Growing Up In 1950’s Britain
Just recently, a friend was showing my wife and I the wonders and capabilities of their newly-acquired iPad and it suddenly struck me how far the world has progressed, not just in this vastly superior age of technology, but in the sheer availability and increase of material things.
Without wishing to sound extremely ancient, I remember growing up in a time when life was rather primitive by comparison to today’s world.
In the 1950’s, post-war Britain was very slowly coming to terms with new inventions. Not everybody had a television set and the only way you could see a contemporary film was at your local cinema. When I was at school, there were only two television channels, both transmitting only in black and white, and neither the BBC nor ITV broadcast 24/7. Very few theatrical films were shown on TV back then and those that did make it to the small screen were usually vintage fare. One of the best-selling magazines was the BBC’s weekly “Radio Times” which is still called that even to this day although in addition to the corporation’s radio output, it also contains the most detailed coverage of BBC Television programs to be broadcast over the next seven days.
Radio played a much greater part of daily life in the 1950’s and it was the major source of news and information.
I remember that radios had valves until the birth of the transistor in the late 50’s! Apart from hearing it on the radio, the only way you could listen to the latest hit song was to buy a physical copy at your local record store or to borrow a friend’s copy.
With tightly-controlled government regulations, the BBC was only allowed to play so many hours of ‘gramophone’ records; this was to ensure that radio would also employ British musicians to play their versions of popular songs of the day on the air!
Not every family owned a car and only the very rich owned more than one. Home appliances were gradually becoming modernized in British homes but very often on a small scale; the fridge we had well into the sixties was by no means large compared to today’s models.
Yes, it was not a world of convenience as further evidenced by the fact that it was virtually impossible to buy food or indeed anything else on a Sunday. Only small, ‘sweet’ (candy) shops were open on Sundays and this situation continued well into the 1960’s.
Radios had valves until the birth of the transistor in the late 1950s! Apart from hearing it on the radio, the only way you could listen to the latest hit was to buy a physical copy at your local record shop or borrow a friend’s copy. With tightly controlled government regulations, the BBC was only allowed to play so many hours of ‘gramophone’ records…in what the industry referred to as ‘needletime’. This was to ensure that radio would employ British musicians to play their versions of popular songs of the day on the air.
Not every household owned a telephone and of course, personal ‘phones didn’t exist, hence the banks of call boxes at airports and railway terminals. When you did get a telephone installed at home, one of the services provided was the ‘speaking clock’ which gave you the exact time with which to set your watch.
We didn’t have massive-sized supermarkets back then…you went to the butcher to buy meat, to the baker to buy bread and to the greengrocer for fruit and vegetables.
Today we also take credit cards for granted but when my mother went shopping, she only ever paid in cash. In fact, we take so much for granted these days that it’s very easy to forget how far we’ve come in just a few short decades.
Rock on! Alan