Life After the War

When I was a child we were rather poor, we were a scruffy bunch of urchins compared to what children are to day. I’d use my cuffs to wipe my nose rather than a handkerchief. My hands and knees were dirty and I had tide marks around my neck. I was always in a hurry to go out and play. My wash, was a flannel wipe. They were hard times but happy, we were always laughing.
The main toy I had was a doll. I had one for Christmas every year. For my birthday I received a small brown case with a wooden pencil box, an eraser and pencil sharpener in side. These were my yearly birthday presents. There weren’t any computers or battery operated games. We used our imagination and played in the open air
I lived in a three up and three down house in Thorpedale Road in North London. We lived up stairs. Down stairs lived another family. There was no bathroom just an outside toilet in the yard.
There was only cold water, so we had to boil water on the stove to get hot water. I went to a place in Hornsey Road where we got our weekly bath. I had to wait my turn. Then when my number was called, I’d go into a cubicle for my weekly scrub.
The food we ate when I was a child was different from to day. I didn't know what a Banana was until I was five. We kids had Cod liver oil, malt and condensed milk. The orange juice was given to us from America; they had a lending lease agreement to help us with all the shortages at that time. I can remember having bread and milk for dinner sometimes. Hot milk on bread with sugar, Ugr, I hated it.
After the war, we had our own Chickens and rabbits. We ate the eggs from the hens and the cockerels were killed for Christmas dinner. This was the only time we ate chicken, once a year. The rabbits were killed by our neighbour when they were big enough to eat for rabbit stew.
My mother saved the fat from the Sunday dinner into a basin and when it was cold it became what we called: dripping. We had a meal from that by spreading the solid fat on bread with a bit of salt and pepper. The jelly that settled on the bottom gave extra flavour. We called it bread and dripping. My mother never wasted anything. All the stale bread was used to make bread pudding, or Bread and butter pudding. I was often given sugar bread sandwiches for a treat and coco mixed with sugar in a saucer. I’d lick my finger and dip it in the tasty mix. This was my treat.

My Book After War

Being a child in the 1940’s meant we were deprived of material things. There was a shortage of food and clothes. I was a child that was told many times to be seen and not heard. I was brought up in a home where my father favoured my sister. Being the third child I felt unloved and unwanted.
At school I found it hard to concentrate on my lessons. I couldn’t read and write very well. Therefore I grew up with low self-esteem and had to work things out for myself.

School Days in the 40s/50s
1947 was a time for me when I was learning how to read and write and learning arithmetic. We were given a small card about three inches square. They had adding up sums on them. The sums were easy for me, but reading and writing was a bit difficult. I had some kind of block with words. We had to read from a John and Jane book, it was so different from to-days teaching.
The furniture that we used in school were; desks with open lids, Ink wells, long wooden benches, slates and chalk. I was a bit messy with the ink, and make blobs on my writing page. The teachers were quite strict. They’d throw things at you if you weren’t paying attention. I was scared of them. I was often in trouble and had to write lines after school. The boys sometime got the cane. I often had the ruler across my hand for punishment.
I taught my self most things when it came to education. I guess my education was in life.

