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When I started to understand that some people lived different lives! When did you know and what opened your eyes?

(101 Posts)
foxie48 Sun 25-Feb-24 19:24:53

Born into a "respectable" working class family (my parents description) in the late 40's, I never went hungry, always had shoes that fitted and although sometimes cold, was never worried about anything really. I was just like everyone around me. My junior school was good and I thrived. I didn't really understand that my parents lived a pretty week by week existence until I went to a secondary school that was actually the preserve of the middle classes. It wasn't the big houses that they lived in, or the car in the drive it was the pantry! I wass reminded of this today today when I looked at how much food I have in mine. A freezer full of meat and other bits and bobs, cupboards full of jars and tins, we could live for several weeks without buying anything. I remember my parent's pantry, it had a tin of salmon, a jar of Fussells cream, a tin of mandarin oranges and a little tin for the shillings for the meter. I remember visiting the home of a school friend and being completely overwhelmed by what was in their pantry, it was full of stuff I'd never seen and certainly never eaten. Anyone else have memories like this?

Casdon Sun 25-Feb-24 20:06:04

We lived in an old, drafty barn of a house when I was a child, and I can still remember the shock of going to my friend’s for tea when I was about 7 or 8. She lived in a newly built modern house with great big windows, small rooms, everything was new, and it was warm! We also had shop bought cake, which we never had at home. I was very jealous.

Anniebach Sun 25-Feb-24 20:07:57

Lived in a South Wales mining village until age 11, row after row of so similar 3 bedroom houses, one junior school , one grammer school,Chapel every Sunday, fathers, grandfathers, uncles worked in the mines,remember the 1951 general election we voted in school ballot paper Labour v Churchill.
1952 my parents moved us to a village near a Market Town, it was such a shock, a large country house with maids, chauffeur, gardeners, the brother and sister who owned the house each had their own pew in church, they visited the village school occasionally to listen to our lessons, cottages of different sizes , two families had cars. I was witnessing ‘class devide’ and Churchill was a hero!

flappergirl Sun 25-Feb-24 20:12:39

Well, my memories are somewhat different. I was born in 1957 and my parents were lower middle class in terms of education and background but my father's salary was woeful even for the time. My mother didn't work because she had me unplanned and at the age of 38. I had a considerably older sibling.

We lived in a 17th cottage in a village. We had land and dad grew everything we needed. We kept chickens too and almost everything we ate was home produced or reared. We ate very well, mum was a good cook and she pickled and preserved things for the winter. We had coal fires and no central heating and only got a TV around 1965 which only received BBC. I suppose in some respects our life was more akin to the 1930's than the 1960's.

Around the mid sixties modern housing estates started appearing on the fringes of the village and thus an influx of couples with their children who started at the local school with whom I made friends and visited their houses.

Their modern houses were so alien to me. They had central heating, automatic washing machines, record players and record collections. They had freezers too and cocktail cabinets. Their mothers worked and the kids let themselves in after school. They had ITV on their televisions! They had postage stamp gardens and I wondered where they grew their veg or kept their chickens. They went to Spain on holiday and had the souvenirs to prove it. It was all very Abigail's party.

As for food, I was bemused when asked to stay for tea to be served mysterious things like crispy pancakes or dehydrated curry. I thought it disgusting and I felt so sorry for the families having to eat it. I still hate convenience food!

JamesandJon33 Sun 25-Feb-24 20:14:37

We also moved from a SWales mining village to a new town near London. I was ten. But apart from my accent I didn’t notice much difference. However when I went to college I realised I had had a very limited upbringing. Others my age had much more freedom in most all aspects of their lives. Took me awhile to find myself.

lemsip Sun 25-Feb-24 20:20:21

perhaps I should have posted this here but hadn't seen this op.
I found it by chance. It's a nice story

What is poverty? | 1960s UK | 1960s Nottingham | St Ann's | Documentary Report

www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMCsRd3Rfgg| 1969

Galaxy Sun 25-Feb-24 20:37:02

Middle class childhood, small village, very protected childhood. My friend for example was the only black child in my secondary school.
In college went to work at an HIV charity (I am in my fifties) it was at the very start of it in this country. It opened my eyes to everything (we ran a needle exchange) it completely shaped my views and my life really.

M0nica Sun 25-Feb-24 21:06:56

My childhood experiences were very different. My father was in the army and we moved all the time and we lived in army quarters, houses, owned and furnished by the army. So while house size might vary with rank, what was in the house was all much the same.

I also changed school aa lot, so never made friends close enough for us to visit each other's homes.

However in the early 1950s, during the Korean War, I was about 9 my father was posted to Hong Kong, which was the supply base for British troops. It was a family posting so off we all went.

It was only a couple of years after Mao tse Tung came to power and Chinese people were flowing over the border to get out of communist China, they had no where to go, once in Hong Kong, no where to live and no work. They lived in huge squatter camps on all the hillsides and regulalry burnt down as people used candles for light and cooked on open fires.

