Some years ago I visited York Castle Museum (UK). They have a ‘Social History collection’ made up of items relating to the lives of everyday people in Britain. I remember thinking that one of the living room exhibits could have been lived in by any of my childhood friends.
I don’t consider myself ‘old’ at all, but my childhood surroundings, appliances and toys are now a part of history. This feels quite strange.
We had fireplaces with real fires. We used coal and the smoke went up a chimney. The ‘vacuum sweep’ would come every year to clean it. He would put a sheet over the front of the fireplace with a hole in the middle. A brush inside the sheet would have rods attached until the brush came out of the chimney pot. As children we would run outside to watch. All of the soot would be vacuumed up by his machine, so there wasn’t the mess there would have been in the ‘olden days’.
A family down the street had a telephone. It was on a ‘party line’ with another family on the next street. If we needed to make an urgent call we would take ten pence and ask to use their phone. I remember having to lift up the receiver and listen to see if anyone else was using the line before I could dial. If the call wasn’t urgent we would use the public telephone a few streets away. When I was in my early teens we got our own phone. It fixed to the wall in the kitchen, had a rotary dial and made a very loud ringing noise. These phones did not require electricity and would therefore work during a power cut. I would love to have one now.
To wash clothes we had a top loading washing machine with an electric mangle fixed on top. We also had a gas fired metal ‘copper’ tub for items needing to be ‘boiled’. My mother would peg everything out on the garden clothesline to dry properly. She would spend the evening ironing everything. I really do mean everything: socks, bedsheets, bras, undies, tea towels……. and on and on it went.
Our television was a big black and white one. Channels were selected using a big round knob that clicked as it was turned. We had three channels to choose from. If you missed the programme, there were no second chances unless it was shown much later as a ‘repeat’ when new programme offerings were scarce. Video recordings had not been invented.
I remember taping a three hour special about my favourite pop group. The reel to reel tape recorder was on the living room floor with a microphone attached pointing at the TV. The door was closed and everyone in the house was asked to remain silent for the entire three hours. I vaguely remember just one interruption to the taping.
I look back on these things with fond memories but I would not want to wind the clock back. I do wish though that our modern equivalents were built to last for as long as these were. And now I think I really might try to find one of those phones……. 🙂
Inspired by the Daily Prompt