Looking back

I often hear people of my age and older saying how hard life was for us when we were young and that today’s young people have it easy. So first of all let me tell you about my life when I was young. I was born during the Second World War so things were a little difficult to say the least. Food and clothes were rationed and we had a ration book we had to use to buy things. My parents had saved enough money to pay a deposit on a new semi detached house. But it was not as you would see one today. In the kitchen there was a Belfast sink and a small gas cooker. A heavy wooden draining board was attached to the sink. My mother washed everything in this sink and used a hand wringer to squeeze the water out of the clothes. There was a washing board for putting clothes on which needed scrubbing. (the washboard later became a musical instrument with Lonnie Donegan’s skiffle group) There was no refrigerator but a larder or pantry with a heavy marble slab in it and on the slab stood a mesh cupboard known as a meat safe. Milk was delivered in bottles which were washed when empty and put outside for the milk man to collect. In the dining cum living room (the front room was only used when we had visitors) there was a coal fired range with two ovens and a hob for boiling things in saucepans. The kettle was put on this hob to boil. We had a radio as well. There were two wooden armchairs and a stool for me. We played card games, dominoes and snakes and ladders of did jigsaws in the winter. My dad grew lots of vegetables. When we went to buy them we took a shopping bag and whatever we bought went straight into the bag. No packing stuff at all. Meat was wrapped in a heavy white paper and handed over to go in the bag. We did not have a car until my dad was in his forties.

So life was hard in many ways but we had lots of freedom to go out and play in the open spaces and in the woods coming home dirty but happy. Young people today do not have that freedom. They do have lots of electronic gadgets and washing for example is done in  a much easier way. But is life better? I look at the young ones of today and the pressure put upon them to achieve at whatever cost. Everything is measured, education especially and certain standards have to be reached or else. Then there are the adverts on the TV and all around which keep saying that you need this and that to make your life better and easier and give you happiness. I don’t think they have it easy. They have to make far more choices than I had to and many do not cope with the pressure put on them. They all want the latest designer outfits not because they really want them but because their friends have them. At least we didn’t have that worry. My mother made most of my clothes and her own.

So how do you look back at your past? Was it good or better than what younger people have now? If you are young and reading this, how do you feel about what I have described? I know that when I was teaching, my class could not understand why we did not have a TV.

5 thoughts on “Looking back

  1. Well yes I was born in 1950 so recognise many of the things you describe. Some things that might be described as ‘hard’ were actually just simpler and things that make life ‘easy’ now can be more complicated and bring their own problems. Certainly I do not think unlimited choice is a good thing and is in practice is an illusion!
    One thing I would pick out to celebrate in my lifetime is the improvement in healthcare but I fear that may become rationed in the future. Uncertain times. Again!

  2. Was life better for me when I was a young lad…that’s an interesting question? I belong to your generation too and spent much of my childhood playing outside with my mates and on my own without supervision. I had a trolley made up from a crate and some pram wheels and other homemade toys. My parents were not wealthy and we lived in rented accommodation, there were no credit cards but my mum had a little box in the dresser with separate sections to put money by for rent, gas etc. Dad got paid on a Friday and handed his pay packet over to mum to divide up the cash on Friday evenings after work. The doctor’s waiting room was a queue outside. We didn’t have a car till my dad was nearly 50 but there were plentiful buses and trains at affordable prices. We had one week’s holiday in Bridlington each year and maybe the odd day out. I was never bored or felt deprived in any way….and we would say that we had a good life. Also, where I lived at least, there was a ready supply of jobs for all abilities.
    Nowadays, yes things are very different…healthcare is better, homes are warmer, food is more varied, but…..does that add up to a better life? I don’t think it does….yet I wouldn’t want to reverse the medical advances and warmer homes for instance, or some of the other things that we take for granted. Children do grow up in a very competitive environment and the pervasiveness of advertisement branding puts pressure on often stretched family budgets. My 7 yr old grandson has a Wii, a notebook computer (albeit 2nd half from me), toys galore and gets bored! From my perspective the biggest difference is the loss of a sense of community. Perhaps this is inevitable when people are so mobile and have to move away to find work, I now live on an estate predominantly occupied by older (often single or widowed people….as a child I lived on the same street as two aunts and a grannie. However, if someone said to me would you like to go back in time….my answer would still be no because it’s impossible to compare then and now in any meaningful way. I suppose the best we can seek to do is to create community it whatever ways are possible now…it will look very different from previous generations.
    John /l\

  3. So very beautifully written … thought provoking and remindful of those times … I relate to so much that you have said as I too witnessed many of these things in my youth …

  4. So very beautifully written … thought provoking and remindful of those times … I relate to so much that you have said as I too witnessed many of these things in my youth …

  5. Yes, I remember all these things too… though what I think is the main difference between now and then is the way that people were involved with one another, as neighbours, workmates and so on. When I was small there was only one car in our street, which belonged to a man who ran a garage.. and there were no T.V.s. The first one arrived when I was around seven, and at five o’clock if itwas wet all the kids in the street would troop into Mrs. Jameses’ and watch children’s hour! We never had a car , though my Dad was given one for doing some work for the garage owner I mentioned. It was a little square , black Austin seven.. My Dad had no licence, but he drove it home somehow, and parked it in front of our house. We all came out and piled in, to go for a ride, but it wouldn’t start! And it never went again, so we pushed it round to the back of the house and kept chickens in it till it fell to bits!

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