When Mao took over, any Europeans in the country were arrested and kept in prison in vile conditions, brainwashed and tortured. Slowly they were then released. there was a train every night from Beijing to Hong Kong and it would be met by ambulances as many of the walking skeletons that came off the train needed months in hospital to recover.

I had a precocious interest in current affairs and the local paper would have lots of photos and interviews with the survivors and many other stories about the refugees and life in China.

I could not help but know that mine was a very comfortable life.

Cabbie21 Sun 25-Feb-24 21:35:44

I suppose it wasn’t until I went to grammar school that I became aware that other people could afford to live differently. I knew my parents did not have much money- just occasionally my mum would be crying because she hadn’t got enough to last the week, and I always knew not to ask for things as they were beyond our means, but it was only when school trips came up that we couldn’t afford and everyone else could that I realised how much better off others were. Other girls had more clothes, or could afford to meet up to go shopping, went on better holidays or had expensive Christmas presents.
It didn’t upset me, as I just accepted it.

Luckygirl3 Sun 25-Feb-24 21:52:27

Working in the slums of Birmingham as a social worker in late 60s/early 70s certainly opened my eyes to a very different life to my upbringing in a lower middle class household.

The back-to-backs around the canal basin were shocking. I remember visiting one poor mother with terminal cervical cancer who was incontinent and lived in the most appalling dark and damp slum with an outside toilet. The whole place stank, as did she, and her children were toddling about in the mess. I found it hard to believe - it was truly like something out of Dickens. It was shocking to think that these conditions existed a stone's throw from the Bull Ring and all the new developments.

I have never since taken my comfortable circumstances for granted.

The canal basin is unrecognisable now with its cafes/bistros and the symphony hall. But I am willing to bet that there are some appalling conditions still to be found in our cities.

Primrose53 Sun 25-Feb-24 22:06:48

My experience is almost identical to Cabbie21 except the majority of my friends were in the same position. Just one or two, mainly teachers kids were much better off. The rest of us had parents who worked hard but on low paid rural wages. There were no factories or industry of any kind. Most people worked on the land, gardening, cleaning or in small shops.

I remember there was a massive cruise ship trip that took kids from all over the country around the Med. I, like most others didn’t even take the notes home as we knew there was not a chance in hell of going. The only kids from our school who went were two girls whose parents were teachers and a girl whose Dad was a solicitor. Shows you how many “poor” kids there were.

I did know I was loved though and got a massive shock when I visited a grammar school friend’s house when I was about 13. Her Mum was horrible to her and I felt really sorry and embarrassed for her as her two younger sisters were treated better. I realised that not all Mum’s were like mine!

I also made friends with kids who came on holiday to our area from places like the Midlands and London and I realised they owned cars, went on holidays, ate in cafes and restaurants, had telephones in their homes and some had things like riding and music lessons. None of which my friends and I had experience of.

Having said all that, I would not swap my childhood for anything! I have such great memories and no regrets.

Whiff Sun 25-Feb-24 22:46:24

My realisation wasn't about people having different lives but I was different to other children. I have been in pain my whole life and fallen a lot. But my large extended family never made a big deal of it or treated me differently from my brother or cousins. My parents took me to children's hospital and doctors was told it was growing pains and I was clumsy.
We lived on a large private housing estate . Mom and dad working class worked in factories but saved enough to buy their own house. All the kids on the estate went to infant and junior school. Again I wasn't treated differently we all grew up together .

High school that's when I realised I was different and got bullied everyday for 5 years until my bullies left and I stayed on to do A levels. There where a lot of stairs in the school and I fell up and down them ever day. My brother got bullied to an extent because of me he is 16 months younger than me . But when he left school at 16 he worked out them best the shit out of our bullies and frightened the girls who bullied me . The girls where the worst.

In 1988 I was told I was disabled after my health and mobility got worse. I had a brilliant husband. But it was my fit healthy husband who got Cancer and died aged 47 20 years ago I was 45.

Finally had my diagnosis in April 2022 and I have a rare hereditary neurological condition. In 2020 found out I was also born with a hole in my heart.

Took me 35 years of fighting to finally get disability benefits last year after going to a PIP tribunal.

Bet my bullies never lost a moments sleep over the hell they put me through. That was my realisation.

Callistemon21 Sun 25-Feb-24 22:58:37

It was when I went to Grammar school and someone said I lived at the wrong end of town! Everyone I'd known before then must have lived at the wrong end of town, perfectly respectable (if small) semis, nice roads, lovely people. Other girls at the Grammar school lived near me too.

We always had plenty to eat, clothes and a holiday, perhaps in a caravan or boarding house. Father Christmas always found us too. Somehow my parents managed very well.

Our neighbour, the vicar, had a nephew come to stay one summer holiday; he was a very good looking boy and quite posh but nice. He was a pupil at Eton, and lived quite a different life from me. A couple of other friends went off to boarding school and said they were allowed to take their ponies with them.

I realised that Enid Blyton books were not just fiction for some.

