6 min read
When we look back on the 1950s, it’s hard to believe how much things have changed.
It was a decade that saw the end of rationing, the Queen’s coronation and the Festival of Britain.
Then the 60s arrived. We watched man land on the moon, listened to the Beatles take the world by storm, and cheered as England won the World Cup.
It was a wonderful time to grow up. You know you were born in the 50s if you remember…
1950s fashion: tiny waists and trilbys
1950s fashion meant one thing for women: the hourglass figure. So mum wore a skirt or tea dress tightly belted at the waist when she was popping out.
Her high-heel pumps made a lovely clicking sound when she walked.
At home, she’d wear a simple cotton dress with ballet flats. There was no point wearing anything too fancy while she cooked, cleaned and looked after us!
Dad wore his suit and tie every day, along with his trilby hat. Although he might swap the suit jacket for a cardigan on the weekend.
Once the sixties were well underway, us youngsters started wearing miniskirts and knitted ties. Spaceage fashion and the ‘mod’ look were in.
1950s hairstyles: bouffants and quiffs
Your 1950s outfit wasn’t complete without the right hairstyle.
Mum wore hers in a soft bob when she was running her errands.
We thought she looked just like Elizabeth Taylor – especially after she had her rollers in.
But before dad took mum out to a dance or dinner, she would grab a brush and backcomb her hair into a big bouffant.
Dad’s hair was always combed back into a neat quiff, which made him look very dapper indeed.
50s music: real rock ‘n’ roll and Beatlemania
Long before Cliff Richard became a Sir, ‘Move It’ fuelled our love of rock ‘n’ roll.
A few years later, the sixties rolled around and we were dancing to ‘Please Please Me’. Beatlemania had begun!
If we were lucky, we had a brightly-coloured Dansette in our bedroom.
Our friends would come over and we’d listen to Elvis as loud as we dared. It was never long before mum and dad asked us to turn it down!
Cars from 1950s Ford Anglias and ‘Moggies’
Remember the funny noise Morris Minors (or Moggies, as we called them) made as they drove past in the street?
We used to love climbing in for family trips to the beach – or even just to the shops.
Some of us had a Ford Anglia. It didn’t have heating, and the faster you drove, the slower the windscreen wipers went.
But that didn’t matter. Having any car was a special luxury in those days.
Adverts: cigarette and Spirograph adverts
When we were little, it was normal to see cigarette adverts in all the magazines and papers.
They didn’t seem to sway dad, though. He always stuck with his Woodbines.
Mum would spot her next birthday present in Good Housekeeping.
Fingers crossed she’d get her Chanel No. 5 (and maybe a cheeky bottle of Campari!).
We only cared about the toy adverts on TV.
Watching the rocket blast off in the Etch A Sketch ad made us run to mum straight away and ask for one.
And we’ll never forget seeing the Spirograph’s magic, spinning shapes for the first time.
School: boiled cabbage and Tufty the squirrel
Teachers were no-nonsense, so we were always on best behaviour. (Except for when we thought they weren’t looking!)
Come rain or shine, we had to drink our third of a pint of milk.
Later, we’d sit down for lunch and groan when we saw it was boiled cabbage again.
We’d do PE in our vests, skip in the playground, and learn road safety from Tufty the squirrel.
River swimming and den building
In the 1950s, we learnt to swim in the local river.
Like most summer days, we’d pack our sandwiches and head out to the river. All our friends would be there for a swim, too.
Or we’d head out to the streets, woods and fields around our home. We could build a den or play cowboys and Indians all day, anywhere.
Mum and dad didn’t know where we were, but they knew we’d be back in time for tea.
The cold shelf and bath day
The life of a 1950s housewife was anything but easy.
Mum popped to the shops almost every day. She’d fill up the pantry, making sure the butter and milk were on the cool shelf.
She always made sure dinner was ready when dad got home from work.
On Mondays, she set to work washing our clothes. Everything had to be run through the mangle, then hung outside or by the fire.
On Sundays, it was our turn to get washed.
Mum would plonk us in a tin bath in front of the fire. Afterwards, she’d tuck us into bed with a hot water bottle and a kiss.
Milk deliveries and the ‘pop man’
In the 1950s, groceries had to be picked up or delivered by bike or van.
Even mum’s dusters and polish were brought straight to our door by the Betterware man.
There was the rag and bone man, too. As soon as you heard his cry, you’d rush out to see what you could swap for a balloon.
The coal man topped up the coal bunker, while the milkman left us fresh glass bottles each morning.
Best of all was the pop man. If we were good, mum would let us buy a lemonade from his big Corona lorry.
1950s TV and film: Andy Pandy and I Love Lucy
When we were really young, there was only one channel on the TV – BBC.
We still remember cheering when ‘Andy Pandy’ and ‘Muffin the Mule’ came on.
Then ITV appeared and we got to watch treats from over the pond. ‘I Love Lucy’ was our firm favourite!
On Saturdays, we’d abandon the TV for the pictures.
We enjoyed booing when the screen went black half way through the show. It was normal for the film reel to break back then!
And, of course, we’d all stand for the national anthem at the end.
Have these cherished memories taken you back to your childhood? Visit our life after 50 blog for more stories.
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