The Way We Were…

By Alison December 17, 2005 1 Comment 3 Min Read


There was a letter on the Editors page of The Daily Mail yesterday, that went like this:

“Fifties Housewives led much more stress free lives than todays modern career women. My sister and I were forties babies, growing up on a council estate, where we had weekly visits by a window cleaner, a bin man and a laundry man.

Milk was delivered daily, coal once a week and we were reguarly offered the services of a chimney sweep.

The local butcher, greengrocer and newsagent all delivered our daily requirements by bicycle, and our local G.P was the only car owner .

We had real food, no bother with sell-by dates and an excellent cold-slab pantry next to the kitchen which had linoleum flooring, allowing for swift cleaning. A quiet very light carpet sweeper called a Ewbank, was no sweat at all on carpets. And ironing was minimal as our wardrobes were small.

My mother busied herself with tending the garden, shopping for the occasional treat and socialising. She walked everywhere, taking us to the park, library and swimming baths.

I feel very sorry for the modern career woman, especially if she is also a mother with the frenetic, unhealthy lifestyle she must endure today.

Mrs Patricia Pierce.

Sale, Manchester.

At first glance I was nodding my head in agreement. And then it struck me that Mrs Patricia Pierce of Sale was  making one generalisation too many…

All of the services she describes still exist today: I have my milk and newspapers delivered, a man or three comes and cleans my windows every other week and my bins, paper and glass are collected once a week. What is more at the flick of a mouse I can order a whole world of goods from tiny specialist buthers and grocers, have my weekly shop delivered to my door and arrange to have almost anything else I need brought to me without ever having to step outside my door, with the wonder that is the internet.

Yes, some aspects of home-making are made more complicated by the sheer amount of stuff we  aquire and consume on a daily basis, but I don’t think anyone of us would give up the priviledges of modern life. What I would give up is the fuzziness modern day life fills our minds with: the sheer choices our daily life offers and the fact that so many of us have lost the ability to focus on now because we are so busy thinking about tomorrow. About what we can have, what we can buy and all that we can do. 

I don’t want to be a 1950’s housewife, but I want to have the clarity of mind I suspect they were lucky enough to enjoy.

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1 Comment

  1. ivy says:

    Hello! I just joined Vintage Housekeepers and came over to read. I live in the city in the U.S., and I can tell you I cannot get milk or other groceries delivered here by any local purveyors. The other services mentioned (window cleaners, laundry pick-up, etc) would cost far too much to pay someone to do them for me. And getting that "real" food Mrs. Pierce mentions means I spend three times what it would cost to buy regular, additive filled pre-packaged groceries- which necessitates my involvement in whole foods co-ops.
    I'm with you in that I'd don't want to go back in time (though moving to a country in which one doesn't have to work so hard to find decent "real" food is tempting), but some of the things she mentions sure sound nice.

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