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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Your 1950s moments
Grahame and George Atkins
Grahame Atkins in a London park, 1958
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.

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

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.

Below is a selection of your memories of the 50s.


Christmas Street, Bermondsey, late 1950s, grim ground floor tenement flats, me out in the yard in the tin bath, outside loo shared with next door, listening to Eartha Kitt wanting an "old fashioned millionaire"...
John Gammon, Brighton, UK

MORE 50s MEMORIES
I was born in 1945 and remember going on a camping holiday in France in 1952 when I was seven. My father had been killed in the war so it was just me, my mum and my grandma together with a group of friends. We had a wonderful time. I remember our car, a Morris Oxford, had to be put on the ferry by putting it in a net and winching it onboard.
Jane King, Liverpool

I remember boring Sundays starting to change with technology starting to appear, for example automated milk carton machines at petrol stations (many years before they became extended shops )so you could get milk without a milkman at weekends, what an advancement !
Stephen Bamforth, Barnsley

I remember attending the Festival of Britain in 1951 on the South Bank of the Thames; The Skylon, The Dome of Discovery, The Shot Tower from where I sent a radio message which was supposedly bounced off the Moon and back to Earth. There was also the nearby funfair created at Battersea and water buses plying the Thames. Cars were of interest to youngsters. The Morris Minor had superseded the Morris 8 which at one time had something like a three or four year waiting list. Ford's produced the Popular, the Anglia and the Prefect and the hefty old V8 Pilot. Standards introduced the Standard 8 as a small family car. So many manufacturers from that period have long since disappeared. Most working class folk couldn't afford cars and instead used motor bikes and sidecars as family transport. There were many fatalities as crash helmets were not compulsory.
Barrie Carter, Sherborne, Dorset

I was born in 1952. I remember taking a bus on holiday to Walton on the Naze each summer, adders on the road and sea walls, cranes rebuilding the sea walls after the 1953 floods. They terrified me as I walked under their derricks, snowy winters, French au pair girls wearing lovely full dresses with starched petticoats, teddy boys who would frighten me, bits of old wartime forces uniforms, gas masks and navy photos at my grandmother's house in the countryside, scary children's comics of aliens.
John Hannah, Rochford, Essex

My old dad slogging his guts out as a "royal servant" at Buckingham Palace for an absolute pittance and helping to introduce trade unionism to the place
David Gillingham, Westbury, Wilts

I remember ribena and marmite sandwiches in front of Muffin the Mule
Sally Angel, London

Digging with my father in the back garden about 1953 and finding several Roman silver coins whilst laying a new plant box, most of which ended up being traded for sweets and model airplane kits. Also later in the 1950s, the MG which required me to carry a bucket of sand in the boot for all too frequent flameouts.
Edward Marcum, Southend-on-Sea, now Kolin, Czech Republic

The mention of Queen Salote reminded me of the times when we cut the newspaper into small squares which where hung in the smallest room. My mother came back from a visit one day and announced: "Guess what. Queen Salote just wiped my botty."
Alan Riley, Wickford

I was born in 1946 brought up in Glamorgan in a farming village called Nelson. One of my father's great friends was a local farmer who we used to help out at weekends by working on his farm. In the 50s his farm was still horse operated and so I have had the privilege of working shire horse-drawn hay wains and even having a try at working a horse-drawn plough (failed as I wasn't strong enough; but it was a try). The sight of a field being mown by a horse-drawn cutter stays vividly with me till today. The central patch was then scythed by hand so as not to harm unduly the wild life which had taken refuge there.
Peter Bonney, Rochester Kent

One of my happiest memories of the 50s was when my brother who was in the army and was Batman to a Colonel whose rather nice house was in West London. When the Colonel was away on holiday my brother was expected to look after the London house and during the summer of 1955 he sent for my mother and myself (we lived in Scotland then) to travel to London and stay in that smart London house! My mother and I travelled by the Starlight Special express train from Glasgow to London, the tickets cost 2.50 Adult and 1.50 child - returns - and we had the most exciting times of our lives! We were able to see all those wonderful London sights we had only dreamed of and got to stay in a posh house too!
Anne, Age 61, Bracknell, Berkshire

I suppose I must be one of the youngest people who experienced, and remembers, London's pea-souper fogs. Those real Dickensian ones, where you could barely see your hand in front of your face. The ones caused by the burning of coal in thousands upon thousands of open fires, before anyone had such luxuries as central heating. Obviously people decades older than me are still around, including my mother, but from the point of view of a young child the experience was utterly terrifying. The very last pea-soupers must have been in 1957. I was aged five, living in East London and at my first year of school. The memory is of having to practically feel my way along the pavement of my own street, trying to work out where I was by recognising the neighbours' garden fences. One could barely see the kerbside, let alone the other side of the road. Traffic movement was all but impossible - cars moving slower than walking place and losing their positioning in the roadway, especially at junctions. But the trains still ran, albeit slowly, because the signalling made that possible.
Alan Attwood, Melbourne, Australia

