Parents struggled in the 'good old days'

THOSE of us growing up in the 1950s did not realise how hard our parents had to work in the austere years following the Second World War.

David Kindred

THOSE of us growing up in the 1950s did not realise how hard our parents had to work in the austere years following the Second World War.

There were few luxuries to be had and most had to make their own fun. The family budget meant most mothers made their own and their children's clothes. Knitting was a great way of making socks, hats, gloves, scarves, sweaters and even swimming costumes. Knitted swimwear was not the best plan as it was several sizes bigger when leaving the water than when you went in and several pounds heavier too!

Fathers would mend family shoes in the garden shed and do their best to make toys from scrap wood. Few families could afford a car so a bus or steam train proved transport on a day out, usually to Felixstowe.

Hardly any homes had a refrigerator, so shopping for fresh produce was a daily chore between dealing with the family washing all done by hand before homes had washing machines. Eating out or a bottle of wine was for “posh people”. Holidays were a special treat spent in a caravan at Felixstowe or camping near the River Orwell.

Jean Hodges (nee Knight) now lives in Cibolo, Texas, in the United States. Jean has sent me her memories of growing up in the Stoke area of Ipswich when life for her parents was tough.

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Jean said “I had been coming home to Ipswich regularly for the last ten years. My dear mum Grace, known as Peggy, passed away in May this year and looking back on her life I thought what a hard life she had.

“I was born November 30, 1949, the second of four children. I spent the first ten years of my life there. We lived at my paternal grandfather Alf Knight's house in Rectory Road. There were seven people in a very small house. There was no running hot water. Water was heated in a “copper”. A tin bath was brought into the kitchen once a week; all of us taking a turn and sharing the same water.

“Mum washed clothes every day by hand and always worried about getting them dry. The clothes horse was always around the fire. We also had a paraffin heater, and mum always worried about us kids getting to close while playing. She walked to the shops every day, rain or shine, to purchase food for that day's meals. All we children and my dad came home for the mid-day meal every day.

“Mum always prepared a good cooked dinner, including dessert, every day of the week. There was never a time that we went out to eat because she didn't feel like cooking. The occasional and very rare treat was a meal from the fish and chip shop. Always busy, Mum sewed dresses for us girls and knitted our sweaters. I remember my sister and I wanting a “bought” dress, but there was no money to spare.

“We moved to a bigger house in Maidenhall estate in 1960. Life did become a little easier for Mum; we now had a bathroom and hot running water. She never had a washing machine, but she finally did get a spin dryer and threw out the old mangle she had used for many years. When I was about 16 my dad Leslie had a disabling stroke.

“My mum did everything for him for the next ten years, until he died in 1976. People talk about the 'good old days', but I don't remember them being all that good for my mum. I don't know how she managed those years without losing her mind, but she took good care of us all. I married in 1975 and moved to the United States in 1976. Mum came to visit me numerous times and thoroughly enjoyed herself during those trips, not wanting to leave. Mum lived for just over 91 years.”