Saturday, 1 October 2016

Never had it so good

Comparing life today with life in the fifties ought to make everyone feel that life today is comfortable and safe. I know, there are always exceptions and sad stories, but imagine trying to live without central heating now that autumn mornings are kicking off the central heating. Remember waking up to ice on the inside of the bedroom windows? There was a real disincentive to crawl out of the warm nest of blankets (no duvets) and stagger off to a freezing bathroom to wash (no showers) before going to work or school. The water wasn't always piping hot, either, and the lino underfoot was like ice.

Then it was walk to school where at least there was some warmth in the classrooms. (Pity poor mum who stayed at home in the cold house all day. No wonder she did housework - to keep warm!) Walk home again at lunch time, back to school again and then home. Four journeys in freezing, damp and dismal winter days wearing knee length socks and a thick gaberdine school mac with a quilted lining inside. For me it was about four miles a day, maybe five that I walked, so I gobbled up the jam roly-poly pudding and never put on any weight. Some days gym lessons were hockey and netball - outside in the field. Remember the red knees and chilblains? I never see schoolgirls playing hockey these days, though I'm sure they must be some, somewhere.

Washing machines were rudimentary and still required a mangle and a good drying day. Refrigerators were a luxury, but anyway, houses were cold enough without them, weren't they? Fitted carpets? who had those? Or telephones, or televisions. Radio was the standby for cold winter nights by the only fire in the house. Personal computers weren't available and if you wanted to write a book, you did it by hand or on an old typewriter that almost broke your wrist as you used it.

The fifties (only sixty years ago) were only a few years after a six year war, and the Cold War with Russia was threatening both America and Europe. I had forgotten such things, but when I listen to a certain D Trump, memories of those days return.


Fay Knowles said...

What a lovely description of how it was! Thanks for this, Jen. I remember those days well. Ice inside the windows. Heavy blankets on our beds! Walking back and forwards to school though was really healthy. I lived with my grandmother for a while as a child and she had an outside toilet! The toilet was joined onto the building, but it was still a mad dash to get in there and back into the house again in the winter! And Granny didn't have a bathroom at that time, so we had to bathe in a tin tub in front of the fire. We didn't have a TV. I used to go next door to watch the neighbour's TV. None of this bothered me. I was hardy and enjoyed life.

Jen Black said...

It was probably the best time ever to be alive. My older brother had the war dominating his childhood. Some of us are just lucky.

Regencyresearcher said...

Some what different in the US . Rationing didn't last as long, for one thing. I lived in Georgia, USA in the late 40's to 1950 so didn't have worries about cold. That was the time of dirt roads (I remember walking to school in thick mud and pouring rain )and separate schools, drinking fountains, restrooms . A time swimming pools and movie theatres were closed because of polio outbreaks.I did visit a family without indoor toilets in a bitter cold January in N.C. had a severe case of the flu with a shockingly high temperature.
I remember the ice man and then what a fantastic thing it was to have an icebox that made ice so one didn't have to buy it from the iceman. In the cities they had milk delivery. If you lived where the weather was cold your milk could freeze and there would be a crown of frozen cream .
There was no problem with parking at college because few had cars until they were seniors , if then. At that time there were still several colleges for women.
The decade of the fifties saw quick changes in the USA and recovery from the austerity of the forties appeared to me to be rapid -- not that I thought of it like that. It was the late fifties when I first saw television . Phonograph record players played by electricity instead of winding up.