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.

Saint David’s Day – Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant

Today, March 1st is St David’s Day and a very important day in Wales.

Saint David is thought to have been born around 500 AD in Pembrokeshire on the Welsh west coast. David’s reputed mother Non was also a saint, and he was trained as a priest under the tutelage of St Paulinus.

Various miracles are attributed to him, including restoring the sight of his teacher and, most famously, creating an entirely new hill (now the village of Llanddewi Brefi) during an outdoor sermon. The version of this story which we were told in school was that he was preaching to a large crowd, many of whom couldn’t see or hear him properly. A man stepped forward and put his coat on the floor for David to stand on. When he stood on the coat the ground rose up and a small hill was formed.

St David

Saint David became a renowned missionary in Wales and beyond, and is credited with founding monasteries in his homeland, the south-west of England (including Glastonbury) and Brittany.

When I was in Primary School I remember that our village always held a St David’s Day concert. Our little school was used as a village hall for this sort of event. Various people – adults and children – throughout the evening would take turns to sing, recite or play the piano. One local farmer had a beautiful tenor voice and always sang ‘Jerusalem’. There would also be singing where we all sang together, many of the songs in Welsh.

The traditional dish which all families would eat on that day was ‘cawl’ – pronounced cowl – which is a simple but hearty and nutritious stew made with lamb, root vegetables and leeks. Oddly, it’s the smell of it cooking in our kitchen which I can remember more than the taste.

Our version of the traditional spiced fruit loaf is know as Bara Brith which means speckled bread. It is eaten sliced, buttered and with a paned (cup of tea).

When I was in the Secondary School there was always a St David’s Day Eisteddfod in the school hall. Pupils who were known to be able to play and instrument were often pressured into taking part. Others were happy to volunteer. Most children would have a daffodil pinned to their jumpers. Those who hadn’t been able to locate a daffodil would have a leek pinned to them instead, some of them enormous! I can clearly remember the all-pervading smell of leeks as some of the kids got bored in the audience and started nibbling on them.

Cawl.
Welsh cakes are very popular in Wales and are sold in most bakeries and cafes. Cooked on a bakestone or a griddle pan, they are eaten all year round but especially on St David’s Day.

I have lived in England now since 1973. I have worn a daffodil on March 1st every year of my life as I am doing today. Occasionally if I’ve been in my local town shopping on St David’s Day (not this year, thanks to COVID-19) and seen another person wearing a daff we greet each other and have a little chat.

Happy St David’s Day to you all!!

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus!!

As usual – images courtesy of Google Images, Pinterest, Wikipedia. Anyone objecting to my use of an image can contact me and I will remove it.

Happy New Year!

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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.

Travel and Phones.

Last week, I arranged to meet my youngest daughter in Huddersfield for a Christmas shopping trip. I was driving about 40 mins from where I live and she was getting the train from her town. She called me the evening before from her landline phone to say that her mobile phone had died and she wouldn’t be contactable on it when we were travelling the next day. How this throws us all now! I told her we would just have to make a foolproof 1950s style plan for the next morning.

This started me thinking about how easy it is now to make arrangements and to adjust them, even at short notice. Back in the 1980s when my three children were small I often travelled to different locations, some quite near, others further away, to meet up with people. My sister and I lived about 90 minutes apart at that time and we had a couple of nice meeting up places mid-way between us. We’d make the plan by phone from our houses beforehand then we would set off to meet up with our excited children in our cars. Nothing ever went wrong for us but now we would all panic at the thought of travelling somewhere to meet someone without the backup of a mobile phone.

Going back even further, to the 1950s, we used to get packed up to go and see our grandparents who lived in north Wales. We had a telephone at home then but my grandparents didn’t and never did, even several decades later. They had a public telephone box in their village so maybe they called us sometimes. I was too young to be taking notice of things like adults planning visits.The plans were presumably made mostly by letter! Yes, the humble hand-written letter and the good old postman – no female posties in those days!

Image result for public telephone box 1950s uk    Image result for telephone kiosk 1950s uk

Phone boxes (telephone kiosks as they were called) in the 1950s.

Image result for 1950s uk post box    Image result for 1950s postman uk

!950s memories of the postal service.

File:Vauxhall Victor FA ca 1958.jpg  Image result for 1950s ford prefect uk

Two models of 1950s cars like ones which we had in the 1950s.

 

Image result for 1950s home telephone

A 1950s phone –  not every household had one.

 

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The modern mobile phone – most wouldn’t leave home without it!

In the ‘old days’, we had maps and guide-books to help us navigate and to locate places of interest and their opening hours. If we needed to contact someone or needed help, we waited until we spotted a phone box and pulled over to make a call. I still have a book of road maps in my car but the modern phone is not just a phone it is also a road atlas, bus, plane and train timetable, guide book to anywhere and everywhere, live weather and travel advice, newspaper, in-car entertainment etc etc.

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.

