60 years ago today

60 years ago today I was 11 weeks old (7 weeks before this photo was taken) and my mum propped me up in a chair to watch the TV. Every time I started to fall asleep she poked me to make me wake up so that I would always be able to say that I had watched the Coronation. I remember that TV, obviously not from that moment but we had it for a while! A dark wood cabinet with a (small) screen at the top and a gold coloured mesh below where the sound came out. Writing this sparked memories of the vertical and horizontal hold that needed to be adjusted or the picture would scroll. That went on into the 1970s!

Thinking about this has made me realise how much has changed during my lifetime.

I can remember the milkman and the coalman doing their rounds with a horse and cart. Technology doesn’t even recognise the word coalman so, for the sake of any ‘youngsters’ reading this the coalman used to come round delivering sacks of coal and coke. Yes, you could openly buy coke by the sackful in those days!

Then there were the baker and the Corona (bottles of fizzy drink) man who also delivered. And the rag and bone man who came round collecting, also with a horse and cart, and gave you a goldfish.

You also used to win goldfish at the fair if you could throw a table tennis ball into a goldfish bowl. We’d take them home in a small plastic bag with string handles. This was stopped because it was cruel, to the goldfish not us.

We used to go to Harrison’s butchers on the London Road in Leigh on Sea for our meat. I remember the shop with the sawdust on the floor. My mum used to say we were going to Lionel’s dad’s shop. Lionel was in my class at infant school. I now know it was also his older brother’s shop – and he’s still at their branch in Leigh Broadway selling really good meat!

We didn’t have central heating, just open fires in one, sometimes both, of the rooms downstairs. I remember my mum kneeling down, holding large sheets of newspaper in front of the fire to get it to ‘draw’. Never knew how that worked but it got it to light.

It used to get really cold upstairs though. We had sheets and blankets with an eiderdown on top. In the winter you’d have a hot water bottle to help keep you warm. No electric blankets and it wasn’t nice if it sprang a leak!

There was a neat gadget called a gas poker. It looked like an ordinary poker but it had holes in it. You attacked it to the gas tap, turned the gas on, lit it and shoved it in the fire.

When mum was doing the ironing she used to plug the iron into the central light socket in order to use it.

I’m the oldest of three and my mum used to ride her bike around while I sat in a seat behind her. When my brother was in his pram I had a seat on that then, when my younger brother was born I was moved, albeit reluctantly, onto the ground and walking. Kids were expected to walk in those days, as were adults! Pushchairs were small, functional and folded up neatly for getting on buses etc. not like the equivalents of 4x4s these days.

The railways had steam trains, beautiful to watch and great fun to stand on a bridge as they went under.

Everything felt safer. There have always been nutters out there, lets face it the Moors Murderers were active at that time but people looked out for each other more. Kids were the responsibility of all adults and you were expected to respect them all.

When I ran out in the road in front of a double decker bus terrifying the driver who got out of his cab, grabbed hold of me and spanked my bottom I didn’t tell my mum. I knew I’d done wrong, and I knew I’d get it again for deserving it. Unfortunately a neighbour saw it and she did tell 😦

We were given loads of freedom, going home when we were hungry! Yes we got into difficult situations but we found our own way out of them. It taught us resourcefulness, people skills and to make our own entertainment.

School was different too. Large classes with lots of emphasis or Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. No computers and, to the complete amazement of my ex pupils, no calculators. I used to do sums (+,-,x, divide) with £ s d and stones, pounds and ounces. Far more complicated than today’s metric stuff! In fact we didn’t go metric until I was 17 or 18 and I still can, and do, convert money instantly.

In fact we did loads of mental arithmetic and spellings, fortunately I liked both!

That’s not to say everything in education was good. Far from it. We were rigidly streamed from at least the first year juniors (year 3). Expectations of pupils not in the top streams were low. The ‘class system’ was evident throughout the classes. You were kept with your own type which meant you had little understanding of other people’s lives.

I think my mum did try to address this a bit by reading us stories like ‘The Family from One End Street’ and ‘The Children Who Lived in a Barn’. They were probably very un PC but my memory of them is children growing up without much money.


Tried and failed to move this photo. Giving up now as I’ve already accidentally emailed it to my followers!

This’ll do for memories today but I’ll probably do a follow up post at some point!

12 responses to “60 years ago today”

  1. Lovely to hear your memories. Funny enough, I grew up in the eighties on a farm, in France, and a lot of the characteristics apply! but it’s nice to see how you remember all the details and how school are so different nowadays! xx

  2. Memories are such wonderful things aren’t they? Even the bad ones make you realise how lucky you are to have the life and friendships you can enjoy now. It always amazes me how many memories we can store in the hidden depths of our minds and how the slightest thing, a smell, a sound, a taste, the touch of a loved one’s hand, can bring them all flooding back as if it were only yesterday.

    • Definitely. Which reminds me, I saw you were an infant teacher in Benfleet. Long shot as I don’t know how long you’d been in the area, but did you know Shan Branch who was Head of Westwood in Hadleigh?

      • No I didn’t, although I was in Benfleet for 11 years, 5 as Head of Montgomerie Infants before I lost my job through ill health. Gareth told me you were a head too – where were you?

  3. I love this, it made me laugh slightest your mum made you stay awake. I watched the anniversary service this morning, the Queen is so lovely! Just a quick question, Why did the rag & bone man give people a goldfish? Can you imagine the outrage now if a bus driver got off the bus & spanked a child!

    • I suppose they were cheap and made the kids badger their parents for stuff.

      I can! But I deserved it and I don’t think I ever ran out in front of a bus again.

      “It takes a whole village to raise a child!”

  4. By the way, thanks for the emailed baby photo that also made me chuckle, not the photo (it’s very cute) but the fact that you’d emailed it to us, your loyal followers! xx!

    • I was horrified when it went, but I couldn’t get it back. You must have all thought I’d gone even pottier than usual. Was going to add more photos but couldn’t take the risk!

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