Callistemon21 Sun 25-Feb-24 23:00:50

I remember visiting the home of a school friend and being completely overwhelmed by what was in their pantry, it was full of stuff I'd never seen and certainly never eaten

foxie48 I remember a school friend telling me her mother had given them frogs legs on toast for tea.
I'd never heard the like!

Clawdy Sun 25-Feb-24 23:02:47

I went to play at a friend's house when I was about eight, and her mum and dad were laughing and joking with each other, and her dad actually put his arm round her mum! I had never seen any parents like that in my family, including my own. I was so envious of my friend!

nanna8 Sun 25-Feb-24 23:08:11

I think I always knew. I was brought up in inner London. There were strict ‘class’ divisions and even by your exact address. Terrible, thank God ,hopefully, it is no longer like that.

Callistemon21 Sun 25-Feb-24 23:08:58

Did other people's parents call one another Mum and Dad or by their first names?

foxie48 Mon 26-Feb-24 08:22:22

First names and I could always tell by the tone if they were angry with each other. Not a happy marriage, I'm afraid, but although my mother was one of the few in our road who worked, she stayed in the marriage as in deed did most women.

Cabbie21 Mon 26-Feb-24 08:38:13

Another difference I became aware of was that I was brought up very strictly for religious reasons. Church and Sunday school, no games on Sundays, grace before meals, no alcohol.
This was the norm amongst my parents’ close friends too. So it was only when I was old enough to go to friends’ homes by myself that I discovered not everyone lived this way . Having said that, my childhood was a very happy one, and my mother’s love and care was second to none.

Redhead56 Mon 26-Feb-24 09:21:56

We lived in our grans in the inner city until 1962 then we moved to a new house. It was on the outskirts it was the countryside and was like heaven to us children. Our parents both worked hard and constantly argued usually about money.

Mum always had a tin of salmon in just in case we had visitors! There was no shop only a van that came around for necessities. Unless my mum walked over a mile to the nearest Co op which was a rip off. She basically shopped for each days meals usually Scouse or pie of some sort and thick soups to fill us up with bread.

Our school and little church were built to accommodate us and everything was bright and new. My teacher at the new school made me realise the difference between them and us. It was often said to us children that large families were dragged up. Such horrible words should not have been said as most of the children in my class did come from big families. I was only five but knew it wasn’t nice what she was saying to us. It also wasn’t true my parents didn’t drag us up we were looked after and my parents did their best.

LucyAnna Mon 26-Feb-24 09:41:41

Interesting thread. Our early years shape us so much.
Northern working class childhood here - terraced house with outside toilet just outside Manchester - mother a cleaner / father worked on the buses, then as a van driver for Sunblest bread. Rather miserable childhood really - little money and not much love. My dad had an affair with someone - my mother should have left, but they stayed together and she never forgave him so made life hell. Having passed my 11+, I was astonished to then be invited to tea / parties, etc on the other side of town - tennis courts / swimming pools / fancy food! Further (pleasant) surprise later when I went off to college ‘down south’.

Cabbie21 Mon 26-Feb-24 09:57:22

Watching that clip about St Ann’s Nottingham has reminded me that I recently mentioned to an acquaintance that my grandparents came from that part of the city, way back in 1905. She expressed horror, as if I was somehow tainted by them living there. Of course I couldn’t think of a quick response but she will not become a friend. So judgemental.

Kate1949 Mon 26-Feb-24 10:00:54

I always knew people lived different lives to mine. I was brought up with a drunken, violent father who regularly beat my mother in front of us 7 children. He also beat my sister and once, me. We were scruffy and neglected, although my mother did her best. We were fed at least.
My father worked when he felt like it, leaving my mother to borrow from neighbours. Even when he worked, sometimes he would go straight to the pub on payday and return on Monday having spent the lot.
School was cruel Catholic nuns and priests. I knew other children's lives were different as most were clean, had holidays, days out, went to pantomimes etc, none if which we did ever.
When I went to grammar school, I would go to a friend's house on a Saturday night as her parents would go out dancing. He mother would wear a beautiful cocktail dress. I was fascinated. To me it was like something from a film. I could never ask friends to our house because I never knew what would happen and the house was awful.

Grantanow Mon 26-Feb-24 10:01:48

University: I met lots of undergraduates who came from monied families and not only had money to spend but whose experience of living and holidaying in Europe and the US were a revelation.

keepcalmandcavachon Mon 26-Feb-24 10:07:36

One of my first realizations that things were 'different' for some was the food, the cooked dinners that friends had. I was suspicious of all this - cottage pies, stews, fresh vegetables etc, a friend's mum used to give me a piece of cake to take home, but I'd eat it on the way as it would have caused an atmosphere "who does she think she is Fanny Craddock"? Beans on toast were the order of the day and biscuits.
I left home at 15 and found the world of peeling, roasting, baking and stirring both beguiling and puzzling!
I cringe when I remember how I'd hang around friend's kitchens sometimes when I was little.