St David’s Day

St David is the patron saint of Wales and St David’s Day (Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant in Welsh) is celebrated on 1st of March – hence this being posted today. We say Happy St David’s Day with these words.

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These are my memories of St David’s Day in Wales in the 1950s and 60s. All towns and most villages held events such as a concert or eisteddfod with music, singing, poetry and dancing – and still do. Our school always held a St David’s Day concert. The national emblems are the daffodil and the leek and we wore one or the other to school on the day. The smell in our school hall was overpowering, especially when those wearing leeks became peckish and started nibbling! I wear a daffodil on every March 1st and have done all my life – even though I live in England now.

The traditional St David’s Day dish is a stew made with lamb, leeks, carrots and potatoes. It is called cawl (pronounced cowl) and communities would often hold a concert with a cawl supper. The little currant-studded griddle cakes known as Welsh cakes (delicious, too!) would usually follow.

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Transport

   

    
My memories of car travel in the 50’s includes – and this is a child’s view, so there will be no observations on models, performance etc – bench seats in the front, handbrake coming out of the dashboard, the dip operated by a pedal on the floor, indicators which stuck out at the side of the car, no seat belts, no car radio, older cars being mostly black and smelling strongly of leather, frequent breakdowns.
My sister, the youngest of three often sat in the front on the bench seat in between Mum and Dad. At the top of a steep hill – and I grew up surrounded by hills! – there were always cars pulled over with the bonnets up and steam escaping from the engines. On long journeys, there being no in-car entertainments, we sang songs, played games and spotted things to tick off in our I-Spy books. The books were small and perfect for taking on a walk or a journey. My favourite of the ones we had was I-Spy The Unusal.
In the 60’s there were cars with individual car seats, wider rear and front windscreens, blinking indicator lights instead of flag ones sticking out and more colours including, I remember, some two-tone cars. As kids we spent hours playing outside in the mud and dirt with our Dinky, Corgi and Mathboxcars. We were impressed with the new two-tone look and used Airfix model paints to give our cars a more fashionable look. If we still had them, and we don’t, they would be worth nothing. Unlike the pristine ones in their boxes which can sometimes be seen on programmes like Flog it and Antiques Roadshow. But we had many hours of fun with ours so no regrets there!

in the 60’s came seat belts and reversing lights.  When reversing, the driver switched the reversing light on and had to remember to switch it off or risk getting a £50 fine! I remember this particularly because it was a recent development when I was first learning to drive in 1968.

This is all from my childhood memories.  I haven’t looked anything up (apart from the photos) so I’m sure there will be some slight inaccuracies. My intention is to spark off readers’ own memories of motoring in those two decades.

Although I called this post Transport, so far I have only covered cars. I will re-visit soon with more about trains and buses.

The blog begins – with food!

Hi everyone! I set this page up months ago and have been too scared to start. So . . . .  I am just going to dive in and get it going. I will tart it up at some stage with fancy backgrounds and pictures but for today I’ll begin by telling you all about it.

I was born in 1951 which means I turn 64 this year. It occurred to me recently that those of us who were kids in the 50s and 60s are now in our 50s and 60s. I thought it might be fun to share thoughts, memories and ideas which we kids of the 50s and 60s all have in common. I’m not going to do fashion just yet, there is already a lot of stuff on the internet about 50s and 60s fashions. I will be looking at radio, TV, events from the news, school life, cars, books and so on. More ideas welcome at any time! But this first post is going to look back at food.

Who remembers being given bread and butter to eat with every meal? I think this was a hangover from rationing when food had to be padded out. Shop cakes were a luxury and we bought them when somebody was coming to tea. I loved Battenburg and Angel Cake. Home baking was for the family. Milk puddings were very common – rice, semolina, ground rice, tapioca even macaroni. We were given jam to stir into these milk puddings. Posh puddings came in packets – lemon meringue pie mix and Creme Caramelle. Cream came in tins – evaporated milk, condensed milk, Carnation and later, in a packet, came Dream Topping which was the ‘whipped cream’ favoured by many for the top of trifles (these could also be bought as a dry mix in a packet).

  

Pasta also came in tins, except macaroni which, as I’ve already mentioned, was a pudding. The only pasta I ever came across in the 50s was Heinz tinned spaghetti. I don’t remember ever having rice as part of a savoury meal in the 50s, it was always a pudding.

I will finish with a random list of other foods which were everyday items but seen less commonly now. Fray Bentos pies, corned beef, tinned salmon, Shipham’s paste, tinned Mulligatawny soup ( a rare treat in our house and a change from Heinz tomato soup), spam, spam fritters (loved them!), luncheon meat, Hovis, Nimble, Lemon Puff biscuits (which made all the other biscuits in the tin go soft and taste of lemon!), Camp coffee and tea leaves instead of tea bags which arrived on the scene later.

I hope this has rung a few bells, struck a few chords, raised a smile or two. My next post might continue the food and drink theme or I might dip into something else. Who knows where this will take me?