Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Life in the 1940’s

As 1939 drew to a close

The Coming of the War Years

As the 30’s were coming to a close the threat  of war looming. The first sign was the delivery of shaped corrugated  iron sheets to the houses in our road, in turn workmen arrived,dug a large hole, bolted the parts together, covered it with soil and this was now an Anderson shelter. Plans were now afoot for the evacuation of all children under 14 to the countryside for safety and in late July two of my sisters and myself were evacuated to a small village called Flamstead in Hertfordshire.

This was a very sad day for the family and in a matter of weeks war was declared. This was to be the quiet before the storm. Even at the tender age of 10 music was influencing my life, being a great comforter on many a lonely evening as we listened to the radio in the parlour.  Vera Lynn would bring a lump to my throat with her programme addressed to us evacuees with songs to suite, but the song that haunts me even to this day  is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” sung by Judy Garland.

Celebration Days in the 30’s

St. Georges day was always a very religious occasion with church parades and service. The big celebration day for us was "Empire day" when we all lined up in the school playground waving our "Union jacks"
Easter has some lovely memories. On Good Friday the local bakery was allowed to open in the morning for the sale of hot cross buns (that was the only time they were sold). Saturday was when we got our chocolate Easter eggs, one from our parents and one from our aunt Maud.
Easter Sunday was church Sunday school. Easter Monday was when the girls wore their pretty frocks (dresses in today’s language) it was also the day we were given a sixpence coin (2,1/2pence) to pay for a visit to the "big" pictures. The only film i remember starred Shirley Temple.
Later in the year we had Guy Fawkes day when we would make a guy out of old clothes with a face mask, prop it up against a wall in a busy road and ask “penny for the guy“ to passers by. Later in the evening our parents would light a bonfire in our garden, and we we would have our fireworks display which was very low key by today’s standards but we loved it.
Now Christmas was really special, we made our own paper chains with coloured strips of coloured paper stuck together with a paste consisting of flour and water forming a chain' our Christmas tree was from our greengrocers next door. No tree lights but lots of decorations.
Just before Christmas day "mum" would buy the turkey and all the family would join in plucking the feathers from it (no turkeys prepared for the oven then). On Christmas eve the open coal fires in all the rooms were lit giving a warming glow to the whole house.
Going to bed was an exciting event, hanging up the stocking, and trying to sleep in anticipation of the contents of your stocking in the morning. The contents were pretty predictable, some newly minted one penny coins, an orange, some sweets, nuts, comic paper books, the main present a cowboy outfit with hat, sheriffs badge and cap gun. To my young mind "heaven".
Because we had a small gas cooker the oven was too small for the turkey, but our friendly local baker cooked it in his bread oven. The evening was party time, with friends and relatives descending on our humble abode, and as the radio was it's usual bland self, the entertainment was party games and a singsong.
At bank holiday time a day trip to Epping forest with fish paste sandwiches and lemonade with no grownups.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Everyday Life in the 30's

The memories of my youth are still vivid, and are forever rotating in my mind. My family would spend the evening in our small living room listening to the radio. There was only two choices to listen to "Home" and "Light " programmes and depending on reception, radio Luxemburg. Having no electricity the radio needed batteries, a high voltage one, a low voltage ‘grid bias' and a wet cell accumulator for the valve heaters, which had to be recharged weekly.
"Home "was mostly boring talks and serious music. "Light " was more topical , (plays, popular topic series, comedy and variety shows) but very little pop music. Sunday on the radio was on the whole pretty boring. Apart from a variety show, and probably a play. The church played a big part in every day life and an example was it's influence on the content of the B.B.C. broadcasts.
For us young ones our play time was on the whole in the street ,with a varied amount of traditional games. We were in our own way quite enterprising a scooter made with wood 4 screw eyes a coach bolt and two large ball bearings obtained (with luck) from a local garage.
Money, or the lack of it was a challenge to overcome. The horse & cart was still one of the main means of transport, which meant there was plenty of “droppings” in the roads. On seeing a fresh pile I would dash indoors collect a bucket and the coal shovel (much to mum’s dismay).  I would then collect  a bucket full and knock at a few doors until I sold my fertilizer for 3d (just over 1p in today’s money).
Although i had many friends i was at times a loner. One of my outings was to catch a steam train from Dalston  junction station to Homerton  (1d return), walk down the hill to the river Lea and in a small ditch next to it, hunt for newts.  

