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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Your 1950s: After the war
Scene from film Son of a Gun, 1955
Films with John Mills (left) reminded the public about the war
The Magazine is compiling a people's history of modern Britain - featuring your written memories and photos. We've had a tremendous response, starting with the 1950s.

It was the decade of the Coronation, the end of food rationing and the Suez Crisis.

And despite the big events of the period, many of you wanted to talk about the shared values and community spirit of the time. Many of you also recalled the fun, the fashion and the food.

But there were constant reminders of the war - bomb sites, rations, economic hardship. Below is a selection of these memories.

We had an overwhelming response to our request for memories of the 1950s and it's been a great start as we begin to build our people's history in the coming weeks. Next week, the 60s.

To a child in the 1950s it was like we had arrived too late for one strange, massive party - the Second World War. There were countless artefacts like air raid shelters, old gas masks, seaside concrete defences and redundant ration cards to remind us. But apart from some bombed-out "displaced persons" still in old army camps, the misery was much more distant to us than it would have been to a German child, for instance. Everything was compared to "before the war" or "during the war" and although we kids dimly perceived our parents might have suffered, the John Mills film heroics somehow made it all seem normal and actually concealed the real achievement of our parents' generation in standing up to Nazi Germany. I think this is one reason why the Monty Python generation went on to ridicule that type of Britishness. We weren't laughing at our parents but at their shell-shocked disbelief at what they had been through and survived. Our generation supplied the slightly hysterical laughter.
Mike Bettney, Long Eaton, UK

I was born in 1946 but I remember my father, in the early 1950s, bringing home bars of Lux soap wrapped up in tissue paper, absolute luxury! Also, going to the country in our motor bike and sidecar, coming back with the nose of the sidecar packed with fresh eggs. I remember playing on bombsites with other children just across from our school. Huge street party to held to celebrate the coronation. There was great camaraderie, we laughed, joked with our neighbours, helping them out in times of trouble. Our extended family all lived a short walk from each other. All so different from now.
Susan McCahy, London, England

In the 1950s, the heyday of the Co-op began to come to an end. For those, like my father, who worked in it and for people who depended on it for affordable goods of high quality, it was a complete way of life. Yet it has made astonishingly little impact on written social history. Rochdale and Beamish tell the story well, but the Co-op was everywhere - even on remote Scottish islands.
David Brown, Stirling

What must not be left out of the 1950s is that it was still very common to see military uniforms in the streets. Every male on reaching the age of 18 years was required to do two years "National Service". I personally could hardly wait. It was the perfect was to get out of the village in which I lived. Life was still extremely boring, the changes within the next 10 years were incredible
Peter Bolt, Redditch

I was born in the East End and grow up in Haggerston, Shoreditch, in the 50s and 60s. I lived in a big block of flats with many other families. Often very often, as it was me and my mates' favourite thing to do, we would go to the nearest bomb site (of which there were many) and look for UXB (unexploded bombs). When we discovered one, we would throw stones and bricks at it to see if it would explode. We had to be quick because it was never very long before we would see an army of mothers coming towards us to take us home. Fortunately we never did get a bomb to blow up. But it wasn't through the lack of not trying. What great times and memories.
William, Portland, Oregon, USA

Sweets and all things sweet were my treats. Sugar had been rationed so getting sweets was a priority. When we, as school children went to the swimming pool, we had to walk in crocodile formation and were forbidden to take sweets with us. To get over that, all the pennies and three-penny bits would be passed to the back of the crocodile along with the orders for spearmint chews and liquorice sticks and the last two children would nip into the sweet shop that was on the way to the baths and buy what was necessary. This was done at speed and worked every time, until finally the teacher accompanying us found out. My grandfather's idea of a treat was to present me with a cold potato or a suspect cold sausage that he had been saving in his outside larder.
Pamela Sinclair, England

I loved the long hot summers but remember the terrible winter smogs most. It was fun at first as you could pretend to be a cowboy with your handkerchief tied round your face. Still no one could see you so it didn't really matter. The novelty of the fogs wore off when chest infections set in. The best thing about winter though was bonfire night where virtually every house had a bonfire and a guy. My mum used to make parkin and treacle toffee and we roasted potatoes in the embers of the fire. No silver foil then we ate them straight from the ashes causing many a burnt hand and tongue. My fondest memory of the era was listening to football on our plug-in wireless sitting with my dad. Senior service and Woodbine cigarettes were common then and even children used to be sent to the shops to buy them. Halcyon days!
Graham Calderbank, Stockport

Snow fell in most winters and only the living room in the house was kept warm with a coal fire that my mum lit before dad came home from work. We had freedom to wander anywhere alone as long as we were home for meals. My elder sister often walked the half mile home from the bus stop after a Saturday night dance along a dimly lit lane with no fear of being molested. Suez, Cyprus and the Russians and Elvis were what people talked about. Oh! and football!!
Roger Hunter, Worthing

I was born in 1945 in Salford, Lancashire. Terraced houses and cobbled streets. In the 50s as kids we played in the street with a ball and bits of wood making up our own games. Of course we also had smog in winter and gaslights in the street. Charlie the Knocker-upper to rattle the upstairs bedroom window to wake dad up for work. The tragedy of the Munich Air Disaster when even City fans cried at United's loss and of course soccer's loss.
Thomas Edward Ralph, Johannesburg, South Africa

I was born in 1955 but remember a lot from my early years, ie. going to Saturday morning pictures and paying 1.5 pence bus ride and 3p to get in and a penny halfpenny worth of chips in newspaper. Lots more social memories like that. Living in a house in Park Road, Dartford, Kent, that cost my parents 350 pounds, with no bathroom in it. Had a toilet across a pathway at the back of the house and my Dad put a bath in the kitchen area with a fold-down lid so that it was like a seat. I wonder what that house would be worth now?
Pamela Hagen, Port Moody, BC Canada

