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Tuesday, 14 October 2008

1950s childhood

I seem to be in nostalgic mood at the moment - something which doesn't often happen. I've been thinking recently about the 1950s in particular and comparing then with now - which was probably why I found The Accidental Time Traveller so good.

Were the 50s really a golden age? They seem like it to me. I can remember going to school on the bus when I was 6 or 7 on my own which is something parents seem very wary of now. I don't remember having the fear of God put into me about strangers either. We lived in a leafy cul de sac in an Edwardian semi with attics and cellars - I slept in the attic for a time - which I loved. The house seemed huge to me though I suspect it would not seem so now.

I can remember frost flowers on the inside of the windows in the morning and getting dressed in bed to keep warm - or downstairs in front of the fire. We used to toast crumpets and bread at the open fire on a brass toasting fork which had the Lincoln Imp on the handle.

Life was simpler. Television was only the BBC. People listened to the radio, talked, read, did embroidery or general sewing or knitting. My grandparents played cards for matchsticks or read the paper. There was much less choice of food in the shops and there were no supermarkets. We had no fridge and for a long time no washing machine. My mother used to wash in the cellar - boiling the water in the copper and doing the washing in a dolly tub, with a posher and then rinsing in cold water and putting clothes through the mangle (or wringer). Meat was kept in a meat safe in the cellar. Food was bought fresh every couple of days. Bread was unsliced and any that went stale was made into bread pudding or bread and butter pudding. Leftovers were not wasted.

It was a thrifty existence but not a miserable one. Parents spent time with their children. When the weather was fine everyone would be outside. In winter people sat by the fire. There would be curtains over internal doors to keep out the draughts and everyone wore jumpers socks and slippers as a matter of course. We were hardier I think. I didn't live in a house with full central heating until 1977 but I don't ever really remember being cold - you just put on more layers.

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