The ‘Big Freeze’ of 62/ 63

Exactly 60 years ago through from December 1962, into January, February and early March 1963 Britain was in the grip of a record-breaking winter now known as The Big Freeze. It had started in the middle of December and by the end of December was firmly established.

On 29 and 30 December 1962 a blizzard swept across South West England and Wales. Snow drifted to more than 20 feet (6.1 m) deep in places, driven by gale force easterly winds, blocking roads and railways. The snow stranded villagers and brought down power lines. The near-freezing temperatures meant that the snow cover lasted for more than two months in some areas. By the end of the month, there were snow drifts 8 feet (2.4 m) deep in Kent and 15 feet (4.6 m) deep in the west.

The village we lived in is tiny, remote and the roads are single track with high banks and hedges on either side. Whereas the snow ploughs could do some clearing on main roads between small town and villages in the area, nothing could get up the little roads in the villages themselves.

I recently found and old diary of mine from 1963. I’ve always loved writing so the new diary I had been bought for Christmas was used to record the details of my day to day life. Most of it is pretty boring stuff, especially the descriptions of what I had eaten. However, the first six weeks are fascinating as it’s a first hand account of life through the Big Freeze. I remember it really well but what I hadn’t realised until finding the diary was that I didn’t do a full week at school for six weeks! At times, when there had been no new snowfalls, the roads were clear and we could get about again. Then it would snow again.

I was twelve years old and had started in the ‘big school’ the previous September. My new school was five miles from our village and a local coach company used to bus the country kids into the town. What with snowdrifts blocking roads overnight and frozen and burst pipes in school, I was at home more than I was in school until the middle of February. On days when I couldn’t get to my school I had to go back to my old village school with my brother and sister. I wasn’t happy about that!

For nearly three months daily temperatures were around five degrees lower than the seasonal average. Pipes froze. Even the coal in the ground froze. And that meant heating homes became almost impossible. It was the middle of March before the snow on the ground eventually thawed, even though life had been more or less back to normal for a few weeks.

Thousands of animals perished in the cold temperatures Credit: ITV News Wales

A motorist negotiates a tricky icy bend on the road between Denbigh and Pentrefoelas, North Wales. Credit: North Wales Live.

As we know, all children love snow. They also enjoy the unexpected day off school. But by the end of January I was writing in my diary ‘I hope we don’t get any more snow, I’m sick of it.’

A diary entry which made me smile was the one where I wrote that my dad had made us snow shoes out of wire netting! That was typical of my dad. If something was needed he would have a go at making it. Our sledge was made by him and it was beautiful. He loved working with wood and took a pride in a good finish. We three children made really good use of the sledge during the Big Freeze!

The sledge was the same design as this one and my dad attached thin metal to the bottom of the runners for protection and speed.

Credit to Google, Google Images and Wikipedia.

As always I make every effort not to infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to my use of any imafe, please contact me and it will be removed.

Happy St David’s Day or Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus

Happy Saint David’s Day on this cold, rainy March 1st! I’ve posted about St David’s Day before so I’ll keep it fairly short. I have worn a daffodil on March 1st all my life and I have worn one proudly today. Here are some of my memories of St David’s Day when I was a child in the 50s and 60s.

There was always a St David’s Day eisteddfod (a Welsh word for a concert with instrumental music, drama, poetry and lots of singing) in our school to celebrate St David’s Day. Pupils would have been practising their performances for weeks. I was terribly shy and lacking in confidence and one year I had been put down on the list to play the piano by a prefect who somehow new that I was having piano lessons. I was terrified but, for some reason, didn’t want to admit to my parents just how much I didn’t want to do it. On the morning of the eisteddfod I feigned illness and my poor believing mum phoned the school to say that I had a terrible sore throat and headache and couldn’t go attend that day. I told my mum and dad later and, of course, they said that if I’d spoken to them about my fears they would have helped to sort it out.

