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Did anyone grow up in the 50's? (and 30's and 40's if you are on here!)

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PancakesAndMapleSyrup Sun 07-Jul-19 14:24:51

I've been reading with great interest the thread on growing up in the 80's but wondered if there were any posters on that were brought up in the 50s and could explain what life was like then? Just very interested in what life was like around the country then and what attitudes were like before exploding into the 60's.

hammersmithapollo Sun 07-Jul-19 14:27:27

Watching with interest because I love these sort of threads! The 80s one is very interesting

beachcomber70 Sun 07-Jul-19 14:59:12

Yes I did. It was when not many people had a car so kids played safely in the street. We just had the radio until late 50's. No one had a phone either, had to use the red telephone kiosk inserting coins and pressing buttons A or B.

Everyone walked to school or went to work on the bus. Grass was cut with a push mower, cars were washed by hand...both done at weekends and no shop opened on a Sunday. Most of us went to Sunday school.

In the school holidays we would go all over the place for hours at a time, in the parks, woods, building dens and rope swings, on roller skates, on our bikes without our parents knowing where we were. So I think we were all fitter because of all the outside activities.
We'd play marbles in the gutters, football in the streets, do lots of skipping and playing ball, spending our pocket money on 4 for 1d sweets at the corner shops. Our toys were all the cowboys and Indians gear, pistols, catapults, bows and arrows, pea shooters, tricycles, skates. All very Famous Five. We'd all read a lot too.

Mum worked as a shorthand typist at the Gas Board [but that wasn't the norm as most mothers were home all day, only dads went to work where I lived]. She'd go ballroom dancing at weekends. She would take me to a Chinese restaurant sometimes as it was the new novelty place to go.
We would go the theatre for shows and pantomimes and to the cinema, it was the era of Oklahoma, South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, Bambi, The Lady and the Tramp, Pinocchio, the Lone Ranger, Davy Crocket, Robin Hood etc. Very few holidays, mostly day trips on the coach or train now and then.

Food was basic but fresh and wholesome, 3 meals a day usually meat and 2 veg, fish on Fridays. No snacks, no fizzy drinks in my house. Just a square of chocolate if I finished my dinner [which was struggle if it was tripe and onions]. Ice cream was a special treat only on a day out. No one had a fridge anyway.

But my childhood was great, and I didn't feel I missed out on anything at all despite no carpets or central heating, just a coal fire [for toasting crumpets with the toasting fork] and hot water bottles in the winter. We were not well off by any means and know I am lucky to be able to say the 50's were simple and happy years. My problems started as the 50's came to an end....

Ponoka7 Sun 07-Jul-19 15:14:11

My older Sister was but what dominated her life was Racism. Our Mother is white, her Father from the Caribbean.

At first they shared a big house near to Liverpool docks, which had a mixed population. My Grandparents, two Aunts (with Husbands), my Mother and their six children shared the house.

They lived in the basement and my Grandmother ran the top as a boarding house. Money was ok so they had a television. The street used to pop in to watch it.

She grew up playing in the street.

It was when the house was going to be knocked down to redevelop the area that issues started for her.

Some of the Teachers were racist, as well as the pupils and nothing was done about it. My Sister went to dance classes and she was always put forward to star in things, because she was a novelty, si that gave her confidence.

University was free, so she went and lived in a flat share. My Cousins did as well. She dropped out but went into a job that now, needs a BA.

She got pregnant, in the early 60's but keeping it was out of the question so she had an abortion, which i don't think she ever got over.

She describes life as carefree, with lots of opportunities. She worked abroad for a while and some of her Friends settled in other countries.

Some of her Friends talk about the frustration they felt because of limited opportunities for Women. There were a lot of expectations on Women.

My Sister stayed single, so did my female cousins, so they didn't have to limit themselves.

