"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Reminiscing on the simpler times

I read something recently on a friends Facebook page which lead me down memory lane.  I remembered that all too well, so, for the benefit of history, I am reposting what he had on his post today, but I have added more personal memories to it too.

Original posting
I was born in Tidworth, Hampshire and during my first few years lived on an air force base.  At the age of 5 my family emigrated to South Africa.  I grew up (mainly) in Cape Town and I am proud of my humble beginnings...

I am one of 6 children born to my parents - 4 sons and 2 daughters.

It was at a time when everyone treated each other like Family, and, as a sign of respect, every mature female that came to your house was "Auntie or Tannie" - even if they were no relation.

We ran around barefoot (wearing shoes was kept for "going out" with parents only), and we went outside to play on the streets where we built dens and climbed trees, made swings in trees, and see-saws out of a builders plank slung over a fallen tree trunk, go-carts were made out of rough wood with unused baby pram wheels and they had a basic pull-rope-push-feet steering mechanism, and catapults were fashioned from suitably sturdy twigs with the projectile propelling elastic (always kept to hand for replacing the worn elastic in underwear) being requisitioned from Mum's sewing box.  And for those with itchy fingers, finger knitting was done using a wooden spool.  
Finger knitting

This one uses wire, but we used scraps of wool
Scooby doo's were another favourite.  These, once complete, were dangled from simple plastic "bracelets" - worn proudly as evidence of our endeavours..

We didn't eat fast food...  We ate jam sarnies, home made food and chips cooked in a lard chip pan. Our plates were empty (including the vegetables) at the end of the meal, or we didn't get the occasional treat - pudding!

We got ice cream from within the depths of the enormous (to us) dry ice filled cooler box fixed on the front or back of the ice-cream boy's bicycle, and we had our milk (in glass bottles) delivered by the milk man. For special occasions, he also delivered orange juice in glass bottles.  (Small bottles of milk and juice were handed out in junior school at 1st break too and were consumed with a sarnie - if we were lucky enough to have one.)

We played jacks, hopscotch, rounders and marbles, Hide and Seek, Wolfie- Wolfie and tok-tokkie (knocking on a door, and running away - preferably hiding before the door was opened and you were "caught out" being naughty).   

After a good rainfall, the favourite afternoon entertainment in our neighbourhood was going further than where our Mum could see us, to somewhere we could find a large rainwater puddle.  Apart from jumping around in the puddle, tossing stones into that puddle and watching the resultant splash caused much entertainment, merriment and competition.  That particular form of entertainment was curtailed after one of my brother's decided to lob a large(r) rock into the pond (to make a bigger splash?), and my head was in the way.  That lark cost me 8 stitches.  After I came round, I discovered that the blood was everywhere and it seemed like the injury was more severe than it was 
(and my mother probably aged dramatically that afternoon).  Mind you - have I been normal since then...?  bwahaha

There was no bottled water.  Everyone drank water from the tap or the garden hose, and, if we had a (glass) bottled cooldrink we would share the same bottle of pop with whoever was there... after giving it a wipe with our mucky sleeves or the palm of our hands.

Wicks King Size and Chappies bubble gum - they kept us entertained for hours.  1d got you 4 Chappies back in the day!!!  I wonder how many "semi-antique" pieces of furniture still carry the hidden remnants of chewed bubble gum.

We had no kids tv channels and rode on our bikes for hours.

Any research information that was required involved getting yourself to a library, rifling through their reference card drawers, finding the book identifying number and then looking up the information in that particular volume of one of the many varied and vast sets of encyclopedias.  Google - although extremely helpful, certainly does not lead a child on a knowledge "treasure hunt".

We either cycled or we walked - sometimes miles - to the bus stop or railway station in order to get to school - no lift clubs existed then, and 1, never mind 2 car families were few and far between..

Making your bed, (hand) washing - and drying - the dishes, feeding the pets and completing countless other chores - they were expected of you, you didn't argue, and you performed them to the best of your abilities.

There was no such thing as a mobile phone or any other electronic device.  If I recall correctly, the only electric items in our house was the precious (valve) Grundig radio, the (non-steam) iron, a couple of heaters, the vacuum cleaner, a kettle and the stove.  The transistor radio was yet to happen...

Our Gundig radio eventually got replaced by a hi-fi cabinet and the turntable played vinyl 7 singles (played at 45 rpm) or LP's (played at 33.3 rpm).  No CD's, no iPods, no iPhones in those days.

Light globes had bakerlite fittings, and both the wall mounted and side light switches and telephones were made from bakerlite too.  They all lasted for ages.

Lawnmowers were either a manual push version or a petrol driven forward rotating blade one - if you were one of the more fortunate families.

