Web Page No 2384
1st July 2017
Top Picture: Curtain behind the doorSecond Picture: Welfare Orange juice
Third Picture: Interior of Ford 100EForth Picture: Omo advert
Growing up in the 1950s
Another set of 1950s memories that I have recently been sent, it will drag up some long forgotten things I suspect.
Everybody who grew up in Fifties Britain will have his or her own indelible memories of their childhood, from the first taste of welfare orange juice to the birth of rock' n’ roll. The nation was recovering from the ravages of the Second World War and the camaraderie of wartime was still evident throughout the country.
Despite the difficulties of day-to-day living people had great pride in and loyalty to their country and seemed to share a common purpose in life. Families stayed together through the hard times and everybody knew their neighbours and had a sense of belonging. They would routinely leave their door on the latch and hang a key on a piece of string behind the letterbox when they were out for their children to come and go as they pleased.
Children waking up on Christmas morning in 1952 had experienced rationing of food and clothes all of their lives. It was quite normal to go without the sweets, biscuits, crisps and fizzy drinks that would be taken for granted by future generations. Before sweet rationing ended in February 1953 the most prized thing in your Christmas stocking would have been a small, two-ounce bar of chocolate.
You probably didn’t get your first black and white television set until the late Fifties. After all, only three million British households had one by 1954, with numbers increasing to almost 13million by 1964.
But it didn’t matter if you had no television because you could play in the streets without the fear of traffic or the obstruction of parked cars. Buses and bicycles were the most popular modes of transport. In 1950 there were just under two million cars in Britain, with only 14% of households owning one. The most popular models in the Fifties included the Ford Prefect 100E and the Austin A35 saloon.
Many of us who grew up then have memories of houses that were draughty in winter with curtains hung behind the street door to reduce the flow of cold air and frost that formed overnight on the inside of bedroom windows.
The larger urban areas suffered with dense, yellowish smogs – known as pea-soupers – caused by fog combining with coal fire emissions. In 1952 a particularly thick smog shrouded London and caused the deaths of an estimated 12,000 people.
However, life was certainly not all doom and gloom. 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.
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 administered for bad behaviour.
There was no mugging of old ladies and people felt that it was safe to walk the streets. There was very little vandalism and no graffiti. Telephone boxes were fully glazed and each contained a set of local telephone directories and a pay-box full of pennies.
Youngsters respected people in authority such as policemen, teachers, and park keepers, knowing that they would get a clip around the ear if they were caught misbehaving. Home life was much different from today. Everyone seemed to have a gramophone, an upright piano and a valve radio in their front room and there were ticking clocks all around the house.
The kitchen was filled with products such as Omo washing powder and Robin starch and a whistling kettle was a permanent fixture on the kitchen stove.
Most adults smoked and there were ashtrays in every room, even in the bedrooms. We still managed to eat lots of wholesome food, which was always freshly cooked, and mums seemed always to be baking and though many of us didn’t have a fridge and went shopping for groceries every day. Perishable foods were bought in small amounts – just enough to last a day. It was quite usual to buy a single item of fruit.
On Sundays everyone had a roast dinner and leftovers were made into stews and pies to eat later in the week. In 1950, 55% of young children drank tea with their meals. Bread and beef dripping was standard fare, that was even worse than the daily spoonful of cod liver oil many of us had to consume.
Boys and girls played street games together, such as run outs, hopscotch and British bulldog. In the playground schoolgirls practised handstands and cartwheels with their skirts tucked up under the elastic of their navy blue knickers, while the boys played conkers.
We travelled in third-class compartments on train journeys to the seaside and at the seaside you wore a knitted bathing costume on the beach.
Do you remember Pathé News at the cinema? Going to the pictures was everyone’s favourite outing, with all those wonderful stiff-upper-lip British film stars such as John Mills, Jack Hawkins, Kenneth More and Dirk Bogarde and great war films such as The Dam Busters, epics such as Ben-Hur and comedies such as The Belles Of St Trinian’s. When the film ended everyone stood for the National Anthem and stayed until it finished playing.
For children the Saturday morning pictures provided the best fun. Every week, 200 to 300 unruly children would descend on a cinema for a couple of hours of film and live entertainment. It was controlled mayhem with the stalls and circle filled with children cheering for the goodies and booing the baddies. It introduced us to The Lone Ranger and Zorro and the slapstick comedy of Mr Pastry and Buster Keaton.
Dusty, old-fashioned sweetshops had high wooden counters jam-packed with boxes of ha’penny chews and other sweet delights. Then there were those Smith’s potato crisps. The salt was in a twist of blue paper and you always had to rummage around for it at the bottom of the bag.
It was the decade of skiffle with Lonnie Donegan and of the start of rock' n’roll with Bill Haley, Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard. Cliff’s first hit Move It is credited as being the first rock'n’roll song produced outside the United States. While everyone now remembers rock'n’roll, in reality the record buyers were suckers for ballads and throughout the Fifties homegrown ballad singers had British girls swooning in the aisles .
It is hard to identify the Britain of today with how it was back then. The whole appearance of the country has changed, particularly in inner cities where so much building and development work has been done over the years. The war torn dilapidated houses, derelict land and bomb are now long gone.
There was something cosy about growing up in the last decade in which most children retained their childish innocence to the age of 12 or 13 and enjoyed a carefree life full of fun and games. The stresses of adolescence and then adult life could wait. We were lucky and we all managed to pass exams without the aid of Google!
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On this day 1st July 1960-1965
On 01/07/1960 the number one single was Three Steps to Heaven - Eddie Cochran and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was No Hiding Place (AR) and the box office smash was Psycho. 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 week was Neale Fraser wins Wimbledon men's singles.
On 01/07/1961 the number one single was Runaway - Del Shannon and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Harpers West One (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. The big news story of the week was Author Ernest Hemingway commits suicide.
On 01/07/1962 the number one single was Come Outside - Mike Sarne with Wendy Richard and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. 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 01/07/1963 the number one single was I Like It - Gerry & the Pacemakers and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. 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 01/07/1964 the number one single was It's Over - Roy Orbison and the number one album was Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones. The top rated TV show was Club Night (BBC) 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. The big news story of the week was President Johnson signs Civil Rights Act.
On 01/07/1965 the number one single was I'm Alive - Hollies and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. 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