Everyone would be wearing a daffodil on the day or, if the daffs were late, a leek. Imagine the smell in the school hall during the eisteddfod!! I remember that a lot of the boys in school actually preferred wearing a leek to a daffodil and would nibble at them throughout the day.

I have shown this one before . It’s my mum picking daffodils in our garden in the early 1960s.

In our village there was always a St David’s Day party in the village school, which was also used as a village hall. It was on the nearest Saturday to March 1st and consisted of a supper, party games for the children then recitals. People would just go forward in turn, not to a timetable, and either sing, recite a poem or play a musical instrument. The evening finished with everyone singing together and we would go from one song to another.

The standard hot meal on St David’s day is the traditional lamb and root vegetable stew called cawl – pronounced to rhyme with owl. A favourite sweet treat in Wales all the year round, but particularly on St David’s Day, is the Welsh cake. These are similar to scones but thinner and flatter, lightly spiced, containing dried fruit and cooked on a bakestone or griddle pan.

Credit to Google, Google Images and Wikipedia.

As always I make every effort not to infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to my use of any imafe, please contact me and it will be removed.

D

Words we don’t hear now.

I have been remiss recently in my blog writing. I have several saved draft posts which I have started and then decided maybe weren’t that good. I began to fear I was running out of ideas. However, this morning I heard the word blancmange on the radio and it sparked something in me! I have done similar posts before so I hope I’m not repeating myself too much.

Blancmange was so common when I was a child! Birthday parties were not complete without jelly and blangmange. For those younger than me who aren’t familiar with the word it was a dessert made from cornflour, milk, sugar, colouring and flavouring. It set like jelly and was most often made from a packet mix in the 50s. We pronounced it ‘blummonge’. Back in the 1950s here in Britain, nobody had freezers so ice cream was not something that was found in the home. Many homes in the early fifties didn’t even have fridges so fresh cream was uncommon. Instead we had jelly, blancmange, custard, or tinned cream – as well as cooked puddings, of course.

My mum had a rabbit mould just like this and for our parties she used to make a brown (chocolate flavoured blancmange) rabbit and put chopped up green jelly around it to look like grass. We thought it was amazing!

A few other food words we don’t hear these days. We didn’t have meatballs or burgers we had rissoles and faggots. When researching these two meat items I read that they were particularly popular in South and Mid-Wales which is why I remember them so well. Rissoles were made of minced meat, breadcrumbs and seasoning and were served hot, whereas faggots were made using meat mixed with offal and were often eaten cold. I hated them! We had a wide range of milk puddings. Most people know of rice pudding but we also had milk puddings made of semolina, ground rice, tapioca and even macaroni!

Macaroni pudding was regularly served up in my school.

Some older people still use this word. Nowadays we call it a radio, back then it always known as ‘the wireless”. Now wireless has a totally different meaning.

In clothing we have lost the words petticoat, bloomers and drawers (usually used to describe old ladies’ long legged knickers), the much disliked liberty bodice, and nylons. My mum wore petticoats all her life and would have felt undressed without one on. They are not worn as much now at all and are more usually called slips or underskirts. Even the word mac is heard less often now.

Many people of my age remember having to wear these in winter. They were worn under the clothes and on top of a vest and most children hated them!

In winter we had warm brushed cotton fabrics which were used for nightwear, bedlinen and even shirts, blouses (another word which has nearly disappeared!) and dresses. I loved the feeling of getting into warm flannelette sheets on a cold night. We also used the term Winceyette which was a type of flannelette.

Cars are very different now although a lot of the terminology remains the same. However, the ‘choke’ was a very important feature on the dashboard and correct use of it was crucial to starting your car. Too little and the car wouldn’t start, too much and you risked flooding the engine.

Plasticine was the only sort of modelling clay we had as children. It still exists, I’ve found out, but has now been largely replaced by a wide range of modelling materials for children including the most well known – Play Doh. Plasticine had a very distinctive smell which came back to me vividly as I started writing this paragraph.

