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Nostalgia for my 1930's ribbon development suburban childhood

(12 Posts)
giulia Wed 06-Jul-22 09:10:12

I know will receive many raised eyebrows. 1930' suburbia has been ferociously criticised for ruining acres of countryside and for its unimaginative architecture.

However, our road ran parallel to a single-track railway line so, no side turnings on our side of the road. This meant we could ride our orange-carts on pramwheels for a mile with no dips or humps. Bliss for an eigh-year old.

It was lined on both sides with alternate double-flowering cherry trees and a dark-red leafed tree whose name I don't know, but in spring the road looked so pretty. There were also grass strips bordering the road (so the dogs were happy too). At the top of the road was a roundabout with all the shops we could need. Also a Woolworth's, a pub, a community hall and a cinema. The bus stopped there to take us into the nearest large town and the mainline station for London.

The gardens were pocket handkerchief sized but all carefully tended and all different, as were the colours of the front doors. The houses were all semi-detached and pebble-dashed. Some daring people sprayed their pebbles white.

We had little wooden front gates. The milkman in his float and the baker in his van passed every day and left our orders under our tiny porches.

All the roads around were very similar. We walked safely to school with no adults to accompany us (it wouldn't have occured to them to do so!). We walked through a pretty park to reach our school and this park was manned by "Jock", with his Army medals and his pointed stick to pick up any rubbish and a sharp eye out for any bad behaviour from us children.
There was a jolly Lollypop man to help those children who needed to cross the main road to grt to school.

Our school had wooden huts built in the playground to house the classes for us Baby Boom children and the discipline was military as, indeed, several of our teachers were ex-military: punishments were pressups and runs around the school field, if not the plimsoll smack on the backside.

All in all, I think I grew up in very pleasant surroundings. We were none of us well-off but we had what we needed.

Anyone agree with me?

Ps: have seen on Google Maps that the area has now sadly deteriorated. Such a shame.

RichmondPark Wed 06-Jul-22 09:39:11

What a beautiful and vivid picture you've painted of a time and place. I was a child of the 1960s and have lived in several 1930s houses. I often wonder what all those houses and roads were like back when they were new.

Builders don't seem to factor in play spaces, trees and facilities as they used to and of course councils don't have money now for people like Jock. Bill Bryson said that he wished we could sacrifice some of the focus on economic growth and financial gain in order to restore a focus on life just being a bit nicer for everyone.

Things have never been perfect, but your childhood sounds wonderful, thank you for sharing it.

Chestnut Wed 06-Jul-22 10:49:19

Yes a beautiful description of an idyllic childhood spent in a safe and pleasant environment. I can't see that house building back then was any worse than house building now. It always involves stealing chunks of beautiful green countryside. Suburban areas provided well built houses and anyone should be lucky to have such a home.

I lived upstairs in a large, rather dark Victorian house and attended a large Victorian school, so the area you lived would have been heaven to me. I recall some of the primary school teachers being ex-military. I just thought that was normal!

biglouis Wed 06-Jul-22 15:20:45

I was a child of the late 40s - early 50s. We did not live in suburbia but in the working class part of a large northern city. It was not pretty but did have a nearby park, a row of shops and a good bus service into a nearest shopping center and then on to the city.

There were few private cars then so groups of kids played safely in the streets. Boys played cricket, football, biking and go-karting in the park. Girls and younger boys (whom they often had to look after) played skipping, ball games and "street" games like hide and seek or tick.

Unlike today our parents never seemed to worry about us and we automatically went in when it began to get dark. There was an entire "lore" of the street games which taught us about things like rules, fairness, how to make decisions and negotiate friendships and squabbles. Parents very rarely went to the school or became involved in childhood relationships. We managed all that for ourselves.

There were (of course) guides, scouts, cubs and brownies. Some kids attended dance lessons. For most of us there were very few "activities" of the kind to which contemporary parents ferry their offspring by car. When we had to go anywhere we walked, rode bikes or got the bus. There were no sleepovers or play dates. Parties were a real treat because money was scarce.

In comparison with modern kids we had a lot of freedom and I think we were much the better for it. When I see threads on MN about how invested many parents are with the school and their children's relationships with other kids I know my parents would have considered that a "lot of faff". They were too busy putting food on the table and paying the bills.

Ali08 Fri 08-Jul-22 13:49:25

Ooooh Giulia, what lovely images you have given me!
Thank you xx

Elusivebutterfly Fri 08-Jul-22 18:21:25

That was a lovely description of a 50s childhood.

Franbern Sat 09-Jul-22 08:56:24

I was nine years old when my parents got moved to one of the new overspill estates that were built for London's east end population. Up to then, my school had been a large Victorian building, infants on ground floor, juniors first floor and top floor for those secondary school children who had 'failed' the plus. Indeed my first day in Juniors (now called Year 3), in the A stream class, we were taken t o watch, through the fence), these young teenagers at play and warned yes, Warned, that could be our future if we did not work hard!!

The estate we were moved to was in the early stages building, so like a very large building site. Wonderful semi-detached three bedroom houses with upstairs bathroom. So different from the attic rooms we had been living in.

School bus to take us to the nearest t town for school (still a victorian building). It was several years later that schools/shops etc. were built on this estate.

Both my parents had to go out early each morning to walk across fields to the nearest station to take them to London for their work. I got myself up and dressed and off to that bus. My Mother worked 'part time' so would be home by about 5 pm. She had an arrangement with a neighbour with two young children for me to go into her after school.

