ALSO -The Last Furlong Blog and Life on an alien planet.wordpress

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Some things were REALLY WORSE then.

Yesterday I wrote about what seemed REALLY BETTER then, when I was young, because it felt like a kind of freedom unknown today. Then, society had less people, simpler technology, and a more rigid system of right and wrong. Now I want to remember what was really worse.

Falling pregnant was considered a terrible shame. Young girls were sent away and unmarried mothers had their babies removed in the cruelest manner.

Being unhappily married was a prison many couples lived in with no recourse to freeing themselves from it. The children grew up in unhealthy surroundings of non-love.

Mothers were not expected to work, were paid less than men, did more menial work and were expected to know their place was really in the home.

Women wore hats, gloves, suspender belts and stockings. Most garments needed ironing and grubby children, caused ire at the extra work their grubbyness caused for mothers with no washing machines, well, perhaps twin tubs if they were reasonably off. Otherwise, washboards over the bath would clean stuff and leave you with red, chapped hands. 

There were no detergents. Cleaning was hard work - elbow grease did it. Kids had chores to do to help. For the ladies beer was used to set hair - or sugar water. Lemon juice rinse or vinegar gave a shine. There was no conditioner, so girls screamed in agony as our mothers forced the knots out of our long hair. There were no manufactured shampoos, face creams or cleansers. Women used cold cream, lanolin and soap and water.

Sundays when no one worked, many people went to church - kids were packed off to Sunday School to keep them out of mischief. Some kids hated that. But you could get them more enthusiastic with milk and cookies after.

There were no calculators. Math was done by mental discipline. Everyone had to learn their times tables. Children failed classes and were held back to repeat it. This could sometimes be more destructive than helpful.

School projects had to be researched in libraries out of books with Dewey classifications. There were no copy machines except Gestetners whose copy sheets had to be typed up on an old, slow heavy typewriters on wax paper. We could make home-made jelly in a baking tray which would copy primitive illustrations from carbon paper. Duplicating stuff was laborious and sometimes impossible.

Cars were uncomfortable and basic for ordinary people - if they owned one at all. Only rich people had luxurious cars.

Air travel in small  twin engined planes was only for the rich and took forever to get anywhere. Less affluent folk could sail steerage class on ships if they wanted to travel, and some freighters would take a few passengers cheaply.


We were frightened of Polio - epidemics that spread through countries. Many were left crippled or died from it. This was at a time when Drug Companies as massive industry were just starting to infiltrate the medical system and  Governments. They began to push their wares on Doctors who, at that time, had a much smaller repertoire of cures. Many diseases were incurable. Doctors did not tell you if the one you had, was. But they might let your family know who could collaborate, leaving the sick person in ignorance.

Conversely, the Big Tobacco corporations were advertising their products so that smoking became normal and entrenched in society. Most everyone smoked, it relaxed you, stimulated you and even looked sexy. All the stars smoked. Doctors smoked. They could even advise a patient to smoke for their "nerves". This was setting the scene for Big Parma to later take over their profits.

Abortion was illegal and many women died from botched abortions, or were left sterile. And unwanted pregnancies happened because there was no efficient birth control except condoms that were hidden in pharmacies and embarrassing to ask for. Unmarried women falling pregnant were so shamed they would do anything to avoid the scandal

There was deep hypocrisy in the fact that sex was not discussed in polite circles. Children grew up having to learn from experience or from myth and legend!

Children were expected to be seen and not heard, to be very polite to grownups and not question the actions of adults. They mostly wore clothes and school uniforms inherited from their siblings.

Most ordinary people's houses had no central heating - houses were cold. Some houses had no bathrooms and loos were outside. Loo paper was horrible scratchy stuff - Jeyes - like greaseproof paper for bottoms.

People had to repair stuff if it broke and darn clothes, socks and turn collars - most people were less well off than they are today. Newly married couples accepted furniture and furnishings from members of their families. Most families lived on the same continents

We must be a really strong bunch to survive all that - and we are still going! And it was US that caused improvements in society - the battling baby boomers - protesting, challenging, arguing and promoting our vision of a better world.

That was before scientific "statistics", government "nannying" or the "blame" culture.