Play ground Games

The games we played in school were Hopscotch, netball, skipping, hand clapping, cats cradle with yarn, we made up rimes. We’d pair up with a friend and using our hands we’d tried to get as fast as we can clapping each others hand reciting our made up rime.
After school we played in the streets. The main roads were always busy, mainly with trolley buses and delivery vans, including horse and carts.
Because hardly anyone owned a car the streets away from the main roads were safe to play in. I played; Curb and the all brick wall. Two kids raced to the curb on the other side of the road then back, then back again to the wall, then back again, the one who got back first was the winner.
Another game called Tin-Tan-Tommy, to play this game you needed an old empty tin can. You’d find a place where you would call home. (We used the middle of the road.)Then one of the team of kids that were playing threw the can as hard as they could down the street. Whoever was ‘it’ chased after the can, picked it up and ran backwards to the chosen ‘home’ point. Sometimes we picked a lamp post or a brick wall to be our home point. While the tin can was being retrieved the other kids ran and hid themselves. The person with the can had to search out the others and when one was found he’d get back to the can then bash it up and down on the road, shouting “I see Billy, behind the garden gate”, and out came Billy from behind the gate moaning because he was now ‘it’. If someone managed to get to the can and bash it before the searcher, then they were 'safe'.
The hand game was popular in those days; One potato, two potato, three potato, four (pause) Five potato, six potato, seven potato more. With the above one, each player held out their two fists in front of them and if the ‘more’ came on theirs it went behind their back.
One more game was; we had three sticks leaning up against the wall, one of the team would have a ball and then knock the sticks down, Then catch the others in the team by throwing the ball at them. The idea of the game was to put the sticks up again and not get caught with the ball, or you were out.
Knocking on doors and running away was fun and hide and seek. Marbles, conkers, cobs, skipping, hand stand, we did this against the wall. Sometimes we did back stands. I would lead my back against the wall, reach backwards to touch the wall with my hands and then walk down the wall until I touched the floor, then I’d walk along like a spider. We called this; back bender. I also did cartwheels. Because girls never wore trousers we tucked our dresses into the elastic of our navy blue knickers. All the girls wore ‘navy blue’ knickers
I played with a ball for hours throwing it up against the wall. I was always getting told off by the neighbours.
The lamppost was something else to amuse myself with. I’d throw a rope around the top of the post which had an iron bar sticking out, and then make the rope long enough for me to sit on. I would swing from side to side for hours.
Sometimes, I went to play on the bomb sites. This was the derelict left from the war. We kids would play war games and cowboys and Indians. We had guns with caps in them.
One of the toys that were sold at that time was a ‘Rocket’ and a roll of caps! The rocket consisted of a bomb-shaped piece of metal with the nose sliced through to give two separate parts. The two parts were held together by an elastic band running in a groove. You put a cap between the two metal surfaces, the band held them in place, and then you threw it into the air. When it came down, the cap went bang, and you did it again and again.
I was a proper tomboy when I was young. I was always falling over and grazing my knees.

Around 8pm my brother would lift up the sash cord window from our house and call my name. ‘KATIE! ‘Just Williams’ on, come on, IN!’
I loved the programs on the wireless. My book tells you about the wireless in the war time.

All the children went to Saturday morning pictures. We loved it. I can remember going with my siblings when I was very young. We sing to gather ‘We come along on Saturday morning greeting everybody with a smile, etc.

Usually the cartoons came on first, e.g. Roadrunner, Donald duck, and Bugs bunny with his famous expression “What’s up doc?”
The kids got so excited when Rin-Tin-Tin came on. They let all their steam out by stamping their feet on the ground shouting: Hooray to the goodies and Hissing to the baddies Superman and Roy Rogers with his horse Trigger, and Hop along Cassidy with the Cisco kid were my favourites. At the end, Bugs Bunny came on and said: “That’s All Folks.”
Afterward we went to the pie and mash shop for a bowl of mash and liqueur. This was our Saturday treat.

The way it was
The milk was delivered to our door every day and the milkman had a horse to pull his cart of milk bottles. The kids loved to feed the horse with an apple that usually they came from other people’s trees. Scrump-ing from the trees from gardens was one of the naughty things we did. If a police man caught you, he’d give you a slap around the head, and if you told your mum about it, she would give you another slap off the back of your head for being naughty in the first place. I often got a slap around the back of my head when I came in from playing out. When I asked ‘what was that for’? My mother would say ‘just in case’
On Sundays afternoon we looked forward to the cockle and muscle man. My mother sent me to buy some cockles, whelks and winkles. I’ll by a pint of shrimps, a pint of cockles and half pint of winkles. I liked to get the wrinkle out from the spirally coiled shell with a pin. Then put the little black dot on my face as a beauty spot.
In the evenings my father got some beer from the off licence shop. Lemonade and Tizer and some times a pack of crisps.
The next day I could take the bottles back, because they had a deposit on them. If I was lucky I could get sixpence.

