“Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson:  you find the present tense, but the past perfect! ”
Owens Lee Pomeroy

You have no doubt read about my growing up in the East End of London, during and following the Second World War, and today I am filled with nostalgia for some of the things we had then.

Mother didn’t go to the supermarket for her weekly shopping.  She went to the butcher, the baker, the greengrocer and the grocers for butter cheese etc.  Butter and cheese were cut to order from a large slab that rested on a marble counter.  Cheese was sliced with a wire and butter cut with butter pats.

Model in Nottingham Museum

Model in Nottingham Museum

We were always amazed at the skill of the person cutting the cheese or butter at how close they came to the amount requested.

The shopping was carried in bags and baskets – no plastic bags available then – and taken home to be put away in the larder.  And growing up there were no refrigerators in houses, at least not in any houses near where we lived.

Milk bottles

Milk delivered every morning

Milk was delivered to the door in bottles.  These were washed and returned to the milkman the next day; so were our parents engaging in recycling without being aware of it.  In May last year, I wrote about recycling and how we and our parents recycled things without even knowing that was what we were doing  – That Green Thing.  There was no choice; it’s just how it was.

So back to the nostalgia.  Yesterday I was in a local store and espied a butter dish.  This took me way back to my early years.  The butter was brought home from the store in greaseproof paper and immediately transferred to a butter dish.  The one I saw was so like Mother’s that I just had to buy it.

2013-01-20 16-34-02_0002

I remembered how on Sundays three little girls would be taken by their Mother to the local sweet shop to choose how they would spend their 20z ration of sweets.  The sweets had to last the whole week.  Having chosen the sweets were then taken home and put into the sweet jar from where we were allowed one sweet after dinner each night and an extra one after lunch at the weekend.  Not for us the extravagance of a whole chocolate bar or bag of sweets.


Inside a typical 1940s and 1950s sweet shop, where most sweets were weighed out for each customer from large glass jars. Photo courtesy of Send and Ripley History Society.

When my children were small I carried on the tradition of the sweet jar; one candy/sweet after dinner each night and an extra one at lunchtime at the weekend.

When Father returned from the war, he would use his sweet ration to buy a Mars Bar.  He would take it home and proceed to cut it into slices to share with his girls.  For years I thought this was the only way to eat a Mars Bar.  And I did the same with my children when they were small.  It certainly made a chocolate bar go far.

Mars bar

Now if I want to I can eat a whole Mars Bar but I always slice it up first.  Isn’t it amazing how things we learned when we were young stay with us through life.

And then after the war when I was a little older I met a young man who was always buying me presents.  How lucky can a girl get?  Perfume, candies, pretty scarves and one day some Max Factor Top Secret.  Do any of you remember this product?  It was the early runner for today’s hair lacquer and we loved it. I remembered it during my walk down memory lane today.  How innocent we all were.

We didn’t have a car when I was young and so we walked, took a bus or the tube (London Underground) to wherever we were going.  Buses were frequent but we always had a fairly long walk to get to the bus stop – well the walk seemed long to young girls.  As a really small girl,  I thought a trip on the tube was the height of excitement.  To get to the ‘local’ tube station we had to walk through the local park AKA London Fields, then take a double-decker red London bus for a short ride to the underground station.  We thought nothing of a half hour trip just to get to the tube.  And later, when I had left school and taken my first job, this trip was done morning and evening each day.


26 responses to “Nostalgia

  1. Enjoyed the trip down memory lane with you, thanks, and the flat-packed cat is just wonderful ! 🙂
    Thanks again. 😀


  2. I do not have these same memories, but I know people who do. The cherishing what you have mentality is a thing of myth now. Now we live in the “I want more now” society. These memories seem to come from a simpler, cleaner set of domestic priorities


  3. Judith, thank you for these memories. Two ounces of dolly mixtures was my preference – they could last and last! My granddaughters wonder how we lived without a fridge or phone, but my mother shopped most days and once a week a lad on a bike delivered the heavier groceries. When we visited relatives in East Germany in the 1870’s (long before the wall came down) we knew there were no luxuries, so we took chocolate including a Mars bar, which my brother-in-law carefully sliced up, and rationed himself to one slice a day.


