Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

July 09, 2010

growing up in smoggy post-war Britain

Every time Daisy's mind wanders to the deprivations of her childhood up to when she left school at 15 in 1960, she thinks about the truly hellish time her parents must have had trying to feed, clothe and keep the family warm and alive in miserable post-war Britain, and she's thankful that rationing, smog and polio were history by the time she raised her kids in the 60s - and the economy was booming when her kids raised theirs in the 80s.

"For starters," laughs Daisy, "I'm thankful that antibiotics were discovered in time to save my life otherwise I wouldn't have made it to 3, let alone 65!"

"I can't imagine how horrible life must have been for my parents who were born after the carnage of WWI," says Daisy. "After a bleak childhood, they then had to endure the Great Depression, WWII and the post-war austerity that was my childhood."

"The post-war generation grew up with bomb sites, rationing, foul air, poverty, sickness, refugees from concentration camps, mass immigration from former British colonies as the empire crashed, US army occupation and never-ending gloom and doom about war atrocities, the atomic bomb and communism."

"In the 1950s, school teachers were from the WWI generation, still imbued with Victorian values and religious relish," explains Daisy. "We used pens with nibs, inks wells and blotting paper; learning was by rote; and punishment was vicious."

"We walked a mile to school and back, twice a day, coming home for lunch because my parents couldn't afford to pay the dinner money and my mother, apparently, didn't think of giving us cut lunches."

"At home, we were sent to bed at 6pm; allowed to bathe once a week (in bathwater first used by our parents); food consisted of rabbit, potatoes, porridge and bread with jam or dripping; and we were constantly sick with respiratory problems," relates Daisy. "One thing that really sticks out is the OJ and cod liver oil that my mother forced down our throats every day. It came part of the USA's post-war assistance plan for Britain, a plan we finally paid off in 1975."

"For recreation we swam in the filthy River Thames, played with five-stones on our knuckles, and bashed conkers to bits,” laughs Daisy. “We had one bicycle that we took turns to ride, we played in the streets, and the highlight of the year was Guy Fawkes night November 5th with huge bonfires and firecrackers all over London – adding to the smog.”

“There was no obesity, no hyperactivity and no ‘princesses’ other than those who lived in Buckingham Palace.”

"By the time I left school at 15, in 1960, the old 'Victorian' guard had retired and a massive change in values was taking place which was led by the generation that fought in WWII and the depression kids (not us)," explains Daisy. "They gave us rock n'roll, but we only got to hear it on Radio Luxembourg because the BBC remained steeped in Victorian values until the 70s."

"By 1960, we had TV and a telephone at home, and our diet had improved with the addition of strange fruit called bananas and oranges," laughs Daisy, "and from my wages as a shorthand-typist, I saved up and bought myself something really spiffy - a tape recorder, and was really amazed when I first heard myself speaking."

"It would take another 25 years before I next experienced the magic of new technology – the computer,” says Daisy, “and just a long for my boyfriend and I to exchange our scooter for a car.”

Read more of Daisy’s stories about this issue:

  • Is the dice loaded against the young?
  • did the boomers have it all good?
  • cohorts and generations
  • vulture circling young estate agents
  • materialism vs motherhood
  • snakes and ladders at work
  • the ponzi welfare system

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