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.

Mail Order

This winter, in the build-up to Christmas, there has been a lot of discussion about online shopping being the death of the High Street in Britain. This might well be true but what occurred to me was that there have always been other means of shopping besides physically visiting a shop.

The small town I lived in when I was a little girl (population around 2,000) was five miles away from our village had all the basics. There were two butchers, two newsagents, a greengrocer, a jeweller, two pharmacies, a couple of assorted draperies and gents outfitters, a hardware shop etc etc. For requirements beyond what our town could provide, we had to travel some distance. Swansea and Cardiff were at least an hour’s drive away and ‘big’ shopping trips were made a few times a year for Christmas shopping, new winter coats for the family, new shoes and so on. I remember thinking they were amazing with their department stores, book shops, large stores with lifts and escalators and toy shops. This was the only time we saw Boots, W H Smith, C and A and – most important of all (to us as children) – Woollies (F W Woolworth) which was heaven! It was also the perfect place to spend your little bit of pocket money as it had everything and it was all affordable.

Good old Woollies – RIP.
Howells Department store in Cardiff.
W H Smith, Newtown, Wales. One of the earliest branches and still in the style and layout of the original shops. It also houses a small museum telling the W H Smith story.

 

The rest of the time, my mum relied heavily on her mail order catalogue as did all the families in our village.

My mum’s catalogue was Marshall Ward followed later by Kays. I remember a neighbour favouring Freemans and my grandmother who lived with us liked J D Williams. Women used to swap catalogues to enjoy a wider choice of goods. From the catalogues we bought bedding, household goods, underwear, toys (via Father Christmas of course), adult and children’s clothing and many more things I can’t recall now. My mum would never buy shoes by mail order.

The pages we children used to pore over longingly!

In addition to the catalogues selling clothes and homeware, my dad used to get seeds and bulbs by mail order. Dobbie’s and Doby’s are two I remember. Newspapers and magazines also had goods for sale and on special offer.

 

 

Images obtained from the Internet. Anyone with objections to my use of a particular image can 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!

                                         

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bows and arrows, guns and penknives.

The subject of children playing with toy guns, knives etc. is a controversial one. Many parents will not allow their children to play with any toys resembling weapons. I am not going to explore the rights and wrongs of that here, my thoughts in this post are about the large number of toy guns, swords and bows with arrows we played with as children in the 1950s. We also had penknives, sheath knives and catapults (not toy ones).

First the toy guns. There was quite a choice! Cap guns had a little roll of paper with dots of gunpowder on. When you pulled the trigger a little metal hammer hit the gunpowder spot and there was a satisfying click followed by a puff of smoke and a lovely firework-like smell. Excuse my very un-technical description of the mechanism!                                               Pop guns fired out a cork from the barrel which was attached by a string so couldn’t actually hit anything but made a great noise.                                                                                              Potato or spud guns fired small pellets of raw potato. My memory of the details fails me a bit here but I believe the gun was pressed into the raw potato and a pellet was punched out ready for firing.                                                                                                                                                   Lastly, there were the water pistols. I never enjoyed playing with them as much as I didn’t like getting soaked with cold water!

 

potato gun.jpg                               pop gun 1

 

marshal-2 cap gun                                                   cap rolls

 

watergun03.jpg

 

To understand our love of toy guns, it’s important to remember how massive Westerns were at the time in the form of both TV series and films. Who remembers The Lone Ranger, Laramie, The Range Rider, Rawhide and Bronco? The gun-toting cowboys versus the arrow-firing ‘Red Indians’ were the stuff of our childhood – even here in the UK. As children we had cowboy (and cowgirl) and Red Indian dressing up outfits. Which neatly moves us on from guns to bows and arrows. The bought sets had suckers on the end of the arrows which would stick (if you were lucky!) to a door or window. The cheaper ones, however, were the ones we made ourselves using wood from hedges and trees. Willow was the most flexible for a bow I seem to remember.

 

bows and arrows 1                  bows and arrows

 

 

 

outfits.jpg                             lone ranger

 

50s toy sword

 

Whereas the guns were toys,  the penknives, sheath knives and catapults we had as children were real. It was the norm for kids, especially boys, to have a child-sized penknife. They might have been smaller than adult ones but they were nonetheless real. They were great for whittling sticks! Because we all had them, we knew how to handle them and not misuse them. The same applied to catapults. The picture shows a typical bought catapult but we also made them from twigs and small branches.

