Easter – back in the day

Back in the 1950s and 60s, when I was a child and lived in the depths of rural mid-Wales, Easter was always such an exciting time for us. We had never heard of the Easter Bunny. Perhaps he couldn’t find his way into the heart of the countryside back then! The three of us always received one carefully chosen Easter egg each from our parents. There was a very small choice available in the 50s and they were much simpler than now but we loved to see whether we had a Cadbury’s, a Rowntree’s or a Fry’s. I’ve done a bit of research and discovered that it wasn’t until around the 1950s, when there were developments in production and packaging, that costs lowered and the masses could enjoy Easter eggs. Branded eggs, such as Buttons, first appeared in the 1960s and increased in the 1970s, with attractive, child-friendly packaging.

Easter egg production inside a Cadbury factory (Image: courtesy of Cadbury)

 Easter Egg Packing in March 1953
 Easter Egg Wrapping Bournville, BWM March 1953
Inside the Bournville factory 1953. Credit: Cadbury

But the excitement wasn’t just about chocolate and certainly not the unheard of Easter Bunny. It was a season I just loved so much. A combination of the sound of lambs bleating in all the fields, the sight of daffodils, catkins and Pussy Willow, the feeling of warmer, lengthening days giving us more playing out time, the thrill of something new to wear to church (or if not new, something we hadn’t worn since last summer). We were off school for the Easter holidays and we usually had the same family coming to stay with us who were from my mum’s old home town a couple of hours away. They were a joy to have visiting. The three of us got on well with their three boys and the parents were really lovely people.

In Sunday school the week before Easter we used to make miniature Easter gardens. We used moss for grass, built up small hills, laid out paths with small stones and made flowers, trees and three crosses on one of the hills. We were always so proud to see our little gardens on display at the back of the church on Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday being the end of Lent, I could eat biscuits again, my sister could eat sweets and my mum could have sugar in her tea.

Breakfast on Good Friday was always the traditional hot cross buns. Now you can buy them throughout the year but it was really exciting to have something special to eat on just one day of the year. Chocolate eggs can now be bought through most of the year too.

My mum picking daffodils in the garden Easter 1961. Photo taken by me age 10 with my first camera – a Kodak Brownie 127.

Easter Sunday breakfast was always boiled eggs which my mum used to paint faces on. One year she had made us all little hats for our boiled eggs as a surprise. Then we would walk to church together. In the usual way of childhood memories I can picture we three children, with the three visiting ones, playing out all day long in the woods and by streams and picking wild flowers. We lived in one of the wettest parts of Britain so the truth of it is that we probably had as many wet Easters as fine ones, if not more. But that’s not how I remember it .

Happy Easter to all my readers, regular and occasional. Or, in Welsh – Pasg Hapus.

Every effort is made to use images which do not offend or infringe copyright. If anyone objects to the use of any information or image in this blog please contact me so that I can remove it.

Tanning – and Burning.

We are all now fully aware of the potential hazards of exposure to the sun. Even here, in the relatively un-sunny climate of the British Isles, most of us know a few people who have had treatment for malignant moles or early signs of skin cancer.

Back in the 1950s, there was suntan lotion available but the emphasis was more on soothing burnt skin after the event. In our house this was done using calamine lotion.

Calamine Lotion for 27 and a half a pence old money | High school memories,  Calamine lotion, School memories
This one is post-decimalisation so 1970s – but it looked exactly the same in the 1950s when I was young.

Doing my research for this post, I have learned that the early creams were meant to reduce the burning whilst allowing you to acquire a ‘healthy tan’. We all now know that ‘healthy tan’ is a misnomer. These early creams and oils were designed to reduce burning from UVB light but didn’t filter out UVA light which gives you a tan but also causes cancer. These early potions were called suntan lotions/ creams because the aim was to help you get a tan. The term ‘sun protection’ was never heard as the wasn’t seen as something we needed protecting from.