Our first TV cost 65 guineas. It had a 9" black and white screen and was permanently tuned into the only station, the BBC. When ITV came along later we had to have the set modified by having a box put on the back with a plunger that changed the station. To make the picture appear bigger there was a magnifying glass hung on the front of the set which contained oil under pressure. I know this because my brother and I broke it when we were fighting and the whole room had to be redecorated. We were not popular.
Kip, Norwich, UK

Watching television for the first time. Ballroom dancing competitions, beautiful dresses on a snowy, speckled black and white television. It was wonderful and opened up the whole world to small communities.
Madeleine Creamer, Cavan Ireland

I was born in 1946, and my memories of the 1950s are: string bags, buying 'lights' for the cat's dinner, catching sticklebacks in the local pond using a garden cane, racing dinky toys which were models of torpedo shaped racing cars of the day, walking a mile or two to my infants school every day on my own or with friends, playing marbles on unmade road surfaces where we made depressions to knock our opponents' marbles into, Teddy boys with velvet lapels and collars on long jackets, drainpipe trousers, fluorescent coloured socks and shoes with 1 1/2 inch thick soles and secretly admiring them, watching Avro Lancasters, Spitfires, Dakotas, Gloster Meteors, Vampires, Hawker Hunters, and Rapides etc. flying over our garden in Coventry on a regular basis, the Queen visiting Coventry to lay the foundation stone for the new cathedral, and visiting the Jaguar car factory with lines of pristine new Jaguar cars filling up the car park in front of the factory, the coal man delivering coal in a big sack which he emptied into our coal store, and my dad having to break up the large pieces of coal with a hammer so that they would fit on our fire, cold backs and warm fronts in front of the fire.
Richard Colley, Skipton, North Yorkshire, England

I was seven years old when sweets came off ration. I could actually buy more than one Mars Bar. (6d each). I hated Sundays though. Church with my parents in the morning, Sunday School during the afternoon, then more church again in the evening. No shops open, no sports fixtures, no train spotting allowed, (not that there were many trains on Sundays anyway.) I can fully understand what the saying, "A month of Sundays" meant. Boring, boring, and even more boring! Also everything appeared grey, there wasn't much colour around in those days. To sum up, if I could be allowed to use one word that, for me, sums up the fifties, that word would be "grey".
Sandie Seward, Basildon UK

I remember the cane at school, the overall discipline, arriving to live in Bournemouth at the age of 6 in my fathers motorcycle and sidecar, having our first black and white television in 1957, going to see Lonnie Donegan and Marty Wilde at the Bournemouth Winter Gardens when I was 8. Many happy memories of a care free childhood!
Jane Wyatt, Bournemouth

I don't remember anyone in the adult extended family (aunts/uncles etc.) being out of work. Holidays were taken in Clacton, Hastings or Ramsgate - somewhere within a half day or so train or coach ride away. We stopped on caravan sites - cold water, smelly loos and a shop that sold the same things as the one down the road from where we lived.
Chris Weedon, now Bedford, then west London

My early years in Sheffield in the 50s are of smoky factory chimneys, plenty of jobs for all in the steel mills and coal mines, factory girls wearing turban like head gear. Then a move to Crawley, Sussex, a new town in 1955, still very much a country market town with a population of some 3,000 and new homes springing up everywhere. Gatwick airport still a tiny place with an abandones race course next to it. The girls I dated turned up nicely dressed in dresses or skirts, nylons and high heels and other than smooching nothing else went further. The end of the 50s was for me being drafted for National Service and almost two years spent in the Far East. When I returned to England in 1962 the country had already begun to noticeably change.
Jim Austen, Glendora, USA

I was born in 1951 in Birmingham but I remember a few significant things. I remember going for my Diphtheria vaccination. On my 6th birthday in Oct. 1957 I was in bed with whooping cough. In 1958 I was living with my Grandparents and as they were Missionaries in South Africa in 1950 they kept in touch with that country. We had visitors from Nairobi,a couple staying with us. They were the first black people I'd seen so,as I was attending a school up the road, I took the lady to show everyone what a black person looked like. She had a habit of chewing nutmegs all day which she carried around in a brown paper bag.
Jill Wyman, Bournemouth


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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