 

roy rogers penknives                         sheath knife

catapult

 

 

Dressing Up

All children love dressing up. Dressing up outfits are plentiful and cheap nowadays. My two grandsons, aged five and three, love to be dressed as Power Rangers, Storm Troopers, Spider-Man and Iron Man.

Image result for dressing up outfits for kids       

When I was a child dressing up at home involved whatever we could find – Mum and Dad’s clothes and shoes, drawn on beards and moustaches, Nana’s hats, any belts and bags from around the house plus various other props. One year we (that is me, my brother and sister) were given a dressing up outfit each at Christmas. Mine was a nurse’s outfit, my brother’s a cowboy one and my sister’s was a cowgirl’s costume – cowboys were huge at that time in films, books, comics and on TV. We thought they were amazing and wore them for as long as we could squeeze into them as we grew. When I wore my outfit and had my red, plastic pince-nez on the end of my nose (they hurt me, but I didn’t care!), I really felt like a proper nurse.

            

Apart from dressing up at home there were fancy dress occasions. Every town and village had an annual carnival – in some parts of Britain this would have been known as a gala or fete. There was always a fancy dress parade with prizes for the best costumes. The mums went all out to create outfits for the children and often for themselves as adults dressed up too. People dressed up as famous characters past or present, story characters, pirates, fairies, witches and so on. Dressing up as a tramp was always good fun. At that time the ‘tramp’ was a common sight. They were vagrants who walked (tramped) from place to place living on handouts from well-wishers – and their wits. The other name for tramps was ‘gentlemen of the road’. I now know that many of them had been traumatised in the two World Wars and had been unable to settle back into normal life so took to the roads.  At that time Post-traumatic Stress Disorder was unknown or mis-labelled ‘shell-shock’ and with no such thing as counselling they were left to get on with life as well as they could.

     

Anyway, back to fancy dress. My mum was a skilled seamstress (from necessity) and was also very creative. Some of the costumes I remember her putting together are; my brother as a golliwog (I know, they’re not PC now but to us at that time they were just toys), Little Bo Peep (my sister, complete with a big black spider made by my dad and suspended by elastic) and Dr Fuchs (my dad dressed in a duffle coat and wellies accompanied by my brother’s ride-on tractor with the name Sno Cat on a sign attached to the front).For those who don’t remember the name, Dr Vivian Fuchs’ Trans Atlantic expedition reached the South Pole in 1958. The vehicles they used to cross the Antarctic were known as Sno-Cats.

This is a picture of me and my sister dressed for a fancy dress parade. My mum made the costumes on her Singer sewing machine out of crepe paper. We were dressed as the soldier and lady on the Quality Street tin – note, if you can see it, the Quality Street tin my sister was carrying! Next to it I have put a picture of an old Quality Street tin in case anyone doesn’t know the man and woman I’m talking about.

Qual St       Qual St 2

To this day I still love fancy dress and would rather put my own outfit together than hire a ready-made one. It’s more fun!

 

As always, I have used a mixture of my own photos and relevant one sourced from the Internet. If I have infringed copyright I fill happily remove any offending photo.

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.

              beach

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.

50s playground          IMG_5105

kids reading                                     IMG_5018

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.

 

 

Where did they go? Part 2

Once I started thinking about words, phrases, items and brands which have disappeared from use since the 1950s, I kept remembering more and more!

Some of the sweets and chocolates which have gone are Spangles, Bar Six, Tiffin (my favourite!), Five Boys and Fruit Polos.

               

As for clothes, does anyone remember wearing a Liberty Bodice? It was an extra warm button through vest which most children wore all winter when I was little. As girls rarely wore trousers in those days, winter wear was a warm skirt or pinafore dress in wool or corduroy. Kilts were extremely popular and for the very young they had straps like the one in the photo. Disappeared brands I recall – Cherub and Ladybird clothes. Birthday, Start-Rite and Tuf shoes.                     

The golliwog is an extinct toy now for all the right reasons. However, in the politically incorrect days of my childhood, they were very popular toys. Robertson’s Jam’s golly badges were extremely collectible! To the children of the times a golly was a colourful soft toy and completely innocent. Many of the toy cars my brother, sister and I played with were Dinky Toys. They were made by Mecca I’ve discovered when researching for this post. Now that’s another toy brand which has disappeared!

        

One last food memory – who remembers rissoles, faggots and spam fritters?

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.

 

Image result for fifties toys and games

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.

NEW-JOLLY-POST-OFFICE-PLAY-SET-TRADITIONAL-1950s-RETRO-TOY-PAPER-STAMPS-SALE

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.

      Image result for corkwork

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!!