Plasticine was a brand name but is now used as a general term for modelling clay. As children we always just called it clay.

As always, credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. I take care to ensure I don’t infringe copyright when selecting pictures. However, if anyone objects to the use of any image in this post please contact me and I will remove it.

Water

Yes, this post is about drinking water – or rather, not drinking it.

Now.

Nowadays, we are all aware of the need to stay hydrated and the health hazards hidden in sweetened, flavoured soft drinks. We are now used to seeing people walking around holding bottles of water. It was not always so. My parents and grandparents would be surprised and probably horrified at the way bottled water is sold absolutely everywhere now.

Then.

When I was a child I don’t remember drinking much water at all, or seeing adults drinking it. If you asked for a drink of plain tap water in a café or restaurant you would be refused. It is now against the law for premises serving alcohol to refuse a customer tap water. I have never been refused plain water in any café, pub, bar or restaurant in many years now.

In the 60s and 70s, once people started travelling further afield, we saw bottled water on sale in shops on holiday abroad. We always assumed it was because their tap water wasn’t safe to drink. Ours in Britain was then, and is now, perfectly safe but buying bottled water here is now the norm.

As children in the 1950s we drank milk, squash or tea. Yes, we were all started quite early on with weak milky tea – usually with sugar in it. My sister is three years younger than me and I can remember drinking the National Health orange juice which was available for pregnant mothers and children aged one to five. It was meant for my sister at the time I remember but my brother and I used to be given the occasional drink of it. It was delicious! Very, very different from the standard orange squash. I’ve researched it for this post and it had an extremely large content of real orange juice – and sugar – and the instructions were that it be served diluted – and sweetened if necessary! It was issued by the government because many people in post-war Britain were deficient in essential nutrients.

I have done some research into this Welfare orange juice and the main purpose of giving it free to babies and infants up to the age of 5 was to add more Vitamin C to their diet. The 50s were the post war period and rationing was still in place so it was a generous gesture.
For anyone interested, here is a link to an article recounting the history of Welfare Orange juice and the colonialism issues which arose from its production. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-british-studies/article/one-british-thing-a-bottle-of-welfare-orange-juice-c-19611971/7A3A07A71E9CFEA0214EC22984C486A7#

My mum was very fussy about our teeth so we were rarely allowed ‘pop’ as it was known and she limited our consumption of sweets. Through lack of knowledge and information at the time she was unaware that the squash we drank, and the National Health juice, were just as sugary. Thankfully, my teeth are still in good order.

This is a brand I remember well. The ad gives no clue as to the ingredients, apart from implying it’s full of real orange juice. The label on the bottle would have been the same. We had no idea in the 1950s that these drinks were full of colourings, flavourings and SUGAR. Now labels and adverts have to be a bit more honest!

Water in the classroom.

The importance of keeping children hydrated for their health and concentration is now well known. The introduction of ‘water in the classroom’ was something I was involved with in the 90s. Some staff in schools were very against it then. Now we can’t imagine things being any other way.

The standard issue school water bottle nowadays.

Credit to Wikipedia, Google and Google Images. If anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and it will be removed.

Primary School Learning in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The school I attended from four years old until eleven was a very small primary school in a remote rural village. The year I left to go to the high school there were 28 pupils in the school which gives you an idea how small it was. Because it was such a rural area, some of the children from outlying farms came from a mile or two away. I was mostly happy in school, I liked the teachers and I worked hard. Many years later, in my early forties I trained for a second career as a primary school teacher. The differences between learning in the 1950s and decades later when I was teaching are many! I thought I’d look at some of the subjects, how they were taught and what we learned. I’m not criticising my teachers. That was just the way it was then and we were not at all disadvantaged by the education we received.

