A 1950s childhood: 5 objects of nostalgia
Last week I was sent a little clutch of new book from "Shire Publications". You might remember them. They used to be rather austere little volumes on slightly quirky subject (British Pub Signs, Toby Jugs and so on). And they have just been relaunched in a more 21st century format.
One caught my eye. It was entitled "1950s Childhood". Born in 1955 (the nice cashier at the station today asked me if I had a Senior Railcard.. only 11.5 months to go), I thought it might speak to me. And in a way it did.
I confess I haven't done more than skim the text. But I have lingered on the pictures.
Some, I have to say, didn't ring any bells at all. My family didn't get a television till the 60s (from "Radio Rentals" -- and it didnt look all that different from what we have now), so the charming family group c 1957 gathered round a 10 inch screen triggered no memories at all. And I have no recollection whatsoever of ration books (which must have stopped just before I arrived in this world).
But other pictures did indeed bring it all back. My five favourites run like this:
1) The toddler on "reins" held by his Mum. This one jogged a particular memory, as I spent many years (or so it seemed) listening my Mum explaining to her friends how I had done a runner from the bank aged 2 and a half, and that she had instantly invested in a set of reins, which she fully recommended to anyone with a straying toddler. A quick google suggests that this particular contraption is still available, but have you ever seen anyone using them in decades? (Actually they might be a bit more child-friendly than just strapping the damn toddler into the buggy, which is the modern way of stopping them bolting for it.)
2) A carnival queen...
I remember vividly in Much Wenlock (actually in the early 60s) watching in awe as the Carnival Queen passed by on her float, looking unbelievably glamorous. There is a wonderful pic in this book, with a queen being crowned in all the tawdriness that I never noticed back then. Far from being glam, it looks like I am sure it ever was -- some sparkly sheets from an amateur dressing up box. (I shall still cherish the suspension of disbelief though.)
3. A booklet for "Singing Together". This was a wonderfu programme on the BBC Home Service, which did singing for schools that didn't have any music (which was certainly true of Church Preen County Primary School in my day). I remember that we would all sit down, with our little booklets, and sing "Cockles and Mussels" along to the music that came -- rather tinnily -- out of the wireless.
4. The "weather station", with all its homespun meteorological devices. The idea of measuring temperature, pressure and rainfull is engraved in my memory. I'll never forget that, when I was about five, our teacher (actually my Mum) asked us all, just before the end of the school day, how we thought we could measure how much rain had fallen durimg the night. None of us could think of how. She growled at us (in a way that would be a disciplinary offence these days I guess) that none of us would be going home, and she would be stopping the school bus, until someone had got the answer. I assume someone must have ("catch it in something, Miss"), as we did get released eventually.
5. An NHS Medical Card ("each NHS patient was issued with a medical card and an individual identity number", we are told). The truth is, I thought we still HAD medical cards. Mine's still upstairs anyway. But this is a lovely piece of mid 20th century (sort of) socialism.
What did I miss in the line up? Well I liked the pic of the 1950s polar bear from London zoo. But where were those long extinct camel rides and chimpanzees tea parties? That was the 50s for me.