During the evenings and holidays all the children played out around the building sites and in the countryside. Accidents did occur, some quite serious. Those of us who have survived can look back on the 'freedom' had, but there was a cost. I did pass that 11 plus and got my (actually my Mothers), first choice school, a very good ex-public , now girls grammar school on a nearby town. My parents were asked to see the Headmistress before I started where she told them that her school was most unsuitable for a child from the Council estate!! Nothing could have convinced my father, in particular, more to ensure that I went there!!!

It is so easy to look back on those times with large rose-coloured specs. Yes, as children we ran free, yes, there was little interference by our parents in our schooling, those parents worked so many hours and were unable to give us too much time. I know now that my Mother would have loved so much to have been a stay at home Mum. My dad worked six and half days each week to ensure we had a nice standard of living. No even taking time off (unpaid) for holidays or even for a long term quite painful medical condition which needed an operation.

Little furniture of even carpets in our homes, never eating out, rarely going out.

Think, on the whole, in reality, I prefer NOW to THEN

giulia Sat 09-Jul-22 10:54:31

Franbern What an interesting and bitter post. I appreciated it and you write really well.

I had noticed (and was surprised) by how my memories suggested an idyllic childhood.

The aim of my post had been simply to talk about how pragmatic and efficient thiese 1930s' developments were.

Personally, my family situation at that that time was very unhappy but - just maybe - made less so by my family's physical environment.

My mother had been abandoned with two children and no qualifications to work. Apparently, my grandfather set up a mortgage for us (after having just finished his own).

Whatever, thinking back, this was a relatively gentle place and era for many families in the 195's.

Franbern Tue 12-Jul-22 09:22:14

guilia I hope my post did not come over as bitter. I was just telling it as it was.

I was so fortunate, in that I had a wonderful childhood. Loved by both parents, not much money - but in that, no different to all the other children I knew and played with. Indeed, as a sort of only child (had one brother, but twelve years older and he had left home), with both parents working, I really was one of the better off. It was my Dad that hired the television in 1953 so that all the neighbours came in to watch the Coronation.

I just get very fed up with people nostalgically looking back on the past and cherry picking things that seemed wonderful for us when we were children, without realising how difficult life was for the adults then.

I can remember rationing, no central heating, one room in the house with a fire, frost inside of windows, childblains, wet washing hanging around all week, no indoor toilets, many with no proper baths. On the estate, no shops, my Mum and the other women in the houses nearby used to take it in turns each week to wait for the butchers van to come round (sometimes as late as ten or eleven at night. Ditto the greengrocers van, Biggest excitement each week was the arrival of the 'pop' lorry,

Children, (unsupervised play) having quite nasty accidents, involving broken bones, etc. or worse. Always and constantly money worries, causing most arguements inside peoples homes. Women being seriously abused physically by drunken husbands, and nobody thought there was anything wrong with that.

My Dad did not drink and did not ever hit my Mum, although he did have a violent tempter. Can remember when Mum gave in to a door salesmen selling on the ;never never' and she 'bought ( first deposit), a rug for the hall. At the time only Lino down there. When Dad came home, he was so angry at her (we could only buy what we could pay for in full), he threw that rug in the dustbin and I helped Mum get it back out. That weekend he took some time off work and they took the rug back to the store in the local town from which it came and he demanded the deposit back -and got it

No heating, no double glazing, no washing machine, no constant, hot water, just a once a week bath, no cars, and NO so many other things that makes my life so very comfortable these days.

karmalady Tue 12-Jul-22 09:34:44

my glasses are not rose tinted. Old corner terrace house in liverpool. Cobbles, smoke and fog. My playground was the street. Park a mile away. No trees in sight of the house. 7 children, 3 bedrooms. Lots of work for me being the oldest. A small yard, no garden and very little money. Mum did not get outside work until the youngest was seven, more than enough work for her in the home

Good community. Great schools. Aspirations from hard working parents. Celebrations when some kindly neighbour gave us an old fridge. Lots of shops and buses within walking distance. There was only one way for us 7 children and that was up and we all did it, became professionals, thanks to the great parents, schools and the local library

elasticatedslacks Mon 18-Jul-22 11:35:48

giulias description sounds lovely - to my mind very much like one of those Ladybird early reader books - for example, The Party! There was so much less choice in those days. Parties always seemed to involve the exotic drink 'Tizer' and girls wore little fluffy short sleeved cardigans over their party dresses. At my primary school we recited the tables every morning and I was told off for making a deliberate blot on my blotting paper and also for not looking straight ahead when seated! There was a lot of 'you can wipe that smile off your face' from teachers.

Antonia Mon 18-Jul-22 12:12:26

Life was less complicated in those days. I grew up in the late fifties and sixties. We were poor and took in lodgers to help with money. I remember a succession of people coming and going. Mostly they were lovely, and one day one of them (a man) came to pick me up from school on his motorbike with a sidecar.
It would be unthinkable today.

We played out in the back street, such games as 'Queenio, queenio, who's got the ball-eo?' Also tennis, french skipping and jacks.

I wouldn't say they were halcyon days though. My primary school had 40 children in the class (no TAs in those days). Naughty children regularly got the ruler (today they would be diagnosed with some condition).

Judging by some Mumsnet threads on violence in schools today, I don't think society has found a solution. Lots of people saying, 'we wouldn't want to go back to the days of corporal punishment '
but to be fair, schools back then were nowhere near as violent as some are today.

People in general had more respect for authority. There was very little aggressive behaviour towards doctors and nurses, or teachers. Today it seems that people are more selfish and have demanding attitudes.