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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

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First Picture: A Flit Gun the only defence against the bluebottles!

Second Picture: These have made a come back recently, the Muslin Food Cover.

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone.

I thought that at the start of the New Year, I would look back 60 years to when we were children.

After that there are letters from Peter, Steve and Mary.

Was this the price of two World Wars I wonder? Adults in the 1950's were somehow different. Or at least they seem to have been different. They all looked older, more serious, and they acted in a more adult way. I suppose even young adults look to be old when you are a child and our teachers all looked decidedly ancient! Mind you, we have to take into account that they had gone through two world wars within thirty years, it's no wonder they looked older than the adults of today. But by the time the fifties arrived, things were getting back to normal.

Let’s start with food. Everything was cooked from fresh then. All the meat and vegetables came straight from farm, to shop, to table, with only an occasional tin of something being used. When I say occasional I mean the odd tin of processed peas or baked beans with dinner and a tin of Salmon on special occasions. There wasn't the variety of tinned food in the local shops and supermarkets were yet to make an appearance. Frozen foods were non existent because no-one had a freezer. In fact hardly anyone even had a refrigerator! Things we take for granted now and eat frequently were too expensive back then, because the farming methods differed. There were no factory farms, chicken was a luxury, served only for Sunday dinner periodically. Afters, which we now refer to as dessert, were also a luxury, normally Spotted Dick or home made jam tart with custard. On special occasions we would have tinned peaches with Carnation or Libby’s evaporated milk poured over it. The trouble with all this fresh food and the fact that there were no supermarkets and no fridges and freezers to stock up, was that someone had to run to the shops every time Mum forgot something. It was either go, or get no dinner!

Generations were brought up on bread and scrape, but luckily not ours! The meat dripping from Sunday dinner was always saved. Poured into a pudding basin when hot, it solidified into a thick white mass with brown jelly at the bottom. This was for ‘bread and scrape’. My Grandmother would spread the dripping on bread or toast with a bit of salt and pepper, but this was not for me! Another snack was sugar bread, bread and butter sprinkled with sugar. Terrible for the teeth! All the stale bread was collected during the week and used for bread pudding, real Bread Pudding bulging with raisins and currants. Oh, and Custard went with everything!

Which reminds me of something else that has almost disappeared, the local milkman with his battery operated cart. We still have a milkman but his van is now diesel powered.

I always knew what was for tea on Sunday afternoons. On Saturday morning my Mum and I used to walk into Slapes the Fishmonger in Drayton and buy a quart of cooked shrimps. Sunday tea was very often shrimps with bread and butter followed by tinned fruit and jelly.

Because there were no refrigerators, precautions had to be taken against flies and heat. There were two inventions of the time that most households possessed. The collapsible muslin meat cover, and ‘Flit’. There were no aerosol sprays and this lack of spray cans mean’t that ‘fly papers’ were hanging from the ceilings of most kitchens and were even seen in the butcher’s window. A roll of sticky paper pulled out into a coil (like a spring), covered in dead and dying flies that had been unfortunate to land on it and get stuck fast. One day Dad brought home a ‘Flit Gun’. This was a tin of insecticide mounted on the bottom of what can only be described as a bicycle pump. You pumped the handle as hard as you could and a fine spray of fly killer emerged from the nozzle. The trouble was, that unless you could keep pumping the pressure dropped and the spray became more of a squirt.

The next great gadget was the collapsible muslin food cover, a framework of four metal spokes covered in muslin, with a handle on the top. When you pulled the handle the spokes opened outward and formed a square shaped dome. Any meat left over from the Sunday roast was put on a plate on the table and the muslin umbrella was placed over the top of it to frustrate the flies, who could see the meat, but not get through the muslin.

We never had computer games or battery operated and electronic toys. We did have imagination and the advantage of being able to play real games with real kids in the open air instead of at a computer or games console.

I hope the next paragraphs will give you a chuckle and maybe bring back some memories.

The Marshes and the Hill were favourite play areas for us. Here we made hideouts, gang headquarters, and meeting points. They all had an order of preference depending on what we had chosen to do or what we wanted to be at the time. Cowboys, spacemen, Tarzan, or whatever the current mood was. Where I lived we had such a choice of places to go on our adventures that we never ever got bored. In one way I suppose it's just as well that today's children don't face the playtime dangers that we did, because when I look back at some of the things we got up to I wonder how any of us survived!

