Posts Tagged ‘1950s’

I-Spy – on the farm.

July 18, 2016

We have not one, but two of these books.


One belonged to my family – it has my brother’s name in it. The other belonged to my wife.

The book was produced in the 1950s and gives a taste of what might have been seen on farms back then. I remain really pleased that we saw Dick Freeman who operated on the farm where we camped, spreading seed by hand. My brother has it filled in.


It seems we saw this highly prized, 50 point winning scene on 15th August 1957. My wife, much less rural than us, never saw such a thing. From her book let’s see milk collection.


My wife saw these on 22/23rd August 1962. She must have been on holiday in Dorset. She got 10 points for a roadside churn platform and another 10 for the lorry.

These days, of course, it is all bulk tank so the scenes depicted have now passed into history.

The old I-Spy books are a wonderful reminder of times past and in their day provided enough factual information to keep kids interested.

A 1999 birthday card

July 3, 2016

A 1999 birthday card

My sister, as she got older, tried to avoid buying new things if a suitable second hand item could be bought. At times I reckon she took this too far but then, I guess she was happy.

And often what she found was appreciated. In 1999 she had found this older postcard of my local town of Devizes.


For some reason the main shopping street in Devizes is called The Brittox and this is it, or was, probably in the early 1950s.

This is much like the street looked when I first knew it in 1970 although the cars did look more modern by then. There are shops I remember like the local tailor, Robert Kemp with the more off the peg Foster Brothers next to it. I think Home and Colonial still operated, but the delivery bikes had probably gone by 1970.

These days this is a pedestrian street and shops have changed. These days we tend to have coffee shops and charity shops.

Nice memories of now long gone times.

I Spy Cars

May 4, 2016

Some of the I-Spy books, which in my era were a product of the News Chronicle paper, really do give a snapshot of a very different world from today’s. We expect cars to change over time, and my goodness, they have since this book was in use in the mid to late 1950s.


One thing that has changed, of course, is the price. This book cost sixpence and in pre decimal money that meant you could get forty such books for a pound. There are still I Spy books including an I Spy Cars which retails for about £2.50 which equates to 100 of the old books.

The front cover of the old book shows a sports car with a couple of people on board. There are no seat belts, no roll bar etc. In fact motoring was incredibly lethal back in the 50s.

And the cars on the road were incredibly varied. The testing of cars for road worthiness didn’t come in until 1960. Amazing old crocks were still on the road and were seen. And we saw them, as recorded in our good old I Spy book.

image004Austin 7s dating from the 1930s may have been about the most common cars I saw. Friend’s dads drove them and so, from time to time, I rode in them. They were small, but you could get 4 kids on the back seat with no problem. One of our local farmers drove an A40 which was a modern car at the time.

image006The bullnose Morris was a true antique for production ceased in 1926 so this car was over thirty when I saw one pottering along our village street. I could remind people that when I saw this old car, the space age had started. The Russian Sputnik was launched in 1957.

Maybe I was interested in older things even then for whilst I remember seeing the Morris, The Mercury I do not remember, but I have a date there so I’m sure one will have passed by.

Altogether some 81 cars are illustrated and are there for people to spy. The book, now, is as interesting a relic as the cars.

Mum does the washing

March 30, 2016

Now to be honest, I can’t tell you just what was going on here. It was 1957 and we were at camp. Mum has gone to the local cattle trough and appears to be doing the washing.


I know it isn’t a brilliant photo but I still like it. There is mum and she is clearly rinsing something out in a cattle trough. The curious cows have come to watch whatever is going on and the one on the left certainly looks to be eyeing up mum – but rest assured, she came to no harm and we never found the local stock anything but docile.

There is another photo of the same event.


Happy days!

The Vanguard

March 19, 2016

If you look up dictionary definitions of vanguard the word you’ll find used to explain it is leader. It might be military and mean the group of soldiers leading a charge or it might be a leader in terms of technical innovation.

It was a regular name for warships, notably a battleship launched in 1944.

When the Standard car company were launching a new post war model they wanted to use the Vanguard name. It took time to persuade the Navy that this would be OK and in 1947 the Standard Vanguard was launched. Some data for the car can tell us how much motor cars have moved on for the original Vanguard took 21½ seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60mph and managed just 22.9 miles per gallon of petrol.

But Meccano Limited thought the car well worth adding to its Dinky toy range of models and guess what? I have one.

Mine is a battered old wreck so won’t be fetching an auction price of £150 which it might if it was in mint condition with original box. My view is that my old Vanguard is happily worthless as far as money goes but liked by me because it dates back to childhood.


This, clearly, was originally a fawn coloured model. I think this may have been the most common of the range made under the Dinky name.


The small rear window indicates that this was modelled on the phase 1 version of the car made between 1947 and 52. I believe the model dates from after 1950.


Here’s the base plate – a rather rusty affair but the embossed writing is still readable.



Some childhood memories

February 16, 2016

As I write this I have just seen a couple of postcards for sale on Ebay which have brought back childhood memories. I have no intention of buying the cards so you won’t see them here. I can’t collect other folks family history.