Wooden doll houses / doll prams and push chairs, scooters and bicycles were the most sought after and cherished birthday and Christmas gifts.  An added bicycle bell was an bonus - and, again, often became a much anticipated future birthday or Christmas gift.  A bit if a b*tch if your birthday fell during the early months in the year - you had to wait yonks until Christmas or your birthday came around again...  But wait you did.

Otherwise a wooden or cardboard box and our imaginations sufficed.

Designer labels were unheard of - you were grateful for having clothing, and new clothing was reserved for birthdays or Christmas gifts.  The rest of the time hand-me-downs were the norm.  I remember once - I think I was turning 6 or 7 - being given a new pair of shortie pyjamas as a birthday gift.  Being excited about what I was going to receive, I couldn't wait for my birthday so I went "investigating"  Needless to say, I found my gift and had a preview.  Although terribly pleased with the choice I was disappointed as now I had no surprise left to look forward to.

Evenings were spent as a family listening to our favourite "soapie" on the radio in the lounge - "No Place to Hide" - with Mark Saxon and Sergei Grimiko (sp?) as the main characters.  Or, for a scarier evening "The Creaking Door".  As we became teenagers, my elder brothers created a wall chart of the hits played on "Springbok Radio's Top 20" - with the Beatles being the favourite group to chart, and the Rolling Stones begrudgingly allowed on the chart as comparison.  No spreadsheets - no computers...

Rainy days were spent playing board games (snakes & ladders / scrabble / etc) or reading or knitting (mainly dolls clothes lol)

We weren't AFRAID OF ANYTHING. If someone had a fight, that's what it was...a fist fight.  Kids didn't have guns or knives.

The street lights were your curfew or until your mum shouted out the window. School was mandatory, but you'd could (apparently - although I never did) still bunk a couple of lessons every now and then. 

We watched our mouths around our elders because we knew we'd get a "clap" with a belt or shoe, slipper, wooden spoon...  Talking back was not an option!  Nor even a muttered comment under your breath as you walked away after your rebuke.

My favourite after school lunch was white sugar sprinkled on buttered bread (margarine hadn't been invented yet), and, on special occasions, condensed milk on buttered bread.  (Maybe I was more active after school than during - dunno, don't remember.  There again, with all the outside playing that occured in the afternoons we probably needed the energy boost...)

When, and why, did childhood become so complicated?

Life was simple then - and our imaginations played the most important role in our lives.  Children were allowed to be children then, not young adults.

Times certainly have changed haven't they...!?


  1. Such wonderful memories, Dani. You and I are from similar times. I regret that kids nowadays will have none of the freedoms we had. Now they must be protected at all times from god-knows-what horrors out in the world. We left the house early morning, and mom didn't see us until the supper bell rang. It was joyous freedom---what fun we had.
    Of course, hubby and I discussed this recently and he brought up the point that you can't miss what you never had. Perhaps. But wow--they are missing so much now that surely there is an empty space in their childhood.

    1. Sue - Exactly. They are missing a vital part of growing up - the freedom we had was priceless, not to mention the (extended) use of our imagination.

      But, I wonder if they had that freedom from the "modern day horrors", if they would embrace it, or whether the lure of modern electronics and it's mindless entertainment would triumph?

    2. Yea, good point. I know my grandson USED to like to be outside, in the garden, exploring in nature. Since his dummy parents (my son!) gave him a tablet, he is lost in space..............
      So sad to witness

  2. I think I was one of the last year of birth before the transition to being 'plugged in'. Street lights told me to go home. I had a new to me swatch watch. The one that was an elastic wide band and you could move the face to as many other bands as you had. I think when I was 12, for christmas we got a 2nd hand atari, with pac man on it. You slotted the big tape like box in. We only had the one tv, we therefore could only play it on saturday morning briefly as we had swimming. The TV was completely under my Grans control.

    We went to the beach at 7am and we had a back pack, your towel and swimming togs. You would have frozen a squash bottle, with very weak mixture of cordial and water. it would stay cold until about 11am. You would also have a white bread sandwich with what ever was in the fridge, probably wrapped in an old bread bag that you folded up carefully for use the next day. And a packet of crisps. We would go home, sun tanned, tired but happy. We would walk all the way there and back. My friends kids get a lift to school and it is 10 mins walk? crazy. My friend had a mobile when we were about 19. But I had seen a mobile in the 80's it was like the plunger for dynamite. A huge box, with a real telephone receiver. It would seem the norm to get a mobile in the UK is about 9 or 10. Before kids go to secondary. They probably have an ipod that they can text on before that. They dont share them like we would of had to and they also have ipads at a very early age. Everything that you can plug in.... lol we are the Matrix

    1. Sol - Where are future kids going to end up? Probably with robots performing every task for them - deciding what they eat, what time they wake up, and go to sleep, what they should wear, etc and, finally, what work the robot should be programmed to perform for them in order for them to earn an income...

