Gransnet forums


The not so good old days

(30 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 03-May-12 10:13:28

Our latest blog post from Jessica Mann asks why people look at the 50s as such a good time for women when they have it so much better today. Do you agree? Do take a look at the post and add your comments here

JessM Thu 03-May-12 10:42:37

Not to mention the fact that divorce was not at all easy to come by.
The 50s were also really pretty grim if you were black, gay or got pregnant out of wedlock.
Domestic life even in the absence of male domination was no picnic - my grandmother used to do all ours (my mother went out to work as a teacher - equal pay had just come in - the men of the family were all dead).
Get up and light the coal fire, make breakfast in a small and inconvenient kitchen, do all the washing on a monday, carry all the shopping herself, make all meals from basic ingredients, bath once a week and an outside toilet.

nanaej Thu 03-May-12 10:53:29

Think there are always pros and cons to a lifestyle /era and certainly the conveniences of modern domestic life: vacuum vs carpet sweeper, automatic washing machines vs hand wash & mangle, wider range of food vs meat & 2 veg etc are welcome BUT families were often closer ( though pros and cons there too I suppose!!), most jobs were more secure, the world 'felt' safer (but media communication was not as intrusive as now so people did not always know what was going on everywhere in as much detail as now! ) I suppose there was less choice and sometimes today too much choice can feel overwhelming!

Mamie Thu 03-May-12 10:57:07

We watched the film of "The L-shaped Room" the other day and it really brought back the horror of attitudes to single parents or "unmarried mothers" and immigrants. I thought the film held up very well forty something years later.

nanaej Thu 03-May-12 10:59:15

Mamie Agree good film and good reminder of how grim things were!

Anagram Thu 03-May-12 11:29:23

Let's not forget that some women actually liked the fact that they didn't have to make too many choices, and that their lives were mapped out for them practically from birth. It's only in retrospect that we can see how limited their lives were.
I know my grandmother absolutely loved her life, despite all the hard work. She was proud to have brought up her two sons and looked after her husband, created a wonderful home and garden and was perfectly content with her lot.

nanaej Thu 03-May-12 12:19:33

Oh do not get me is all about informed and real choice though! Role of homemaker /mother need to be a valued and seen as a valid choice. It is when you want to do something and it is social attitudes that prevent it that makes it wrong.

Greatnan Thu 03-May-12 12:44:10

My childhood in Salford was very like yours, jeni. My mother worked full time as a hand sewer so my sister and I had to come back to an empty house and make a noise to get rid of the beetles and mice in the kitchen before we went in. At nine, my sister would look after me, light a fire, peel the potatoes and sweep the hearth.
I think women's expectations were much lower - my mother adored my father because he didn't get drunk, hit any of us, gamble or womanise. He gave her half his wages to support the two of them and four children - if she got behind with the rent, he would lend her the money and then deduct it from her weekly allowance. If she had not worked, we would have been even more deprived than we were. In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, and compared to other husbands in the street my father was indeed superior.
I can't agree that we were not as anxious - my sister had nightmares for years about the thread of nuclear war - we were shown a daft public information film telling us to take the door off (in four minutes) and hide under it if Russia dropped the Atom bomb.
I am sure many women would have liked to divorce their selfish husbands, but it was not possible given the unequal distribution of wealth.
There is no period of history other than the present in which I would like to live - in fact, if I could I would fast-forward life and live 50 years from now.

Anagram Thu 03-May-12 12:47:53

How can you want that, Greatnan? Who knows what the world will be like in 50 years time - it might be far worse than it is now.

Greatnan Thu 03-May-12 13:07:33

It might but it might be a lot better - I am a risk taker. Research into stem cells might give us a cure for so many diseases. The stranglehold of religion might have been loosened and women migh have equal rights throughout the world. A 'violent' gene might have been isolated and an antidote found for it.
Man might have worked out that there is far more to be gained from the ocean bed than from outer space.

