Changing times

People talk about how the twentieth century was the most fast moving with the advent of world wars, the atom bomb, television, space travel, computers, etc but many overlook the most life changing but hidden differences. Take the middle part of the century, for example. At that time it was normal for a married woman to stay at home to be a house wife but what people don’t realize is it wasn’t only normal, it was essential. Refrigerators were something ordinary households didn’t possess, which meant perishable goods such a meat, had to be acquired every day or other day. Meat not used immediately had to be kept in a meat safe, which had holes or mesh for the air to get in but not the flies.

Cars, if owned, belonged to the man of the house to get to his work. The wife needed to shop every day for food unless the people had a large vegetable garden and a lot of people did. A woman would either walk to the shops, or ride a bicycle, which was better as the goods could go in the basket at the front of the handlebars. Things like cheese came from a grocer shop and the required small amount was cut off a large slab with a cheese wire. Tea, coffee, flour and other dry goods were weighted out on a scale and then bagged up in brown paper bags. Butter was formed into a rectangle with two butter pats and wrapped up in wax paper. Think about the weight of all this and the lack of refrigeration.

One of the now lost jobs was that of a milkman, who would deliver milk and cream in the very early morning. A person would indicate how many bottles were to be left of what type by leaving out a note the night before in the washed bottles to be returned. This was one of the very few delivery services, along with a paper boy and the post.

So now we have a chunk of each day acquiring food and cleaning supplies. Now comes the cooking. Yes, bread came from the baker, but cake and other sweet treats were a tad too expensive for a family with one wage coming in. Some people did make their own bread, though. Everything going into the meals usually had to be constructed with the raw ingredients. I am thinking of things like pastry and also vegetables, as canned or frozen were not about. This also meant vegetables were seasonal.

Yes, there were rudimentary vacuum cleaners, but very few households had a washer. Most did have a mangle and would hang out the laundry on a clothes line irrespective of the temperature. Think about how long it would take to do a load of laundry using a wash board and a mangle?

Now think about the sort of shops that would have to be the heart of a town of a village? Thrown in a yarn and a fabric shop as woman generally made their own clothes and those of their children. Grocer, green grocer, butcher, baker, post office, which would also sell stationary, A haberdashery would supply yarn, clothe, buttons, thread, etc. Book stores only happened in cities or large towns.

Now think about the look of a high street today and the sort of shops. Also think about how much time is spent on shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. Thanks for your memories, Grandma.

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