History

I have no memory of finding out about any world history in primary school. As a teacher I loved teaching children about Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, The Vikings, World War II and so on. Our history in the 1950s was very Britain centred and consisted of learning about famous people and heroes like Scott of the Antarctic, Florence Nightingale, Nelson etc. There were no opportunities for finding things out for ourselves by looking in history books or encyclopedias. We were told their stories and we copied out passages from text books.

BBC - History - Scott of the Antarctic
Florence Nightingale - Wikipedia
Scott of the Antarctic and Florence Nightingale. Two of the historical figures I remember from primary school lessons.

Maths

I didn’t come across geometry or algebra until high school. Our maths from four to eleven was strictly arithmetic. Times tables were learned off by heart. This was done by the whole class reciting them together first thing every morning. Other tables which were recited were the weights and measures ones such as ‘Twelve inches to a foot, three feet to a yard, one thousand seven hundred and sixty yards to a mile, eight eighty yards to half a mile, four forty yards to a quarter of a mile . . .’ and so on. This was repeated for weight and time. In our final year we had to sit a test called the ‘Eleven-Plus’ to decide on where you went for your secondary education. The maths we did was all geared towards this test. We had to solve written problems, work out fractions and percentages and even learn how to calculate simple and compound interest.

Exercise book
All our school exercise books had these tables on the back cover.

English

My main memories of this subject are of handwriting practice, comprehension exercises, spelling tests, writing ‘compositions’ (stories, we’d say now) and learning very serious, old-fashioned poems off by heart then reciting them. In readiness for the eleven plus we also had to learn proverbs off by heart. ‘All that glitters is not gold’, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’, etc. were learned and we were tested on them.

Music

Like our history lessons, the music we did in school was very traditional and serious. We learned to play the recorder which I loved. The songs we learned and sang – or played on the recorder – were hymns, in both Welsh and English, and songs like ‘Over the Sea to Skye’ and ‘Hearts of Oak’.

Vintage Recorders for sale | eBay
My recorder was exactly like this one. My granddaughter now has it.

Science

The only science-related activity I can recall doing is when, on a fine day in spring and summer, the teachers would sometimes take us all out for what they called a ‘nature ramble’. They pointed out various flowers, trees and birds and we picked flowers and leaves to take back to school. But I mainly remember how lovely it was to be out of school, enjoying the weather and walking along the lanes around the village. There was hardly any traffic around so road safety wasn’t an issue.

Art and Craft

We did sometimes have art sessions but the only medium I remember using was powder paints. I don’t recall any lessons on colour mixing or technique but the painting was fun. I learned about colours at home from those lovely tins of water colours we used to have back then with the names of the colours written under every little square of paint. I loved the wonderful names they had like ultramarine and burnt umber. Oh, the joy of getting a brand new paint tin for Christmas! I also enjoyed the knitting and embroidery lessons in school.

Vintage Paint Set Divers Design 1960s Children's Paint image 5
I never see paint boxes for children now with the names of the colours written under each block – and I have looked!

P.E.

We very rarely did PE although there in a storage area there were a few boxes of coloured bean bags, balls and quoits. We used to look at them longingly! A few years into my time at the school we acquired a new school radio. Once a week one of our two teachers would tune into a BBC programme called Music and Movement. For fifteen minutes we would follow the instructions on the radio and move around the classroom in different ways. Sometimes we were asked to imagine we were different creatures or to stand still and look like a tree. We absolutely loved it!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg
How we would have looked when listening to the BBC’s Music and Movement programme on the school radio.

R.E.

Religious Education consisted of singing hymns first thing in the morning while a teacher played the piano and saying prayers . Being a Welsh school we also learned the story of our patron saint, St David. We all went to church and Sunday School and learned more about the stories in the Bible there. We were completely unaware of any of the other faiths in the world such as Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism etc.

Saint David Biography - Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline
St David, the patron Saint of Wales.

As always, credit to Wikipedia and Google Images. I make every effort to ensure that I do not infringe copyright but if anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.

