipation felt by children in December became focused on the next day’s chocolate. Anyway, that’s just my personal feeling, many of you will disagree!

    616gbevbGpL._SY300_

The now standard chocolate Advent calendar.

 

What I wanted to cover in this post was the evolution of Advent calendars from simple card ones with pictures, to the chocolate ones, the ones with toys,  hand-made ones where parents put their own surprises in the pockets, through to calendars made for adults and containing beer, wine, toiletries, spirits, expensive food items etc etc. There are even Advent calendars for pets.

downloadimages (1)

Quality chocolates                    Tea

images (3)  Lego

images (2)      Toiletries     MAIN-MAIN-advent

An assortment of what’s on sale this year

That+Boutique-y+Whisky+Company's+Advent+Calendar+(2017+Edition)

Whisky

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aee45509df8a394a5be9b3c3db7a8dd3--dog-advent-calendar-advent-calendars

Advent calendars for dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils and rabbits

 

How we Learned in 50s and 60s Classrooms.

In my primary school I remember that a lot of lessons involved learning things by rote or ‘off by heart’ as we called it. The multiplication tables were recited by the whole class in unison first thing every morning – after the Lord’s Prayer and the alphabet. Then we recited other tables such as measurement – “Twelve Inches to One Foot, Three Feet to a Yard, 220 yards one-eighth of a mile, 440 yards one-quarter of a mile . . . ” and so on. The same was done for capacity, money, area and weight.

3a6d809a6fd43d0055bffcb67e5c83db--exercise-book-stuck

All our exercise books had these charts on the back.

Our exercise books had all the charts printed on the back for handy reference although the rote learning ensured we didn’t need to fall back on that often!I certainly never forgot them! I also remember learning poems off by heart. I can still recite Cargoes by John Masefield.

poetry-analysis-cargoes-by-john-masefield_1

Cargoes by John Masefield

The sad thing is that nobody talked to us about the meanings of the poems. I had no idea what half the words meant in Cargoes, which is a shame as it’s a beautiful poem.

Primary school education was very ‘British’ – and in my case, Welsh. We didn’t have separate subjects called History, Geography Science etc. The history I learned was about the lives of British heroes – Scott of the Antarctic, Nelson and, of course, Saint David. We learned songs like Hearts of Oak, Over the Sea to Skye  (which I can still play from memory on the recorder) and many traditional Welsh ones.

s-l225               the-national-song-book

A wooden school recorder.            The book which every school used.

Science consisted of nature rambles when it was fine in summer. We never had PE but I think that was our Head’s choice and lack of fondness for activity rather than the norm for the times.

In secondary school our learning was still largely based on memorising facts and writing down dictated notes in our exercise books. Individual research was non-existent.

In maths two pieces of equipment come to mind which are probably now obsolete – correct me if I’m wrong! One was the slide rule which was an ingenious way of doing difficult calculations using a calibrated ruler with sliding parts. The other one was the book of log tables. We all had them. They are a very simple way of working out very large multiplications such as four digit numbers X four digit numbers. Log tables do a lot more complex maths than that but I’m talking about how we used them in school. Calculators and computers have probably done away with the need for these but professional mathematicians might tell me different.

log-tables     Logarithmorum_Chilias_Prima_page_0-67

A 20thC log table book.                         A page from an early log table                                                                                                             book.

Briggs_-_Canon_logarithmorum_pro_numeris_serie_naturali_crescentibus_ab_1._ad_20000.,_s.d._-_72507            250px-Slide_rule_cursor

Cover of a 17th C log table book.                     A slide rule.

220px-John_Napier           Oughtred

John Napier.                                                 William Oughtred.

Both the slide rule and the log tables were invented in the 17th Century, log tables by John Napier and the slide rule shortly afterwards by William Oughtred.

 

Letter Writing

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who has ever read this blog:  regular followers, fellow bloggers and occasional visitors. Today my total number of views, across 70 countries in the world, has just topped 10,000 which makes me very happy! This is small fry compared with some of the established bloggers out there but I’m just someone who likes writing and  has some memories I enjoy sharing.

