It is hard to identify the Britain of today with how it was back then. The 1950s decade is fondly remembered as a golden age of decency and strong community ties. But for others, it is about deprivation, chauvinism and discrimination.
Below is 100 of my memories.
1. – Having to physically get up to change the channel on the TV.
2. – Only two channels on the television. This must all sound so primitive to today’s young. How would they cope with just two channels of black- and-white telly for only a couple of hours a day?
3. – Waiting for the television set to warm-up.
4. – Seeing the test card – as TV didn’t transmit 24 hours.
5. – God Save the Queen at the end of the day’s broadcasting on the BBC.
6. – Cinemas used to play the national anthem after a film……when the credits rolled, there was a mad rush to get out.
7. – When you went to the cinema and the film would be paused half way through so that you could go and buy sweets/ice-cream from the woman at the front carrying a big tray.
8. – Horse drawn hearses.
9. – Everything was hand written. There was no internet; everything required books from the library and waiting for someone else to finish with them and inter library loans.
10. – When you could smoke in cinemas, pubs, trains, planes, restaurants and on the top deck of a bus.
11. – The butchers shop having sawdust on the floor.
12. – The paraffin man coming around with coal on the back of his horse and cart.
13. – The Rag and Bone man with their horse and cart. They also blew a horn to tell you they were there.! you’d hear the cry of "Raaaaaabooooooooone".
14. – Taking empty ‘pop’ bottles back to the shop to collect cash refunds.
15. – The pop man coming on friday and the big debate about which flavors we would have.
16. – Going to the chemist to develop your photos.
17. – Shops being shut on a Sunday.
18. – Shillings and Florins instead of 5 and 10p pieces and £1.00 notes.
19. – Vinyl records that played at 33rpm 45rpm or even 75rpm and the fun you could have deliberately setting the player to the wrong speed.
20. – Not having a phone in the house – when someone was seriously ill you had to go up the road to the phone box to call the doctors.
21. – Taking a pile of 2ps to the local telephone box and waiting for the pips.
22. – No traffic on the roads on Christmas Day.
23. – Esso Blue, Pink Paraffin, all buses had conductors.
24. – Paying for everything with cash.
25. – Milk being delivered to the front door – and birds stealing the cream off the top.
26. – Window cleaners.
27. – ‘Taping’ songs from the charts every Sunday on the radio.
28. – Black & white TV & Using a wire coat hanger as an aerial.
29. – Not having central heating – just a real fire in the living room.
30. – Calor gas fire to heat the rooms.
31. – Not having an indoor toilet or bathroom.
32. – Trying to tune in a radio and the signal would disappear in the evenings.
33. – Local sweet shop selling sugar mice with a real string tail.
34. – Old fashioned tills where you had to work the amount of change back yourself rather than having it flashed up on-screen.
35. – Crisp packets came with bags of salt.
36. – You asked the shopkeeper for each individual item, there was absolutely nothing that was self-service.
37. – The (horrible warm) milk at school.
38. – Buying cooked meat (spam, chopped ham etc) by the quarter, sliced there and then by an evil looking slicer. Cheese (the same, choice of cheddar, or cheddar!) cut with the metal wire cutter) Then, whatever you’d bought was totted up using a biro pen on one of the bags that the food was wrapped in!
39. – Being in fear of the police, even when you’d done nothing wrong.
40. – Collecting Green Shield stamps……..and pink ones (S+H) too.
41. – Remember having a "pools man" who came every week and collected your betting coupon.
42. – Bread wrappers made of waxed paper.
43. – The Belt or Slipper at school, when you were being punished.
44. – Fish and chips wrapped in newspaper.
45. – Getting the gas meter emptied and having fun spending any surplus.
46. – Olive oil being only used to break down ear wax.
47. – You could leave your street door on the latch and hang a key on a piece of string behind the letterbox.
48. – Play in the streets without the fear of traffic or the obstruction of parked cars.
49. – Cold air and frost that formed overnight on the inside of bedroom windows.