First there was the chalk pits and their steep drops or the marshes with its sticky mud. We had the run of the place and here we would recruit a gang, or jump in the puddles, chuck a few stones, or dig a hole. We could do battle against the raiders from Mars but we always knew that Mum’s word was law, unless you were due for a serious word, when it was Dad who took the initiative.


Peter Writes:
Hi Pete

By the way, do you remember we went to the launching of a naval
frigate at the dockyard. about 1960 I guess. The ship was HMS Nubian and the launching was marked by lots of red faces. The pomp and circumstance, the prayers and hymn,the speech by Lady somebody followed by the smashing of the champage............Then followed by nothing , the ship refused to budge. .......After what seemed an age that has no place in time, it reluctantly started to edge its stern down the slipway and was in no time afloat. I guess your Dad got us the invitations, and , you and I had a morning off school.

Steve Writes:
Hi Peter, you were right about the post deliveries on Christmas day, my Father was a postman in Portsmouth for 35 plus years and he very rarely had Christmas day with us.

There was one treat for us kids of Postmen, the Christmas Post Office party. Here we all had lashings of jelly, cakes, sandwiches etc. And the highlight of the afternoon or evening was the arrival of Father Christmas. I remember the one year when the regular chap who donned the red suit and fluffy beard could not do it for one reason or another. So when it was my Brother's and my turn to sit on Father Christmas's knee prior to collecting our present, it came as a bit of a shock to find out that it was actually our Father!!

Regards and happy New Year to you and all your many readers.

Mary Writes:

I can’t say how much I enjoy the weekly bulletins - it’s great! I saw a sight in Fawcett Rd., recently that made me smile. Outside a second hand shop was an old Aladdin paraffin heater. I could remember my parents giving my grandparents one as a special gift and then it was the very latest thing. You could remove the top bit and boil a kettle, which is exactly what my grandparents did when they were snowed in at Catherington. My father was somewhat shocked when they told him that the pipes had frozen and the water for the kettle came from their rubber, hot water bottle! The box for the Aladdin heater was taken by my Uncle Harry who, sometime later, appeared with it full of live chickens which he had decided to give us. He opened the box and for a few minutes chickens were attempting to fly around the room. Like a couple of other families we kept poultry when we lived at Farlington. Oh happy days!

News and Views:

Chuck Berry fell ill an hour into his Chicago concert on January 1st and had to stop the performance twice to be checked over by paramedics. He refused to be taken to a hospital but the concert, already an hour long, never resumed. The 84 year-old left on his own in his limousine. Concertgoers said the performance began to deteriorate after 15 minutes and he began to play only portions of songs at times out-of-rhythm.

The Housing Minister has written to Liverpool's City Council urging a temporary reprieve of the demolition of Ringo Starr's birthplace. A campaign to have the home preserved was rejected by government heritage officials in December saying "the house has no associations with the success of the Beatles as a group, was only lived in by Ringo Starr for four years after his birth and is not architecturally or historically significant enough to match listing criteria." The decision paved the way for the house to be demolished, along with many others in the neighbourhood.

The white suit which John Lennon wore on the cover of the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album brought $46,000 at an auction in Norwalk, Connecticut. A fancy blazer owned by the ex-Beatle sold for $18,000. However, both items together had fetched $120,000 in an auction six years ago. John and Yoko's 1972 Chrysler station wagon sold for a mere $5,500.

On this day 2nd January 1960-1965

On 02/01/1960 the number one single was Starry Eyed - Michael Holliday and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was not listed and the box office smash was North by Northwest. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was Stephanie Baird was beheaded. She was murdered and decapitated at a YWCA hostel and her killer was thought to have escaped by bus.

On 02/01/1961 the number one single was I Love You - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was The Russ Conway Show (ATV) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 02/01/1962 the number one single was Moon River - Danny Williams and the number one album was Another Black & White Minstrell Show - George Mitchell Minstrels. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 02/01/1963 the number one single was Return to Sender - Elvis Presley and the number one album was Black & White Minstrel Show - George Mitchell Minstrels. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 02/01/1964 the number one single was I Want to Hold Your hand - The Beatles and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 02/01/1965 the number one single was I Feel Fine - The Beatles and the number one album was Beatles For Sale - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

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