Wednesday, January 09, 2008

9 January: In the olden days

A couple of things have made me cast my mind back 50 years.

Doing some family history research, in the form of asking a very old relative about various people, brought to mind that 50 years ago you wouldn't speak openly about people who'd been born out of wedlock (even the phrase is out of date now), nor about your German relatives, or anyone who'd committed suicide.

In 1958, few people had cars, and they weren't used in the way they are today, to take children to school and to pop down to the paper shop.

There were some TVs about, thanks to the Coronation in 1953, but programmes were very limited - children's hour, then later on some informative and educational stuff like What's My Line? and The Brains Trust. I'm not sure when ITV started, as my Mum never let us see it because it was common. Or was it because it was commercial?

Central heating was a rarity, for the affluent only. We had a coal fire in the front room, and a small electric fire in the kitchen. The bathroom (our house was modern - a proper bathroom and an indoor toilet) was heated by a paraffin stove for a while before bedtime washes. In the winter ice formed on the inside of the bedroom windows, and most of the kids had chilblains.

Most telephones in our area were party lines (that is, a shared line between 2 households), and take-away food was strictly fish and chips only.

The cinema in the local town provided fleas along with the film, but the last bus to our village left before the end of the film, so it was a good move to arrive before the end of the previous showing, so that you got the whole story.

Nobody suffered from stress or road rage, though, and food allergies were still in the future, as was any sort of foreign food (croissants, sushi, curry, pizza).

Scarlet fever was still a killer, but there was no MRSA.

Were things better then? Are things better now? Will things be better in another 50 years?


Lucy said...

This is really reminiscence-provoking...
Suicide is the only one that people are still a bit uncomfortable with, since I suppose it's always genuinely shocking and on some level unacceptable.
Mu elder brother was the anti-ITV censor in our house. I'm not quite sure when it started but it was the night Grace Archer died in the fire in the stables.
We had no central heating, but I don't remember being cold. Good gas fires and rooms stuffed with too much furniture and too many people probably.
The party lines were a bit of a laugh really, you always hoped you might here a neighbour incriminating themselves.
That's a funny one about watching the end of the film first!
I really enjoyed this, Stitch, thanks.

Knit Nurse said...

I was musing on something similar last night, watching Hugh's Chicken Run. People were arguing that free range chickens were too expensive and it was ok to support factory farming so they could buy two chickens for £5, which is obviously attractive to people on low incomes. When I was a kid in the 1970s, we couldn't afford meat on a regular basis - and we weren't exactly poor, as my dad was a teacher. So we ate TVP (Quorn's predecessor), and my mum made the meat we bought stretch further - presumably having been taught the skills by her mother in post-war Britain. Ironically both my parents are now vegetarians!

stitchwort said...

lucy - most of my life I've never quite felt warm enough (until the hot flushes arrived); always thought it was being born in the coldest winter of the century that did it, but it was more likely the totally inadequate heating.

knit nurse - we were unable to watch that TV programme; the trailers were harrowing enough. Though we are vegetarians now, in earlier life I was a dab hand at "5,000 ways with mince, stewing steak and corned beef".

KAZ said...

I'm reading Bill Brysons's memoirs of growing up in the 50s at the moment (...Thunderbolt Kid). Very funny and thought provoking.

Pity you didn't watch ITV - great jingles - *sings* 'You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent!'

Thank you and good night.

daisie said...

I was thinking along similar lines, Knitnurse. I understand the budgetary constraints but can't figure out why people feel they "have" to have chicken. Not so many years ago meat was a "treat" - you maybe had it once a week, perhaps stretching it to a couple of meals by making it into patties or risotto. But now people seem to think they have a right to meat several times a day, even in snacks like burgers while walking down the street! And nowdays there is so much vegetarian choice - soya and quorn and so on, that it would be easy to bring up a family without meat or just keeping it as a treat. Funnily enough I was a veggie for 20 years, both my daughters have been since birth and are now fervent veggie adults. I now eat meat - once a week - always free range - almost entirely as a "vote" to the shops to stock free range and also to support enlightened farmers.

Bob the Bolder said...

You forgot to mention Boots lending library, Stitch. Now sadly long gone.

In fact reading -- that was what we did before or instead of TV, remember?

Do you remember yourself, me and our parents sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in a semi-circle in front of the coke fire in winter, all of us with our books from Boots? And from the County library too. Piles of them.

And the weekly expedition to get another half-dozen.

stitchwort said...

If you got close enough to the fire, the fronts of your legs went all mottled. Had to get your feet inside the fender, though.

Those Boots library books had special holes in the spine, so that the tag on the string of your shield-shaped bookmark could go through. Nothing so posh for the County library.

Bob the Bolder said...

I'm sure the Boots tags were rectangular -- but I suppose they may have evolved at some stage ... anyway, they were in fact your library ticket.

Your subscription only bought one ticket, and so you could have only one book at a time. Your ticket was always with it.

You could pay to have an 'extra', though, and before I was old enough to have my own ticket (10? 12?) Mum got me books as extras.

Enid Blyton, Biggles, Jennings, Just William. Happy days!

Well worth the mottled legs.

Maggie May said...

As a new blogger looking for new older writers, was delighted to come across your post that completely captivated me & took me down "Memory Lane".

lilymarlene said...

We grew up on a postwar council estate in Hertfordshire. I was born in 1949. We kids (there were 5 of us born within 6 years) used to go of all day safely to play and my Mum never worried about us. We'd go home when we were hungry.
I think it is so sad that kids today don't get a childhood like we had. They have no "freedom" and all their imagining is done for them by TV and computer. We may have been cold (yes I had chilblains that bled), unfashionable (no "designer" labels then....Pringle was for old men and women!), and have never had an Indian meal, but I wouldn't swop what we had for what kids have now.
Loved your memories.

the mother of this lot said...

Party lines - I've never thought about them for years! You had to put the phone down quick if the other person was on it in case you were accused of listening in!