One of the cards is addressed to Mrs H Reed of Alma Cottage in Ifield.

I knew Mrs Reed well in my childhood. She was a nice, kindly lady and her husband, Harry, was a lovely man. Harry was an avid gardener – as people were in those days. I’ll return to that. Mrs Reed never knew it but she was a leading member of a club we invented. It was the ‘Ifield Wobbly Cyclist Club’. I can picture her now, riding slowly on her old bike with her face always cheerful and smiling. But due mainly to lack of speed she never kept a straight course.

Her bike was something like this one.


I have memories of that curved strut and the little join between it and the straight strut. In my memory Mrs Reed had a handlebar mounted basket.

But returning to Harry Reed and his love of gardening. I actually have a hoe which belonged to him and here it is.


The head of the hoe has an unusual shape.


It is a plain triangle in shape.

Both Harry and my dad reckoned this was the best possible shape for a hoe but I reckon that was because Ifield was on heavy clay. Here, on light sandy soil we don’t find it so good and prefer a wing shaped hoe and they are hard to find at a sensible price. So Harry’s old how doesn’t get used which is a bit of a shame.

Amazingly, another postcard on Ebay brought to mind a very near neighbour of Harry’s and this was Amos Flint. Amos, born I now know in 1874 was amongst the oldest people I ever knew as a child. He’d have been 80 at the dawning of my memory. He was an old, bow legged chap who smoked a curving pipe and spoke with a wonderful local accent. Like Harry he was mad keen on gardening. He died in 1962.

He had obviously played boy’s cricket as a youngster. There was a tree on the Green which he said had been a good width for a wicket when he was a lad. Sadly Amos’s tree was blown down by that infamous 1987 storm – by that time it was a mature tree, far too big for a cricket wicket.

Happy memories!

My Junior School Teachers

October 16, 2015

I rather went through junior schools. The first one I attended closed because as the new town of Crawley was built bigger, newer schools took over.

I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong with the second one I attended but I wasn’t happy there. I never made friends and really didn’t want to attend.

So when a newer school opened, much nearer my home, I transferred to it and found that school could be an enjoyable place. Although still an infant by age, I started as a first year junior because I was deemed to be clever. Looking back I don’t know if that was the right decision but I stuck with it through the years of compulsory schooling – both at the junior and the secondary school.

When I left primary school number three I collected the autographs of the staff and of course, I still have the piece of card I collected them on even though I’d struggle to know who the teachers were.


I’ll pick on three in particular. The first is the name at the top – D M Gravett. She was my class teacher for both my first and second years in the juniors. I rapidly decided that the D M stood for ‘Dear Miss’ Gravett.

She was a lovely, caring lady and I think I owe her a lot after my difficulty at the previous school. I won’t say I was ever a good student for I suffer dreadfully from inertia or some might say lethargy but I really craved approval from Miss Gravett and I tried hard enough to get it.

I ought to say this was a big school with three classes, streamed by ability in each year. Miss Gravett had the pleasure of the top class and when I think back to the brains there were in that group, I reckon she had a lovely time although I’m sure we generated marking and she will have felt responsibility.

Next I move down the list to N F West. Mr West was my fourth year or top junior teacher and he was another one who inspired me to want to do well. He made lessons and topics interesting. It was always a pleasure to be in his class. My year had grown in number and by this stage there were four streamed classes. Mr West had the top stream – a collection of truly high flyers (plus me).

Soon after I left so did Mr West. Unsurprisingly he obtained the headship of a school elsewhere in the county.

Arthur Worthy, the third name on the list was the head teacher at the school. He was a large and cheerful man who lived happily amongst his school children. Like Mr West, he was a wonderful communicator and when he came into a lesson you could be sure it would be fun.

Out of school he presented my brother and I with a problem – something we really struggled with and nothing to do with work.

We attended the Quaker Sunday School and that meant we had to spend fifteen minutes in quiet contemplation in the meeting house. One of the friends was Mr Worthy. Put yourself in the position of a small boy here. The old benches in the meeting house creaked and groaned. Every time Mr Worthy shifted a little on his bench, the creaking noises sounded out strongly in the silence. This was our headmaster, and inevitably giggles would start. My brother and had to do whatever we could to hide our giggling. Converting it to a coughing fit was one thing we could do. Biting on a handkerchief was another.

Oh kids! We were so unfair to Mr Worthy – who really was worthy of our thanks and admiration for running such a happy and dynamic school.

I do remember quite a few of the other names but the three above were the ones with the biggest impact on me.



Darn it!

September 14, 2015

Sellar’s Rapid Darner

Does anything get darned in households any more? I know that back in the late 60s, when I left home, a darning mushroom was considered an essential of life. But actually, by then, it was already a bit of a white elephant. Woollen socks had been the thing that needed darning. Nylon ones were cheap and disposable.

Darning was really weaving a new piece of fabric where a hole had developed. First you produced warp threads and then wove the weft or cross threads onto them.

