God and ASDA

Stories and thoughts: past, present and future

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Then or Now?

I’ve often written what it was like when I was a child in the 1940s, growing up in post-war Britain, and a thought came to me this morning – was it really “the good old days”? Did we really have the fun we seem to remember whilst at school or playing our innocent games.

Innocence it certainly was, and for that I’m grateful that I grew up in those times. We didn’t have any of the pressures youngsters have these days, either in society in general or amongst our own peers. We really were innocent. I think that’s a point for the “Then” team!

Our teachers were respected for the most part, certainly in the early years of our education. We looked up to them, in more ways than height. We respected their seniority. Nowadays young people do not hesitate to call me by my given name, even though I am over half a century older than many of them. But would I like it if they addressed me as “Mrs.”: I think not – so that’s a point in favour of “Now”.

Getting away from relationships, we have the question of technology. When I first started work in 1958, I was using an Imperial typewriter, just like the one in the picture.

As you will see it was quite a hefty machine. The carriage moved across with each stroke of the keys, propelled by a ratchet, until, at the end of the line the typist would have to return it manually – and off we’d go again! The ink was contained in the ribbons seen on the left and right and as the key struck the ribbon, it would impress the letter onto the paper. These machines are very nice to have as ornaments or conversation pieces in our homes these days, but they were the latest in technology to us.

Today technology moves so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up – iPhones, iPads, Tablets, Kindle and so on. In my younger days an eye-pad was something you put on a sore eye, a tablet was medication you’d take, (probably for the sore eye) and a kindle was a piece of wood that helped ignite the fire (causing a spark to fly into the eye, requiring an eye-pad and a tablet no doubt). But I have to give the point to “Now” on technology.

We all moan at the length of the queues in the supermarkets and, when I hear someone grumbling about having to wait in line for a few minutes, I would love to take them back to my childhood days and see what they make of it. No Asda or Sainsbury’s then. Each commodity had its own shop and, sometimes, inside the grocer’s was a collection of counters where purchases made at each one had to be paid for there, not at a final checkout. Afterwards it all had to be carried home, probably on a ’bus, No, thank you, I certainly approve of supermarkets and give a great big tick in favour of “Now”!!

I could include many more examples of the difference between Then and Now and, looking back over this article, I see that I’ve ticked most of them “Now”, so maybe it wasn’t such a wonderful time after all – or was it?


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Winter 1947

It’s January 1947 and I’m 4½ years old. During the winter of 1946–47 the UK experienced several cold spells, beginning on 21 January 1947, bringing the severest snowfalls for 150 years to the country. Roads were closed and railways became blocked. Coal supplies, already low following the Second World War, struggled to get through to power stations and many were forced to shut down due to lack of fuel. The government introduced several measures to cut power consumption, including restricting domestic electricity to 19 hours per day and cutting industrial supplies completely. Radio broadcasts were limited, and some magazines were ordered to stop being published; newspapers were cut in size. Public morale was very low due to these measures and the Minister of Fuel and Power received death threats and had to be placed under police guard. Towards the end of February there were also fears of a food shortage as supplies were cut off and vegetables frozen into the ground.

Imagine frost on the inside of the bedroom windows! We had no central heating, just one coal fire in the front room. At night Mum would find as many blankets as she could, after which it was coats to keep us warm. The bedroom floor was covered in linoleum, not carpet, so our feet felt as if they would stick to the cold floor when we walked. I recall going with Mum to the coal merchant and pretending that I was someone else’s little girl so that Mum could get an extra bag of fuel. So two bags of coal were loaded into the baby’s pram (he wasn’t in it at the time!)

It was grim! It has gone down in history as one of the severest winters in living memory. However, as I was such a small child it hardly seemed to affect me. I don’t remember going without food, but it must have been very hard for my parents.

One thing I do remember with vivid clarity was the time I was stuck in a snow drift up to my armpits. Now, you might think that’s hilariously funny (I do, now!) but for a 4½ year old it was terrifying. I’d been sent out to play so that Mum could “get on with things” (probably connected to my seven-month old brother). So, off I went on my adventure. I have no idea what I was thinking about but I can remember a sudden “sinking” feeling. Apparently I’d stepped where there was a snow-covered ditch and down I went. When I think now of what might have happened I am horrified but I must have shouted or cried so loudly that someone came along and pulled me out.

I’m not sure to this day whether I received loving cuddles or not when I arrived home soaking wet, frozen cold and a very unhappy bunny.

I love reminiscing about my childhood as it makes me reaslie just how fortunate we are these days.

We’ve been warned that this winter may well be as bad as 1947, but, even if that transpires to be true, we will have a better time of it than we did 67 years ago.

