JOURNAL OF A LIFE – Life In The Early 1950s – In A Street
JOURNAL OF A LIFE
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As a great mentor of mine – Joe Schroeder – never tired of saying “A Life Worth Living is a Life Worth Recording” so today I am here to share another episode in the life’s journey of one of the great people whose life I am privileged to have shared a part of – my mother AnneKaete Pocklington.
Life In The Early 1950s – In A Street
Imagine, if you will, you have time-traveled back into the 1950s.
You live on a street of “back-to-back” houses..
What were they like?
What was life like?
Life In The Early 1950s – In A Street
It was quite a peaceful life that was led by the people living in such a street, in Yorkshire, in the middle of the Pennines. Soon some dark clouds came over it all as the Cotton mills in Lancashire, next door, shut. One after the other and it was all dreadful worrying. But here, the woolen, Worsted, and cotton mills did not do too badly. The wheels were turning and everybody, or almost everybody one knew, was working in one or other of these mills, all along the River Calder, in a very long Valley.
The wages were about £8 for a 48 hour week. And if you were on nightshirt or had a chance of a bonus or overtime you might earn £12 to £15 and that was really good.
Bill had a chance to shower at work, Peter was bathed daily in front of the fire in a little zinc bath. And I had a daily stripwash down my makeshift kitchen and went once a week to the Public bath down the hill. Below the little village hall, the ‘Institute’ as it was called, were the ‘slipper baths’.
You paid your fee to a man or woman in charge, who would then hand you a piece of soap and a rough towel (in with the price). And then they ran the water for you in very, very deep long bathtubs. About a dozen little grey rooms next to each other down there had a so-called slipper bath each, and a chair and some hooks to hold your clothes etc. And then you wallowed, in this wonderful big hot bath, smelling of carbolic soap, but that did not matter. And the high walls had an opening under the ceiling so that you all could talk to each other if somebody you knew was in, or you could sing and it would sound ever so good in this long concrete hallway. And you had about half an hour and then your time was up and you let the water out, scrubbed it, even though it was scrubbed again by the attendant before the next person got in, and went out into the cold air, past the queue waiting to go in, and hurried home. And on Friday and Saturday a queue would be there all the afternoon for people to take their turn, Dads with boys and Mams with girls, waiting their turn to get the grime of the mill off. And sometimes one would bathe in front of the fire oneself, like Peter was bathed, but that was not as luxurious.
And we all would do most of our shopping at the Co-op and then get very excited twice a year to get our Dividends, a share of the profits. At the very beginning maybe two shillings in the Pound, which was 10%, but soon to become less and less, to become 6 pence and later still 3 pence in the Pound. But one looked forward to that, and it helped buy the winter coal, bought also from the Co-op, or some bigger item like clothing or, like us, one saved it, in the Co-op Bank.
And then I got my first washing machine given, from Phyllis and Roy. Brenda was now working and so they had managed to buy an electric washing machine which did everything bar filling in the water by itself. The one they gave me was a tub with a lid that could be fastened tight. You boiled the washing in it, and then turned it off and swung a handle to and fro. This handle had a long rod, iron, with 4 paddles on, which swished your washing to and fro as you moved the handle. It took the hard work out of washing. All washing was still scrubbed on a rubbing board. A board with ridged panes of tin on it, on which you rubbed the washing up and down, so cleaning it. And that gave you blisters and sores when you had rubbed very hard. This new machine, even though it was now old-fashioned, made things much better for me. Because Bill’s overalls from the mill took some getting clean each week. One soaked the stained things overnight in Soda but they still needed scrubbing.
And every spring we would wallpaper the living room, which we did ourselves, with the paper bought in the sales, and the paste made of flour and water. This was much better than the pastes one could buy, and cheaper of course. The open fire did make this regular decorating essential.
And then, one summer, we all in our neighbourhood went up the hill, to near a farm, to Higgin’s Dam, a small reservoir of water belonging to a mill. It was a hot summer and we all enjoyed ourselves up there, after work. And there I made a line for Peter with his old baby harness and my washing line, and walked up and down whilst he swam on my line. I taught him to swim. And because that worked so well Bill wanted to have a go. All his time in the Marines, Officers had tried to teach him to swim, only to give it up after a while because they could not teach him. Here, with a little boy’s reins, made as big as possible, and a washing line, he at last learned to swim. Beautifully and sure. A worthwhile Summer, now we could all swim. And we went quite often swimming in the baths at Sowerby Bridge after that. It was another fun outing for us. The bath there was smallish, where you could swim for one hour for about 4 pence. In winter this same bath was covered up and it became the very important dance-hall and hall for civic functions, till summer came again and the grand opening for swimming.
And one all had Insurances, usually with the co-op, or the ‘Prudential’. Every week on Payday you put your few shillings and your book near the door and the Insurance man would call. From house to house, never missing one. Everybody had him, and the Rentman calling the same, every week on payday.
Bill and I had a tin, with lots of little, former Pill tins inside with names written on it. And when he came home we put the right amount in each tin, for Rent, Insurance, Electric, Gas, Hire Purchase if we had any, saving, etc. and then, when that was done, we knew what we had to live on. So when I got Bills it did not worry me, it was lovely in fact, as I usually had a shilling or so more in the tins than I needed. That day was something special for tea. Maybe a quarter of Ham or a tin of fruit and custard. That extra shilling always was a treat.
And Peter got one Penny each day Pocket money, for years and years. But not each day, but seven Pennies on a Sunday, to spend as he pleased. And he was very, very good always, never spending it all every week but to keep some to save up for a Matchbox Car when he had enough.
If life is the best teacher, doesn’t it make sense to learn from the lives of others?
So what did I learn from today’s episode?
I learned how people “make do” to ensure basic needs, such as washing, are met,
I learned of the pleasure my mother got from actually living Charles Dickens’ observation that “income one pound, outgoing nineteen shillings and sixpence, result joy”, and
I learned why, to this day, I respect the humble penny so much…
So Now it’s YOUR turn, dear Reader. What did YOU learn?
Please ADD and SHARE your insights in the COMMENT BOX Below
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Published: September 24, 2014, 01:23 | 2 Comments on JOURNAL OF A LIFE – Life In The Early 1950s – In A Street
Category: Real People Helping Real People, The Story Of A Life