Memories of childhood + Updates if any

Sparked by a question on another thread… what can you recall…
I remember a time when children could go out to play in the streets with their pals … on the common… on the beach… wherever. The older ones looking after the younger ones. All of us dashing about out until hungry then back home for lunch/tea… no electronic gadgets, just fresh air and imagination…

I remember a time when money was scarce and what grew in the garden was what we eat… fruit, veg, eggs, chickens… neighbours working together to feed their families… everyone sharing…

I remember codliver oil… yuk, the fishy ghastliness of it… a spoonful every day… aaaargh… then a spoonful of thick orange juice which was supposed to take away the taste but never quite succeeded.

Now I read about children not getting enough to eat… the streets being unsafe… violence and heaven knows what…

No doubt there were nasty happenings during my childhood… I remember one time we were all told, firmly, never to put a cord, rope or anything round our necks… never to play games about hanging… which tells me something bad had happened… to someone.

We were told never to speak to strangers… and if we felt threatened … to say… “my Dad’s a policeman!” and run like xxxxx


Early to mid 1970s school holidays in rural Hertfordshire: packed off with lunch (sandwich, packet of crisps, small chocolate bar and a 250ml box drink with so much sugar in it, it’s probably considered a bioweapon now) and told not to return until teatime.

There was 5-6 of us from the neighbourhood with ages between 8-10 IIRC who’d then disappear on our bikes off to the huge area of common land nearby to build forts, play war, build jumps/bicycle obstacle courses etc. all day.

We all got the usual warnings about what not to do and our specific one was to stay away from the local electricity substation at all times. Found out why a few years later at secondary school when I met a friend of the poor sod who’s misadventures had led to this warning. He was flying a kite nearby said substation that had landed in a stream a while before and it got blown into the 22KVA conductors on top of the substation. Wet nylon string is a very good conductor of electricity and the kid flying the kite was dead at the scene.

Every once in awhile we’d fine a stash of “gentlemen’s magazines” out in the woods which was highly amusing to 8-10 year olds as we couldn’t figure out why all these women had taken there clothes off to lay across cars etc. These were confiscated by the adults on our return home for tea, either with great embarrassment or great amusement depending on which parent intercepted them.

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Rosy retrospection?

Poverty, and particularly child poverty, has never gone away. In the UK things improved as the welfare state was established after 1900, leading to a halcyon period from 1945 to 1970 where statistics show huge improvements across all sorts of measures including child poverty. Sadly since then the trend is taking the country backwards - but I think still better than the pre-war period.

And stranger danger stats don’t change much. We just hear about it more.

Looking at kids now, they have far more creative freedom that I ever had. So its swings and roundabouts.

The thing that concerns me is the negative trends in longevity/health aspects….rather than not having enough to eat but being fed poor quality food could be shortening their lifespan. The postal war diet was very good for us!

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I’m surprised you think that Jane, given your subsequent comments. I think in the 1950s we had much more freedom, far fewer material things (the number of expensive toys children seem to have - and expect - these days just astonishes me), a much better diet.
There was less money, but there weren’t the same expectations and my parents had the time to make our lives rich. We had a veg patch which Dad looked after, he made my doll’s house and my brother’s fort, my first bike was a boy’s bike, second-hand, that he painted. We kept chickens. Clothes were made by my Mum and she was a good cook.
If we needed to get anywhere we walked, went by bike, went by bus (and very often without our parents).
No TV, just a house full of books, a father who played the piano, and card games to play.
Creativity? I wrote plays which my long-suffering parents had to watch and poetry which they had to read. I still remember the wonderful smell of a new set of faber colouring pencils.
Not “rosy” but joyous reality. I’m grateful for when I was born.


Maybe for you, but I don’t recall more freedom. Better food than children tend to eat now, as it was all home cooked simple stuff, I agree.

Both my parents worked (my mother went back to work 6 weeks after I was born), and I hardly remember my father. And I can’t recall much playing with us. The focus was on work, which for the children was school work. My mother was adamant that we should be able to be independent and do whatever we wanted as women - which she couldn’t. I had a very privileged childhood in that I was well fed and educated, and had holidays in France at summer schools - but not free or creative! I did extra math in place of music lessons, and wasn’t allowed a a bike as too dangerous.

So a kid’ s life today seems pretty good to me (apart from the food!).


Interesting post and theme.

I was born in Vienna in 1961 (English mother, Austrian father) but came to the UK aged about 1 year old and grew up in South Norwood, greater London. I lived on the streets, as my mother had done when a child, playing with the other kids and trying to avoid the bullies - we all had toy guns and replayed the war films that were frequently on TV. When we got a little older we would do long trips on bicycles out into the countryside, taking a packed lunch and riding 50, 60 miles.

