Remembrance of Things Past

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


[115] Just Fade Away

It’s over a year since I finished this blog and I wanted to remind old readers of my memories and inform new readers.

There is a Full List that will take you to any of the over a hundred posts covering everything you always wanted to know about the Fifties and Sixties. If you like them, please share them with your friends.


I have added a few more thoughts and I have picked some of the things that have disappeared gradually – things that we just assumed kept going but then suddenly we may notice that they have gone.

Of course the main things that we oldsters will reminisce about are the intangible things like respect for authority; the innocence that came from not knowing about the World, and children being able to walk to school.

Just a few years after I started this blog, I note now that there were things that would have been recognized ten or twenty years ago as very old-fashioned but that the younger generation now would not even understand – things like: cameras with films and negatives; typewriters with keys; carbon paper; films in cinemas with projectors; landline telephones that were fixed to the wall; cathode ray tube televisions; printing presses; fountain pens and radios.

But here are some things that we had everywhere in the Fifties, things that people of my age will remember, but things we don’t have any more. They disappeared gradually. We didn’t notice them going but now they have become unfashionable or unnecessary – or are obsolete because of technology – or for some reasons are just not the way we do things any more. They may still exist but be much less common than they used to be. Some will be listed below with comments and some without. Some may have been mentioned in earlier blogs. The order is very random. (Yes, I know, ‘random’ can’t be qualified like this. Language is not as precise as it used to be!)


Cheese Rind

It must be the way they make cheese now.

Bacon Rind

Cream on the top of Milk

Car Bumpers

Cars were always very similar, generally black. They had chrome bumpers at the front and rear. First the chrome went – becoming plastic. Then the bumpers got smaller and smaller. Now they have gone altogether.

Hub Caps on Cars

They used to be chrome like the bumpers. People don’t have time to polish chrome now.

Back Doors

The milkman and baker always came to the ‘back door.’ It may have been at the side of the house but all houses had a front door and a back door. (We never locked the back door in the daytime.) New houses don’t have a back door but they probably have French windows [or French doors or conservatory doors. I won’t go into the language.]


I don’t think there is a word for them but bedrooms had a small window at the top that was always open to let in the fresh air. Modern houses don’t have them upstairs or downstairs. It’s all to do with central heating.


This is related. Cars used to have small windows, especially one beside the driver to get some air circulating – before cars had such good heaters with air-conditioning. Many drivers smoked and it was not unknown to have cigarette ends thrown out through the quarter-light. Of course we did not have electric windows in cars. [OK, cars used to have ash-trays as well – not any more.]

Shop Windows

No, I’m not obsessed by windows but almost every shop used to have a shop window displaying some of the things they were selling. These have gradually disappeared.

Net Curtains

It must be a fashion thing.

Privet Hedges

Tin Openers and Potato Peelers

I suppose I could also put hand whisks here.


Repairing shoes used to be common.

Street Cleaners

Men used to go round pushing their trolleys on wheels with a broom to sweep up litter. Now it’s hard to find anywhere without litter.


The End of the Central Line from Epping to Ongar

I suppose if I still lived in Ilford I would have noticed but it came as a surprise when I did find out.

Telephone Kiosks

Most of those that are left are listed buildings used for defibrillators or cash machines.

Ticket Sales and Ticket Collectors on Railways

Fixed Prices for Trains – or Coaches or Aeroplane Flights

You used to be able to know the price of a ticket from one station to another. Now you need to book online and give the exact date and time and then you may still have a choice of various ticket types. If you check the next day you may get different options or different prices.

Fireworks at Home

Cap Guns

Luminous Watches

I think this another ‘Health and Safety’ thing. It was radioactivity that made them luminous. Even watches are disappearing now. We have mobile phones or Fitbits that tell us the time. [You don’t see many large clocks out now either.]


Policemen’s Helmets

Ice-cream Vans


They would play their familiar jingles. You could get wafers or lollies or choc-ices.



Short trousers for boys

Skirts for schoolgirls

Public Conveniences

Perhaps the number of shops providing toilets have made these buildings obsolete. They must be expensive and difficult to maintain. I can think of several locally that have been demolished or turned into restaurants or just closed.

