Compared to the early years of the twenty-first century, the pace of life was slower in the 1950s and, you could argue, we were more in tune with the rhythms of the day and the rhythms of the seasons. Domestic duties shaped the housewife’s week – washing, cooking, cleaning, etc and it is worth noting that in the 1950s many mothers did not go out to work; instead, they took on the full-time job of running a home and looking after their children.
Household ‘gadgets’ were coming on to the market in the 1950s and these labour-saving appliances were a boon for the hard-pressed housewife. Nevertheless, many families had to get by without the use of a fridge, a washing machine or an electric carpet sweeper. Instead, many homemakers relied on hand washing and a mangle to squeeze the water from their clothes. After the hand washing had been done the clothes were pegged out on the washing line or, if it was raining, they were placed on clotheshorses and left to dry indoors.
Linoleum, along with mats and runners, would line many floors. This method of flooring was easier to keep clean, but it was also cold, and a common theme of the era was a lack of comfortable warmth in family homes.
The general chill in the house did have its advantages when it came to food preservation and, furthermore, a cold stone shelf was a regular feature in the pantry; this shelf helped to keep dairy produce and meat fresh, compensating for the lack of a fridge.
Radios were popular in the 1950s, but televisions and cars were considered a luxury. With no car, the prospect of a weekly shopping trip to the supermarket was not a pleasant thought but, thankfully, other options were at hand. In the 1950s, there was a profusion of local shops, catering for all tastes, needs and occasions. In addition, tradesmen would call at the home on a regular basis, delivering milk, bread, fruit, vegetables, pop, tinned food and general groceries. Door-to-door brush salesmen would also call, along with the local rag and bone man.
The rag and bone man would arrive on his horse and cart and while he traded with the housewife his horse would invariably leave a ‘deposit’ on the road. Far from offending the local housewife this deposit would be scooped up and spread on the garden, fertilising prize vegetables and sweet-smelling roses.
Coal was the primary heating source of the day and so the coalman would call on a regular basis. With their blackened faces and bent backs, the coalmen would carry sacks of coal to the coal shed. There, the coal would be smashed into manageable lumps, ready for the household fireplace.
Although most houses were basic and compact, many families would reserve their front room or living room for ‘best’. As such, no one was allowed in there, except on ‘special occasions’. These rooms would be kept scrupulously clean; they would display family heirlooms or prized ornaments and, more often than not, a ticking clock. The pace of life was certainly slower in the 1950s and it was also a lot quieter, for one of the sounds of the decade was the ticking and chiming of the family clock.
Mansel Jones has been researching and writing about medieval history for the past forty years. He is an acknowledged expert in his field and academics and universities seek his views. He is the author of A History of Kenfig, Pendragon and Tangwstyl. ou can discover more about Mansel on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: https://moms-favorite-reads.com/moms-authors/mansel-jones/
Check out our Free January 2019 magazine