50. – Kid’s played lots of rough-and-tumble games, got dirty and fell out of trees.
51. – There was no mugging of old ladies and people felt that it was safe to walk the streets.
52. – Youngsters respected and feared people in authority.
53. – The sound of ticking clocks all around the house.
54. – The kitchen was filled with products such as OMO washing powder and Robin starch and a whistle kettle was a permanent fixture on the kitchen stove.
55. – Most adults smoked and there were ashtrays in every room, even in the bedrooms. Most homes didn’t have a bathroom so people would either wash in a tin bath or sink.
56. – On Sundays everyone had a roast dinner and leftovers were made into stews and pies to eat later in the week.
57. – The daily spoonful of cod liver oil many of us had to consume.
58. – First taste of welfare orange juice.
59. – Knitted bathing costumes.
60. – Bread and Dripping & Pigs Trotters. Beef dripping was a luxury, and we all loved it on toast.
61. – A need to boil the milk in the summer to keep it a bit longer, because we had no fridge.
62. – The baker’s van coming round and being allowed to choose a wagon wheel, which was enormous.
63. – Coal delivered in heavy sacks by filthy men.
64. – My first little tricycle aged 4, rode for miles, completely alone.
65. – Sweets coming off ration and then going with pocket money to find they’d all been sold.
66. – Sweet shops were individual units with rows and rows of glass jars.
67. – Youth clubs run by local churches.
68. – If you were hungry in between breakfast & dinner (lunch) you ate a jam sandwich or a biscuit from the broken biscuit tin.
69. – High Tea with my grandparents was a highlight and always the same (remember, sugar was still rationed!) consisting of tinned salmon, lettuce, tomato, bread and butter and tinned peaches with ideal milk to follow – we thought we were very grand!.
70. – Fruit was a rare luxury, chicken was only eaten at Christmas. I remember butter cut from a slab and shaped with wooden spatulas. Salt was sold from a big block, the grocer would cut off a small amount and we would grate it down at home. Biscuits were sold loose from large tins. Butter was also sold from a large block and the grocer would pat it into smaller blocks with wooden paddles.
71. – All us boys used to know every wild bird that flew in our sky, and we quite unashamedly collected their eggs, but the little feathered creatures sill thrived in abundance.
72. – In the Co-op shop they sliced bacon from sides of pigs, cut cheese from huge roundels, weighed pounds of sugar from hundred weight sacks. Nothing was prepped, wrapped or labelled. All staff had the ubiquitous pencil stub stuck behind their ear and yes, some of them did add up on their starched cuffs! No computerised tills, just an amazing set of cables on the ceiling along which travelled a small metal canister holding the customers tendered money along with the bill. This canister was `fired` by the counter assistant along the cable to the cashier who sat aloft at a little illuminated window. The bill, stamped `PAID`, together with any change was then `fired` back down to assistant to give to the customer.
73. – In those days there were a lot of delivery vans going around. There was a bread van which sold the most beautiful bread, and you had a fish van that went around. The milkmen used to have these lovely bottles of Corona, and you always had ice cream vans.
74. – A lot of kids had free school dinners and these were very balanced meals. I didn’t like school stew because it was always gristly and fatty and swimming in this strong brown gravy. But I must admit they did damn good meals. It was things like minced meat made into pies and cabbage and mashed potato. There were things like semolina pudding and fruit, trifle, and very occasionally ice cream.
And one of the reasons why they did it was because people were poor, especially in that area. Everyone ate as much as they could, because often when they got home all they might have would be a bit of bread and marge or dripping.
75. – I remember at school a girl who lived next door stole my dripping sandwiches because she was hungry. I didn’t dare run after her, because her legs were so thin that I honestly thought they would snap. We had one family up the road whose son had tonsillitis, and they sent the boy in to have his school dinner even though he couldn’t swallow it properly, because there was so little food on the table at home.
