Memories of the 1950s

In the 1950s I lived in a 'back to back' house on Moor Street, quite close to the centre of town. We had one room downstairs, a bedroom and an attic. I shared the bedroom with Mum and Dad and my brother shared the attic with our Granddad. The toilet was 'up the yard' and our tin bath was brought out once a week - whether we needed it or not!!

My dad was a cutler and made 'pen and pocket' knives in a local Little Mester's workshop. I loved to go there and the smell of milling fluid still instantly takes me back. There is now an identical set-up at Kelham Island Museum - right down to the Fussells Milk for the tea.


Early in 1953, when I was 4 years old I was admitted to Lodge Moor hospital suffering from pneumonia.

Lodge Moor was an Isolation Hospital and my Mum and Dad were allowed to visit just once a week. No other visitors were allowed although they could come and wave to me through the windows! I had my fifth birthday in hospital but had just a few comics for a present. I knew that any gifts brought into the hospital would have to be destroyed when I left so I wanted to save my new doll for when I got home.

Local Cinema

On Saturdays all the local children went to The Star cinema for the children's matinee. Five pennies for downstairs and seven for upstairs. For a shilling you could get into the cinema, plus have sweets and an ice cream. It was very noisy with lots of cheering for the cowboys and booing for the Indians. My brother (6 years older than me) refused to sit with me because I would cry if the horses got 'shot'.


At five I started school - Springfield County up near Glossop Road. On our way to school we would have a penny to spend at the sweetshop. There was plenty of choice on the penny tray: liquorice pipes, candy cigarettes, McGowans Toffee bars, Black Jacks and Fruit Salad (4 for a penny!) gob stoppers and bubble gum. A machine outside the shop would dispense small packs of Beechnut chewing gum for a penny - and the lucky forth person got an extra pack free!

At home we saved food waste, potato peelings etc for the 'pig man' who would come once a week and collect all the scraps to feed to his pigs. My reward was a handful of Dolly Mixtures. There was also the chance of sweeties from the rag and bone man who would come along with his horse and cart, he sometimes had goldfish hanging on his cart in little plastic bags, but we knew Mum wouldn't be happy if we came back with one.


Because the houses were so small the children all played out all the time. For each 'court' of twelve houses there was a big yard and we played cricket, marbles, hide and seek and kick-can until bedtime. We climbed the walls between the 'yards' and collected 'daddy-long-legs' from the cracks. The girls also enjoyed skipping games and playing 'two balls' against any flat wall we could find and we loved devising different 'tricks' with the balls.

Bonfire night was a great occasion. We would collect wood for weeks before and store it in our cellars (so it didn't get stolen in a raid by kids from another 'yard'). We made 'guys' from any spare clothes we could beg and stuffed them with newspaper. We then stationed ourselves outside a local shop or pub to beg for a 'penny for the guy'. With enough pennies we could buy some fireworks for the big day. No-one set them off before bonfire night, they were too precious!

Trips And Treats

One of our neighbours was a 'travelling salesman' and was the first person on the road to have a car - a Morris shooting brake. Occasionally he would pile in as many kids as would fit - we could manage up ten - and take us all out to Stanage Edge or Fox House where we would run riot for the afternoon.

Trips to the seaside - usually on a coach and usually Cleethorpes or Skegness were a great treat. A week in a caravan was very special and looked forward to for months in advance.

Once a year there was a trip from the Working Men's Club my Dad belonged to. All the children from Working Men's Clubs in Sheffield piled into coaches and headed for Cleethorpes - hundreds of them! On arrival we were issued with tickets for the funfair and a pack of sandwiches for lunch. We were then set free till tea time when we all gathered in an enormous hall for tea before we set off home. I remember doing this from the age of 7 - how did we all survive??

Also once a year the circus came to town! The whole circus would arrive by train and parade through town to their site at the top of Fitzwilliam Street (now Devonshire Green) where they would set up the Big Top for the next week or so. There was great excitement as there would be animals that were very strange to us. Lions and tigers in cages on the back of lorries; zebra, camels and elephants walking in lines with the elephants holding the tail of the one in front. If there wasn't enough money for a trip to the circus we would beg 2d to go and view the animals.

The Whitsuntide holiday meant new clothes, a pretty dress and cardigan and right down to new undies, shoes and socks. We would visit all the neighbours and were usually given a few pennies. In the afternoon there would be a huge parade by local churches which would end in Norfolk Park where we would spend our pennies at the ice cream van.

The Coronation

I was only 5 at the time and don't remember much of the Coronation - I think I was more interested in the street party. Unfortunately it was raining - but the day was saved by the bosses at Pickering's Cardboard Box factory (now Learn Direct near Wickes) allowing the use of their loading area. Tables and food were soon transported and the party went on as planned. I remember getting a tin box with chocolates and some pencils, my brother got a pen knife.

Elaine Nicholls