As we moved on in the 30s’things were changing fast. The film industry was expanding and the new Odeon cinema was near completion at Dalston. This meant there were nine cinemas within walking distance of each other, plus the two music halls (Hackney Empire and Alexander palace).

This also heralded the start of the changeover of the tram to the new trolleybuses. It was an exciting time for us watching all the work progressing. As the first of the new buses appeared a new source of income emerged The typical road layout for the trams was 2 triple tracks (the centre one being a conductor via a slot in the middle). There was usually  enough room between the tram and the pavement for a vehicle to pass,but getting on and off the tram could be a little hairy. The road surface on the local tram route was in two parts ,on either side of the  tracks consisted of stone cobbles,and the tracks were set in treated bricksize hardwood blocks.

When the work to remove the tracks began the wood became scrap, and was fair game for me and my scavenging mates. These blocks had been impregnated with a flammable liquid and coated with a thick coating of bitumen. We would collect them by the armful dodging the workmen and then using my dad’s chopper to cut our “tarry blocks“ in half. The fact that they burnt fiercely on open fires made them good sellers.

Monday, 23 February 2009

1930s Continued - Food

Catering for a family of 6 was always a challenge for our mum. So what did we eat?

For starters their was no school dinners so every lunchtime involved a trip home for our main meal. No fast foods then so all meals cooked fresh e.g. Steak&kidney pudding/pie, cottage pie rabbit or mutton stew, conger eel. sausage toad.As for sweet, this could be baked rice pudding , spotted dick, fresh or tinned fruit with custard.

Sunday was special, late Saturday afternoon mum would go to a small market called the "Kingsland Waste" where at the end of trading the local Butcher would sell off cheap any remaining meat enabling us to get our Sunday roast. What a feast!

In the afternoon you would hear the cry "Shrimps Winkles" and outside there was a man with an open barrow laden with seafood. A pint of Shrimps and a pint of Winkles became our tea.

Snacks for example, bread and margarine dipped in sugar, fish paste sandwich etc.

Breakfast was usually porridge and bread and jam.

Sunday boiled egg or "fry up". As our small gas cooker had no grill, toast was a winter luxury only obtainable when our living room fire was glowing enough to toast bread on an extended fork in front of it (toast has never tasted better).

We very seldom ate chicken as it was too expensive, all free range in them days.

Saturday morning was treat breakfast. A breakfast roll with real butter and a chocolate teacake.One treat was bread and "dripping" or "dripping" toast .When our roast Sunday dinner was finished the residue in the roasting dish was poured into a pudding dish and when set was used to spread on bread or toast .this mixture of lard and meat juices was our "dripping.
Saturday was another time for special meals, Kippers, Smoked Haddock,pie &mash,

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The nineteen thirties

my profile... I was living with my father,mother, and three older sisters in a typical 2up 2down terraced house in Hackney bordering Shoreditch in London. No electricity just gas for lighting and cooking. A poor but very happy family.

All my relatives lived (with one or two exceptions)within a 2 mile radius which was the norm in those days.

For a Sunday treat in the summer mum would make some banana sandwitches and a bottle of drink consisting of water and lemonade powder (sugar and lemon flavouring). We would catch a no.47 tram to London docks walk through to tower bridge and at low tide a flight of stair was lowered to a small beach .With the docks being so busy the raising of tower bridge was quite common.

The real big day out was a trip to Southend. A 49 tram to Liverpool street station and then a train ride . A special treat being a "Rossi" ice cream cornet on the front This being our main holiday about twice a year but "magic"

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Welcome to my new Blog

I plan to use this blog as a repository of my memories of London during the 1930's to 1960's.

Please come back soon.