1956 was a major changing point in my life as it was the year I started my two years National Service. I went in an immature young man knowing little about myself, what I want to be and next to nothing about the people of Britain. In the melting pot of the British army I came to know young men from all over the country. It exposed me to new ideas and new ways of thinking. I travelled to an outpost of the Empire, Malaya, where I went in one country from the 20th Century back to the stone age. It gave me time to work out what I wanted to do with my life. National Service was my first "university" and it was the best.
Ken Stuckey, Stockholm, Sweden

Smog. Yellow and thick. As you walked through it with a scarf firmly over your mouth and nose, you could lose all sense of direction even just on the width of the pavement. The only guide was the occasional far-spaced gleam from the gas mantles of the street lights. One of my earliest memories is of the lamp-lighter coming down the street with his pole to light the street lamps. Then later, the lamps were retro-fitted with clock-work mechanisms which only needed an occasional wind up. Electric lamps did not come until the turn of the decade.
Colin Burn, Manchester

During the 50s Dundee was filled with jute mills plenty employment for all in those days. I remember the workers coming and going in their hundreds always singing on there way and back covered from head to toe in the fibres and leaving their jute deposits on the buses and trams for others to collect. The 50s were good years, halfpenny on the tram, two bob for the football match, one shilling or ninepence for the cinema, threepence for spangles, toffee McGowans Highland cream and sixpence for Cadbury eight blocks chocolate marzipan. This total amounts today at around 20p.My pocket money was 10 shillings a week and that got me into the Saturday morning picture club, the football in the afternoon and the first house pictures in the evening plus my sweets and a fish supper on my way home and I still had enough left in my pocket for the extra sweets. I bet the kids now could not survive on 50p. Yes, those were the days. No TV, just watched it with others in a shop window and that was the first time I saw the Queen.
Andrew Robertson Woodcock, Dundee

We were called the New Elizabethans and I with my classmates had stood by the side of the road for a glimpse of the new Queen. A glimpse was all we got as she was whisked past in her Rolls Royce. There was an air of expectancy about the new age. I had visited the 1951 exhibition on the South Bank and had even as a very young child been very impressed by all the new buildings, including the Skylon and the Royal Festival Hall. These were termed "modern" and were an antidote to the bomb sites which surrounded the streets where I lived. There was a sense of history and talk of Empire and the Commonwealth. It was all very exciting then.
Pamela Sinclair, England

I wasn't born in the 1950s, but it is the decade I would like to have lived in. I see it as a more adult age than the period since. Highbrow culture - philosophy, the arts - was treated prominently in the media, but at the same time you had Osborne, Braine etc. leading the assault on elitism. You also had bohemians, rock 'n' roll, and emerging youth culture, so that without the 50s the 60s could never have happened. Science and technology were seen in an optimistic light, but over everything there hung the H-bomb; it was a heyday of science fiction and UFO flaps. So a decade of contrasts, a serious decade, and a decade of transition. In my view, a very underrated decade.
Gregory Towers, Lincoln, UK

I remember going to school and learning my multiplication tables by rote, teachers being able to throw things at pupils not paying attention, and being a milk monitor. I remember the excitement of actually getting a toilet installed in the house, instead of having to walk past two other houses and across a lawn to visit the 'outhouse'. I remember baths in front of the fire in a tin bath. I also remember using a toasting fork to make toast in the coal fire and everyone huddling around it in really cold weather. I remember rag rugs on the floor, and frost all over the windows in winter. I remember the liberty bodice and pockets in your knickers for your hankie!! I was born in Brigg, Lincolnshire and raised in Market Rasen.
Noreen Royce, Northampton

I remember most the freedom to play outside, there were very few cars and the streets looked so tidy compared with today when there are cars parked everywhere. There were still many bomb sites in London - overgrown and sad. The milkman had a horse to draw his cart and the horse knew which houses to stop outside. In the autumn we would run outside and feed apples from our trees to the horse. We had horrid woollen knitted swimsuits which scratched and sagged alarmingly. It was also so cold indoors in the winter - no central heating then!
Erica Hammond, London, UK

Globe-trotting by the masses was just beginning and you could go to the USA in the Queen Mary in a civilized way, taking five days, with lots to eat on the way. For students it was bliss. The 707 had ruined it all by 1959.
JF James, Kilcreggan, Argyll & Bute

If you were ill you were never taken to the doctor unless it was really serious. I remember one time I had a knitting needle stick into my foot. My mother made a bread poultice in an old sock & wrapped it round the foot. The foot swelled up like a big red balloon, but it was better after two days.
Ray Borge, Hereford

I was born in 1949 and I remember trams running along Coventry Road. I think they were withdrawn in 1954. I have a memory of seeing my first Asian man whilst shopping with my mother in the Bull Ring. I think I was six then.
John McKeever, Birmingham

I was a very small child in the 1950s. My memories are of the odd hats worn by women, pipe-smoking men and truly uncomfortable children's clothes. Not having a family car but walking, cycling or using public transport. The popularity of Gilbert and Sullivan. Cadbury's Dairy Milk and Smarties were treats but food otherwise was very plain. There seemed to be more space. Our house overlooked a cornfield then - there is a housing estate on it now.
Hilary Roberts, Farnham, Surrey

The little dot at the end of the television transmissions. Listening to Dan Dare on Sunday evenings after bath on the radio (this was before telly of course). Roaming in the fields, sledging in the dark until 10 o'clock. Watching the pond in the next field for tadpoles and caddis flies, nature walks and freedom.
Jen Walker, Cumbria

Thanks for sending in so many memories. Those which haven't made it to print this time could form part of the BBC's Memoryshare project, to be launched later this year. More details here.

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