Family life in the 1930’s: part one

I was on a long journey with my grandma last week, those journeys where conversations can lead from one thing to another quite quickly. On this particular journey Grandma responded to one of my comments with “we didn’t have fridges when i was younger and we coped”. It got me thinking about how life is so different now compared to 80 years ago, Grandma didn’t have a fridge let alone an iPad – how would Noah and Isla feel about that? 

From that comment I ended up asking a lot of questions and by the end of our four hours in the car Grandma said she would start writing up some memoirs from over her 80 + years. It is fascinating to read and when you compare it to how life is today, there is quite a contrast, even during the non war times. 

aacm_wmGrandma was born in Birkenhead in the early 30’s, she lived at 107 Beckwith Street. When she was a toddler, the house didn’t have electricity – they had a fire in the front room, a big old fashioned iron grate and it had a big mantlepiece which two gas lights sat above. No Tv’s or radios (Grandma didn’t experience a radio until she lived with her auntie when she was six, it ran off valves and accumulators), no tablet devices and most certainly no YouTube! 

Grandma writes about one of her earliest memories: a big reel of electrical wire had been left on the stairs and her dad was cross and told the man off. She was a toddler so in the mid 30’s was the first time the family home had electric. There was a single light in each room, in the middle of the ceiling. They didn’t have plug sockets, so no electric kettle or irons that we have so readily. They had heavy flat irons that you had to heat up on special bars on the fire. Everything must have taken quite some time to complete, especially heating up water for a bath. 

Bathtime for Isla and Noah can be made in a quick decision, a bath can be ready in minutes and be nice and hot. Something that we take for granted. Grandma describes bathtime in a very different light: 

UnknownBathtime was on a Friday night, they name it Amami night as the shampoo they used was called “Amami”. The entire family would bath on a Friday night and all hair would be washed. They kept a big galvanised bath in the yard, it was brought in the kitchen for bathtime. The kettle and pans, full of water, would be heated on the stove and used to fill up the bath.  

Grandma’s Dad would have his bath first, then her Mum, they her two older brothers and finally Grandma. When her two younger sisters came along they went after Grandma, can you imagine being 7th in line for the bath? She did say it would be topped up with warm water throughout. 

The toilet used to be at the end of the yard, newspaper squares cut out and hanging on a hook (no luxury toilet paper). Grandma said it was “flipping” cold in the winter and I can well imagine. They had gazunders (chamber pot) under the beds, so you could wee in the middle in the night without going outside and she thinks thats how they were toilet trained. I bet that was quite difficult, it’s bad enough nowadays with portable potty’s and pull ups! 

In the kitchen there would be a gas cooker with four rings and an oven. They had a dresser to keep food and crockery in. There was a big store cupboard under the stairs too. Milk was kept chilled in the summer by standing it in cold water, meat was bought from butchers and used on the same day. No 24 hour supermarket. Bread was made at home, fruit and vegetables were also bought when they were needed. 

Grandma finished off this chapter by talking about Christmas and how she would get one particular present (she vividly remembers her doll) and a sock with an orange, a shilling, some chocolate and sometimes some nuts. Its vastly different to now, shops closed for days over the Christmas period and no choice of toys like we get now. There wasn’t the money to spend on all of these toys and gadgets. Her dad earned £6 a week, which had to feed them, clothe them and pay the bills. 

Family life in the 30’s seems so much simpler, but at the same time completely horrendous. I guess that is because I can compare it to what I have now and the choices we have, Grandma certainly doesn’t see it in a negative light.  I am looking forward to Grandma’s next instalment of family life and finding out how people in the 1940’s lived and what children did back then for fun. 

If you have any questions for Grandma please do comment below, she would love to answer them and I would be interested to read. 

 

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