Space

Those of us who were children in the 50s and 60s were witnesses to the dawn of space travel. I remember hearing about the Sputniks and being excited by the thought of anything travelling into space. When they launched Sputnik 2 in 1957 I was haunted by the thought of the poor little dog Laika being sent up there and not coming back alive.

In 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel into space, my school acquired its first ever television set specifically so that we could watch the lift-off live as a whole school – all 28 of us and two teachers! This was incredibly exciting.

The launching of a man into space was exciting in itself but this was at a time when many families, especially in remote countryside locations like ours, didn’t yet have a TV set in the home. We all know that next came the Explorer, Apollo and Shuttle programmes. Space systems continue to become more and advanced and now space travel itself doesn’t often make headlines but many facets of our lives, are influenced and even sometimes controlled from space. Just think of our SatNavs and Sky dishes!

Although space travel didn’t begin until the 1950s, people have always been fascinated by space and the possibility of extra-terrestrial beings. Here is a brief summary of some of the science fiction which predated real space travel.

The First Men in the Moon is a scientific romance by the English author H G Wells, originally serialised in The Strand. His work The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel. Its first appearance in hardcover was in 1898. and it is one of the earliest stories to detail a conflict between mankind and an extra-terrestrial race.

H.G. Wells - Books, Time Machine & War of the Worlds - Biography
The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells

 Mr Skygack, from Mars is considered the first science fiction comic to feature an extra-terrestrial character in the history of comics. It ran from 1907 to 1911.

In 1942, Isaac Asimov published the first of his Foundation stories—later collected in the Foundation Trilogy in the 1950s. The books recount the fall of a vast interstellar empire and the establishment of its eventual successor. 

Image 1 - isaac asimov foundation series 6 books collection set - (foundation,foundation a

Arthur C. Clarke was a lifelong proponent of space travel and in 1934, while still a teenager, he joined the British Interplanetary Society. When originally formed in January 1933, the British Interplanetary Society aimed not only to promote and raise the public profile of astronautics, but also to undertake practical experimentation into rocketry.

In 1948, he wrote The Sentinel for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected, it changed the course of Clarke’s career. Not only was it the basis for 2001: A Space Odyssey but “The Sentinel” also introduced a more cosmic element to Clarke’s work. 

Dan Dare was a British science fiction comic book hero (1950 – 1967), created by Frank Hampson who also wrote the first stories. They were set in the late 1990s, but the dialogue and manner of the characters were reminiscent of British war films of the 1950s.

Eagle cover 1989.jpg

Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images, NASA, ESA, BIS. As always, I have endeavored to ensure that I have not infringed copyright through the images I have used. If, however, anyone objects to the use of a particular image please contact me and I will remove it.

First Aid – as it used to be.

I was remembering recently a day when I fell in the playground at school and took a lump out of my knee. I still have the scar. I was taken in to school and a teacher put iodine on the wound (which stung SO much!), pressed a lump of cotton wool onto it and tied a bandage around my knee. I’m pretty sure those three things were the main, if not only, components of the school’s First Aid resources. Here are a couple of examples of First Aid kits from the 50s/ 60s. There was a heavy reliance on cotton wool, bandages and lint – to be used with iodine, no doubt.

Vintage First aid kit and original contents 1950s Wallace image 8
Vintage First aid kit and original contents 1950s Wallace image 0

Another First Aid incident I recall from Primary School is my friend having a nosebleed and the headmaster putting his big bunch of school keys down her back. After recalling this I, of course, felt compelled to look it up. Keys down the back for nosebleeds is very well documented! Although it has never been scientifically tested, some experts believe that there could be some foundation to this old wives’ tale as the cold keys possibly trigger something called the mammalian diving reflex. I do learn some interesting stuff when researching for this blog.