    • Yes my mother shopped every day. In fact when I was old enough one of my jobs was to go to buy bread before school. When I went back one time I realised that was a long walk I took each morning – there and back – but we thought nothing of it.
      I love that your brother-in-law sliced the Mars bar. If ever I eat one that’s what I do too!


  4. That should have been 1970’s not 1870’s – I may be getting on, but I’m not that old! And the flat pack cat is wonderful!


  5. Hello Judith. Thanks for sharing your memories. During my childhood years in the U.S. I recall we walked everywhere or took the bus, had milk delivered, went to Dave’s to buy chicken, had blackout curtains and margarine that was a sickly white until you added color to make it look like butter. Lots of memories, but you were in the thick of it and ’tis good you are writing them all down.


  6. Your memories stirred up my memories this morning, and that’s always an enjoyable way to start the day. Thank you!


  7. Judith, I think that quote from Pomeroy on nostalgia is the best ever. And no one, no one can take us down memory lane so well as you.


  8. Can’t assemble a simple cat–LOL Enjoyed the stroll down memory lane. How nice you found a butter dish that reminded you of your mom’s.


  9. Brings back memories for me too, growing up during the early 1960’s in Essex. No car, we rode bikes everywhere, no telephone, no fridge, (butter kept in the air raid shelter in the back yard), kero heater in the bathroom for our Friday night bath during winter, (imagine only bathing once a week?), the local policeman doing his rounds past our house at night (on foot) and telling me it was time to say goodnight to my boyfriend and go indoors!! At 10pm!!! Thank you for nudging old memories. Joy


    • Thanks for visiting Joy. While everyone has different memories they should be cherished and shared. The blogosphere is the perfect place to do so. Just going over to your blog to see what you are up to. 🙂


  10. I love your posts on growing up in London. I grew up on a farm in the Canadian praries after the war so my memories are somewhat different but we also recycled long before it was popular to do so. I remember mom washing plastic bags to use over and over again. I love the butter dish. I have my grandmother’s butter dish made of clear glass. I plan to hand it down to my daughter who appreciates such things. Of course on the farm, we churned our own butter.


    • Oh Darlene I had forgotten washing plastic bags. We did that for a long time. And I have a very old china cheese dish that belonged to my husband’s mother. It is proudly displayed amongst my blue and white china,


  11. Oh love all those lovely mememories, do you remember when we lived in the flats and the butcher was Ives, the shop is still there with the name above it. When I was first married we still had butter weighed and cut in the way you said. We have a new shop opened just near me and I went in with Daisy to look yesterday and I was in Memory lane. Crockery, glass jelly moulds do you rememner ours was in the shape of a rabbit,
    kitchen storage jars and a beautiful blue and white enamel bread bin. I could go on forever. So many wonderful memories just looking.


    • I love to share my memories particularly with you small sister. I do remember Mr Ives, Mr Smulevitch the baker, the Jewish delicatessen on the corner with the wonderful smell of pickled herrings wafting out into the street. Do you remember the big barrel of herrings just inside the door? So many memories from so long ago. I am glad we lived then. 🙂


  12. What wonderful memories, and I love how they are still so clear for you today. When I was growing up in the fifties, my mother always went to the poulterer’s for chicken and to Mac, the Irish butcher, for meat. And we had an insulated box on the back porch for the Beechmont dairy man to leave our milk and cream in. See how your memories trigger memories for the rest of us?


    • Hi Susan. Yes these memories are still very clear in this aging mind. As I have said before, I am glad to have them to look back on and talk about. And this blog is the perfect place to share them. Thanks for the comment.:)


  13. Wonderful walk down memory lane. We also had milk delivered . . . but only twice a week, to the milkbox at the back door.


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