Deck Chairs

I suppose the week long English seaside holiday on the beach has gone too.


Most have closed or become restaurants.

Pub Signs

We used to play Pub Cricket on long journeys. I won’t give the full rules but you counted the number of legs to get runs in cricket. The ‘Dog and Duck’ would be six runs, four for the dog and two for the duck. With plurals like the ‘Fox and Hounds’ you had to see the sign to see how many hounds there were. Now those pubs that are left have either changed their names to sound like restaurants or have given up the pub sign. The very few remaining signs are almost all just a name with no picture. (Of course you can’t play Pub Cricket on motorways anyway.)

Football Pools

Holiday Camps

Free Meals on Aeroplanes

Tea Cosies and Tea Strainers

  1. Continue reading


[100] Long to Reign over us

There is a danger that this blog will be very long because it’s about a topic that has dominated my life for sixty years – just as it has dominated the lives of all the loyal subjects of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK).

Queen Elizabeth II
It will be about the royal family but mostly it’s about Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She is also Queen of Canada, Australia and New Zealand; Head of the Commonwealth; and Queen of twelve countries that have become independent since her accession: Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. At ninety she intends to continue as our monarch as long as she can.

While I try to keep impartial and not to reveal my views about politics or religion, I make no apologies for being fiercely Royalist. Perhaps you will see why when you read what follows.

UKMap_1   UKMap_2


For those outside the United Kingdom, perhaps it’s time for a brief political summary. The UK is a sovereign state of the UN and it consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and sometimes our inhabitants refer to these as four separate countries with their own capitals. Their political status has changed over time and they now have significant independence – but they remain part of the UK. (It would be far too simplistic to compare these four parts to the fifty States that make up the USA.)

The geographical island of Great Britain consists of England, Wales and Scotland. The island of Ireland consists of the country of Ireland (also called Eire) and Northern Ireland. (Historically England used to include parts of France, and the word Britain is cognate with Brittany, a region in the North of France.)

Most of the smaller islands around our shores are part of the UK but the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey and some smaller islands) are dependencies of the UK with their own governments. While the UK is part of the EU, these islands are not!

[There are a few small overseas dependencies such as Gibraltar and the Falklands.]

Generally the word Briton is used for a member of the UK or these dependent islands.

[Don’t worry, even we get confused sometimes. In international sporting competitions GB and UK get confused. In Football – that’s Soccer, not American Football – England, Scotland and Wales maintain their separate status. Six Nations Rugby is a bit more complicated.]

Queen Elizabeth


Accession and Coronation

I was too young to be aware of the Queen’s accession in early 1952 and have no memories of her father (except as a head on coinage.) But her coronation on 2 June 1953 was a nationwide event of great significance. Many people bought their first television set to see the Coronation, which was broadcast live. Our television came a bit later. But I remember three things about the coronation.

In our area, every street seemed to have its own street party to celebrate. So just for the residents of Boar Close, we had our own marquee and party. To children in those days a party meant jelly and blancmange. We also had a mini sports day with the usual races – egg-and-spoon, three-legged and sack race.


I have to mention the book Royalty in Essex, which was given to every child at school in the county of Essex. (Ilford used to be part of Essex before the formation of Greater London, which moved it into part of London as part of the new borough of Redbridge.) The book only had a few pages and it just said a little about visits by royalty to places in the county but it was lavishly illustrated with many heraldic shields. Its magnificent colour was far beyond anything we had seen. I always regret somehow having thrown away my treasured copy.

Then there were the newspapers. Remember that in those days they were more or less our only source of news. They were black and white, using ink that almost smudged and came off on your fingers and all they could do was plain fixed text. Pictures were very rare.

As children we had one chest of drawers in our bedroom for clothes. I think the three of us had a drawer each. They were plain, fairly rough wood and to protect our clothes they were lined with sheets of newspaper. (They were all what we called broadsheets with larger pages.) The paper in our chest of drawers was a single double page spread of pictures from the coronation. I remember them as light brown so they may have faded from their original glory – but I often saw these pictures in later years even though I had not seen them at the time of the Coronation.

