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Latchkey kids - were you ever one?

(109 Posts)
biglouis Sat 28-May-22 12:56:38

This was a phrase used back in the late 1950s/1960s to described very young children (some as young as 8/9) who had a door key hung around their necks and came home from school to let themselves into an empty house.

I was a "latchkey" kid from the age of 12 as my mother worked pat time at Vernon's Pools until 5pm. I had to come straight home, wash any dishes, set the table, and prepare the vegatables ready for when my mother got homs. Later I had to also put them on the stove and light the gas.

I was not allowed to stay on at school for choir or drama practice as my father considered those "sissy". However when I mentioned "sports" practice he relented because sport (even if it wasnt football) was good. My parents never found out that I wasnt staying for netball or hockey. I HATED sport with a passion and was never good enough to be in any team.

Later I had a young sister who had to be let into the house when she got in from school. Fortunately there was an aunt nearby where she stayed on my "sports" evenings.

I never really minded being a latch key kid as it gave me a feeling of responsibility.

GagaJo Sat 28-May-22 12:58:56

I was one. We had a key hung from a hook inside the letterbox. Which occasionally failed when I dropped it inside the door and would be locked out until 6.30pm. Not a problem in summer, but winter...

Sparklefizz Sat 28-May-22 13:01:29

I was a latchkey kid from the age of 7. I was always very nervous being in the house on my own.

Grandmabatty Sat 28-May-22 13:01:53

Yes I was but probably when I was at high school not primary. I had chores to do such as peeling potatoes for dinner.

buffyfly9 Sat 28-May-22 13:02:39

What on earth is she thinking of?? I hardly recognised her as she is usually very elegant. I wonder if her husband told her that it was not a good look!!

buffyfly9 Sat 28-May-22 13:03:53

Apologies, I've posted in the wrong place. It should have been on the post about Helen Mirrenblush

MissAdventure Sat 28-May-22 13:06:04

No, I had a stay at home mum, but I used to yearn for a time when I could be more independent.

I did like the smoke curling out of the chimney, my slippers warming on the hearth, and the smell of a casserole when I got in on a winter's day, though.

Mollygo Sat 28-May-22 13:08:50

Not all the time. Dad was in the Navy and Mum was a nurse so latchkey days were intermittent. Always jobs like food prep or collecting in washing for me to do. Not for elder brother!!!

nanna8 Sat 28-May-22 13:10:26

My mum wouldn’t give me a key so I had to wait in the garden shed in the cold until she got home - usually an hour or so. Eventually I did get one but not until I was about 14. Hard times, kids don’t know they’re born these days. I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that to my children.

pooohbear2811 Sat 28-May-22 13:10:29

yes from a very young age. I mind being 6 and my sister 7 when we stayed with grandparents for 2 weeks over the school summer holidays. Both my grandparents worked, we walked my gran to work for 8am and then went and amused ourselves until we went back for her at 4pm. door was never locked, toilet was outside anyway. We use to swim in the river and cross the train tracks to play with other kids.
My dad worked shifts and during from the time I was about 11 and my wee brother 6 I was responsible for him either before or after school depending on my dads shift. I use to take him to /from school, cook tea and feed us all, and do anything else that needed doing. Never entered my head to feel I was hard done by, that was just the way it was.

Calendargirl Sat 28-May-22 13:13:52

No, mum helped dad on our smallholding, so didn’t go out to work. Always there when we got off the school bus, with tea cooking ready for us.

HowVeryDareYou Sat 28-May-22 13:16:14

My mum didn't work until I was about 11, but her job started when I went out to school in the morning, and finished at 3.30 so that she was at home when I got home.

Grandma70s Sat 28-May-22 13:19:22

No. My mother was always there when I got in from school, and I was always in when my children did. I thought the conversations after school were important..

Bridie22 Sat 28-May-22 13:20:58

Yes from early age, key on a piece of string behind the letterbox !!!

BlueBelle Sat 28-May-22 13:28:31

No my mum and dad both worked full time long hours those days but Nan was always there for me Nan ran a small Guest house in her home so there was plenty of time to meet me out of school before preparing tea for the guests

Mine Sat 28-May-22 13:39:58

My mum worked though she wouldn't have had to if my father hadn't kept so much for himself....I put myself and sister out to school...Poor mum made sure we had everything for school before she left.....Mum got a lunch break and dashed home and prepared the evening dinner.... My sister and I would have a "piece on jam" and do our homework till mum got home at 4.45pm....I'd have potatoes & veg all cooked....Never thought anything of it...In later life my mum used to say I was always such a help to her....

ginny Sat 28-May-22 14:00:50

From the age of 9I would let myself into the house and prepare vegetables for dinner and pop whatever Mum had left for dinner into the oven.
Saturday mornings were spent helping with household chores.
I never found anything strange about this. I had a wonderful childhood with very loving parents.