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I have always loved writing letters. I love receiving them too. Letter writing is now more or less disappearing. How often do we get mail arriving with a handwritten envelope unless it’s a birthday or Christmas? Of course, we can still enjoy communicating with people. I still take pleasure in sending and receiving emails and text messages to all my contacts. A new personal email showing up in my Inbox is almost as exciting as hearing an expected letter drop through the letter-box. Almost – but not quite.

These are some of the things I enjoyed about sending and receiving letters.

First of all it was the very fact that you were communicating on a personal level with someone you cared about who was not living nearby. When I was a teenager I had pen friends, arranged by my school,  in other countries. I also exchanged letters with grandparents. My paternal grandfather and I used to write letters in Welsh to each other. Welsh was my second language and his first language and I used to like improving my written Welsh by writing to him. He had always loved writing letters too. I have an old leather writing case which was his when he was alive. I also have my red leather writing case which my parents bought me one Christmas. I adored it! I exchanged letters with a few school friends who had moved away and with a very close friend who went away to boarding school. We are still good friends and I’m sure our term-time letter writing ensured that our primary school friendship survived our teenage years in separate schools.

Secondly, I took great pleasure in the materials involved. I loved my fountain pen and was particular about the make and shade of ink I bought – when I was a teenager I preferred Parker’s Quink in blue and as I grew older I favoured blue-black.

7585fe8be3c996904af9d01ce1896d73--school-memories-school-days                        5z17pltaermizo

The paper was just as important. I absolutely loved spending some pocket money on a new writing pad and matching envelopes. I could never afford the very best but I didn’t like buying cheap and flimsy either.

images            leather-writing-case

As I had pen-friends (two in America and one in France) I also had to buy the extra-lightweight airmail paper and the envelopes with the red and blue stripes around the edge.

Two more things which have changed. When we addressed envelopes then we wrote the name and address on a slant like this

 

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and then at some point it became

 

KraftEnvelope_sm

We didn’t have any postcodes when I was a child. Although there had been some postcodes in existence before, the codes as we know them were introduced in 1967 and released in stages until 1974. It was some time before they were used as automatically as we use them now.

 

 

 

Disclaimer: As always, photos are mostly courtesy of Google Images. If anyone objects to my use of a particular photo or believes it infringes copyright, please contact me and I will remove it.

 

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!

                                         

Good Old-Fashioned Soap and Water.

Soap is an essential item in everyday life but we don’t often look closely at its story. It has been around for thousands of years having first been used by the Babylonians and Sumerians. Soap has been important to us for many hundreds of years but not for cleanliness and hygiene; it was an essential part of the textile making process and was used to remove grease from wool and cloth ready for dyeing. By Victorian times, there was an increased awareness of the role of soap in the prevention of disease. Working class families used bars of carbolic soap for washing floors, clothes and bodies. In the late 1800s, branded soaps were arriving on the scene.

93c73029-4b12-4f70-82ff-313c5117b7f4              Unbranded carbolic soap.

soap_lifebuoy_85g             Lifebuoy soap.

 

Lifebuoy soap was one of the first, invented in 1894. By the 1930s it was sold in two sizes – the larger bar was known as Household Lifebuoy and was for cleaning homes and clothes. The smaller bar was for personal use.

By the 1950s, when I was a child, soap powder was available so clothes were no longer washed with bars of soap. My mum favoured Daz. There were milder, sweeter smelling toilet soaps available which were advertised as being good for the complexion.  Compared to using carbolic soap on the face, Palmolive, Camay or Pears must have felt luxurious. The ads would have had us believe that in order to achieve a perfect complexion all that was needed was the right soap! We always had Lux in our house.

Soap-Ad-1953         I still love the smell  of Pears soap.

Soap-Ad-1950

This is quite a claim!