Cockney slang
The way we spoke was proper cockney. I never heard anyone swear then, until I met my first husband. Sayings such as; ‘ello duck,’ ‘what’cha cock,’ ‘Yer old man,’ meaning your dad, the word ain’t was part of the way we spoke and ‘yer’, and gourd blimey, butter was bu’er and water was wa’er. er -in -dors
The cockney rhyming slang was invented by cockneys so they could speak and be understood in prisons when they were in front of the police. The coded language used phrase that rhymes with a word, instead of the word itself, such as ‘dickey dirt’ ‘shirt.’ ‘rosie lee, tea.’ ‘apples and pears’ ‘stairs’ ‘dog and bone’ ‘phone’ ‘dicky bird’ meaning ‘bird’ .Sometimes they would drop some of the rhyming word like ‘daisies’ is ‘boots’ from ‘daisy roots’

Where does the word Cockney come from?

Traditionally a cockney is a person who was born within hearing distance of the sound of Bow bells; this is within the sound of the bells of the church of St Mary Le Bow in East London. So the slang was known as the East London accent.
Most people called a Londoner a cockney.

Here are some more of the cockney translations

Artful Dodger – Lodger. Adam and Eve – believe. Barnet Fair – Hair.
Creamed crackered – Knackered (meaning Tired) Current bun – sun.
Jam jar - car. Jimmy riddle - Piddle (Urinate). Plates of meat – Feet
Donkeys – years. Porky pies - Lies. Tea leaf – thief. Lemon squeezy – Easy, Whistle and flute – suit.
You don’t hear this way of talking much to day, maybe in East London, but most Londoners have lost there old slang ways of speaking.

Old money

Old money was in pounds, shilling and pence. There was a farthing, Ha’pence, thru pence, sixpence, shilling, two-bob bit, and half-crown. Ten bob note, and a pound note.
If you are interested in old money, here’s how it was until it changed to decimal on the 15th February 1971.

Two farthings made one halfpenny.
Two halfpennies made one penny.
There was a thru penny bit, or thru pence.
There was a sixpenny bit, called a tanner.
Twelve pennies was one shilling (a bob)
Two shilling was a florin (two bob)
There was a two shillings and sixpence coin. Known as half-crown or two and six.
Five shillings was one crown.
Ten bob note was ten shilling.
One pound, was called a sovereign, or if it was a paper pound, that was called a quid, and there was a guinea, which was 21 shillings.

We had to learn to add and subtract in pounds shillings and pence.
‘All forgotten now’.

Family Holidays

Every year my family all went to the same sea side resort; Ramsgate.
My aunt Beth rented out a house. If we all went together there were seventeen of us.
My parents spent most of the time sitting on a deck chair on the beach, getting sun burnt.
I played on the sand and in the sea for hours. I was aloud to have one ice cream a day. Walls Ice cream, it cost two pence. I was aloud one turn on the round about (which was on the beach.)
In the evening we all went to the Arena where the grown ups sat around tables in front of an entertainer who got the holiday makers up on the stage to give a turn singing.
My father gave me some pennies to play on the penny machines. I liked to try to win a cigarette for him. I had to pull down the leaver on the side of the machine after putting the penny in the slot. Then the ball would flip up and land in one of the slots. If you were lucky it would go into the slot where you would win a cigarette. I would run to my father with my prize. What happened after that is in my book.

Here I am giving a turn on the mike 1950

Here I am with my parents In Ramsgate

In the sea with my baggie swimsuit


Some of my family on the beach in Ramsgate.


1950 the year my Brother Danny was born. His on my mothers lap.


I was about eight here.



The coronation

Queen Elizabeth 11 at her coronation 2nd June 1953

June 2nd 1953 was a good year to remember. Princess Elizabeth 11 was crowned queen of England. The song ‘Land of hope and Glory’ stuck in my mind at that time. My mother love to hear it playing on the wireless.
I watched the ceremony all day on an 8 inch TV screen. It was in black and white. The gilded carriage drew her through London streets to Westminster Abbey where she arrived at 11am looking radiant. But it rained all day. But that didn’t stop people all over the country holding parties in the decorated streets of their towns and cities, and in London the roads were packed with people waiting to see the processions that took place.

This was our street party in 1953. The street parties went on all week. I was there somewhere.


Some of us did fancy dress.


This is me with my friend Miggie. Second from left. Our fancy dress supposes to have been the majorette.



