20’s to ’39. What follows here, and several other posts in this vein, are narrow views of one person, not over-views determined by research. They are done mainly to determine how life has changed over 80 years.
Take children; the phrase ‘children should be seen and not heard’, in its various forms, was a Victorian maxim people lived by in the 20s’s. Children’s opinions were rarely sought, they would sit in company, hardly moving, until given permission to go elsewhere, if they were lucky. Visiting relatives were rarely on speaking terms with them, and their visits occasioned the best of everything to be produced, and one had to be on one’s best behaviour. For a child to offer an opinion might be considered insolence, and could induce a crack round the ear. There was little or no traffic, other than horse-drawn vehicles or men pushing barrows.. Playing in the street therefore, was not only acceptable, it was expected. Children built up relationships with various delivery men, men with horse-drawn milk floats, coal men, bakers, and anyone else who would allow them to have a ride on their carts, in return for helping with deliveries, for a short time. Children ran after carts, and grabbed a lift on the back, when the driver wasn’t looking. Children either for the family, or to earn money, gathered the horse droppings in a bucket to use as fertiliser in back gardens.
The change clearly came, with the advent of commercial motor vehicles – a gradual process in which change was not really noticeable in the street, or in the general life of the children, until World War II, a period of nearly 20 years.
Family life; the two world wars seriously affected the size of families and the up bringing of children.. In the 20s and early 30s there were ‘Maiden Ladies’, unmarried women who lived at home, because the men they might have married were lying in rows, rotting in a foreign field. So the children of those who had married were looked after by their grandparents, their parents and the maiden aunts. Housing was in short supply with a building programme just getting underway. Hitler set it all back and once again extended families were forced to live together, resulting in children being cared for by a number of people. In the 60s all this changed, people’s aspirations became greater, with greater affluence, and a burgeoning housing programme. Families now lived in their own homes without the same amount of inter-parental care. There has been a steady change in domestic circumstances, through aspiration, necessity, or just keeping up with the Joneses, until we have arrived at the point where both parents are working, and the children are leading much less gregarious, and more singular lives. In the 20s wages were low, transport took time, families were large, and extended families could be colossal, so every aspect of life was determined by these factors and the class system. Then the classes varied in size tremendously. The upper class was a small group, very wealthy, with a total disregard in most cases for the plight of the under classes. The upper middle-class consisted of professionals, very successful businessmen, the clergy, schoolteachers and those with inherited wealth. The lower middle class or artisan class, included shopkeepers, businessmen and the like. The rest, the biggest class, were rubbing along on what amounted in most cases to a minimum wage – the working-class. It was the class system as much as anything throughout those years, which determined the limits of family life.
In the 20s the upper class and the upper middle-class, would go on Continental holidays, stay in hotels here and abroad, drive cars, live in detached houses, or terraced houses in selective neighbourhoods, or in the country. The lower middle class generally lived in small terrace houses, might run a car, would holiday at a seaside resort, staying in a boarding house.. The working-class holiday was taken on the local Commons or with daily trips, if they could afford holidays at all ..From the 20s up until about 1930 there was little change, but in the late 30s change became much more rapid. Traffic increased, Woolworths came to London and expanded throughout the country, making competition for the working-class’s spending more competitive, and therefore increasing choice automatically. Motor vehicles were being used for transportation, with the result that private vehicles were regularly coming down in size and cost, and hence more common. With more spending there was more affluence, even for the working-class and the cycle effected great changes in the social boundaries, producing a flow of movement upward and downward between the classes, the beginning of what we have today.