Charleygirl5 Sat 28-May-22 14:04:48

Yes, from around 7 or 8. We did not have electricity, it was a gas mantle and my father popped in from his work minutes from our house to set it alight. He finished work around 5 pm and my mother, a ward sister worked shifts in the hospital across the road.

I cannot remember when electricity was installed but I was born in 1943 so it would have been at the start of 1950 I was a latch key kid.

Nannarose Sat 28-May-22 14:05:59

I did and I loved it! It gave me a bit of space on my own. I tended not to go out to play because I loved the peace & quiet, but if I did play out, it was in a community where everyone was watching out for each other and the kids.

Nannee49 Sat 28-May-22 14:07:40

Yes and never really gave it a moment's thought.

Though it sounds completely Victorian, because I was the first home it was my job to make the fire. I can still do a mean paper, wood, coal layer up.

There was only one time really when things went a bit wrong - my dad had made a 'blower', a sheet of metal roughly the size of the fireplace aperture to help the flames draw. I used to help it along by laying a sheet of the News of the World, a broadsheet in those far off days, on top of it. Unfortunately, I had taken to reading the salacious articles and was that engrossed in reading the scandal I didn't notice the flames leaping up until it was nearly too late.

Fortunately, I lived to tell the talegrin and thought all my Christmases had come at once when the Aged P's invested in a gas poker.

My career as a firestarter came to an end in 1965 when they swapped the gas poker for a gas fire - bliss!

Callistemon21 Sat 28-May-22 14:30:21

No, yet my Mum always worked.
I don't know how she did it although she did take me with her when I was very small. I had older siblings so they were there although they'd left home by the time I was about eight.

The first time I was left on my own I was about 10 and my mother went into town without me. I felt very grownup.

I think the 1950s stay-at-home housewife may have been a myth!

biglouis Sat 28-May-22 14:32:20

It was only with great reluctance that my father "allowed" my mother to work. In those days it was regarded as a disgrace for a man not to be able to provide for his family adequately.

As soon as I left school and began work he made her stop. I was treated like a cash machine. Press a button and money pops out.

I left my first job where I was paid in cash and got one (local authority) where I was paid by bank transfer. My parents never knew how much I earned because I had all my statements and post sent to an accommodation address. My father was quite hostile becase I had a cheque book! Only "posh" people had bank accounts and cheque books back then.

TerriBull Sat 28-May-22 14:36:22

Yes definitely, my memory is blurred as to when that actually began, my mother had a part time job in the office of a nearby prep school, I think that was infant/early juniors, so she was home for us after school and the school holidays, she was always worried we'd kill each other because we were prone to having epic arguments and throwing hard toys at each other. Sometime, certainly before I left juniors she started working full time for an insurance company, my memories are vague as to what happened, I think there was a key under a brick somewhere., our next door neighbour was a kind lady who we knew we could always go to her if there was a problem. When we came home before mum arrived, I remember the culinary delicacy known as beans on toast figured pretty often. Like many of my generation we grew up without central heating, my parents spent much time faffing around in a grate in the dining room to get the fire started, they didn't trust us to do that, particularly after my brother thought it would be amusing load to put a load of conkers on it on one occasion and they pinged and exploded around the room in an alarming manner shock Somewhere along the line my paternal grandfather died and my parents bought a larger house so grandma could come and live with us, she died a couple of years later. When she was around though I remember ascending into a pudding heaven, she made us lots of delicious home made things like fruit pies, steamed sponges with jam which my mum didn't really have the time for, except at the weekends, once work took over.

Sara1954 Sat 28-May-22 15:14:09

Yes , the key was on a shelf in the shed.
There was always a list of shopping to get, but oddly, no money, I had to go to my mums place of work to get that, and then take her back the change.
Then, like many of you, I had to start supper, peel potatoes, start frying sausages, nothing too complicated.
I didn’t really like being in my own, and I have no idea where my brother was.

Hithere Sat 28-May-22 15:20:28

How times have changed

Latchkey behaviour now is asking for trouble (safety wise), even illegal in some states in the US.

You would have child services at your door in no time if this was done today