Family visits and the pictures
I was always going out some where with my mother and father. If we didn’t visit my aunt’s house, we’d go to the pictures, or I was left outside the pub with a class of lemonade and a packet of crisp. We always walked, everything was in walking distance. But some times in the winter we came out of the pictures to find the terrible London smog, green and yellow and thick. We had to wear a scarf over our mouth, we couldn’t see in front of us, we had to look at our feet and follow the curb to get home. We lost all sense of direction. All we had was an occasional gleam from the gas mantles street lamps.

We went to the pictures about twice a week. I got to see most of the movies in the 50s.

The MGM movies

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, ‘MGM’ was first used in 1924 and was officially granted trade mark registration in 1961.The pictures that came from this industry during the 1950s and 1960s was the dominant motion picture studio in Hollywood.
I loved the magic that this wonderful industry brought into my world. My favorite was the musicals.
To name a few: The Great Caruso, Mario Lanza and Ann Blyth 1951.
Betty Hutton in ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ 1950.
Doris Day, In the film ‘Secret Love’ 1953. I was 13 then and was full of romantic ideas about life. This was because the movies that I watched were full of love and romance. I was at a vulnerable age. Quite brainwashed about what life was about.
There were so many stars that took me out of reality. For example;
Tony Curtis, Some Like It Hot 1959, comedy with Marilyn Monroe.
Gene Kelly and Debby Reynolds; ‘Singing in the rain 1962’.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 1954.
Doris Day and James Cagey ‘Love me or leave me’ 1955
Kathrin Grayson, Howard Keel and Ann Miller ‘Kiss me Kate’ 1953.
Frank Sinatra From Here to Eternity 1953. He stared with Montgomery Cleft and Burt Lancaster " He was also in the movie ‘The Tender Trap’ a wonderful musical.
By the time I was a teenager I dreamt of a life that was portrait in the movies. I was looking for love and romance.

Here I am with Janet my best friend



My teenage years

I left school at 15yrs old ‘1955’. I was so happy to leave because in my opinion, I was wasting my time. I can’t remember learning much. I was happy to get to work and earn some money. I chose to work in a sweet shop. I wrote about my first job in my book.
I spent nearly every night out, either at my friend’s house playing records, or in the dance hall. Rock-in- rolling with Bill Haley and the Comets, 1956.
We went crazy on this new way of dancing; I jived in my stilettos shoes to ‘Shake- Rattle and Roll and ‘See you later Alligator’ with my mate Janet. I wore pencil slim skirts with a split up the side, stiletto heel shoes, and stockings with seams, held up with suspenders. Or we wore flared skirts with stiff petticoats, leg of mutton blouses, or turtle neck jumpers. I had my hair premed and cut into a poodle style. We were either at the pictures or playing records.

Here are some of the hits in the charts at that time.
The 50s and 60s music charts

The record chart began on the 14 November 1952.
My favourites were: Frankie Lane; I liked him singing ‘I Believe’ and ‘Answer me’
I Loved the trumpet player; Eddie Calvert; he played Oh Mein Papa. 1954
Doris Day; Secret Love. 1954.
Johnnie Ray ‘such a night’ 1954.
Frank Sinatra; ‘Three Coins in The Fountain’ 1954.
Dickie Valentine; ‘Finger of Suspicion’ 1955
Rosemary Clooney; ‘Mambo Italiano 1955.
Ruby Murry; ‘Softly, Softly’!955.
Tony Bennett ‘Stranger In Paradise’ 1955.
Jimmy Young; ’Unchained Melody’ 1955
Dean Martin; ‘memories Are Made of This 1956.
Elvis Presley ; ‘All Shook up’ 1957.

My mate and I was always singing and dancing. There wasn’t any alcohol in the dance halls them days. But sometimes we would share five cigarettes between us.

kids war

Here I am on my wedding day, in the dress that my Mother brought me for 3 in a second hand shop.

You can read in my book about how I lost everything I loved because of my husband’s drinking.

My story takes you to the place where I eventually found what I was looking for; ME!
I went to Al-anon and AA. It was in those meetings I learned about alcoholism and worked the twelve step recovery programme.
This is a lovely story of life in its true meaning of; Happy ever after.

Kate Townsend.