British_threepence_1967_obverse  Stamp_UK_1952_3p

Coins and Stamps

My earliest memories of the Queen must have come from the faces on our coins and stamps – even though I was too young to be writing letters and most coins would have been from earlier monarchs. To us she was like a young mother figure. (By age, HM is almost between me and my parents but I saw her more as their generation. Perhaps this is because of Prince Charles, of whom more a little later.)


Trooping of the Colour

After reading what I have said about the Church, you will not be surprised, to find out that I love ceremonial events and traditions. I have early memories of the Trooping of the Colour, always shown on television. The picture above is from 1956. Of course the television pictures were just poor quality black and white. I think it would have been narrated by Richard Dimbleby.

I was impressed from an early age to see the Queen riding a horse and using a side saddle.


The simultaneous movements of the troops are also impressive, all done on just one voice command.



I remember much from my early years of the Queen and the royal family and this certainly includes the Maundy Thursday ceremonies, part of Easter week (which used to be much more significant then.) It’s a long established tradition where the monarch offers alms to deserving citizens and distributes special ‘Maundy money’ – specially minted one, two, three and four 4 penny pieces. The number of men and women and the total value of the coins is always the age of the Queen. (Of course they used to be our old pennies before decimalization.)

Opening of Parliament

The State Opening of Parliament has always been a day of ceremonial with a grand procession in a royal horse-drawn coach and the Queen delivering her speech. It maintains the illusion of a real Monarchy, while the actual powers of the monarch gradually diminish. The speech is effectively written by the Prime Minister and it outlines government policies and plans for the year ahead.

Royal Occasions

There are so many occasions where the Queen (and other members of the Royal Family) make the news. She travels abroad on State Visits and receives other visiting heads of state, often with lavish banquets. She travels throughout the UK on visits and sporting occasions. Even when just with her family – such as Balmoral at Christmas – she is seen visiting church regularly.

As a general comment I would say that people are less monarchist than they used to be and royal visits and occasions receive less publicity than they used to. You will remember that the news used to reflect the Establishment view more than it does today.


Royal Yacht

I am getting to the stage where I will have to cut out a lot from my original plans. I need to get this blog out fairly quickly. But there are lots of things I can’t miss out. I have to mention the Royal Yacht Britannia, which used to play a major part in the travels of the Royal Family. She was commissioned in the fifties and used a lot for royal travels. The Queen could travel abroad and entertain her guests on this ship in the days when international communication was more difficult. Sadly, she came to the end of her useful life in the nineties and retired to the port of Leith near Edinburgh, where she is on display for the public to visit – well worth a visit and surprisingly small.

Royal1947   RoyalWedding

Prince Philip

I will have to be briefer for other members of the Royal Family but I can’t miss out Prince Philip, always a staunch supporter and companion of the Queen. He was born a member of the Greek and Danish royal families and only realised when he joined the British Navy that he didn’t have a surname. He gave up his royal titles, adopted the surname Mountbatten and married the Queen on 20 November 1947 when he became HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. (In 1957 he became a Prince. The Queen has chosen to continue the more English sounding name of Windsor and the royal family remains the House of Windsor. Non-royal descendants of the Queen are officially Mountbatten-Windsor.)

When they visit crowds they separate. The Queen goes one way and Prince Philip goes off to talk to others. He always seems to amuse and entertain those he talks to – but is occasionally supposed to have made inappropriate comments in his humour.

He has always been associated with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, which started in the mid-fifties. This scheme has grown to become an extended alternative to schemes such as the Cadet Force we had at school and Boy Scouts.

Another Diversion – American Pie

The song American Pie by Don McLean, released in the early seventies includes the lines: “And the three men I admire most – The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost – They caught the last train for the coast – The day the music died.” It was based on the death of Buddy Holly.