The History of Sunscreen
The artist behind this iconic Coppertone suntan lotion ad died in 2006. Joyce Ballantyne Brand drew the image of a puppy tugging at the bathing suit of a little girl in 1959. Her daughter, Cheri Brand Irwin, was the model for this ad.

sunscreens
Ambre Solaire ~ Anonym

In the 1920s and 30s, the very rich and the aristocratic were flocking to the French Riviera whereas the normal working person was not legally entitled to paid holiday leave until 1939. Until the late 1960s, the sunny holiday abroad was still the preserve of the better off. So for many decades a tan had been seen as a sign of wealth. With the rise of the package holiday through the 1970s, more and more people were able to afford to take a holiday in the sun but it was a while longer before our ideas about tanning caught up.

All images gleaned from Google Images, Pinterest and Wikipedia. I make every effort to use only pictures which I believe I am at liberty to use. If anyone feels that I have inadvertently infringed copyright please contact me and I’ll remove the offending image. Thanks too, to Britain’s Science Museum for some interesting facts on the history of sun protection.

Thermos Flasks, Primus Stoves, Deck Chairs, Postcards and Scotch Eggs.

This post is about holidays and day trips and the things we did, ate and took with us then which are not heard of now. It was prompted by a thought about postcards. With so many other ways of communicating now, the humble postcard is a shadow of its former self. When I was a child we had a two week summer holiday every year. I have very clear memories of my mum writing loads of postcards. She would take her address book and her card list – I’m pretty sure it was the same list as for Christmas cards – and would spend ages working her way through the list of contacts. We children were encouraged to send postcards to school friends. Back at home, postcards would arrive all summer. Friends and neighbours who didn’t go away on a holiday (many were farmers and couldn’t leave the farm) would send one from a place visited for the day in the school holidays.
Postcards mostly fell into two main types – examples are shown here – the views and the humorous ones. Until I moved to Yorkshire I had no idea that the ubiquitous ‘saucy’ postcard, seen all over the UK, originated in the town of Holmfirth. I remember browsing through them in newsagent’s shops and the humour going right over my head!

pc-porthcawl50s     cleethorpes-winter-gardens-1950s-1-large

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A feature of holidays and day trips was the picnic. In the 1950s there were no cool boxes, cling film or plastic sandwich boxes. People in general didn’t have the spare cash for cafe stops and there were no fast food outlets apart from chip shops. When a family went out for the day they took a picnic which consisted of some or all of the following

Note – this is a very British list and will probably bear no relation to memories from other countries and continents.

sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper

hard boiled eggs

scotch eggs

tomatoes

cold sausages, sliced ham, pieces of pork pie

fruit

cakes or buns

tea

The last item is, of course, peculiarly British.  How could a family pass a whole day without tea? It was unthinkable! The only way to have tea to drink with your picnic was either

a. to take a Thermos flask

b. to take a camping stove (Primus) and kettle and brew up.

Plastic picnic ware was not around in the 50s. The standard unbreakable picnic mugs and plates were known simply as enamel and were metal (tin?) with a white enamel coating and a blue trim.
                        

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We had a gadget – pictured here – which made toasted sandwiches. Back then the ubiquitous toasties and panninis were not heard of. We made cheese on toast at home and that was the nearest. This tool, however, was brilliant for providing some warm food at a picnic on a cold day – a feature of British summers! You take a normal sandwich, place it in between two iron plates on the end of a pair of tongs, squeeze the plates together and hold over the flame of a Primus stove.  Result – one perfect toasted sandwich! These were the first toasties I ever ate.

              

There is now a vast array of lightweight foldable chairs and tables for outdoor eating.  They are easily stowed in the boot of a car. When I was a child there were deck chairs made of wood and canvas which were available to rent for the day on beaches or were kept at home for use in the garden.  What we all did then was to take ‘picnic blankets’.  Woollen and usually tartan, these would be spread on the grass or sand for everyone to sit on and eat their picnic.  If the picnic was by the sea or a river a towel was always there to dry any feet which went paddling. The picture shows a typical 50s towel. It’s only when you see one that you realise how even towel styles change with time.