      What will be the point of children - in the future...?

  3. It is astounding to me that even though you and I grew up in different parts of the world, our childhood days were strikingly similar. I now have two children over the age of 50 and two more sneaking up on that age, and they tell me they wish their children could have the kind of childhood they had. It was a time lived without so much fear and a time of using their imaginations and a time of strong family ties. So sad we have lost so much of that.

    1. Vicki - Our kids aren't quite that old, but you and I also lived in the same period. They were the good days, weren't they :)

      I'm saddened that "progress", fear, greed and corruption is depriving children of their childhood.

      I just wanted it out "there" what life was like in the 50's and 60's.

  4. I wonder if every generation thinks their kids would be better off if they had been born in the previous generation? I was raised well before the digital age, and remember my mother sighing for the good old days, specifically for the way she remembered children being raised.

    1. Quinn - Good point. I wonder, though, what the kids of today (age 5 - 10) will remember as highlights of their childhood when they have their children?

    2. Possibly something the "new" kids will consider hopelessly quaint, and then 50 years later, wistfully imagine as better than their kids' childhood?
      Not saying I disagree with you, just that it seems to me nostalgia is kind of an ongoing pattern in humans ;)

  5. Oh those go-karts, pram wheels, bits of old tomato box wood and wire. I wonder what is going to happen to these kids (and adults) who don't know how to make anything out of nothing? Will evolution shrink our hands to nothing but large texting thumbs?

    1. pqsa - A, that's where I'm going wrong. When I text I use my fingers - as though I'm typing. No wonder it takes me ages... :D

  6. Such an interesting post Dani, and so much like my childhood. We had so much freedom, off on our bikes until dark, walking to the beach with friends, making 'dandies' and camps. We knew how to entertain ourselves, sadly many children have lost this ability.

    1. Chickpea - We did have some much imagination then, didn't we! Todays kids seem to bent on what gadget can entertain them and for how long... Or am I being too harsh?

  7. Wonderful memories Dani. "Taxi" and "Squad Cars" on the radio was our family entertainment. A great treat was going to the drive in. It was the only time we got a chocolate each but the making of sandwiches beforehand was a real pain to us kids. I thought we were the only ones who had bread with white sugar for lunch. Although we had so much less than now, they were great times. Such a pity our children were unable to have a childhood like that.

    1. Simone -Ah, YES!! Drive-in :D Sea Breeze was our favourite.

      I also remember listening to "Squaddies" and Taxi. Wasn't it wonderful how listening conjured up your own images of the scene being played out in your brain, as opposed to being fed what a movie director thinks you should see.

      I agree - tough as they were some times, our children missed out on some really good times...

  8. I remember listening to Squad Cars on the radio, curled up on the bed with my parents. Packing a picnic, loading my dolls and a book into the carrier basket on my bicycle and taking off for the day, on my own, with only my dog for company. Sitting at the table with my brother for hours after dinner because he refused to eat his cabbage. Good times :)

    1. Rosemary - Oh, yes, sitting at the table waiting for veggies to be eaten / everyone to finish eating... No one got up from the table until everyone was finished. I remember that well ;)

      They were good times, weren't they :D

  9. I was thinking along similar lines today. If you took someone aged 20 and moved them back to 1953, I genuinely doubt they'd be able to function in that society.

    1. Harry - You're quite right. They wouldn't know how to fill their days, nor how to function - especially without all the electronic gadgets which consume their evetry waking hour - even when they exercise. Life, to them, would seem like they had landed on a distant planet ;)

  10. I am 48 and remember going off with a gand of friends to the local swimming pool on our own, or taking a bit of a packed lunch and just going to the beach and playing in the sandhills. I have two boys aged 9 and 10. We moved from near Manchester to rural Wales, amongst other things, to try and give them a different childhood as much as we can. They will be able to go on their bikes on their own down the local cycle path in the Spring and my youngest already takes himself off for a run down there when he fancies it, we have rules of when they can use screens but we have no x-box type things, they are expected to chop logs for our Rayburn, feed the chickens and help dad outside and in with building projects and such like. Dad shot a rabbit in the garden and they both helped to skin and gut it before I jointed it for a stew. They love swimming in the nearby river in the summer and love picking blackberries when the season allows. We are not living an idylic life but we are doing out best to make it the best we can. When our living room woodburner is lit they gravitate towards it and are more than happy to sit and read, talk or listen to music with us and not bother about eh TV. We are doing our best. Such a great post and comments.

    1. Louise - Welcome - and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

      It sounds like you're doing right by your boys. They will treasure the memories of the freedom your move, and subsequent lifestyle is allowing them. Would that more parents considered the lives that their children are living...


Thank you for taking the time to comment - it makes my day and removes the "loneliness' of sitting at my screen blogging supposedly to myself ;)