But back in those days, around 50 or 60 years ago, companies came up with devices to try to make the job easier. This one fascinated me and I bought it, complete and in its box for next to nothing at a jumble sale. It was a Sellar’s Rapid Darner.

It was clearly scheduled to be sold for five shillings which is 25p in present day money.


But a sticker on the other side of the box gives a price of 2/11 which is more like 15p. Presumably it had become a struggle to sell them.


Here is the darner.


The wooden part is the equivalent of the darning mushroom. You stretch your holey material over it and fasten it tightly with the rubber band.

The metal part is a bit like a heddle on a loom. It can pick up alternate fibres to pass a needle under and then, by moving the lever it picks up the other fibres and you pass the needle back.

The copious instructions explain.


If you feel a need to read it all then click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

The device probably dates from the 1950s. I think the company was struck off the register in 1958.

Train Spotting Days

July 29, 2015

Now I’m the first to admit that collecting train numbers is entirely pointless. But I go on to say that it isn’t any more pointless than kicking a leather airbag around a field or collecting used postage stamps. Hobbies are hobbies and do not need any other purpose. But train spotters get a bad name and are deemed odd.

Let’s say that when I took up the hobby, back in 1959, it wasn’t odd or unusual although it was almost exclusively male. Platform ends up and down the country had gaggles of boys, avidly noting the numbers written on trains. It may seem pointless, but knowledge and skills were being honed all the time.

Let’s take a typical day out train spotting for me. I lived in Crawley, thirty miles south of central London. As an under 14 year old I could buy what was called a shopping ticket to London which cost me half a crown (12½p). So a day would start by walking to my local station and purchasing a ticket. It wasn’t valid before 9.30 so I’d have caught the first train after that. I’d have hoped for an empty compartment, but I definitely wanted a seat on the right hand side facing forwards. This gave me the best chance to spot any unusual steamers on Three Bridges or Redhill shed but as these were fairly local, the chances would be that I’d see only old familiars. Memory needed to be good for you didn’t want to spend time recording numbers of engines you’d already seen.

On arrival at Victoria I’d have bought an underground ticket and taken the circle line round to Paddington and then gone one stop on the Metropolitan to a station called Royal Oak. This was out in the open and within sight of the ends of the main line platforms at Paddington. It had the advantage of a steam engine servicing depot just opposite the platforms and an easy view of all trains going in and out of Paddington. I was never alone there. Here were always other youngsters to chat to. If I felt inclined, I might take the underground again and get to Stratford in East London. This was a station where the underground reached the surface and shared the station with the main line trains out of Liverpool Street. Sometimes I might alight at Kings Cross where I could visit the three main line termini of Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston which were all within walking distance. The hazard here was that I had to hold a valid ticket since this meant leaving the underground network.

Euston and St Pancras I found very dull. The stations may have been magnificent and they had an air of expectation  about them. But that expectation never seemed to be fulfilled. Trains were so few and far between. Kings Cross seemed much more lively.

As one got a bit bolder further London adventures could take place. There were sheds to ‘bunk’. Bunking a shed was to visit it without permission. So sometimes I’d get to Willesden Junction station from where I could take in Willesden shed where I could cop a load of ex LMSR engines and then I could walk to Old Oak Common and see the GWR engines. Old Oak Common was ‘easy’.  You bribed the gate man by purchasing a staff magazine which cost 3d. Willesden was more of a nightmare but worth the risk of a telling off from a shed foreman to see the range of engines there.

I remember I went to Plaistow shed once – on the old London Tilbury and Southend network, especially to see a loco now preserved and called Thundersley.

Despite what people might think, train spotting was a social activity. I had friends who were also spotters and we went to places together and then you met people who had the same interest. There was always company, chatter and general excitement. Most of us stuck fairly well to the rules and certainly we were all big supporters of the railways and truly wished them well at a time when the whole network  seemed under threat.

I’m glad I was a spotter. I learned so much from doing it. My geography and history really improved because I could see the reasons for things. I became a regular reader of the Railway Magazine which did much for world geography, economics, engineering etc.


This May 1962 issue – when I still travelled legally for half fare, has a wonderful Isle of Wight train on the cover. The loco was over 60 by then and carriages were not far short of that, certainly in style.

I still buy a copy from time to time.

Dad’s flower book

July 28, 2015

My dad had books for all occasions – a trait I have inherited. I do find real books a very useful adjunct alongside the internet.

When I was young a favourite pair of books of mine were the matching bird and flower books.  When some of the spoils were shared, I had the bird book and my sister had the flower book and it is that one, which has now come my way, that I look at today.


The book is called ‘Flowers of the Field’.


It isn’t dated but this is by no means a first edition. I believe it dates from the 1920s, some 50 years after the death of the author.

The illustrations are, of course, lovely.


Here we have a page of poppies.

But what makes this book special are the pressed flowers found in tissue paper in between some pages. I believe they were pressed in the 1950s.


Sadly, I have no idea what the plants are.



I believe they were pressed by my sister so I see these flowers as very much a memory of her.