Britain had come through a devastating war that finished only 20 years before I started school, and having a ‘German’ father didn’t make me universally popular, though at the time it wasn’t obvious why things worked the way they did. Having said that, I did have a number of friends through childhood that were good.

Life was tough at times, violence and thuggery was normal, and it was only the last couple of years at school that it started to drop away. Drugs were present, but those who used them were seen as stupid rather than cool. Racism based on skin colour had not been an issue up to puberty, but hormones changed everything.

My mother still says that being rich means being able to pay the bills and have money left over. My father damaged his back in his early 20s, and as a self-employed man at the time was unable to work. Dinner was often soup & bread or ‘boiling ring’ goulash, clothes were from jumblesales. As kids we would hunt out dumped Corona bottles to take back and claim the deposit - sometimes that paid for dinner. Later my parents had an allotment that provided fruit & veg, although by that time things were a bit easier.

Like @NotALot we would find jazz mags from time to time, although even as a small child I seemed to know why the ladies were doing what they did.

As a family we were close, and although looking back we were really quite poor, it didn’t feel bad at all and the lack of luxuries didn’t really matter. My parents were involved in a church, and this was a group who cared for and looked after other people too - a place of safety and a larger family. Some of the other kids were also inclined to bully a bit, but the parents were always good. Christmas, easter, all times of celebration and games together.


I think my parents, my father especially, were exceptional because my paternal grandparents were and knowing what I know now I wish I’d known them for longer and might have learnt more.
Grandad was a milkman, Nana a draper. They were among the founding members of the Labour party in their part of SE London. They believed vehemently in education and brought my father up to be a passionate reader and all round scholar - good at maths, loved English, played the piano and sang well, good at sports. He should have gone to university, but that wasn’t possible in the 1920s. Nana, especially, fascinates me. Later in life she became a magistrate and stood for election as a local councillor. All her life she was closely involved in socialist politics and the co-operative movement. It was no surprise to me to see her signature on the 1911 census form


We moved quite a bit. Born at the end of ‘42 in Manchester, Dad was away in Egypt and I was with Mum in her parents’ house. It was a large Victorian semi and had a mirror image basement so we lived down there quite a lot due to our aerial visitors.

Dad came home and we moved to his home town of Southampton. The house was on the bend of an ‘L’ shaped unadopted road. That means it wasn’t tarmac, stoney but not muddy. (Just Googled it, it is still stoney :astonished:) My vivid memories are of Mr Cheeseman, the taxi driver with his big Austin 16 being called by Mum to persuade me down from the roof of the garage. The male voice worked! But also of the milkman with his horse and cart who I would help with his deliveries. He picked me up as he turned the corner into the shorter section of the L and then I was supposed to jump off as he turned the corner on the way back, but I decide to stay on the step at the back of the cart one day, I didn’t realise that he was heading home and thought there were more stops and deliveries to come. But as he went down the long leg he gathered speed till the horse was at full gallop. I suddenly understood and, not wanting to trudge all the way back for 350 metres over the rough stones, decided to bale out. Bad move. As I leapt backwards like a paratrooper I didn’t get my legs going fast enough and landed star shaped on the stones and still moving. :astonished: I gradually peeled myself out of the trough I had created and rose, skinned and bleeding to stagger home. Nobody saw, or at least nobody came, and I eventually reached home where Mum tended my wounds. I didn’t ride the milk cart again. :rofl:

Then back to Manchester as Dad got a new job, and then, after a year to Nottingham, as he got another, his final one, though they were not finished with moving, Home Counties, Luton, Tokyo, Sydney, all with his work and finally Estepona and a home pad (Mum’s inisistance to be close to family), Nottingham again.

From the age of 11 when I passed the 11 Plus I was at boarding school, 20 miles away at Southwell. Hated the first year, and ran away several times, but loved the rest, mainly because of 2 things I discovered, and loved, Rugby which I was very good at, and girls. The forbidden fruit, even talking to them was strictly against the rules. :wink: :slightly_smiling_face:


Rosy retrospection?

I would have to say a definite NO… just saying how things were for my family and friends…

Not all my childhood was non-stop sunshine and unlimited happiness.
I remember more than once, muttering through my tears… “When I grow up, things will be very different.”

But there’s no denying many things we did are a stark contrast to modern-day…

No regular pocket money … some kids took bottles back for the pennies refunded.
Basically, there was no need for money… we eat at school and at home… what would we need money for ??

