| TOTTENHAM MEMORIES
- LIVING IN THE 1940s AND 50s- DAPHNE BRADLEY
(Formerly Thomas nee Atkinson)
DAPHNE ATKINSON C 1941
The present generation would find it difficult to understand how very different it was to be a housewife in the 1940s & 1950s, compared to the present day. We had none of the appliances that are now taken for granted. Washing had to be done by hand. You were very fortunate if you possessed a washing machine.
Money was usually short so we had to make everything last and be economical.
babies nappies were made of towelling and, as with only 15 months between my two
boys, I was usually up to my eyes in nappies and other baby things. I envy the mothers of
today with the luxury of disposables.
The solids had to be emptied down the lavatory, and then the nappies were put to soak in a bucket of cold water. I then washed them by hand in soap flakes (usually Lux or Fairy) in our deep Butler sink. Everything was washed in the Butler sink, including the babies and us. Water had to be boiled first as we had no hot water system.
My father wore two flannelette shirts, winter & summer - the one underneath being pure flannel. I can remember standing there very wearily, pounding away to get them clean and then rinsing them, and rinsing them, to get the soap out. They were then wrung out by hand, before being fed through the rubber rollers of our Acme wringer, until all the water was squeezed out. The rollers were turned through gears, by a large handle at the side of the machine. All washing was done this way, so it was quite hard work.
Nappies & other baby clothes had to be done every day. Easicare fabrics hadnt reached us by that stage, only woollen & cotton materials were available.
During the summer, when the weather was good, getting things dried was no problem. Winter, of course, was quite different; drying took much longer - especially the woollen things & flannelette shirts.
It wasnt until much later that I had an electric iron. Up until then, we had to heat two flat irons on a gas ring, using each alternately until the ironing was finished. Because the handles got rather hot, the irons had to be lifted from the stove using a thick square piece of cloth.
My father worked hard and expected a dinner during his lunch hour, which hed always been used to. At 12 oclock, on the dot, his dinner had to be on the table. It mattered not how hard Id worked all morning or how tired I may have been during times when the babies had cried at night - as babies often do - that was my duty and I never questioned it.
Dinner consisted of meat in some form, greens and potatoes; followed by a sweet, that we called afters. There were no convenience foods; such as there are today - no microwave ovens.
|Everything had to be
prepared first and cooked in an oven, or boiled on top.
If we had a pie of any kind it had to be made from raw ingredients and the pastry made by hand. I can never remember buying ready-made pastry, but in those days there was no frozen food either. The very first frozen things I saw in the shops were sold under the name of Frood, which was mostly peas, but I never bought any.
Sunday was roast dinner day, and that usually comprised of a joint of lamb, beef or pork, green vegetables of some kind and roast or jacket potatoes - done in the oven. If beef was on the menu, Yorkshire pudding had to be made. Pork dishes were supplemented with stuffing and applesauce.
This was usually followed by apple pie and custard, or, perhaps, a suet pudding or some stewed fruit and custard. It all had to be prepared by myself A time consuming task let me tell you!
other mothers of the time (and today), Id already done the routine jobs such as
bathing babies, cooking breakfast, and making beds, etc., before settling in to the
preparation of the ceremonial Sunday dinner.
Sunday afternoon & evening was a comparatively relaxing time though - a time to enjoy the babies and for stimulating family interaction. I suppose, to a large extent that too is the womans role - to use her feminine skills to co-ordinate quality family time in an era of hardship. Until they were old enough to feed themselves, babies required specially prepared food, which was fed to them with a spoon. Although there were no packets or jars of food specially prepared for babies - as there are today - the joy of nurturing them was just as great, if a little frustrating at times.
I can remember buying a beef marrowbone from Catens, our local butcher located two doors from us in Church Road, for 4 d (i.e. four of our old pennies), and one pennys worth of pot herbs from Roskams, the greengrocer on the other side of the road. The marrowbone would be boiled to get all of the goodness out of it, then allowed to stand overnight. The next day the solid fat was skimmed off it and the liquid reheated thoroughly.
The potherbs consisted of onion, carrot, Swede and turnip. These had to be cooked, together with potato, then pushed through a fine sieve, with a spoon, until a pulp was formed.
