Saturday 22 November 2014

What I Don't Miss About the 50s 2

Now UKIP are trying to drag us back to the 50s, let's remember the good old days. (Thanks to friends.)

There is an ancient attitude, too, that I saw in my mum and which seems to have disappeared along with the wireless and the mangle and the lardy cake: no fuss, no moaning. (Liz Jones meets the Pullein-Thompson sisters.)

We don't miss:
Outside toilets.
Tin bath in front of the fire.
Ice on the inside of the windows in the morning.
Coats on top of the quilt to keep you warm.
Burst hot water bottles.
Weekly wash day when the kitchen was full of steam from the gas clothes boiler.
Liberty bodices.
Short trousers till you were at secondary school.
School caps.
Sadistic teachers with leather tawses.
Sago puddings
Semolina puddings
The smell of my grandmother cooking tripe.


Even worse having to resort to violence to stop people bullying me.
No TV.
Very few sweets even the Sherbet was rationed.
Violence on the Streets.

Domestic Violence.
Water freezing solid in the glass in my bedroom.
Children being abused - and the cover-ups.
Being forced to go to church and Sunday School.

Being forced to be a Christian - which I am not.
Having to Read the Bible out in classes, didn't make sense then - even less now.
Seeing children in dire poverty, we appear to be moving back to that.
Having everyone in one room as that was the only one with heating.

The sheer pomposity that abounded the "class society" yes even as a little un I remember that.

Some more reasons to loathe the 50's: Being routinely beaten by teachers (from the age of six in my case) with implements including shoes, rulers, straps, canes and cricket bats. Brutal, brutalising and utterly ineffective.

Pollution: the London smogs were appalling and killed large numbers of people. Rivers and canals were bio-hazards and disgusting beyond belief.

Housing: I never met anyone with central heating. Houses were heated with coal fires (hence the smog), typically only in one or two rooms. Homes were freezing in winter. Many were draughty and cramped. Even in the early 70's I visited slum houses in East London with no inside toilet. In the 50's north these were commonplace as were back-to-backs* with a shared toilet block at the end of the street. Then imagine getting up in the night and trudging down the road in a northern winter to use a shared toilet.

Parenting: It seemed to be a grim business for most parents, with children being seen as creatures needing to be forever disciplined and constrained. The idea that spending time with children might actually be fun seemed not to have occurred to many people.

Safety: Many workplaces were positively lethal. As were the roads. As a seven year old child to get to school I had to cross a six lane road (with central reservation) having no speed limit.

Food (again): Many families in the north couldn't afford enough food. Despite full employment money was that short.

Even if your experience was different, surely you can see that for many people the 50's were grim?

* Before anyone comments, check that you know what a back-to-back actually is ;-)


More here.


  1. A lot of parents then thought children were naturally wicked, and if you weren't hard on them they would become criminals. That sounds extreme when I write it down, and I think the parents would deny it, but I 'm sure it was true. Some, at least, were pointlessly harsh, against their own instincts, because they felt they had to be. Glad that has, on the whole, gone.

  2. Very glad it has stopped lingering on!

  3. I was surprised to find genuine back to backs still exist in Leeds. My nephew and his fiancée have just bought one.
    I agree that lots of people think it means something else

  4. I was born and brought up in a back-to-back one-up and one-down house with an outside lavatory and midden several doors away up the street in a family of five {mother, father and three children}. It is only when reading this post that I realised what a poor start this must have been but it didn't seem it at the time and hasn't stopped us from prospering. We were all expected to do well at school and did.It all depends on parents, probably.
    The posts on the fifties-era are so very true..........I had forgotten what those times were like...and can remember we worked until one o'clock on Saturday....everybody did as the five-day working week came later. Even so, having been born in 1930, and having gone through the War years, the 1950's felt quite hedonistic.

  5. Thank you, Unknown! Yes, don't let's go back to the 30s - they were worse! My mum said she was hungry all the time, and when you got food it was horrible!