Once, when my older daughter was a very little girl, she asked me, ‘What was it like in the olden days, Mummy?’ At that time, ‘the olden days’ for me stretched back all of 26 years! Now they stretch back… a bit further…and I really am beginning to feel like a walking history note-book 🙂
I was born shortly before the end of WW2 and I had a ‘Mickey Mouse’ gas mask. I spent a fair bit of time in the Anderson air-raid shelter, though I don’t remember it.
I remember when food was rationed and we ate powdered eggs. I quite enjoyed them but when we eventually had real eggs, boiled with ‘soldiers’, that soon became my favourite breakfast.
I remember when I heard that the King (George V1) had died. I was in the loo at school. I heard one girl in another loo say ‘The King is dead’ and another girl say ‘Liar!’, but when I asked my Mum later, she said it was true.
In 1953 we watched the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth at my Aunt’s house because we didn’t have a TV. We crammed into the back room and watched it on a 12″ black-and-white set. We couldn’t see much, but we knew it was important.
The 1956 Hungarian Revolution made a big impression on me. A family of refugees from Budapest was given accommodation a few streets away from us. I made friends with the older daughter, Magdolna. She couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Magyar, but we soon learnt quite a lot with the help of a phrase-book. Magdolna’s family was given good clean clothes, but nothing fitted any of them. They did not complain. Her grandmother shuddered when the boiler rumbled and she cried out a word which meant ‘bombs’. (Magdolna’s English-speaking father explained that to me)
I remember the Beatles, the Stones et al, the publication of the unexpurgated version of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, the Sexual Revolution and the advent of ‘The Pill’. Once, when we were discussing ‘The Pill’, my father said, ‘If my mother had been on the pill, you lot wouldn’t be here to argue about it!’ He was the youngest of fourteen children, and he had a point.
I remember a friend hammering on my door in the hall of residence in London’s West End and telling me that President Kennedy had been shot. We all abandoned our plans and piled into the communal lounge and gazed at the small TV screen there in uncharacteristic silence, hoping that someone would tell us it wasn’t true.The next morning, we went back to the lounge and read every newspaper we could find. And we all had our theories about what had happened, and why…
I’ve spent a lot of time remembering those years, and I’ve just written ‘snapshot’ comments above and I haven’t even mentioned ‘Rock around the Clock’ or the Profumo scandal.But now we are in 2015 and I am thinking about ways in which it is different from ‘the olden days’… and ways in which it is not so different.
But my brain seems to be having a bit of a snooze now, so I will pause here.
Postscript: I’ve edited the paragraphing of this a few times, but when I update it, it’s still wrong in places. I wish I knew where I’ve gone wrong and I feel a bit irritated!