We had no electric blenders to make the job easier. The pulp was added to the bone marrow gravy and this was dinner for the babies.It wasnt until the late 1950s that we had a refrigerator, so nothing could be kept for very long.
Sometimes I would cook white fish or scrambled egg, which was served with mashed potato.
Housewives had to use their imagination in providing a varied diet for their families. Although it was hard work, I must admit I got a lot of satisfaction in putting a good meal on the table, which I had prepared and cooked myself. At one stage I even made my own bread, and I certainly made my own cakes and pastry.
It was a great boon when I discovered the Bagwash. All cotton things, such as pillowcases, sheets, tea cloths and shirts would be placed in a linen bag provided by the Laundry Company. The bag had the house number and street of the customer stamped, in heavy letters, on the outside.
TYPICAL LONDON BAGWASH
|It was a great boon
when I discovered the Bagwash. All cotton things, such as pillowcases, sheets,
tea cloths and shirts would be placed in a linen bag provided by the Laundry Company. The
bag had the house number and street of the customer stamped, in heavy letters, on the
Usually I got my sons to take the washing to the
Bagwash laundry, which was situated in White Hart Lane. Once there it would be
cleaned whilst still sealed in its bag. The laundrys washing machines seemed
enormous and there was always a pungent odour of bleach and starch throughout the
In the earlier years we didnt have carpets in the bedrooms, only linoleum (lino), sometimes called oil cloth, covered by rugs and small mats. The floors had to be swept with a broom and washed with a bucket & mop. The stairs were cleaned with a dustpan & brush, and most people didnt have carpets on the stairs - just linoleum. Of course, after brushing, the lino had to be cleaned by getting down on your hands & knees to it.
Also, we didnt have carpets downstairs, again just lino & rugs. I can remember taking the rugs out into the garden, putting them on the clothes line and beating the dust out of them with a carpet beater, which was shaped like a huge spoon and made of cane. Again, the downstairs floors had to be washed with a mop & bucket.
We didnt have an electric kettle, and I can remember when we bought our first vacuum cleaner. My eldest son, Peter, who was then about eight years old, went around telling everyone, My mummy has got an electric broom.
Some homes had television, but not ours. I remember watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953, on my sisters Bush television, at her Southgate home. It was an amazing innovation, despite only showing images in black & white.
In our home, we didnt have a television until 1956. On the day it was delivered we were all very excited Moving pictures & sound in our own home was a revolution!
The very first programme we watched was hosted by the Australian artist, Rolph Harris, drawing a little boy called Willoughby. Rolph made him into a cartoon character that was able to talk.
Later, when the
children had gone to bed, we watched a play with Bernard Braden in it. We thought it was
wonderful having moving pictures, with sound, in our own living room.
At first we didnt have an outside aerial, instead we constantly moved the internal
antenna around the living room until the picture stopped being snowy or fuzzy. This was
usually achieved by holding the inside aerial in quite an impossible position (a bit like
one of the Mr Bean situations).
DAILY DOORSTEP DELIVERY OF MILK LONDON 1950s
|The milkman came
every day, and on Friday he was paid. We had a side entrance and a large gate, not unlike
something the 7th Cavalry built to keep Indians out. However, as there were no Red Indians
around and crime was then relatively rare, there was no need to lock the gate. The milkman
would collect the empty & clean milk bottles from a table, sheltered under the
lean-to, just inside the gate. He would know how much milk we needed that day by reading a
note that wed rolled up in the neck of one of the bottles. Hed then leave the
requisite number of full bottles on the table.
the very early 1950s milk was rationed - a legacy from the war years. Another legacy was
the physical state of Frank, one of the Co-operative Dairys milkmen, who delivered
to our house for many years. The poor man was just skin and bone for a long time, until he
slowly recovered from the consequences of a long period of captivity in a Japanese
prisoner of war camp.
The insurance lady also made house calls. Her name was Miss Griffiths. If we were going to be out, wed leave her money and insurance books on the kitchen windowsill. It was never stolen.
Next door they had a pet cockerel which used to stand on a high wall, situated just opposite our bedroom window. In the summer it would start crowing at around 3 - 30 in the morning. Good rustic sounds were no compensation for a decent nights sleep though. Also, it would fly over to my fathers shed, at the very end of our garden, and peck at the roofing felt, making holes all over it. Needless to say, we grieved little when it died of old age.
