Fifties Fun and Frivolity

P1190432In My Day, subtitled You and Me before TV,[i]  could be easily dismissed as a bit of reading fluff. It isn’t full of beautifully crafted phrases and concepts. Nonetheless it is a magic carpet ride, taking Aussies of a certain age, back to life as it was, not just before TV, but somewhat after that as well.

The book was gestated during a sudden power outage, reminding the author and her friend of just how much their lives had changed over the decades. (I did smile at that because with Darwin’s lightning season, we get a fairly regular reminder of life-without-power).

If you want to know how your parents or grandparents lived in those ancient days of the 1950s, or even the 1960s, a quick dabble in this book will reveal new and astonishing realities. If you lived in those decades, or even earlier (heaven forfend!) you will enjoy a walk down memory lane, bringing back events and experiences long vanished into the recesses of your mental hard drive.

Hands up who remembers Mum’s washing copper and the rituals of Monday washing day (it was always Monday!)…as a child there always seemed to be jobs for you to help with on a Monday. How about the ice man, dunny man, butcher’s and baker’s vans? The corner store with its large glass jars of lollies. Saturday afternoon (arvo) at the movies (flicks) and maybe rolling Jaffas down the aisles.

TThat warm milk each day at school. Getting the cuts (cane) if you misbehaved in class. Boys dipping the girls plaits in the ink well. Scratchy slates, then pencils, pens with nibs (when you’d grown up), chalk on the blackboard. Remember when a biro was a novelty? Pounds, shillings and pence in the pre-decimal currency days of the “14th of February 1966”.

And then there are the stories of children being set free first thing in the morning on weekends or holidays to roam all day, only returning as dusk fell. This always mystifies me, because never in a million years would that have happened in our home, and yet we lived in a safe neighbourhood.

One thing I remember that isn’t in the book is the rat catcher. Did other cities have these, or only sub-tropical Brisbane? A Council worker would tour the street, eager fox terrier at his side, on the hunt for rats in the neighbourhood. This always induced a sense of anxiety because you really wouldn’t want to have him find a rat in your yard, even if he never had before.

The book has one or two page aides memoir with space at the bottom for you, the co-author, to add your reminiscences. I’ve had my copy for a long time so it may not be readily available but if you can find it in a library, why not borrow it and see how much you remember. Or read in astonishment.


[i] In My Day, You and Me before TV. Whitcomb, N. Adelaide 1996

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7 thoughts on “Fifties Fun and Frivolity

  1. There is so much I identify with this from this book, that I wondered if I’d ghost written it and had forgotten… 😉 How proud I was when I was allowed to write with a fountain pen, something I still love to do. I’d been using one at homes for years and found it quite insulting to be made to use a pencil when I was a big girl already (7). By the way, I still have my slate…

    • I laughed when I read your comment Chris. You have such a good memory for childhood things. I think I remember my first fountain pen but not sure…it was green is my memory. I recently bought a new one in an attempt to make me write more neatly 🙂 Ugh I hated slates, that hideous scratchy sound hence why to this day I only like propelling/mechanical pencils.

  2. I will add this book to my reading list Pauleen as it is from my era. Abe Books here I come.

    Coincidentally I am finally reading a book in a similar vein “Over the top with Jim” by Hugh Lunn set in Brisbane in the 50s.

    • Yes I noticed that you were reading Over the Top with Jim. I read it ages ago and it was good fun. I don’t think I still have a copy. May have to hunt one down.

  3. Had to pop in again to say how much I loved “Over the Top With Jim”. I identified with the cake shop as I used to walk past it, slowly, each afternoon after school… no money to buy anything, but I often tried to recreate what I had seen in the window. I know that area well, so it was like a journey back in time…and I do lie the laid back style of Jim Lunn’s writing. I’m sure you’ll love it, Jill..

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