76. – We used to have nurses come around and they’d look at your head to make sure you didn’t have fleas. It was very common to sit next to a child who had flea bites. Another thing they had a lot of was something called impetigo, which was sores and infected skin, usually around the mouth. A lot of it was caused by poor diet and living conditions.
77. – At school you had country dancing which kept you fit and made you sociable. We also had sports days with things like egg and spoon race, and the sack race. We used to play rounders and once I bunked off from that and got the cane for it.
78. – A lot of people didn’t have fridges, so you had to go very careful about keeping flies off your meat. You couldn’t afford luxuries like toilet paper – you had to use newspaper. If you were very posh, you got a pair of dressmakers’ pinking scissors and actually cut the newspaper into squares and strung them together.
79. – Not a lot of houses had televisions. People used to listen to the radio, at first with the old valve sets. Radio Luxembourg was a popular station. A lot of us were very poor and not everybody could afford lampshades or stair covering. So it would be quite usual to go into a house and see a naked light bulb, or stairs with no carpet on them. In those days more people had lino. There was no central heating or double glazing. The houses had steel framed windows and they used to go all rusty.
80. – People couldn’t afford much coal, so you just used to have a hundred weight and that would have to last you a few weeks. To save money you got sheets of newspaper, pleated them like a fan and then twisted them into a poker shape. You then used a pile of them to start your fire up, to save money on kindling wood. As you were getting down to your last bit of coal you got some newspaper, put your vegetable peelings and some coal dust in it, folded it up and wetted it, and that would burn slowly at the back of the fire. A lot of people didn’t buy a newspaper but groceries like meat and fish came wrapped in it.
81. – People used to eat more things like dripping, oxtails, and Bath chaps which were pig cheeks cooked in breadcrumbs. The fish man used to come around and very often we used to have sprats. But a cheap meal we made back then was scallops; that was thick pieces of potato dipped in batter and fried. You didn’t get the same variety of fresh fruit that you get now.
82. – What you used to see a lot of was people with pails full of dandelion heads or cowslips, and they’d use that to make wine. People would go mushrooming and some would collect watercress from the stream. So people would forage for food, which they don’t do now.
83. – People were far better at using the resources they had. Quite a few people kept hens. They used to dig their gardens and grow their own food. People also made a bit of money by growing bedding plants like lettuces or runner beans and selling them. They might put a sign on their gate saying they had plants for sale. Some kept allotments and my dad had two lovely plum trees, so we sold plums from our allotment.
84. – There were a lot of jumble sales and people went along to get clothes and household things. A lot of people did things like knitting. They would unpick a jumper when a kid outgrew it and make it into another garment, or maybe a hat and gloves for them. A lot of people kept their wartime utility clothes because those things had been made to last.
85. – You grew up in a much safer environment than we can ever imagine these days. Children were able to enjoy the freedom of outdoor life. They played lots of rough-and-tumble games, got dirty and fell out of trees. The purple stains of iodine were always evident on the grazed knees of boys in short trousers.
86. – There was no such thing as health and safety or children’s rights. We were taught discipline at home and at school and -corporal punishment was freely administered for bad behaviour.
87. – Our infants school, I remember relied for heating upon a black, pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room. In the winter, our third-pint bottles of free school milk were brought into the class room and stacked near to the stove to thaw out. The milk would be frozen into a pole sticking out from the bottle, the silver cap sitting on top! On those very cold days we would wear our coats and sometimes gloves inside school. We still had to go out into the playground at break, though!
88. – I remember total freedom, no pressures worrying about designer clothes or the opposite sex. Clothes tended to be grey shirt and grey shorts or dungarees. Trainers were black plimsolls only used for PE. Spent lots of time building soapbox carts (dilly’s) or dens.
89. – it was the fashion to boil vegetables, particularly Greens until they contained little in the way of goodness. But salad stuff tasted better than the forced and much travelled stuff of today.
90. – Healthcare – our young lifestyles kept us fit, but dentists, who were paid virtually on a ‘piecework’ basis, drilled and filled our teeth (sweet things were hard to come by) without good clinical reason on many occasions.