24th February 2005. What Happened to Milk of Magnesia? | A Date with History

Some of the things I remember my mum having in the bathroom cupboard are: TCP for cuts and grazes (NOT iodine!), calamine lotion for rashes and sunburn , Gentian Violet for mouth ulcers, Milk of Magnesia for indigestion, Marzines for travel sickness, Hactos for coughs, olive oil (small bottle bought in the chemist’s, definitely never for cooking then) for earache and aspirin for aches and pains. The same things were probably in all homes. There were fewer brands to choose from. It’s pretty basic compared with what we have available now but definitely not as primitive as the vinegar and brown paper we know of from the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill. Once again, I felt impelled to look this up. I already knew that vinegar has been used as a disinfectant/ antiseptic for thousands of years but I was surprised to find a lot of evidence of vinegar and brown paper being used together on cuts, bruises, sprains and even nosebleeds. Here is a quote from one of Charles Dickens’ books:

In Nicholas Nickleby,  Dickens describes Squeers recovering from heavy bruising which required “Vinegar and brown paper, vinegar and brown paper, from morning to night. I suppose there was a matter of half a ream of brown paper stuck upon me from first to last.”

Pray For Lilly: With vinegar and brown paper ...

As always, credit to Google Images and Wikipedia. I make every effort to set my search filters so that I don’t infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to the use of any image in this post, please contact me and I will remove it.

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.

Happy New Year!

Image result for 1950s Happy New Year card uk "

 

On New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d take a brief trip back to the New Year’s Eves of my childhood. As regular readers know, I grew up in a tiny village in a very quiet part of rural mid-Wales. There were around 28 children in our village school aged 4 to 11. Some, like me, lived within walking distance of the school, others had a walk of half to three-quarters of a mile and many of them lived on outlying hill farms and were brought in by cars on regular hire through the education authority from the garage in out nearest town.

Our school was also used as a village hall and on New Year’s Eve there was always a big village party held there. It started in the afternoon with a tea party and games for the children. The women of the village made and served sandwiches and cakes, jugs of squash and enormous pots of tea. Whole families attended. After the tea, seats were placed in a circle at one end of the main room and the games began. The main ones I remember are spin the plate and musical chairs. There were songs and recitations from the children brave enough to stand up and perform – not me! There would be older children there as well who were now at the ‘big school’ in the town and who always seemed frightfully grown up and sophisticated to me.

As afternoon turned into evening, the party morphed (even though there was no such word then!) into an adults evening and younger children would be taken home and put to bed. Slightly older children would stay longer. The evening took the form of a concert. It was informally arranged, with people just stepping forward to sing, recite, play the piano etc. I remember first being old enough to stay for some of it then, eventually to stay to the end. One local farmer had a beautiful tenor voice and always sang ‘Jerusalem’. I think he sang other songs too but the one he was known for was that one – and he sang it beautifully. Tea was served all evening and the night would finish with everyone in a circle linking arms and singing Auld Lang Syne. It was so exciting when you were twelve or thirteen and considered old enough to stay to the end and see the new year in!

 

Happy New Year to all my readers and followers and thank you for continuing to read my blog and to comment.

Notable Firsts in the 1950s and 60s

All decades see changes, inventions, introductions and significant firsts. This post explores some of the things which were new, exciting or important during the 50s and 60s when I was growing up.

The 1950s

Recently, I heard the name Roger Bannister referred to and it brought back a memory from the 1950s of the much-talked-about 4-minute mile.

Image result for roger bannister

More than 60 years ago, back on a cinder track at Oxford University’s Iffley Road Stadium in 1954, Bannister completed four laps in 3:59.4, a record-breaking performance that many believed was not humanly possible. The image of the exhausted Bannister with his eyes closed and mouth agape appeared on the front page of newspapers around the world, a testament to what humankind could achieve.

Researching for this post, I realised that I couldn’t possibly remember the actual event as I was not even three years old. This quote from Bannister himself explains just why ‘the four-minute mile’ was such a well known expression when I was a child.