How our lives have changed since then. And most of us, including myself, take so much of it for granted. Heating, lighting, carpets, well-stocked shops and supermarkets. We really have it all.

So, please, if you’re reading this and you are living where there is plenty, spare a thought for those people, even in Europe and America, who have little or nothing to look forward to this Christmas because of poverty.

And thank God for what you have!!

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My Life in the 1940s – 1950s

Growing up, as I did, in the industrial Midlands of England in the 1940s/1950s, we were surrounded by the filth of chimneys, belching out all manner of foul emissions. This often caused terrible smog, bringing cars and buses to a standstill as it was impossible to see further than a hand in front of you. Domestic fires added to this through the coal and coke that was burnt.

This atmosphere, of course, was the cause of many health problems for lots of families. I suffered terribly from bronchitis for most of the year and had to wear something called “Thermogene“. This came in a roll of pink material like cotton wool, which was pinned inside Liberty Bodices and vests, to keep my chest warm and help banish winter ailments. Research on the actual ingredients of the material have proved fruitless, but whatever it was, it worked!

We also had to have daily doses of Cod Liver Oil, provided free by the Health Department, as well as orange juice. The cod liver oil was ghastly and almost made me choke, but if I managed to keep it down I was rewarded with the orange juice!

Another therapy I had to undergo was sun ray treatment, which took place in a large room in a local clinic. In the centre of the room was a huge lamp and we had to stand facing the lamp, wearing just our knickers and a pair of goggles, for about fifteen minutes. I remember feeling very warm. This course of treatment lasted for no more than four sessions. At least it was one way of getting time off from school!!

It’s also a well-known fact that children in the 1950s were often under-nourished due to food shortages, rationing or just hardship. We always seemed to have plenty to eat and I looked forward to our Sunday roast. Having bought all the necessary ingredients the previous day whilst out shopping, Mum would set about roasting the beef joint in her tiny gas oven.

When it was finished she would drain off the juices and leave it to set; this made the most delicious dripping which we would spread on toast. (Oh, my mouth is watering at the very thought!!)

On the top of the cooker she had three gas jets and these would be used for the various saucepans of vegetables. I found a picture of one almost identical, except that this picture is of a doll’s cooker!!. At least it will give an idea of the kind of equipment housewives had at their disposal in the 1940s.

So, to continue – we always had a sweet (or pudding as we called it) and my favourite was bananas and custard. During the war bananas were unavailable and so, when they were finally to be had again, they were something new to us. It was a special treat to have a banana. How we take things for granted these days, with such wonderful fruits from all over the world available in the supermarkets all year round.

Sunday tea usually comprised fish paste sandwiches, a fruit cake or ring of buns and a dish of peaches in syrup. We weren’t allowed to have the fruit until we’d eaten at least one half slice of bread and butter. This was probably to make it go further, as one tin of peaches would have to suffice for the whole family of five.

Incidentally, Monday’s evening meal consisted of minced meat left over (or put aside specially) from the Sunday joint, made into a shepherd’s pie. Pastry left from making that would be used to make an apple pie for pudding, probably lasting two days at least. (No fridges then, either!!). Very little food was wasted in those days!!

But, throughout all those days of hardship and shortages, I know that my parents did their best for us kids, no matter what. We always had warm clothes and even treats of comics (albeit second-hand ones from the market) and oftentimes Mum would pass her dish over to one of us saying that she’d had enough to eat. We never realised that probably there wasn’t enough to go round, so Mum or Dad would forego their own food for us.

These days, 63 years on, I live in a comfortable, warm home and to do my weekly shopping I just jump into the car and drive (less than a mile!) into Asda’s car park. I haven’t yet succumbed to home deliveries though!!

In the 1950s shops were certainly not open as long then as they are now. Opening times were usually 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. five days a week and on one of those five days all the shops in the town closed for half a day. There were no businesses open on Sundays back then. I often wonder what my Dad would think of my life these days compared to what he knew just before he died in 1972. So much has changed in the past 41 years.

Sometimes I think it’s moving too quickly. One day a new gadget appears on the shelves and within days it’s superseded by something bigger or better. When I was young a tablet was something you took when you were ill, an eye pad was something you put over an injured eye and a mobile was something that was suspended over a baby’s cot. Times have certainly changed since then, but much as I remember being very happy when I was young, I certainly wouldn’t wish to go back and live like that again. I like my comforts too much!!

And yet, you know, whatever happens in our lives, whether it be good or bad, is part of God’s plan for us. If we choose to follow Jesus and give our lives to Him, then we shall understand why all these things happen to us. Sometimes we might think of going somewhere or doing something but for some reason it just doesn’t happen. That’s God working in our lives, probably because what we wanted to do wouldn’t be good for us.

Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Romans chapter 8 verse 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

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Going to the Pictures

When I grew up in the late 1940s and 1950s, entertainment was to be found at the local cinema. We didn’t actually call it the “Cinema” or “The movies” or even “Going to see a film”. It was always called “going to the Pictures“. The cinema was called the “Picture House”

The local Picture Houses all had exotic names and you could well have been watching your heroes at The Regal, The Majestic, The Plaza or The Empire. Where I lived in the Midlands, our local cinema was called The Palace. It certainly looked like a palace inside (through my young eyes), with plush carpets, and seats which folded back when you stood up. There were also the “lovers’ seats” along the back row – two in one so that the armrest wouldn’t hinder snuggling up. It also had an indefinable “smell”. I couldn’t describe it; it’s unlike anything else. Cinemas these days don’t have it – it’s gone, along with all the other things that made the Picture House special.

There were two Picture Houses in our town. As well as the Palace there was the Savoy, locally known as “The Bridge” as it was built on Bustle Bridge over a canal which ran under the main street. I think the Palace was the more popular of the two.

Outside there would be photographs on either side of the main door, showing stills from the current presentation and also one showing the forthcoming attractions. There would be queues around the building if a particularly good film was showing. In the early days of my childhood, the Pictures would run continuously all evening and, if we’d gone in halfway through the programme, we would leave at the point “where we came in”. You would actually hear people say: “This is where we came in.” and get up and leave. (Imagine knowing the end before you’ve seen the beginning!) But, within minutes the usherette would be walking down the aisle, pointing her torch to where the empty seats were. The place would be packed all evening. My parents used to go to the pictures – but not together! Mum would go early, whilst Dad looked after us, then, when she returned, Dad would go.

This system changed and “Houses” were introduced, which meant that the Picture House opened at, say, 5.30 p.m. when one complete programme would be shown. That was the “First House”. Once the place had been emptied and tidied up , the “Second House” patrons would be allowed in. No sitting twice through the programme any more!

Just before the main feature started, the house lights went up and the Ice Cream girls came and stood at the front. These were usually ladies who carried a tray of ice creams and lollipops which patrons could buy to eat during the film. A tub of ice cream came complete with a small wooden spoon-shaped spatula: if you didn’t have a “spoon” then you folded the lid in half and used that!! After a while, when the queues had ended, the girls would stroll up the aisle again, just in case anyone hadn’t been served. No popcorn in those days!

I rarely went to the pictures in the evenings when I was young but I vividly remember one visit with my sister. We went to the “First House” to see “Little Women”. I cried when Beth was very poorly and almost died: my sister was not amused and kept poking me to tell me to be quiet. I was about seven at the time!

But the best times of all were Saturday Pictures. This referred to the day and place where mayhem, disorder and pandemonium broke out. It was the day that kids went to the Pictures.

We would all queue up in an unruly mob, the boys would be shouting and fighting and generally behaving like kids did in those days. The tickets cost either sixpence or ninepence (2.5p or 4.5p) depending on whether you went downstairs or upstairs. We always went downstairs – that was where the action was!! The Commissionaire (otherwise known as “Old Smelly”) would stand by the exit doors to ensure no-one crept in the back way without paying. Woe betide anyone caught attempting to do so. There were no Child Protection or Health and Safety guideliness to be found in those days! A sharp crack across the back of the head was what they received and a quick boot outside into the street!

As soon as the lights dimmed everyone cheered – the show began. The programmes consisted of cartoons, a main complete film and a serial to encourage us to go along on the following Saturday – not that we needed much motivation. It didn’t really matter what was shown anyway, we were in heaven just being there. Kids would shout encouragement to the hero and boo the baddie. If anyone in the film started fighting, the boys in the audience would copy and start bashing each other, then Old Smelly would walk down the aisle – just a look was enough to quieten the mob! I remember one serial was “The Last of the Mohicans” (1936) and one episode ended with Alice Munro, a “paleface” woman, tied to a stake waiting to be burnt. I can tell you I was one of the first in the queue the next week to see whether or not she was saved. (She was, by the way!).

I was trying to find a picture of either of these old cinemas but they have both long since been demolished. However, my memories are still there. I rarely, if ever, go to the cinema these days. They don’t make films like the old ones. If it’s a remake you can guarantee the original storyline will be lost in a “modern take”.

But there’s one thing that won’t change with a “modern take” and that’s God’s Word in the Bible. I invite you to Google the following:

“John 3: 16 in all English translations”

Message in the Sand

You’ll find subtle differences, yes, but not one of these translations can alter the very essence of the message – that God so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus to save us from certain death. Check it out if you don’t already know. It could save your life!

God Bless you.