I always feel that there are four men I admire the most – all strangely linked by unusual naming conventions. One was a Galilean, born in Nazareth, or perhaps Bethlehem, but was known (as was his mother) by a Latin version of his name. One had perfectly reasonable first name Mohandas Karamchand, but was always referred to by a nickname. The other two, who you can guess from this blog, never quite had surnames. (I suppose Post number [73] is about another idol of mine not usually known by her real name.)

NS 2s6d _chas_   _08_ 6d Anne

Prince Charles and Princess Anne

I have early memories of both Prince Charles and his sister Princess Anne (now the Princess Royal) from savings stamps. The pictures would change as they grew up. I have a sort of affinity with Charles as we nearly share birthdays, with a difference of one day – and two years. I have watched him grow up as I grew up. His education at Gordonstoun was not quite the same as ICHS but we later went to the same University.

As a child I remember both Charles, the Duke of Cornwall and Anne as children, both quite near to my own age, and loosely followed their upbringing. (Prince Andrew, the Duke of York and Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, came several years later.)

Princess Margaret

As a child you make certain assumptions. Just as I always assumed that Andy Pandy was a girl, I also assumed that Princess Margaret was the Queen’s older sister. She was, of course a few years younger.

I was not aware of her relationship with Peter Townsend in the early fifties but I do remember her marriage in 1960 to Antony Armstrong-Jones, later the Earl of Snowdon. He was seen as a bit of a rebel or perhaps just an innovator in fashion. In the days when many formal events were ‘black tie,’ which means a dinner jacket and suit, (‘tuxedo’ for those in the US,) men were expected to wear a formal white shirt and a black bow tie. Antony Armstrong Jones was once seen in a polo-necked jumper and since then various other styles have appeared – coloured bow ties and ties of differing shapes.


The Queen Mother

The mother of our present queen, always styled Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, was probably as well-loved as the Queen. She continued to make royal engagements almost until her death at the age of 101.

Ceremonial Events

I have mentioned the coronation and the State Opening of Parliament but royalty gives the opportunities for ceremonial occasions, enjoyed by the public through the medium of television. I remember the weddings of Princess Margaret, Princess Anne and Prince Charles and the funerals of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother. We also had the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales and the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the Queen.

Other Royalty

The Royal Family has always had many of its members involved in public life in various ways. I will just list three of them here. The Duchess of Kent for many years always represented the Queen at Wimbledon in the Royal Box and all players used to bow or curtsey to the Royal Box.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor also came up in the news sometimes although they lived abroad. They were the former King Edward VIII and his wife, for whom he had abdicated the monarchy. He was HRH the Duke of Windsor and he died in the early seventies. The Duchess was never formally HRH – I think the Royal Family never forgave her influence on the former King at the time of his abdication.


It is particularly difficult to describe long-term traditions that extended from the fifties to the present because I am not sure how much my memories reflect the period of this blog. (See Christmas.) But all of the people listed above were evident in the fifties and sixties. One of two of the ceremonial events come from later years.

I want to end by trying to convey how much more important royalty used to be to us. Perhaps it was post-war patriotism or perhaps it was old traditions dying slowly but I am sure that royalty were more prominent in the news and more generally popular than now.

    Queen_Elizabeth_II_March_2015  Prince_Philip_March_2015

National Anthem

For example the National Anthem was much more commonly heard. It was played on the radio before it closed down and in cinemas and theatres at the end of performances. Everyone always stood in silence and respected the anthem.

Like so many things in British traditions it has no official status and no officially defined words. When used as a hymn in churches it generally has three verses and there are other suggested verses but it is rarely heard other than its first verse:

God save our gracious Queen!

Long live our noble Queen!

God save the Queen!

Send her victorious,

Happy and glorious,

Long to reign over us:

God save the Queen!




[232] Music [2]

[232] ‘Dedicated to the one I Love.’

March 2015. Reissued October 2019.

A continuation of my musical reminiscences, following [226] ‘All I want is Music, Music, Music, Music!

More songs that I have loved and remembered, more or less in alphabetical order.

29. House of the Rising SunThe Animals (1964)

A traditional folk song about a tragic life in New Orleans, which became a classic pop tune of its time.

