Ice On The Inside

I was born right at the beginning of the 1950's in a coal mining town, most families in those days had at least 4 children and many had more. In our area we had 3 bedroomed terraced houses and of course most were coal fired. No such thing as central heating in those houses, in fact the only heat in the house was right in front of that one coal fire. The windows had only one pane of glass in ach frame & many wooden frames were in a very bad condition. Cracks in glass often had to wait to be replaced & it wasn't uncommon to see tape put over a cracked window. When the winter ice & snow came we often saw ice on the inside of the window and I have seen snow on inside window sills! The stories you may hear now of 'Fathers overcoat being used as a blanket' are not just fabrications. My dad's army greatcoat was thick & heavy and it was much needed on the bed I shared with my sister. Oh yes, I shared a bed with a girl! Right up to being 15 we had to share and then she got her own bed!
Having to run downstairs at 7:30am wearing just a vest in frantic hurry to get to the fireside, was a daily routine. Sitting cross-legged on a rag carpet we had to watch for sparks from the wood or coal landing on the floor. By the time I was 7 I was very skilled at picking up & flipping back a lump of burning coal that had 'sparked' onto the floor.
The clothes that we were both going to wear for school would be hanging over the wooden chairs placed quite close to the roaring red & orange coals. After a bowl of cornflakes and half a pint of tea, we would lift our half naked bodies up to start getting dressed. Often a smaller 'spark' would flip into our boots and would require some deft juggling and a few "buggers!" to stop our 'soles' bursting into flame!
We knew no other, this was our life, we couldn't complain of being cold, it was winter & there was up to 7 inches of ice & snow outside of course we were cold, that's how it was. We washed in a bowl of murky grey lukewarm water & used a bar of dark green soap. We had patches on our pants because they had been repaired, it wasn't a fashion statement. In fact I recall having a patch sewn into a patch! For a lad to wear anything under his knee length trousers was unheard of! My sister had knickers halfway to her knees under a heavy linen dress, we both wore stockings up to the knees and boots laced over the ankles.
After school we often played with very basic toys in front of that same fire naked! School clothes were already off and being laid covered in brown paper under the settee cushions to keep some heat in them (?). Dad & mam were often in various states of undress, sometimes naked to the waist, in summer maybe totally naked. We would prefer to play games in our own back yard in summer afternoons, then we need not get dressed again once we had taken off our school things. Playing naked in the yard was usual. We sometimes had neighbours kids in too, they would get naked sometimes, but it wasn't a big deal! We all knew the difference between boys and girls, boys had 'tiddlers' and girls had fannies. Over many years through those early 1950's we had some great times. The fact that we were 'poor' wasn't relevant, everyone was in the same situation. In fact my dad was a senior coal miner and we got free coal, he got a wage of around £7 per week, so we were not as poor as many were. As my dad said so often "With food in your belly, coal on the fire & a mam & dad to love you, there wasn't need for anymore!"
How we change. BUT… are we changed?

26 thoughts on “Ice On The Inside”

  1. People's memories should be recorded for posterity. It is real living history. I am always fascinated at how people lived in the past. Things change even more quickly now than they ever used to. What will life be like in the future? I wish I could travel in time

  2. Thankfully we had a radiator in each room of our 3rd floor" railroad" flat but I can remember playing with the indoor ice on the window. Each radiator was placed under the window so the area could be the warmest and coldest spot. We placed some kind of rolled towel at the bottom of each window to stop the draft of cold air blowing in.
    The steam escaped from one end of the radiator supplying the moisture for the ice.

      • Patrick you grew-up shortly after the end of WWII, the quality of life most have been harsh for a lot of Great Britain. Now kids think the quality of life is harsh, if they have bad cellphone reception.

        • Thanks AJ. Life was life, we didn't call it harsh because everybody was just the same and we knew nothing different.
          I reckon if you asked two kids of opposite sex to share a bed naked between birth & 15 years old you would get more troubles now than you would wish on an enemy!
          Apart from the kids giving you a massive problem, you would have all kinds of moral 'do-gooders' howling all kinds of protests at you! Is life better today? I really wonder!

  3. Actually even in the depths of deepest Surrey I grew up in a house during the harsh winters of the early 60's with ice on the inside of the bedroom windows – the only source of heat being a Rayburn that kept one room vaguely tepid whilst using an awful lot of coal that my sadly non naturist parents struggled each week to afford, whereas my kids moan if the room temperature drops below 20 deg C

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