I didn't see the programme, but you're right. The Home Service (forerunner to Radio 4) was on most of the time. As you say, washing was a once a week thing and my mum had a washing machine, washing was swooshed around in the tub then squeezed through the powered rollers before being hung on the line in the back yard. Our airing rack was on the upstairs landing.
I was a kid in the 50s, but teenagers had record players and hung out in coffee bars with juke boxes. I think the programme makers were probably confused by the fact that today people spend a large proportion of their leisure time in their homes and couldn't see what people could do without umpteen million TV channels, DVDs, computers etc.
We had a washing machine too, but I suppose most people didn't- or at least not until the end of the decade.
That's true about modern people spending more time in their homes. The TV show painted a picture of the 50s as
a time of tedium and routine- but that's not my memory of it at all.
Those who didn't have washing machines in the working class area of Manchester where I grew up would take their washing to the public baths which not only had baths and the swimming pools but also had laundry facilities of some kind. It may have been tubs and wash boards, I don't actually know, but it was social.
Re most people not having washing machines, my great-grandmother had one, apparently. It was hand powered -- you wound a handle or something -- but it beat having to wash sheets by hand. But I think she took in washing as a way of making a bit of money, so that was no doubt why she invested in the "washing machine".
According to the BBC, Britain's first coin-operated laundrette opened in West London in 1949. I don't know how quickly the idea spread.
This is a thought I also sometimes have: Are you really capable to imagine what it was like in earlier centuries? Wasn't it very much the same like these days?
Sometimes I got the impression things only get reinvented in different form. With technical gadgets you can see that the best: What today the Stasi-telephone does, 10 years ago it was a telephone and an mp3-player, not even 10 years before that it was a portable cd-player, and before that it was a walkman playing cassettes. Emails and messages? Well, what does the postal service exist for? What can you use school or work for? Why calling 5 times at home "should I bring this, should I bring that", you could also write a shopping list for that.
It's just the thing you get upon that cognition that, if mankind was doing so bad in former times, it surely wouldn't exist anymore.
We can't help but take our modern assumptions into the past with us- and so we mostly notice the things that are missing. But in the past people didn't know about the things we miss and happily got on with what they had.
I had a happy childhood in the 1950s. There was lots to do, lots to enjoy. How many of today's kids go fishing for frog spawn?
Always keep saying to myself: Circumstances were adjusted to the lifestyle that people had. Or maybe it's the other way round. At least, so people didn't miss some things that are common today and they had solutions for things where people rack their brains about these days.
It literally didn't disturb them just because the circumstances didn't call for life to be different than it was. You... didn't have anyone pulling on you "satsisfy this, satisfy that" - well, in some way you had it, but not in an omnipresent way as these days and not so much in a perfectionist style.
You could also let things run by itself, not try to interfere or control everything at any time.
Edited at 2016-02-03 03:28 pm (UTC)
For people in the past the past was the present. They were at the leading edge of things- just as we are now. They couldn't miss things that hadn't been invented yet.
And when they tried to imagine the future they mostly got it wrong.
That's the way I imagine it.
Maybe also a reason why I can't imagine what there could emerge in the future...?
When are you living?
When did people in the 17th century think they were living?
Most kids understand that very well, most adults do not.
It's taken me a lifetime of study to even begin to get into the 17th century mindset. Much of it is utterly alien to people alive now.
Examining how people alive then perceived their own past is endlessly fascinating!
"The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there."
I can't hear the first line of that quote without chiming in, "And Lovejoy doesn't live there anymore."
Yes, I can see you as William. A questioner of authority and hater of cats.
I didn't have his adventures, but I enjoyed the same kind of freedom to come and go as I pleased. The 50s was a pretty good time to be a small boy.
I grew up in the late fifties and sixties. I was born in 1954. I spent most of my time playing with my dolls and their accessories. My mother sewed piles of doll clothes for us. I spent a lot of time riding my bicycle, pretending it was a horse or a rocket ship. I grew up on a farm, so my siblings and I were pretty isolated. We climbed trees, played with the animals, and roamed through the pastures and woods. The sandbox was a great place too. We had tons of plastic Cowboys and horses and Indians as well as cars, trucks, and farm animals. I don't remember being bored.
Your childhood sounds quite a lot like mine. I grew up in Croydon- which is a town on the outskirts of London- in a an area that was suburban but within walking distance of open country.
The 50s weren't boring- at least not if you were a child.
Being born in the late 70's myself, I actually think I have a pretty good impression of what life was like in the 1950's. Or at least what life COULD be like in the 1950's in a middle-class farming household with small children.
My grandmother had 4 kids during the 1950's, lived with her in-laws on their family farm and was part of an 11-person household (including the two farm hands and the maid). She worked hard - in tandem with her mother-in-law - to keep the household going, but there was also time to go on family outings or trips to visit her parents in another part of the country. There was church, sure, but also reading clubs, lectures, socialising with neighbours and so on.
Perhaps that's why the TV-wife felt trapped in the home? She wasn't surrounded by neighbours who were in the same situation that she could visit? Being a housewife today is bound to be more lonely than in the 1950's.
And of course I only have this feeling of an intimate connection because my grandmother has told me so many everyday stories - and continue to do so. I wonder what she will tell me tomorrow when I visit her?
The family in the TV show were living in artificial isolation. And so, yes, the mother had no-one to talk to apart from her family. In the actual 1950s she'd have had an extended family, neighbours, shopkeepers, all sorts of people to relate to. She'd have belonged to a community.
My grandmother was certainly not isolated. I remember meeting many of the old neighbours from before the family farm was torn down to make way for a large council estate - so they she was still friends with her old neighbours many decades after they all had to move. That is surely not "being trapped at home".
In that sense I think fiction can represent the past so much more realistically than any "reality TV" show... (It doesn't always do so, but at least it has the potential to do so. I think that's why I love fiction.)
Fiction brings imagination into the equation. And empathy. A novelist feels his or her way into the characters.
I watched on of those shows - the family went back to 1900 or so. The father was a cop, and of course the mother stayed at home.
The mothers always stay at home.