 

e2d6b7ccb2d10919b426f530afa99361            soap          128a791b4706689570bb1db48ab3fc43

It all seemed to be about looking like a movie star and pleasing your man.

camay            l-nwgpwyqur95b7y        lux

There is now a bewildering amount of skincare products available. There are cleansers, toners, serums, night creams, rejuvenating creams, etc etc. The adverts still lead us to believe in the amazing properties of these products – but advertising laws are stricter now and the cosmetics companies can no longer make the claims that were made in the 50s and 60s.

f7f47eca698ffe5b31366f47db34264b      IMG_6033  silverberg-store-picture

Since this post has turned into a potted history of soap, I’m including a few advertisements from before the 1950s to entertain you.

Soap-Ad-1911           1911 – the earliest days of motoring.

Soap-Ad-1931       1931

Soap-Ad-1933     1933

 

The Dawn of the Packet Mix.

Another food post! This time I am looking at the instant food mixes which arrived during my childhood and were extensively advertised on TV and in women’s magazines. Preparing food for a family in the 1950s and 60s was hard work and totally dependent on what was available in the current season. Households in Britain at that time didn’t have freezers and many didn’t even have a fridge. Everything was made from scratch and there were no food processors or electric beaters either.The idea that one could produce a tasty dessert by adding milk to a powder and whisking must have seemed like magic. There were the cake mixes – one of our main brands was Green’s. They advertised that all you needed to add was an egg. I believe I have read somewhere ages ago that the manufacturers felt that if egg powder was in the mix so that you only needed to add water, the maker would not have felt as if she (well, it was always a woman!) was doing proper cooking. Adding an egg made it feel more like she was producing a home-made cake.

 

lemon meringuecake mix

I believe you made your own pastry base and meringue topping and the mix was for the lemon filling. The cake mix was usually Green’s. I think this photograph is 1970s.

trifle                 carmelle

The trifle mix contained a few different sponge fingers and dry sachets for making jelly, custard and the fake cream topping. Sprinkles might also have been included. I think you provided your own fruit (tinned). The Carmelle pudding was an instant way of creating a creme brulee style dessert just by heating some milk and opening two sachets.

dream topping     instant whip           ww240569angeldelight.jpeg

Dream Topping gave you a whipped cream topping in an era when you didn’t often have fresh cream available- and in those pre-fridge days it was considered a step up from tinned cream! Before Instant Whip and Angel Delight there was only blancmange which was made by heating milk with cornflour, sugar and colouring. The thickened mix was poured into a mould, allowed to cool then turned out and eaten with fruit and jelly. Instant Whip and Angel Delight, on the other hand, only had to be whisked with cold milk eaten. Also, they were crammed full of chemicals to make them set and to make them taste extra sweet and fruity – so kids loved them.

 

smash    vesta        surprise peas

In the 1960’s instant mashed potato arrived on the scene. We Brits do like our mash and this saves all the peeling, boiling and mashing. Next came Vesta. In the 1960s we were beginning to be aware of food from other countries but few people had access to the real thing. It was the height of cool to be able to serve a curry in your own home! Surprise Peas were amazing at the time. Until the freeze-drying method of preserving peas was invented, the only way of eating fresh garden peas was in the pea growing season. The rest of the year the choice was either tinned peas or dried peas (soaked overnight and when cooked turned into what we know as ‘mushy peas’). Surprise Peas, when added to boiling water and cooked for a few minutes actually tasted exactly like real, fresh peas. Once domestic freezers became a common household object, these peas were superseded by frozen peas and are no longer available here.

The things to remember about the popularity of these early convenience foods are that

  • Preparing and cooking food was a time-consuming business in the 1950s
  • Ingredients were limited to what was available seasonally and grown in this country
  • TV advertising had just burst onto the scene and made these things look sophisticated, trendy and modern so people wanted to try them

Now many people look down on instant food but then it was novel and the height of cool. I remember my mum trying some of them out (probably when we children clamoured for them after seeing the ads!) but she always said that for a family of five on a tight budget things like Smash, Vesta and cake mixes were totally impractical as the portions were small and it worked out more costly than making the food yourself.