91. – filled with dread by the dentist’s chair, for me, it all comes down to trust. When I was about 5, my mum took me to this awful Polish dentist who had huge fat fingers like overstuffed sausages and he pulled one of my teeth out. I can still hear the sound of it being wrenched from my jawbone and I know that my anxieties stem from this experience.
My generation’s fear of dentists stems from the quite barbaric way we were treated by the 1950s NHS dentists – held down with a rubber gas mask shoved over your face.
92. – I do remember noticing even at that age, that many of the children were poor, often unwashed and many had to wear plimsolls even in winter and the nit nurse was a regular visitor.
93. – The highlight of my birthdays was to get a large bar of Fry’s milk choc with a half crown sellotaped to it in the post from my Grandma.
94. – The smell of harpic & Jeyes fluid around the house.
95. – I still remember the words of the Six Five Special.
96. – No one seemed to be as frightened as they are now. There was hardly any traffic, so crossing the road was not the near-death experience that it can be today. But we did apparently have a mad Tarzan in the woods, and the odd flasher wandering the streets.
97. – There was barely any telly, no mobiles, iPhones or iPlayers, no internet, computer games, PlayStations and no pop stars. We had only the simplest of equipment: jacks, marbles, skipping-ropes, bats, balls and bicycles.
98. – We played by the river bank, fishing for sticklebacks and newts, climbed trees and cycled everywhere.
99. – For us, new technology meant a lever fountain pen. No cartridges. I still think cartridges are wasteful — a few drops of ink wrapped in all that plastic. But we were altogether far less wasteful back then.
100. – Even the poorer families had gardens big enough to grow vegetables and fruit trees; to have tea on the lawn. And with all the home-cooked food and running about, we children seemed to be healthier.
Less than fifteen months before the first television commercial appeared on British screens, on July 4th 1954, the Minister of Fuel and Power, Geoffrey Lloyd, burned a large replica of a ration book at an open meeting in his constituency to herald the official end of fourteen years of rationing in Britain. The dawning of a new age of prosperity was upon the British public. From a retailers point of view the start of commercial television could not have been better timed.
EMERGENCY-WARD 10 Britain’s first medical soap, which was also the first of the nation’s twice-weekly serials, (airing on Tuesday’s and Friday’s), ‘Emergency-Ward 10’ started life as ‘Calling Nurse Roberts’, a six-week filler which went on to become one of the nations best loved programmes, reaching an average audience of 16 million people a week and 24 million at its peak.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD Richard Greene starred as the legendary 12th century outlaw who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.
DIXON OF DOCK GREEN with Jack Warner, George Dixon, episodes began and ended with a monologue to camera beneath the police stations blue lamp, with a moralistic message that crime doesn’t pay, before old George would disappear into the night whistling ‘Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner’.
SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM Debuting on the first weekend of commercial television in the UK, from the very start Sunday Night At The London Palladium established itself as the highlight television show of the week for Britain’s viewing millions.
THE BILLY COTTON BAND SHOW Big band, big sound and big big personality – with a rousing call of "Wakey-Wakey" followed by his signature tune "Somebody Stole My Gal", Billy Cotton introduced an inexhaustible 50 minutes of non-stop music, dancing and comedy in the essential weekend variety revue that was a stalwart of BBC programming for 12 years.
THE ARMY GAME Hugely successful series from Granada TV that started in 1957 as a fortnightly live sitcom, which was moved to a weekly spot when it became so popular.
HANCOCK’S HALF HOUR Transferring from a successful radio run in 1956, the comedic misadventures of one Tony Aloysius Hancock esq. of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, beguiled the television audience of the UK until 1961.
THE CORONATION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II In most parts of the country, in the towns and the cities, streets were deserted on the morning of Coronation Day, 2 June 1953.
What do you remember that seems so old fashioned but really wasn’t that long ago?
Posted by brizzle born and bred on 2016-08-02 10:52:58
Tagged: , Down Memory Lane , memories , My own indelible childhood memories , Britain of today with how it was back then