Our house, in Church Road, wasnt very far from an army barracks that was located between the High Road and James Place (the junction of our road with James Place was just two houses away).
PICTURED LEFT - TOTTENHAM DRILL HALL
The Territorial Army (Territorials) used to meet
at the Barracks two evenings a week, as well as each Sunday morning. They were well
endowed with bugles and trumpets but, sadly, lacked musical panache. Often, as Id
just settled the children to bed - around 7 oclock at night - we would be swamped
& deafened by a cacophony of tuneless brass instruments. It wasnt uncommon to
suffer the same fate on Sunday mornings, when the TA would spread its joy more widely by
marching through the streets.
Sunday teatime we nearly always had salad. Usually it was ham or sardines, or even tinned
salmon. I often cooked home made bread and a sponge, which I filled with fresh cream.
In the first years of the 1950s, we used to listen to a wireless that belonged to my father. It was powered from a rechargeable battery called an accumulator (lead acid). This had to be charged up frequently at the radio accessory shop (called Holmes) across the road. It was very heavy despite the short trip.
|My father kept the
wireless & accumulator on a shelf in the living room. The shelf was fixed to the wall
with rawplugs. One day, without so much as a creek or groan, it suddenly came crashing
down on my feet. I was lucky no bones were broken, but they were black & blue for
weeks after that.
Later, we bought a little
electric Pye radio, encased in a light cream coloured plastic. We were very
proud of it, particularly as it could be plugged into an electrical socket.
on Sunday, wed have winkles for tea. The winkle man would ride round the streets on
his horse & cart, calling out, Shrimps & winkles, all fresh. These
were sold in pint and half-pint pots and wed usually opt for a pint of winkles. My
younger son, Andrew, would refuse to eat them but wouldnt say why until many years
later. The revelation was that he didnt like the idea of sticking a needle into
winkles heads to wind them out of their shells.
On one occasion, while I was at work (as a telephonist), five years old Andrew was being looked after by one of my friends. Shed prepared a pot of spaghetti, jokingly telling him they were worms. That was it He wouldnt touch the meal.
There are many things I remember about the 1950s, but most of all I recall sharing life with the boys. We went to swimming galas, school plays, cub & scout activities, Saturday Morning Pictures and going out in summertime to Hilly Fields or Whitewebbs Park, in Enfield. We would collect conkers and have a picnic.
To get to these places, wed have to catch a bus because we didnt own a car until the 1960s. We took it all in our stride though; travelling everywhere by bus & train was quite a normal activity for most people at that time. On reflection, and seeing the chaos on our roads today, I often wonder if it wasnt better to have been without a car?
TOTTENHAM COACH OUTING
|Sometimes, on a
Saturday, I would book a mystery coach tour for the boys and myself. It would cost
half-a-crown, or 2/6d, for me (in the old money) and was half price for the boys.
Wed board a coach at Elm Coaches, in High Road, Tottenham, at 7 oclock Saturday evening, and be taken to around the country lanes to places such as Ware or Widford, in Hertfordshire. The highlight of these tours was a stop at a little country pub somewhere, and wed indulge in lemonade and crisps.
Of course, before we set out wed have no idea of the destination, and this added to the fun. The coach usually arrived back in Tottenham, about 10 oclock at night.
As the boys grew into their teens, society became more permissive and materialistic. But this was the 1960s, a time of great social change, for better and worse, for freedom & enlightenment We had more material comforts, but I found it hard to trade these against the sense of achievement Id felt in earlier times with the closeness of a young family around me.
|Recently, pasted in
my photographic album, I came across a poem by Patience Strong. It was
entitled, HAPPY YEARS.
did they go - the happy years
Well, that about says it all!
Daphne V. Bradley
|EDITORS NOTES: For many years Daphne Bradley and her husband were very active supporters of our local Bruce Castle Museum and devoted much of their time and energy to this cause. Daphne Bradley (formerly Thomas nee Atkinson ) was the granddaughter of a Victorian Violin maker named William Thomas Reed Atkinson' and his story has also been published in our TOTTENHAM HISTORY SNIPPETS section|
Article prepared by Alan Swain - May 2015
Based on original article by Daphne Bradley supplied by her son Peter Thomas.
Background image: Daphne's father William Thomas Camper Atkinson - Church Road 1940s