Anagram Thu 03-May-12 13:16:49

Well, there's an outside chance I'll still be here (a very doddery 110 year old!). We shall see...

Anagram Thu 03-May-12 13:54:38

In fact, we might all still be here, due to advances in medicine. Make a note of this page so we can compare notes in 2062!

Greatnan Thu 03-May-12 14:36:04

An odd thought - my mother was born in the 19th Century and my youngest great-gc will probably live into the 22nd Century.
I am very curious and resent the fact that I won't be around in 50 years to see what has happened to the world.

absentgrana Thu 03-May-12 14:42:58

Greatnan sidetracking now. There was a terrific programme on the radio decades ago which was based on the recollections of very old people as they remembered the stories told to them by their very old grandparents. I specifically remember someone talking about how his grandfather had been a drummer boy at the Battle of Waterloo. A cannon ball had rolled past him and, without thinking, the child had extended his leg to stop it. Of course, it removed the lower half of his leg without even slowing down.

netgran Thu 03-May-12 14:51:52

I'm coming back to take a peep smile

MargaretX Thu 03-May-12 15:30:11

A decade is such a long time especially after a war. I've just finished 'Millions Like Us ' and it took in the late forties, the queueing and rationing and the fact that women were back at the kitchen sink after earning their own living and making their own decisions. So that was the tone of the 50s when I was a teenager although you were not thought to need TLC due to hormones then. You just got on with life and if you couldn't meet your boyfriend or put lipstick on then you did it secretly.

Living conditions were cramped and food very monotonous. Sunday roast, then mince, then fish, then offal, you could tell what day it was by what you found on your plate. I'm glad I wasn't cooking it that kitchen! Then my father died and my mother took in students. My job was to get them their breakfasts, that was the deal with my mother and for that she let me off the rest of the house work. I cooked a different breakfast each day of the week, then cooked my own and went to work. That was 1954.
Looking back I didn't seem to really enjoy life until the 60s. Sheffield was still a bomb site and I think they started rebuilding with C&A in about 1958 or so.Then we even had coffee bar! Most of my friends who learned to type or be secretaries went to London, I visited them and was green with envy but couldn't leave my mother who was depressed, and just couldn't manage on her own after my brother ( men still made decisions then ) blew all her money on a no -go sweet shop. She almost went to jail for not keeping the books. What a life.
But for most of us it began to get better and better and I for one would hate to go back to that kind of cramped life where you couldn't put a foot wrong as a young women, as then the whole street 'talked' about you and that was what my mother dreaded most of all.
Her life was awful. It makes me so sad to think about it.

Greatnan Thu 03-May-12 15:37:25

My mother used to tell my sister and me many stories about her childhood, sitting with just the light of the coal fire and a mug of cocoa. She remembered the day war was decared in 1914 - she had gone on a very rare charabanc trip to Blackpool and broke her arm on the Big Dipper!
My father never spoke of his childhood - Lancashire men in the 1940's were not very communicative with their families!
One of my daughters is interested and I think I must write it all down before it is lost. Unfortunately, nobody could afford a camera so the first photo I have of myself is when I am 16.

fieldwake Thu 03-May-12 22:41:47

yes I feel the same. Would like the best of 50's and best of now! Only knew what was going on locally. Less choice much simpler but then very narrow. Now too much choice young ones chopping and changing and always wondering. We made chice and then just lived and didn't spend time trying to decide what else to do.

dorsetpennt Thu 03-May-12 23:18:43

I was a child in the 1950's and have many happy memories. We literally travelled the world in those years as my father was an officer in the Air Force. When we stayed here we frequently lived with my g/parents and these were the happy times. Neither my mother or g/mother had to work and I think their day-to-day life was very comfortable. They had a 'char' everyday but did their own cooking,shopping etc. They quite often went to the cinema in the afternoons, and I remember if they didn't both would have a nap under the eiderdown on their beds. Taking skirts off so it wouldn't crease of course. We often lived semi-rural lives depending on our UK posting. So memories are one of tremendous freedom to come and go as far as playing was concerned. If in London we often took off on the bus to Richmond Park for the afternoon. If rural we took sandwiches and roamed over hills and fields. We ate well - wonderful Sunday lunches followed by programmes like 'The Navy Lark' and weather permitting a drive and a walk followed by afternoon tea somewhere. As a teenager in the 1960s that's when things like the A bomb began to hover. Before that a very happy interesting life - I was very lucky.