PancakesAndMapleSyrup Sun 07-Jul-19 15:15:20

Beachcomber the squares of chocolate made me laugh. My mum was born in 55 so doesn't remember the 50's as such but still gives my children a square of choc after they finish their tea! What were the A and B buttons on the telephone?
Did many mums do work from home at all or was working still seen as not really the donw thing?

beachcomber70 Sun 07-Jul-19 15:30:55

Pancakes I think you put money in to talk to the person when they answered and pressed B to get it back if there was no reply...not sure as I had no one to phone and no cash for it. Saw my Grandmother get flustered enough times though.
My mother was a single mother [yes, some unmarried mothers did keep their babies if her mother, the grandmother, accepted the situation and cooperated because there was a lot of stigma and disapproval around] she went out to work and kept quiet about the circumstances at home.
Some women in my area did work at home I think...things like typing envelopes, knitting/sewing/making curtains for people, all poorly paid.
My mum went on to be a rep for girdles! and to do home knitting on a knitting machine, and to create designs for wallpaper/fabric...but for a pittance.
I remember the excitement when a launderette opened near us as no one had a washing machine at all. We had a 'copper' ie. tub in the kitchen in which water was heated up by a gas flame underneath it... and a mangle [ loved using that].

Idratherhaveacupoftea Sun 07-Jul-19 15:38:41

I too grew up in the 50s. My memories are of walking to school on my own from the age of 6, it was a good mile away as well. Teachers arrived at the same time as the children, most of them on bicycles and 90% of them single women. No homework in Primary school and if the weather was warm we'd be taken out on nature rambles and making nature tables at the front of the class of things we had collected.

My mum was a stay at home mum like the majority of women, none of my friends mothers worked either. They were always there when you arrived home with time to listen about your day and home made cakes and puddings were the norm.

We spent most of our holidays outside playing in woods, taking our fishing nets and jam jars with us, playing in the streams at the bottom of our road. Lots of falling in, rushing home to get changed and then out again. We were extremely lucky to have all this without our parents worrying about us. They would never have dreamed to come with us either, parents just didn't play with their kids, we all played with other kids.

Houses were cold, no central heating, just a coal fire with the coal bunker outside the back door. The bedrooms resembled igloos with ice forming patterns on the inside,of,the windows.No fitted carpets, just a square with Lino round the outside, it was freezing on your feet in the morning. The bathroom was was unbelievably cold, bath was once a week with your hair washed at the same time. A paraffin heater was lit and put in the bathroom for an hour before you went in to stop you freezing half to death.

Doctors came out to see you when you were ill and your mum stripped the bed and made sure you were washed and clean pjs on before he arrived, regardless of how ill you felt. If you had had an illness like measles or scarlet fever, any library books you may have had, would not be returned to the library for fear of contamination. We had chickenpox, measles, German measles,mumps,scarlet fever, whooping cough, you name it we had it.

No telephone, no car, no television, we just made our own fun and I was a voracious reader. The person who asked about button A and B in the phone box, when you made a phone call in a phone box, you put your money in the slot, dialled, when the person the other end answered you pressed button A and got put through. If there was no reply, you pressed button B and got your money back.

I have nothing but happy memories of being a child in the 50s. Then Elvis arrived and everything changed grin

1forAll74 Sun 07-Jul-19 15:52:44

I was born in the early 40's era, so during the war years when things were quite tough,but I would agree that the 50's for me, were just as beachcomber70 said. We never thought as it as hardship times,because mostly everyone was in the same boat,and things did seem good for children,as there never seemed to be any of the health and safety things like today,so kids could go off with their mates,and play all day,all over the place.

I left school at 15 in the mid 50's, I was just an average schoolgirl,so one week I was wearing a school gymslip, and brown Clark's sandals, and horrible navy knickers, then three weeks later, I started work in an office,with lots of adult men and fairly glam women, my Mum had to give me a bit of money to go to town,and buy some office clothes.and she told me not to buy any lipstick,which I totally ignored,so I bought some cheap pink lippy from Woolworth's.and hid it in my bedroom,and put it on, on the bus going to work !

But basically, growing up in the the 40's and 50's.for me anyway,has always stayed with me, regarding money and everyday in not wasting anything,and looking after things, and only buying what you can afford, and mainly now, appreciating what you have, now that things are better.

