’39 to the Mid 50’s In 1939 most of the school children, with some parents and children of a younger age, were evacuated. I included, so I did not see the barrenness of the towns and cities without children, which must have been the case. Children by and large have a softening affect on their surroundings. Adults take the time to consider their needs and their wishes, even if they don’t always accede.
In 1940 the whole fabric of life changed, almost over night, caused by three factors, recruitment, evacuation now a permanency and the Blitz. The speed with which the new war machine went into gear is a credit to the coalition government which was managing things. Then there were no spin doctors, or stop and start legislation. Life was real and earnest. People in every walk of life, from the hosts of the evacuated children to the women who went into factories, living a solitary life with husbands away, stuck it out with little complaint that I ever heard. The camaraderie during the Blitz, is well documented, the way country folk helped to look after the evacuees was of a similar ilk, but the class system was not dropped in the face of such hardship and damage. The classes came closer together but respected one another. The barriers might have been softened but they still existed, It was then all the open spaces were cut up for allotments, some never to be reclaimed.
At the end of the war, there was a serious problem with respect to labour relations. Earlier, perforce, every vacancy had been filled by some young person coming up, until ’46, with the results that demobilisation caused chaos as many of us never did get our job back, because we in turn had taken somebody else’s job in the meantime. By the same token, rationing didn’t end until 1952, so in effect expansion was limited until then. In the late 40s one could still buy beautifully tailored clothes at knockdown prices, because the prices were held down by government policy. By the mid-50s all this had gone. Fashion had picked up, fashion itself was applied almost to every walk of life, and the Festival of Britain, celebrated throughout the country, seemed to inject a feeling of prosperity and a new awakening which lived with us for a long time after.
This sudden feeling of freedom sponsored the Crazy 60s when everything went and nothing seemed too outr?. This was a period of free love, the flower people, and Carnaby Street. The problem was that nobody had thought it through, it was spontaneous, and revolutionary. Young people latched on to it with a zeal which was breathtaking, and the problems that we have today through the barriers being broken down so completely, can be visited on those few months when this madness was at its height. When drug taking took hold, new drinking habits were formed, and the class system crumpled, not overnight, but was badly bent. What had taken hundreds of years to establish by attrition and necessity, were swept away in a few months and nothing worthwhile was put in its place In this period, with food shortages and dried foods being imported, new recipes were being promulgated by the government, and food itself became more healthy – vegetables came into their own, and imported tinned food became a staple.
In the 50s, life was virtually unchanged socially, although domestically it was again a unit and heralded the baby boom. All changes were slow because money was still short and we were having to shift into another gear. It was really not until about 54 that life really started to improve, wages started to rise, shops filling with imports and new goods.