But I do recall when my Dad finally had enough to give us kids some pocket money… we’d moved to Devon (so I was 12) and he’d presumably got sufficient of a payrise on this occasion… yippee I felt so rich clasping my shilling and tucked it away for safety…

Birthday and Christmas we could ask for 1 small item (and possibly get it… or not) but we had to give away/dispose of 1 item from the “toycupboard” (we each had a shelf in the sideboard).

New shoes!! (not hand-me-downs) every year for the start of Autumn schooling… having spent the Summer in bare feet. I think properly fitting shoes were considered to be an essential.

Sweets were the Christmas treat when packets of Edinburgh Rock would arrive (year after year) from a chap Dad knew during WW2… (seems his family owned the firm…).

Clothes were mostly hand-me-downs from older siblings and also between neighbouring families.

Another wartime pal would sometimes send bales of cloth … and Mum would make trousers for the boys and skirts for us girls…

Trikes and bicycles moved on and on… again for Birthday or Christmas… getting a change of paint each time to make the item seem “new”.

Dad was always busy in the garden… but could find time to play cricket if we begged hard enough…


Of course, there’ll be a wide variety of experiences and memories.

Fascinating to read these posts.

cheers everyone


And Malt🤮, and my somewhat neurotic mother making breakfast for us kids at 4am (fried egg and a bit of streaky bacon) and leaving in the oven to keep warm…

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Ah, breakfast.

Happy memories - my mother was kind and let us have custard for breakfast sometimes. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:
Less happy memories - school milk. :nauseated_face:

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I didn’t mind school milk, but when we started at secondary school, excuses were asked for and one boy with a very posh and precise accent said ‘well sir, if I drink milk, it makes me sick’. Stunned silence.
Sadly, he is one of only 3 of my year, as far as I know, who is no longer alive. He died of cancer, another, the 1st to go, cause unknown and my friend who became a rock star, of prostate cancer.
All approaching 80 now, we must have been a very healthy bunch.

Thinking about my ‘posh’ friend with the milk allergy, I shared a room with him in a local B&B some years back during a class reunion. We all had a good night and when it was time for bed in the room, he had disappeared. I got undressed and then he appeared, fully pyjamad, from the bathroom. :astonished:
He had been a day boy, whereas I was a boarder and bore no inhibitions about nudity. :rofl:
RIP in order of demise Bill Clamp, Phillip Foster and Bill Jewry. :slightly_smiling_face:


It sat on the class windowsill until breaktime…
of course, it got warm and tasted slightly odd… I hated it but had to drink it.

It’s taken me a lifetime… but now I actually enjoy a small amount of cold milk on my muesli… but the milk has to be straight from the fridge…


It’s sunlight that turns the milk over. I happy have milk on cereal, and have done for as long as I can remember, though I wouldn’t wish to drink it ‘as is’.

I have some great family holiday memories, from staying at Hastings on the south coast. The first year we did B&B at a place called Dudley house - renamed by my father as Deadly house - where you were expected to leave shortly after breakfast and not return until supper time.

We went back to Austria as a family just once, when I was 6. We stayed in my grandmother’s one-bedroom apartment in Vienna. There was no running water, so as children we were sent down a couple of flights of stairs to fill jugs from the tap in the hallway. Seeing steam trains at work was amazing after British railways, and I fell in love with the mountains there too. We visited the Augarten and the Prata, including a circuit on the Reisenrad and me seeing for the first time ever someone who was drunk. The holiday was funded out of a conservatory that my father built for someone.

The journey was a little ‘challenging’ with small boys though: 2 days and nights on a sleeper train between Oostend and Vienna.


Haha,this thread reminds me of an old classic Monty Python sketch.


Must confess I never was a fan of MP… but this has made me chuckle… :rofl:

We never lived in a shoe box… nor got evicted from a hole in the ground… :rofl: ::…
I’m almost wondering what my childhood would have been like, if we had been… :rofl::rofl:

I feel slightly queasy just reading your sentence😱, that awful awful taste! .I had had TB, so had to drink 2 or 3 bottles of it not just the 1. And no way to pour it down the drain!


Life was much simpler in the 60’s/70’s when I was growing up, materialistically we had less than kids have today but that is not a bad thing. From the age of 5 I used to walk the mile or so to school on my own even in the winter, we only had one car which my father needed to get to work so there was little choice, don’t even want to think about school milk, ice cold in winter but like cream in the summer.

Space hoppers, chopper bikes, TOTP, returnable pop bottles, 35p to get into the football and it actually snowed in the winter.

What’s not to like.