Annobel Fri 04-May-12 00:04:48

Like dorset, I had an easy childhood and my mum had it easier than most. She'd had a hard time when her father's family business went to the wall in the 30s, but my dad had a good job and she never needed to go out to work, though she had qualified as a hairdresser. We didn't have loads of domestic appliances during the war - she did the washing by hand and with a good old-fashioned mangle until the first single tub washing machines with a hand-operated mangle came on the market in the early 50s. My aunt had one with a rather dangerous electric mangle. Then a spin drier appeared and finally a twin tub which mum clung to until she died in 1983. After she died my dad went out and bought an automatic. All sorts of appliances gradually filled the kitchen. A Rayburn was installed and then it was necessary to buy a fridge because the kitchen got so hot.
We were free to play out - on the street, on the field behind the house, on the beach. And - on the whole - it was safe to cycle. The countryside was just up the road. I had access to all the books I could wish for, and I did. We had an excellent education at the local secondary school and our parents always assumed that we would go on to university which we duly did. Yes, for me the 50s were a good time to be a child and teenager. We didn't feel the need to grow up too soon. Somewhere there must be an up-side to the 21st century too. I just wish my GC could have all the freedom and privileges I had sixty years ago.

PRINTMISS Fri 04-May-12 10:58:50

I was newly married in the 50's and had the good fortune to move to a 'New Town'. Until then, we had never had hot running water, and only gas lighting. I made good friends when we moved, we were all at about the same stage with young children, and I look back with a great deal of pleasure to that life. We gradually gained a fridge, and a washing machine, and I spent lots of time with firstly my daughter and then my son, probably because I had been brought up with cousins younger than me. Personally I think (as do my some of my contemporaries) we had the best of times, no pressure - BUT we were the first generation, I think to do 'twilighting' although I never did, but it was a trend that started where I lived, and caught on to gradually working longer hours as the children went to school. smile

Ariadne Fri 04-May-12 11:08:01

MargaretX I really enjoyed "Millions Like Us"; it brought home to me the hard, hard work that women were expected to do, even when they were involved in war work.

I was at primary school in the early 50s, in Nottingham, and, as an only child, remember observing the rituals of Monday washing (a copper in the corner of the kitchen), cleaning, and shopping. The co-op green grocer called twice a week, and my grandmother would go to the Maypole on a Friday, and sit down, giving her order which was then delivered...etc.

They did work hard, but they (grandma and mother) had a nap every afternoon. I can do this now, but never could when I was working.

I love all the mod cons of today!

Annobel Fri 04-May-12 12:09:41

I used to pop the grocery order into the shop on my way to school and it would be delivered by Robert on a bike and left on the doorstep. There was often a swiss roll in the box and the cat would be found waiting impatiently for his titbit. Did you ever know a cat that was hooked on swiss roll?

imjingl Fri 04-May-12 12:14:49

How sweet! grin

BarbaraAbbs Fri 04-May-12 15:51:50

We had so much freedom. I remember when I was about 6 and my brother 4, we would take jam sandwiches and something to drink and disappear into the fields, where we and other children would spend time playing about a bomb crater with water in the bottom. It was filled in eventually but was very exciting while it lasted. Our mother didn't seem to worry. We were told to play outside and not to bother her. We were chased by farmers and gamekeepers, butted by a ram and all sorts of things. And we didn't live in the depths of the country but in a suburb on the edge of Leicester.

My children didn't have such freedom, and my grandchildren have even less. But 'Millions Like us' did show me how hard my mother's life was at that time, while we were roaming the fields.