IT is said that progress is more about direction than it is about speed.

When I was young, socks were made of wool. When the heel developed a hole, they weren’t thrown away, but the hole was darned (a criss-cross pattern of wool).

Bed sheets that typically wore thin in the middle were turned “side to middle” - they were cut in half, and the outside edges sewn together.

Shirts whose elbows wore through were converted to short sleeves. Leather patches were sewn on the elbows of jackets that had worn thin.

Shoes were “soled and heeled” when they developed holes or wore down. I wore short trousers until I was 12, as did every boy, because it would have been too expensive to buy new long trousers every time I outgrew them.

“Wash day” was once a week, as was bath day.

My mother didn’t have a washing machine until I was 11 - before that, clothes were boiled in a large copper pot before being put through a mangle and hung out on the washing line to dry. When my mother bought a “twin tub” washing became easier. Dirty clothes would be put in one tub, which would be filled with water and soap powder. The machine heated the water and “agitated” the clothes, until they could be transferred to the other tub to be spun to remove excess water. As I recall, we never had a tumble dryer during my childhood.

So it’s easy to blame my generation, and those earlier, for climate change. But we didn’t have plastic, and we didn’t throw anything away that could be repaired.

We only bought new clothes when we had grown out of old ones, or they were worn beyond repair.

We didn’t have fridges or freezers, and most meals were prepared from fresh produce. We shopped once a week, with top-ups from the corner shop.

The milkman delivered fresh milk every day, and the fish man came on Fridays.

To get around we mostly used the bus, or cycled. We didn’t have central heating or air-conditioning. There was a fireplace in the lounge, and a stove in the kitchen. 

None of the bedrooms had any heating, and I remember getting dressed under the bed covers in the winter.

When we weren’t at school, we’d be playing outside all day, only coming home for lunch and at tea-time.

We played “Cowboys and Indians” in the playing field nearby, or we’d pack some sandwiches and cycle off somewhere for the day.

When we were at school, during playtime we would play football in the school playground, or marbles, or hopscotch, or race our toy cars, or conkers in the autumn. 

The girls would skip to well-known skipping rhymes. At break time in the morning, every child got a third of a pint bottle of milk. There were usually a few bottles left over, and sometimes I’d take one and shake it until there was a little pat of butter at the top - I could add that to my mashed potatoes at lunch.

For lunch, there was no choice. You ate what you were served, or you didn’t eat. Needless to say, plates were usually cleared.

At Christmas, we received one gift from our parents, and one each from aunts, uncles and grandparents. My father would always make egg-nog and peanut brittle.

My sister and I would shell the peanuts and remove the skins for him.

Carol singers would often come to the door - the money they collected would usually (but not always) go to charity.

On New Year’s Eve, my father would always go out “first footing”. I think it’s a northern thing - just before midnight, he would go out, and come back just after midnight, armed with a lump of coal.

It’s supposed to be lucky, I think, for the first visitor in the new year to bring a lump of coal.

Before Bonfire Night on November 5th all the neighbourhood kids would go round collecting wood and flammable rubbish that we would use to build a huge bonfire in the playing field.

Some kids would make a guy from some of Dad’s old clothes stuffed with newspaper. We would wheel it around town in an old pram asking for “a penny for the guy”. The money we collected was used to buy fireworks, usually one or two at a time, from the corner shop. The guy would ultimately be burned on top of the bonfire.

Sundays were a day of rest, and we were not allowed to play outside, in case we disturbed the neighbours.

We always had a roast dinner at lunch time. For tea, we would have fish-paste sandwiches, fruit salad (from a tin) and cream (also from a tin), followed by fresh cream cakes that we’d bought from the bakery on Saturday’s weekly shop.

We didn’t have a television until I was five, when we bought one to watch the coronation of Elizabeth II. Television was black-and-white only, and didn’t start until mid-afternoon, when it was “children’s hour”.

Adult programs followed that until 11pm, when it closed for the evening after the national anthem was played. There was only one channel - BBC - until a second one - ITV - came along when I was eight.

We had no telephone. One of my badges when I was in the Cubs involved phoning Akela from a public phone box. To make a call, you would put four pennies into the slot, and then you could dial the number. If someone answered, you would press “button A” to talk to them; otherwise, you would press “button B” to get your money back.

We never went abroad for holidays - nobody did. We usually stayed in a caravan on the coast somewhere (usually Devon or the Isle of Wight), but we also camped in Scotland. Sometimes the weather was kind, but often it wasn’t. We would always swim in the sea - even though it was comparatively cold, as kids we were impervious to it.

We didn’t feel deprived in any way - it was just the way things were, and how we all lived.

I never went hungry - my mother always said that I had one meal a day, which started when I got up and finished when I went to bed. I was a picky eater, and my favourite meal was beans on toast. I removed the fat from any meat that I ate. The only meat I really enjoyed was beef mince.

I really enjoyed my childhood, and my schooldays. Life seemed so much simpler then.

Brian Meekings