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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Your 1950s: Food
Dancing in the 1950s (actors)
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, a decade many recall for its starkly different values to those we hold today.

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

The decade is fondly remembered as a golden age of decency and strong community ties. But for others, it is about deprivation, chauvinism and discrimination.

And for many of you, food played a big part in your recollections. 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.


Ralph Devereux
One of my abiding memories is the need to boil the milk in the summer to keep it a bit longer, because we had no fridge. The cream used to form as a skin which I liked on my cereal. Then frozen chickens came on the market and my mother discovered that if she put the chicken in the oven to thaw, without turning it on, she could put the milk in with it to keep cool.
A young Ralph Devereux
Finally, one day, my mother turned to my father and said: "It's no good Bill, we're going to have to buy a fridge." We didn't have a car either until about 1962. Dad had a driving licence and every summer he would take a week off work and rent a car. Then we would go to various places during that week.
R H Devereux, Weston-super-Mare

I remember vividly the baker's van coming round and being allowed to choose a wagon wheel, which was enormous, or a Paris bun, also huge. I can still smell the wonderful aroma when he opened up the back of the van. I was born in the 50s.
Avril Neill, Newcastle

MORE 50s MEMORIES
Early childhood memories of East London in the 50s:- Milk still delivered by horse and cart, payment for it in halfpennies and farthings, coal delivered in heavy sacks by filthy men, the lamplighter lighting the few remaining gas-lit streetlights, the last of London's trolley-buses, exploring East London on a little tricycle, for miles, completely alone - "If you get lost, just ask a policeman".
Alan Attwood, Melbourne, Australia

I vaguely remember rationing - I think bacon was the last to go. I remember our local grocers where bacon was sliced, cheese cut with a wire from a large block, and big open sacks of prunes sat on the floor. Sweet shops were individual units with rows and rows of glass jars containing loose sweets (mmmm! sherbert lemons) which were weighed out by the two ounces or a quarter and placed in paper bags. In shops you were served - self service did not arrive until the late 50s and there were certainly no supermarkets. Sainsbury's existed then but you had to go from counter to counter to buy each item you required.
Sheila Ferguson nee Richardson, Maidstone Kent

Sweets coming off ration and then going with pocket money to find they'd all been sold. The King dying on a cold, sunless day. Youth clubs run by local churches. Rock and Roll, Elvis (the Pelvis), Bill Haley and the mindless destruction of cinemas by Teddy Boys.
Mary Lee, Pinner, Middx

If you were hungry in between breakfast & dinner (lunch) you ate a jam sandwich or a biscuit from the broken biscuit tin, so called because they were broken biscuits from Woolworth, the Co-op or Liptons. There was never any bought crisps or choc bars. Mother would make crisps sometimes and toffee. She also made the bread. Apples and pears were eaten often and sometimes you might get a banana, which was a real treat! Vegetables like broccoli and asparagus hadn't been 'invented', so we never heard of it. We were always made to eat everything on our plates and 'eat your greens up' was a constant phrase. The Corona popman would come round on a Friday selling bottles of lemonade. You'd save up the empty bottles which were worth tuppence each.
ray borge, hereford

I was a small child in London in the early 50's and remember so well not only seeing the smogs, but the feel and the smell and the peculiar way footsteps were muffled. When you opened the front door it was like a yellow wall in front of you. The street lamps were dim glows and everyone walked around with scarves over the mouth and nose. High Tea with my grandparents was a highlight and always the same (remember, sugar was still rationed!) consisting of tinned salmon, lettuce, tomato, bread and butter and tinned peaches with ideal milk to follow - we thought we were very grand!
Sandy Grapes, Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, UK

My sweets were on ration, fruit was a rare luxury, chicken was only eaten at Christmas. I knew the days of the week by the dinner we ate...Monday, `hidden dinner`(leftover meat with potato and onion)...Tuesday, pigs` fry...Wednesday, sausage stew etc. I lived in Lincolnshire, of a fishing family so food pluses were loads of fresh vegetables (five a day was fundamental) and spanking fresh fish...cockles, mussels, shrimps, herring, dabs...always there was a big ugly thornback skate hanging on the fence.
Roger Bray

I wasn't born till 1954, but vividly remember the shortage of sweets of virtually any kind. Beef dripping was a luxury, and we all loved it on toast. All kids loved to make their own go-carts or trolleys or buggy's (depending what part of UK you were from). All us boys used to know every wild bird that flew in our sky, and we quite unashamedly collected their eggs, but the little feathered creatures sill thrived in abundance all over our pleasant land.
Gregory.A.Parker, Dorset