Knittedfairies Sun 07-Jul-19 16:05:34

I grew up in the 50's. I walked to school by myself from the age of 6 too, and to and from Brownies year round, so often in the dark. My dad came home for 'dinner' in the middle of the day as he walked to work. My mum and grandma bottled gooseberries and salted runner beans in Kilner jars.
My mum washed every Monday with a Burco (?) boiler, a dolly tub and peg, a dolly bag blue bag for whites and a fearsome mangle that folded up when not in use. It had an enamel top and she painted the metal legs red for some reason. The washing was dried outside on the line, or if wet, on a rack that was on a pulley system and was hauled up over our heads in the kitchen. Later she had a Flatley dryer which was basically an electrically heated box with wooden poles across to it to hang up the washing. There was great rejoicing when she got a washing machine; again basically a metal box with an agitator and a mangle on the top. I think my dad bought it second-hand from a U.S. service family stationed nearby who were going home.

SlocombePooter Sun 07-Jul-19 16:07:49

Beachcomber and tea, you have described my childhood!

1forall you are about the same age as my two older brothers, war babies. They entered the 1960s as young adults, so, like you, were old enough to see a massive change in society.

I was born in 1950 so I can remember the excitement of the Coronation. The queen looked vaguely like my Mum so as a toddler I was very confused as to why Mummy's picture was everywhere!

Knittedfairies Sun 07-Jul-19 16:08:47

My childhood was exactly as Idratherhaveacupoftea describes - even down to the clean pjs before the doctor came. You knew you were ill if you got Lucozade too.

SilverySurfer Sun 07-Jul-19 16:10:06

I was born in the mid 1940s.

We had a 9 inch black and white tv with one channel but mostly listened to the wireless, my DF bought a car, it was the fourth in the street, food was rationed until mid 50's, there was no such thing as snacks, you could buy 4 chews for one old penny, School was ruled by a headmaster who prowled the corridors swishing his cane, looking for anyone misbehaving, we spent most of the summer playing outside, my DM was a dressmaker and she made all my and my sister's clothes, often the same for both of us and not always to our taste, washing was done in a twin tub and then passed through a mangle to remove excess water, everything was ironed, including underwear, ice could be scraped off the inside of bedroom windows in winter, we had a bath and washed hair once a week, every summer my sister and I and our grandparents would go by steam train down to Tynemouth where we would stay at the same B&B. My parents would come down the following week and take over from grandparents.

My parents were lovely and I have great memories.

SlocombePooter Sun 07-Jul-19 16:19:21

Knitted working the dolly peg was my favourite thing to do!

I think with phones there was an option to put more money in if the call went on too long.

We had very little money but we went to the library regularly. I got told off for changing my books too often, because the librarian couldn't believe I'd read them all.

Also, the level of squalor in my classmates' homes was heart breaking. Families were large and not by choice. However, it would have been considered disgraceful for the main breadwinner not to work, and benefits were less widespread as I recall.

lozengeoflove Sun 07-Jul-19 16:20:52

These posts are fascinating. Please keep them coming.
What was school like in the 50s? Was there a lot of learning by rote? How about discipline?

Knittedfairies Sun 07-Jul-19 16:27:32

We had to know our tables by the age of 7, and wrote them out from 1x2=2 to 12x12=144 every Monday morning while the teacher did the register and collected the dinner money; 5s per week (25p!) We used a dip pen and an inkwell from that age too. It was a great day when a ballpoint pen was introduced (except I couldn't have one as I was a pencil-chewer...)

daddykool99 Sun 07-Jul-19 16:31:47

I can remember/ relive the EXCELLENT posts of the 50s, I used to live in a mining village Dad on silly shifts and then down the welfare for a drink or two every night , my mother was ALWAYS washing clothes using the copper gas fired tub with me , younger brother and another one on the way +2 later on into the 60s , So in embarrassment WE were the smelly kids with candle snotty noses ,cardboard in the boot soles and bum hanging out of our short trousers with tattered /thread pulled woollen tank top type jumpers and used to scrump everything available in the allotments when we were hungry and played outside in the woods and local river after school and ALL day at weekends even Sunday after Sunday school until the sun went in and it started to get cold. We were brown as berries and as fit as fleas, we might have been poor but we were happy ragamuffins THEN we moved to the City !!!!!!!!!

Knittedfairies Sun 07-Jul-19 16:31:48

My mum didn't go out to work; she stayed at home to look after 4 children and her MIL. There was always somebody at home when I got home from school, either my mum or grandma. I was very excited to get home from school once to find they were both out. It was a Thursday...

