My Life in the 1950s

SCHOOL: 1955
I remember clearly my first day at The Old Dore primary school. My mum, Joan, never prepared me for anything, it was just her “Baptism of Fire” way. We arrived at the school hand in hand and as usual I was feeling really happy, but then she let go of my hand and told me I had to go into the school without her. I’d never left my mum, I couldn’t do this. In the end the teacher came out and somehow got me, kicking, crying and screaming

tearfully into the classroom. And there began a lifelong battle with authority, which guaranteed regular battles of will with Miss Palmer et al.

My mum was an original “It Girl”. She looked stunning – snakeskin stilettos, swinging linen coat and hair teased into an amazing beehive. She wore Dr Payot make-up, only available in Harrods, in later years I would pinch it to get made-up before hitting youth club. I never met another mum like her, she was more an avanter - ahead of her time.

Our neighbours at Brickhouse Lane were the Dempseys. Mr Dempsey was a lovely man, would push me for hours on my swing at the top of the garden.

Neighbours in Dore played a big part, socially, in those days – doors were always open - chatting over the fence or hedge; chatting whilst scrubbing the step or washing clothes in the tub.

MUSIC: 1950s
The wireless was always on in our house, always –
“The day that the rains came down - - - ”
“When you walk through the garden - - - ”
“Where the boys are - - -”
In 1959, we acquired a record player, you know – the drop down 5 records one. My first ever record was Cliff Richard “Please don’t tease” I grew up with a lifelong love of music, and still play the old songs.

“Wagon Train”
“Champion the Wonder Horse”
I would sit on my dad’s knee , on a Sunday if he wasn’t at work, and we would watch these. My mum would bring us sausages on a fork – Halcyon Days.

Despite serious war injuries my dad, Alf Sheppard, worked as a plumber. In those days he was considered a lowly “ workman” – Ha Ha – these days he’d be a millionaire! He guided several apprentices and helped them gain a livelihood – Don Fisher will remember, with fondness, years of working alongside my dad – he should do, he left him his tools when he died!

Oh my God – how is this house still standing? Paraffin heaters, unattended coal-fires, electric bar fires plugged into light sockets on dodgy adapters, live wires carved along the floorboards. The lavatory was outside, murder in the winter. My dad would take me across the icy yard - lamp/torch in his hand. Newspaper in the loo and a frozen flush. Horrible! And I was terrified there’d be a spider there. We didn’t have central heating and an inside loo till about 1959 – 1960. Dad installed both himself and conditions started to improve.

My mum would take me to the Co-op. My recollection is of no tills, but of funny little jars that the assistant would put our money and bill into and send along a ceiling cable to a cashier sitting in a cubicle. The cashier would then count out our change and send it back. What a process!

Once a week my mum would take me into town. She’d be all dressed up and I’d be soooo proud to be seen with her. We’d go to Marshall Snelgroves so she could look at beautiful things and then we’d go to Davy’s in Fargate for afternoon tea – tiers of little cakes and sandwiches without crusts and cups of tea with a strainer – all really posh. We’d be dead posh for an hour, then we’d catch the bus back to reality and she’d be washing my dad’s dirty overalls and cooking him tripe!

There was no spare money for gifts so all our gifts came courtesy of Kensitas & Park Drive cigarette coupons.
Outnumbered 3-1 in a houseful of women, my dad virtually had to smoke himself to death!
I was allowed to sit at the kitchen table with him and count up the coupons and then ---- the excitement of choosing gifts from the "catalogue".
In 1955,for my 5th birthday, I got the best, biggest pink teddy bear - took loads of Kensitas coupons but I got it. He still resides at Brickhouse Lane, sitting in the upstairs armchair, but no ciggie in his mouth!

All through the 1950s, dad saved up and took us to Mablethorpe, Golden Sands Caravan site ( its still there ). We'd go for a week. I loved the caravan because it meant I could sleep in the same space as mum and dad and my sister and not on my own. I would lie there in the night and listen to the rain on the caravan lid - I couldn't have been happier. My dad would take me out on the lilo in freezing sea, whilst my mum "posed" on the sands, then we'd have fish n chips out of paper, and proper coca-cola out of glass bottles.

How I wish I could have bottled those holidays.

I think the 50s, after the war, shaped us all. I look forward to writing about the 60s.

Marcia Sheppard