Sunday, 24 June 2018

Growing up in the 1950s ....... with endless hours of just having fun

For many of us born in the 1940s and 50s, we were afforded a tremendous freedom to fill our leisure time with carefree and endless pursuits.

Manchester, 1979
And it didn’t matter whether you were a lad from south east London, or south Manchester, there was a freedom, with no tagged on parental questions about what you did or where you went.

Of course we weren’t alone, and every generation will be able to tell similar stories, but I grew up in the 1950s so this is my story, and I suspect that of many who were young at the same time.

It is a theme I return to regularly and I guess as I roll towards my 69th birthday it’s an inevitable preoccupation.

But today it is less about the adventures and more about just how we got away with it, and why our parents seemed comfortable with waving us off in the morning and not seeing us till teatime.

Manchester, 1979
This is particularly pertinent as through the 1980s and into the 90s I had no such relaxed approach to where our kids were as they grew up.

I don’t think mum and dad were any less caring and certainly when I got into scraps they exhibited the same mix of concern, anxiety and relief as I did when our Joshua fell out of a tree and Benjamin required another A&E visit after yet another football injury.

Nor were we “latch key kids” which is a term I don’t like anyway.  True dad was at work but mother was at home, and from memory those friends who might fall into that latch key category were no less loved by parents who took an equal interest in how their children were doing.

So the explanation is I suspect elsewhere.

My parents were born in the early part of the last century to parents who were themselves growing up in the decade before the old Queen died.

The Avalon Marshes, 2018
And that I suspect is the context.  They lived through two world wars, and a trade depression and I suspect all of that gave them a different perspective on risk and freedom.

Talking to my partner and her siblings whose parents were born in Naples in 1940, the story is much the same, with the added twist that in school time they had finished school by one in the afternoon offering up even more opportunities to wander free.

Naples in the 1940s was a hard city, where poverty didn’t just stalk the streets, but sat comfortably in the houses of many, which was then compounded by the war, allied bombing and dire shortages of food.

It would be easy to over state this as a theory but I think it works.

And I am very grateful that that freedom was there.

Not that there were no risks.  I well remember the adventure that ended in three of us sinking in Thames mud before being rescued, and there will have been predatory adults and the ever present chance that bravado and stupidity could lead to a serious accident.

The Avalon Marshes, 2018
Happily we were spared these, and instead experienced the fun of wandering aimlessly where we wanted, doing what the Italians describe as “the sweetness of doing nothing”.

And I was reminded of all this today on looking at two fine photographs from my friend Lois who used them to accompany a story she wrote about a picnic and walk through the Avalon Marshes.*

The story and the photographs took me back fifty years to similar trips, with nothing more than a curiosity to see what was round the corner coupled with a huge dollop of free time.

Leaving me just draw the conclusion that adventures are no less exciting whatever your age.

Location; the 1950s

Pictures; carefree kids beside the Rochadale Canal, from the collection of Andrew Simpson,1979, and the Avalon Marshes, 2018 courtesy of Lois Elsden.

*The Avalon Marshes,

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