“It became a symbol of attempting a challenge in the physical world of something hitherto thought impossible,” Bannister said as the 50th anniversary of the run approached, according to the AP. “I’d like to see it as a metaphor not only for sport, but for life and seeking challenges.”

Laika was a Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth. A stray mongrel from the streets of Moscow, she was selected to be the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 which was launched into outer space on 3 November 1957. This really used to upset me whenever I heard about it on the news or heard adults talking about it. The thought of a tiny helpless dog being sent up into space seemed so unkind to me. I still don’t like to think about it.

After a week in orbit she was fed poisoned food, “in order to keep her from suffering a slow agony.” When the moment came, Russian scientists reassured the public that Laika had been comfortable, if stressed, for much of her flight, that she had died painlessly, and that she had made invaluable contributions to space science. So sad!

Image result for laika dog

Here is a list of some of the other notable firsts, creations and inventions from the 1950s.

Synchromesh gear changes  Invented in the 1920s but not used in cars until the 1950s. Before this invention, changing gear involved a process called double de-clutching where you went into neutral between each gear position.

Car seat belts. These arrived on the scene in the 1950s and were made a legal requirement in 1968.

Hula hoop These were invented in the 1950s and soon became a huge craze. I spent hours and hours hula-hooping. I loved it – and can still do it.

Organ transplant. This must be one of the most important firsts in medical history.

Pacemaker (internal).  Another amazing medical breakthrough. Before the 1950s there were pacemakers being used but they were external devices.

Not forgetting – Barbie, Colour TV, Tape recorder, Velcro, the Hydrogen bomb,  the Hovercraft, NASA.

The 1960s

And so to the 1960s. After the Soviet space dogs of the 50s (and, it seems there were dozens), the next step was to send a person into space. This time the plan was for him to return alive! I was in Primary school and was ten years old when the first human travelled into space. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He became the first human to journey into outer space when his Vostok spacecraft completed one orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961. Mr Lewis, the headteacher of my tiny school (approx 30 children ages 4 – 11), decided to buy the school its first TV in time for us to watch the launch live. It must have been a weekday between 9.00 am and 4 pm UK time and during a school term for this to happen. Given that many home didn’t have TVs in 1961 where I lived, you can imagine how exciting this was for us!

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Eight years later, in 1968, Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first two people on the Moon. Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, both American, landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969, and Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the surface of the moon.

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The Beatles were my first love in pop music. “Love Me Do” was their debut single backed by “P.S. I Love You”. When the single was originally released in the United Kingdom on 5 October 1962, it peaked at number 17.

Image result for the beatles    Image result for the beatles love me do vinyl single

My sister and I absolutely adored the Beatles. We knew the heights, eye colour, birthdates, likes and dislikes of all four of them We had Beatles magazines, Beatles jigsaws, Beatles badges and my sister even had a really dreadful Beatles wig. Made of moulded plastic it hurt her and forced her forehead into a frown – but she loved it!

Heart transplant. I remember this being massive news when it happened.  On 3 December 1967, Dr Christian Barnard transplanted the heart of accident-victim Denise Darvall into the chest of 54-year-old Louis Washkansky, with Washkansky regaining full consciousness and being able to easily talk with his wife, before dying 18 days later of pneumonia.

 

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First supermarkets in Britain.  In 1951, ex-US Navy sailor Patrick Galvani, son-in-law of Express Dairies chairman, made a pitch to the board to open a chain of supermarkets across the country. The UK’s first supermarket under the new Premier Supermarkets brand opened in Streatham, South London, taking ten times as much per week as the average British general store of the time.

Image result for premier supermarkets 1950s

Then there were these – Coco Pops, the audio cassette, the laser, the ring pull and Star Trek.

I’m sure readers of a similar age to me can think of many more!

 

 

Facts and statistics from my memory and from Wikipedia. Photos all sourced from the Internet. Anyone with any issues regarding my use of any photograph should contact me directly so that I can remove the offending item.