GiantKitten Sun 07-Jul-19 16:39:00

Very similar memories to everybody else here - ice flowers inside the windows, getting dressed in front of the coke stove in the kitchen, paraffin heaters (we had TWO, there’s posh) in the hall & bathroom (used to hear occasionally of house fires caused by stoves being knocked over so we were very careful!)

Lived in a modern council house on a new estate in Middlesex (that house’s current market value is close to half a million shock) with almost no cars & a 1-mile walk to school. My class had 55 pupils right through juniors (110-120 per year but for some reason there were only 11 classrooms, so every 4th year was divided in 2 instead of 3)

There were seasonal activities at break times - the changes were always mysterious to me, but suddenly everyone would be bringing skipping ropes, or roller skates, or bouncy balls for 2 balls, or chalk for hopscotch.

We had a Hoover washing machine - a single drum with a small rotator at the back & a mangle on top. Mangling was a privilege, my brother & I used to fight over it confused

In the hard winter of 1963, because there were no cars the kids on the estate managed to create an ice slide on the packed snow that was about 100’ long. I don’t think any bones were broken.

Didn’t have a telly until I was about 10 - I think - though I remember Watch with Mother (Andy Pandy, Bill & Ben etc) so maybe it was earlier. Pre-school was listening to Listen with Mother (“are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin!”) Telly was rented for 10 bob (50p) a week from Rumbelows - 20 cigarettes cost 15p-20p so the telly was expensive!

lozengeoflove Sun 07-Jul-19 16:41:09


SlocombePooter Sun 07-Jul-19 16:43:23

Lozenge there were 40ish children in my primary class. Yes, tables and spelling were by rote, the teacher used the board a lot and we were in small groups much like today to do our written work. We were in top set, bottom set etc, and had exams every term to determine our place in the class. I was usually top or second, alternating with another girl! We later did lots of practice papers for the 11 plus, only a handful of us passed. I got a place at the local girls' grammar school but didn't go.

GiantKitten Sun 07-Jul-19 16:48:08


What was school like in the 50s? Was there a lot of learning by rote? How about discipline?

Can’t remember a thing about learning! but as for discipline, I was caned (on the hand) 4 times in junior school & not for anything particularly bad either.

Education was about being told stuff, learning it, & not asking questions. (Esp in my class of 55! I can’t imagine how the teachers coped)

lozengeoflove Sun 07-Jul-19 16:48:52

So many children in one class!
Sounds very competitive too.

GiantKitten Sun 07-Jul-19 16:49:43

Oh I do remember chanting times tables! That’s still the best way to learn those IMO - it never leaves you grin

GiantKitten Sun 07-Jul-19 16:53:53

Always had chapped knees in the winter, from my lovely St Michael gaberdine mac which was somehow always the wrong length. I can remember wishing I was a baby in a pram again on one of those cold wet dark walks home from school!

Also chilblains from sitting too close to the fire with freezing cold feet. There was some weird stinky brown ointment for those.

Greenteandchives Sun 07-Jul-19 16:54:41

I was born in the 50s and remember starting school. I remember reciting times tables every day, and sitting at the teacher’s feet for story time. We used to have to put mats out for a nap after lunch. No choice at dinner time, you got what you were given. Assembly every day with all those lovely children’s hymns. Daisies are our silver, buttercups our gold... and All things bright and beautiful. The toilets were through the air raid shelters, and had Bronco toilet paper. School milk with a paper straw at break time. It was often frozen in the winter and had to be thawed out on the radiator. We did PE in our vest and pants. Concrete playground, so our knees were often skinned. We were scared of the headmaster. I don’t remember any overweight pupils, and generally people behaved well. I remember a class for children who we called ‘backward’ shock. No children of other ethnicities at all. I remember the excitement when a black family moved locally.In our school two classes were taught in the same room with screens down the middle. We just got on with it. At the end of the day we put chairs on the desk and sang a song which went ‘Hands together softly so, little eyes shut tight. Keep us when the dark is near, and through every night. Aaaaamen!’ Then we walked home. I was never taken or collected. Everyone walked home from an early age, often a fair distance with some busy roads. I remember being given raffle tickets to sell and my friend and I ringing doorbells and going into strangers homes to sell them. We never thought anything of it. One day we were told we were going to do the 11 plus exam. No warning or preparation.It was a good time to grow up. At 11 I got two buses every day across town to my senior school.

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