By Ismail Veli……
In a recent article I touched on the effects of global warfare after WW2. Closer to home, the British found that after six years of hardship, the years of austerity, rationing involving shortages of petrol, paper, food and even soap was finally ending.
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 saw a new optimism. Life was beginning to turn to normal, growth was steady.
The introduction of a newly created National Health Service in 1948 gave people hope that governments were finally showing some consideration to ordinary people. By the mid 1950’s new inventions began to revolutionise the way people lived. Domestic appliances like food mixers, fridges, Formica worktops in kitchens brought new levels of hygiene, and record players started to become affordable to working class people. A new revolution in the style of shopping was introduced, this was the ”self service” which began to change the way people did their shopping.
The growth of sale of fridges and freezers helped expand frozen food products, which was expensive but convenient. Sugar coated cereals began to change people’s breakfast habits. For smokers the new filtered cigarettes was a novelty. Perhaps the biggest impact was that of affordable TV’s which began to change the nation’s social habits beyond anything before known. New TV series like Peyton Place (1957), Robin Hood, Dixon of Dock Green thrilled millions. The growth of Rock and Roll finally brought home the fact that the youth were starting to change lifestyle such as the world had not seen before. It brought about a clash between old fashioned conservatism and the young that were rejecting their parents Victorian or Edwardian attitudes.
Magazines like ”Homemakers”, ”Practical Householder” and ”Do it yourself” assisted people in reaching new heights on DIY, the passion to create a dream home took off. The end of paper rationing helped the massive growth of children’s magazines like Topper (1953), ”Roy of the Rovers” and ”Beazer” in 1956. For girls the comics ”School Friend” in 1950 and ”Girl” (1951) became a regular feature of children’s lives. Airfix, Hornby and Brimtoy train sets became a great way for boys to spend their time and help create their own little dream worlds. For girls cookery sets and Bayko building sets were a dream come true.
For grownups newly designed cars like the Vauxhall Victor, the Vanguard Estate Car were influenced by American styles and features, at ever more affordable prices. The Suez crises did however force the increase of petrol prices which helped cars like the Morris Minor, and Morris Mini Minor to become household names.
Holiday resorts like Broadstairs, Weston Super-Mare, Hastings and many more expanded their bed and breakfast facilities to new heights while Butlins provided all round entertainment and wide ranging facilities to please families of all ages. Blackpool in particular was a massive Butlins resort.
Holidaying abroad was still in its infancy. Coach trips to European destination became more popular. For example the tour organisers ”Continental destinations” offered 12 days to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berne and Bonn for an affordable 46 guineas (£48.30p). For 54 guineas (£56.70p) one could have a coach trip to the Rivieras of Southern Europe. The revolution in package holidays began with air travel to Spanish destinations in 1959. 15 days in Majorca would cost £44. The discovery of beautiful cobblestone Piazzas, outdoor cafes, restaurants and guaranteed warm weather became irresistible. Airlines like BEA, B.O.A.C, Air France and even United Airlines to the USA began in earnest.
The world was set for change, young and old were basking in the new feel of optimism that engulfed the western world. Though a child in the early 1960’s looking back in time I clearly remember the amazing hopes for the future. The above, all laid a new period of global travel, material wealth and technology that subsequently revolutionised our way of life and laid the foundations for a change that was unprecedented in the history of the world. Perhaps we are sometimes more lucky than we imagine ourselves to be.
I certainly feel happy to have witnessed the exciting changes in my lifetime. ARE YOU?