There is a house in New Orleans; They call the Rising Sun;

And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy; And God I know I’m one …

Oh mother tell your children; Not to do what I have done;

Spend your lives in sin and misery; In the House of the Rising Sun …

30. I Can’t Stop Loving YouRay Charles (1962)

Because: Ray Charles was a great soul singer, one of the few totally blind singers to make a major impact in the world of Music. Another one is Stevie Wonder, known as Little Stevie Wonder when he was young!


31. I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles

Because: It reminds me of my father.

Wikipedia says that this is a popular American song from 1918. It is also popular with the fans of West Ham United Football Club. West Ham was not far from being our nearest football club. My father never mentioned any football allegiance, but one of my very earliest memories is of him singing this to me. (The link is to West Ham at Wembley Stadium.)

[I was surprised, when looking at this song again on Wikipedia, to discover that it is actually a song with two or three verses. All we ever sing now is the chorus.]

32. I’m not in Love10 cc (1975)

Because: I absolutely love it. Another love song I just can’t leave out, even though it’s 1975!


33. In DreamsRoy Orbison (1963)

I keep wanting to use the word ‘haunting’ for the songs I pick, meaning sad and evocative. Wikipedia uses the words ‘dark, emotional’ for Roy Orbison. He was a singer songwriter, with a powerful voice, always seen with trademark sunglasses. This is the best known of his darkly emotional ballads. (Or perhaps, ‘Crying,’ just as powerful, just as emotional.)

34. In the MoodThe Glenn Miller Orchestra

Beause: It’s a very early memory. Trombonist Glenn Miller led this orchestra, which entertained the troops through the Second War. Their tunes continued to be played after his death (Missing in Action in 1944.)

35. In the Year 2525Zager and Evans (1969)

Because: It was another classic, with prophetic words – more science fiction than pop. It topped the charts in America for six weeks. I suspect that he will be proved a bit inaccurate in his dates:

In the year 2525; if man is still alive; If woman can survive, they may find.

In the year 3535; Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie; Everything you think, do and say; Is in the pill you took today

In the year 4545; You ain’t gonna need your teeth, won’t need your eyes; You won’t find a thing to chew; Nobody’s gonna look at you.

In the year 5555; Your arms hangin’ limp at your sides; Your legs got nothin’ to do; Some machine’s doin’ that for you

In the year 6565; Ain’t gonna need no husband, won’t need no wife; You’ll pick your son, pick your daughter too; From the bottom of a long glass tube.

In the year 7510; If God’s a-coming, He oughta make it by then; Maybe He’ll look around Himself and say; “Guess it’s time for the Judgement Day.”

In the year 8510; God is gonna shake His mighty head; He’ll either say, “I’m pleased where man has been;” Or tear it down, and start again.

In the year 9595; I’m kinda wonderin’ if man is gonna be alive; He’s taken everything this old earth can give; And he ain’t put back nothing.

Now it’s been ten thousand years, man has cried a billion tears; For what, he never knew, now man’s reign is through; But through eternal night, the twinkling of starlight; So very far away, maybe it’s only yesterday.

36. JudyElvis Presley (1961) and …

37. Judy, Judy, JudyJohnny Tillotson (1963)

Just Because

38. Lady MadonnaThe Beatles (1968)

Because: I had to pick one by The Beatles. Nothing by the Beatles could be typical, so I just picked one.

39. Laughing PolicemanCharles Jolly (Charles Penrose) 1926

OK, this is the exception. I remember this as a children’s song, mostly from Two-Way Family Favourites. I hadn’t realized it was quite so old. Wikipedia describes it as a Music Hall song. (I am not old enough to remember Music Hall, but I do remember The Good Old Days on television.) I hated it then and I still do!

40. Little Drummer BoyBeverley Sisters (1959)

See: [209] Bedecked with Bay and Rosemary

41. LocomotionLittle Eva

One of those pop songs from the era when every new song could have its own dance.

42. Look Through Any WindowThe Hollies (1965)

Because: I am a great fan of the Hollies. It was hard to pick one of the Hollies’ hits. They had several, continuing into the seventies.