The diet was home cooked and limited in range to what the local shops stocked. We always seemed to have a meat meal every day - to eat veggie was unheard of. There was a local butcher, baker, greengrocer and fishmonger, there was an 'International' store - part deli and part dry and tinned goods - they called it a supermarket because they trolleys, only a little bigger than the size of the normal handbasket. There were no takeaways other than the fish and chip shop and a pie, eel and shellfish stall outside the local pub on a Friday & Saturday night.
Chris Weedon, Now Bedford/Then West London

Although the diet would look old-fashioned now, food was becoming varied and plentiful again. Novelties such as frozen vegetables appeared in tandem with fridges for a wider market, along with washing machines and televisions. We were growing bigger, too: we could wear my great-great-aunt's black silk Victorian dress when we were only ten!
M W, Cheltenham UK

I remember butter cut from a slab and shaped with wooden spatulas. I remember 'Little Red Lion' eggs, sometimes with a double yolk. Very few cars, lots of buses, neighbours talking on the doorstep and helping each other and the mangle in the garden for the weekly wash.
Jan Laurie, Harrow

During the 1950s we lived in a small village in Kent, England. When I was around four years old, I remember our milk being delivered in a churn which was ladled into our jug from a steel pint measure by our milk-lady, Peggy. The churn was carried in a horse-drawn cart. We lived next door to a farm and sometimes we would call just after milking time and buy a jug of warm, creamy milk straight from the cow. Some groceries were still rationed after the war. I recall that salt was sold from a big block, the grocer would cut off a small amount and we would grate it down at home. Biscuits were sold loose from large tins. Butter was also sold from a large block and the grocer would pat it into smaller blocks with wooden paddles.
Gill Putnam, Wanneroo, Western Australia

We lived in a hop growing area and, at harvest time, horse-drawn carts would bring labourers in to help. Some of these workers were itinerant gypsies. We lived several miles away from a large paper mill. Most of the men travelled to work on bicycles, and the factory whistle at five o'clock heralded a mass exodus of furiously pedalling men, with their lunch boxes over their shoulders, calling to each other as they went home. We had our first television set in 1955, the picture was black and white and we could only receive BBC broadcasts. When Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in 1956 our living room was full of neighbours who came in to watch the broadcast.
Gill Putnam, Wanneroo, Western Australia

In 1951 I would have been six years old. My father used to give my brothers and myself one "dolly mixture" each after lunch as sweets were rationed. I have a clear memory of the pot they were stored in. My father was a vicar and there were five children so treats were few and far between. However, I remember when sweet rations ended and my father decided to give us pocket money; one penny for each year of our life. I was the youngest and received sixpence each week. I was astonished to discover that I did not have to spend the money on sweets! I remember buying a glass medicine glass from Woolworth's for my mother's birthday present. I received a cone shaped bag of "Victory V" lozenges from my brother for a birthday gift. Those simple gifts were given and received with as much pleasure as the lavish gifts people exchange today
Mrs Julia Newman, Oundle, Northamptonshire

Queuing for ration books with my mother, real cream in cream cakes for the first time, the neighbours in the living room to watch the coronation on television, learning to write with chalk on a slate, hardly any cars, one Mars bar made to last a week by cutting into seven pieces, worms in apples, the H-bomb, other boys dads in Korea, boys bringing German caps, badges and medals and things to school, walking to school, dogs chasing cars or cyclists, boys wore short trousers until 11, teddy boys, horse-drawn milk/delivery vans
Ian Espiner, Leeds

Back to the early 50s I remember well the end of sweet rationing and the luxury of chocolate. Also the luxury of enjoying bananas and peaches which were unknown to me in the immediate post-war years. Of course all these sweets produced tooth decay which meant that visits to dentists were a sheer nightmare of pain and fear, due to the old slow drills and no anaesthetics.
Barrie Carter, Sherborne, Dorset

There were no supermarkets just shops... a cake and bread shop, the butchers, the milliners, the haberdashers...all with beautiful ornate gold leaf and glass fascias. In the Co-op shop they sliced bacon from sides of pigs, cut cheese from huge roundels, weighed pounds of sugar from hundred weight sacks. Nothing was prepped, wrapped or labelled. All staff had the ubiquitous pencil stub stuck behind their ear and yes, some of them did add up on their starched cuffs! No computerised tills, just an amazing set of cables on the ceiling along which travelled a small metal canister holding the customers tendered money along with the bill. This canister was `fired` by the counter assistant along the cable to the cashier who sat aloft at a little illuminated window. The bill, stamped `PAID`, together with any change was then `fired` back down to assistant to give to the customer.
Roger Bray


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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