Remembrance of Things Past

Mostly about growing up the 1950s in Ilford, Essex.

[71] Another Picture Blog


Another blog post just based on a few pictures, found mostly on Facebook. They will illustrate Blogs Past and Blogs to Come!

You have, of course, already read my first picture blog: [58] A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

These, again, are fairly random as I just take them as I find them. As always, you can click on a picture for a larger view.



This is quite an old portable electric fire, typical in design of the fifties. We certainly had these. This one has one bar – so it was 1 Kilowatt. Similar ones could have two or three bars, thus allowing different heat settings. The grill prevents children from having accidents with little fingers, but it didn’t prevent inquisitive boys from doing experiments with melting and burning things. (There were, of course, always matches around.)

(Health and Safety note. Please treat all fires carefully and don’t use your electric fire on the lawn outside!)


A more modern gas fire, typical of the sixties. I am sure we had one like this. They were still free standing and portable from room to room. But one like this would have stood in the fireplace, perhaps in front of an unused coal fire crate. You could turn off the gas, disconnect and move to another room. If you waited too long after turning it on before lighting (with a match) you could have a little explosion of gas. The gas, as now was poisonous.

Modern electric and gas fires look better, now usually looking like real coal fires. When they came in, ‘coal-effect’ fires were (You’ve guessed it) for the rich and posh. Nowadays, safety regulations apply and they are fixed, sometimes in an old real fireplace. Chimneys and flues control smoke and gas emissions. Only registered, professional engineers now deal with gas installation. Gas fires light automatically without matches.

(My best friend at school went to Cambridge University at the same time as I did but we went to different Colleges so I didn’t see him. College rooms, mostly small bed-sits, were heated by gas fires, smaller and simpler than this one. As people could easily do in those days, he turned on the gas in his room deliberately without lighting the fire and killed himself. It was said that he had difficulty with his height, especially with girls. He was the same height as me. We were both very short. This used to be an easy and common means of suicide.)


A paraffin heater of the fifties or sixties was just as dangerous. The clip at the front enabled you to lift up the top to fill up a container with paraffin, a highly inflammable liquid that could easily be spilled. A wick had one end in the liquid, its other end was lit with a match.

The fire was portable. You could carry it round the house, even when alight!

fireplace advert

This picture shows a lot more than the fireplace, which was very sixties. The chair is typical of the time as is the lamp. Note also the carpet, much like the ones we had, just a rectangle – not covering the whole floor. The rest of the floor was probably lino.

If you look closely at this advertisement you can see the Valentine telephone number, followed by: (20 lines). This meant that there was a telephonist able to take up to twenty calls at a time.


This is how she would do it, a switchboard. She would wear headphones for incoming and outgoing telephone calls and use cables connected by jack-plugs. (Yes, I did say ‘She.’ It was a woman’s job!)

FB_IMG_1432922084062  pram


Babies used to be transported in prams like these, even in the seventies. Our children were pushed around in something like the one on the right. They were good for walking but not useful for car or bus transport.

The Maclaren Baby Buggy revolutionized baby and toddler transport. It was foldable and easily portable. Designed in the late sixties, it has been produced worldwide.

Like so many other companies, Wikipedia reports that the Maclaren Company went into receivership in 2000 and was taken over a family based in Monaco and Switzerland. Production moved to China. Many other similar buggies are now available.



This may be an early shop or a more modern reproduction. It seems to be selling groceries and sweets, which was not typical of the fifties. But the sweets are typical, in large glass jars. They were carefully tipped into the scales until the 4 oz mark was reached. (That’s four ounces, a quarter of a pound. They were not sold in any weights only per 4 oz. That was about 6d or 9d, in modern money 2-4p.)


This is obviously a large metal plate that would have been fixed outside a confectioner’s shop for advertising. Fry’s Five Boys was just a small bar of milk chocolate, moulded into five pieces with the faces of these boys. The last one is so happy because he realizes he is being given Fry’s chocolate!



The desks are typical, with their inkwells and space for keeping books. They were usually arranged in pairs. Teacher’s desk and chair are also typical. I always remember them on a raised daïs.

Both black boards shown here are also typical. One is fixed on the wall, one can be moved around and has a circular black writing space that can be wound round.


This is a blackboard rubber (eraser) about 20 cm long. Some teachers were said to throw them at errant pupils but I don’t remember this actually happening.

They would fill up with chalk and had to be taken outside and beaten with a ruler to remove the dust.

(Yes, I can remember doing that with carpets!)


We called this a pair of compasses. You could draw circles with a pencil using it. We all had our own box of geometrical instruments – compasses, two set squares, pencils, pencil sharpener and ruler.


Food and Drink

A key mechanism opening a tin of something like Spam. Corned beef came in a tin a bit like this (but they were not cylindrical tins, they were rectangular with rounded corners so that the key could turn the corner.) The key was stuck to the top of the tin. Sardines had something similar.

They were difficult to use and didn’t always perform perfectly. The sharp metal edges were as dangerous as they look!


I’m going to use that word again. These revolutionized home consumption of beer. Before these, there was just bottled ale. These provided something similar to the draught bitter available in pubs and it was cheap. It started the trend towards drinking at home rather than in pubs.

Opening was as easy as … as easy as using a key for corned beef!


When fruit squash was relatively cheap, sold in concentrated form to be diluted, Lucozade was expensive, undiluted, fizzy, with its bottles wrapped in something like cellophane.

Its upmarket image was based on advertising as a tonic: ‘Lucozade aids Recovery.’

Later it changed its image and became a sports drink (when sports drinks became fashionable!)


Typical knives of the fifties, before stainless cutlery came into common use. There was a time around the late fifties when Dad gave up his job and started a small business selling stainless steel cutlery, when it was new and trendy.



This ingenious device was common. It sat on the telephone table. You set the slider to a letter and it opened to reveal a page or two of telephone numbers, with a surname beginning with that letter. The slider was the only automation. Entries were handwritten on lined paper and you had to keep them up-to-date yourself. It was an early version of our Contacts app!


We had a sewing machine like this, trestle driven with the feet. (Sewing machines were always Singer.) I remember Nan using it sometimes, threading bobbins and sewing. This was not as dangerous as it looks. It has a protected piece of metal to prevent you from sewing your fingers.

It could fold down and convert into a small table and we used it like that a lot. Many later had the sewing machine removed and were used just as tables in pubs.

A really typical dressing table with the stained, light brown wood and large mirror. Mum had one like this. (We didn’t have painted walls. It was always wallpaper.) Furniture was always stained wood, sometimes dark mahogany, sometimes lighter like this.


I cannot claim to speak from experience as a young boy when describing women’s underwear. Going by all the adverts in newspapers and magazines, all women wore these tight, controlling girdles. I will say nothing more about underwear. (Maybe later.)


Inside a London Underground train with its plush seats. I’m not sure if this is a Central Line train. You could open the doors and move between the eight carriages. Some, but not all, carriages were Non Smoking.

Seeing an empty carriage like this was not unusual.


I end with a picture of the Beehive Lane shops from the Cranbrook Road end. This picture could be from the fifties. The corner shop is the grocers, Greens. That clock was always there. The Post Office would be a couple of shops to the right. Notice the absence of traffic.

Thanks to all those who have provided these pictures.

Author: Alan

Retired, currently living in Cheltenham.

5 thoughts on “[71] Another Picture Blog

  1. I had lots of fun and memories viewing these pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The picture of the paraffin heater reminded me of our weekly Friday night bath time in winter when we had one of those in the bathroom.


  3. What a blast from the past.


  4. Pingback: [87] Memories in Pictures | Remembrance of Things Past

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