43. Major-General (‘Modern Major-general’s Song’ from The Pirates of Penzance) – Gilbert and Sullivan

See: [216] To Make the Punishment fit the Crime

44. Maria ElenaLos Indios Tabajaras

Because: Los Indios Tabajaras were two brothers, native to Brazil, who sang to their own guitar playing as early as 1943. They found success with just one record. It was given to me as a birthday present in 1963 and I love it. I still have it. The ‘B’ side, Jungle Dream is just as good.

45. Mary’s Boy ChildHarry Belafonte (1956)

See: [209] Bedecked with Bay and Rosemary

46. Mikado (‘A More Humane Mikado’ from The Mikado) – Gilbert and Sullivan

See: [216] To Make the Punishment fit the Crime

47. MiserereAllegri

Because: It’s a great piece of choral music. This one would come in my Desert Island six. I sneaked it in. There is absolutely no association with the fifties.

(Written in 1514. For three hundred years it was performed every year in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, but the music could not be written down, on pain of excommunication – so it was never sung elsewhere. Mozart at fourteen transcribed the nine-part harmony from memory! The Pope complimented the young Mozart and withdrew the ban.)

48. Muffin the MuleAnnette Mills

Because: my earliest memories of television come from this programme, which ran from 1946 to 1955, with its familiar signature tune. (For Children’s television, see: [229] ‘ Was it Bill or was it Ben?’ coming soon.)

49. My Old Man’s a DustmanLonnie Donnegan

See: [222] ‘Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax’

50. My Song is Love Unknown

Because: St Andrew’s Church and its choir [coming later] were part of my early life so I have to include a hymn. I enjoyed singing them and still do. This is my favourite.

‘… Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be …’

51. The National Anthem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Because: This used to be much more part of daily life, played at the end of theatre and cinema performances, and on closedown of BBC radio stations at night. (24-hour television and radio are relatively new.) In the early days, people would stand for it, even when played on the radio. [US readers will recognize the tune as: ‘My Country, ‘tis of Thee.’]

It has no official status as an anthem and use of additional verses is not standardized. Until the recent trend towards devolution, it was always accepted as the National Anthem at sporting events where teams represented England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but various alternatives have emerged for these divisions of the UK.

52. Nellie the ElephantMandy Miller

A children’s song, familiar probably from Two-Way Family Favourites.

53. New York Mining Disaster 1941The Bee Gees (1967)

When the record was released, many people thought it was by The Beatles. It’s a disaster record, a bit like Ellen Vannin, written as if by the trapped miners, possibly inspired by the 1966 disaster in Aberfan.


54. Nights in White SatinThe Moody Blues (1967)

Because: I love the music of Justin Hayward and the Moody Blues. I don’t always follow the words of songs in full. This is obviously a love song with the drawn out cries of: “Cause I love you; Yes, I love you; Oh, how, I love you; Oh, how, I love you.”

I have to admit that until I wrote this blog post I always thought it was: Knights in White Satin! I led a sheltered life!

55. Nut RockerB Bumble and the Stingers. (1962)

One of the first two records I bought. A ‘jazzed up’ version of Tchaikovsky.

56. Oh My Darling, Clementine

An example of the songs we sang at school in Music lessons.

57. Old ShepElvis Presley (1956)

Because: I’m a softy for sad tales. One of the saddest songs ever written. (See also Two Little Boys.)

58. Orange Blossom SpecialThe Spotnicks (1963)

Because: At the time, its recording methods were revolutionary. Fast moving, instrumental. At a time when other electric guitars were connected to their amplifiers by cables, the Spotnicks used small radio transmitters. It gave their tunes an unusual tone.


59. Peggy SueBuddy Holly and the Crickets

Buddy Holly’s life as a singer was very short but after his death recordings kept coming regularly for years. Peggy Sue was a classic, but he had several others.

To end this post:

60. Dedicated to the One I LoveThe Mamas and the Papas (1967)

Reminiscent of several groups from the sixties and seventies, it reminds me of America, but mostly

Because: I like it, and because: This is Dedicated to the One I Love.