Times Past

Times Past

Whilst having Sunday lunch today with my daughter and son-in law, we got to talking about how things were done in my younger days.

We had a very nice plum tart and custard, and Tommy said it reminded him of the puds his granny used to make, and I started to reminisce about my mother's cooking when I was a small girl just after the second World War.

In those days everything was made from scratch, we had no supermarkets, few people had a family car, and the housewife had a daily trudge around the butcher, the baker, the grocer and the fishmonger. How people managed to carry all that shopping for miles is a mystery to me - especially if they had a large family!

Money was scarce, and some things were still on ration, but my dad had a huge garden and grew all our vegetables. We foraged for blackberries, blueberries, chestnuts and mushrooms in the surrounding forest, and my father made most of our bread which was much tastier than the baker's loaf. I can never remember eating in a restaurant, and the only fast food available was fish and chips, a rare treat on a Saturday night if Mum had a few shillings to spare, and was in a good mood.

Yes, feeding the family was a lot of hard work, but we never went hungry, and we seemed to have a tremendous lot of fun finding and preparing food.

Most of all, I used to look forward to pickling and jamming time. Every Autumn when there was a glut of fruit and vegetables, Mum used to set to with a will. Pickled onions, pickled cabbage, picallili, bottled plums, apples and greengages, raspberry, strawberry and blackberry jam, and tomato chutney were chopped, seasoned, sugared, boiled and poured into jars.

I used to help make all of these, and my hands would smell of onions for ages! What a lovely sight and smell in the pantry, though - all those spicy, gleaming, jewel-coloured jars of jams and pickles - it makes my mouth water now, just to think of it! One or two of Mum's offerings always took pride of place at the Chapel Harvest Festival.

One thing that was definitely NOT welcome at the Harvest Festival, however, was home - made wine. In those days Methodist ministers preached total abstinence from any form of alcohol, and my dad, who was a lay-preacher, would be up there with the best of them, condemning the drinking which led to poverty, and cruelty to wives and children. He would be 107 now, if he had lived, and I often wonder what he would think, if he could see a typical city on a Saturday night, with people falling out of clubs and pubs, absolutely trolleyed out of their skulls. I think he would have disapproved!

Temperance notwithstanding, Father didn't seem to think that the rule applied to a bottle of good, wholesome home-made wine. Every year he would put down a store of redcurrant, blackberry, damson and elderberry wines, and these would be produced with great pride every time we had visitors.

"Arhh!" he would say "You'm doan' want any of that Harvey's Sherry, nor none o' that fancy French muck! This 'ere's the boy - you do know what's gone in 'im!"

He would make the wine in an assortment of old crocks and bottles in the wash-house, but it was always most delicious, and some of it was viewed as having medicinal properties. It would certainly lubricate a sore throat.

My father sang a fine tenor, and one night at chapel choir practice, someone remarked to my mother that he was in particularly good voice that evening,.

“Well now” she said “that’ll be the Elderberry!”

You see in 1948 we had only just received the blessing of the National Health Service. It took people a while to get used to the idea of being able to see a doctor any time you wished, and all for free. Until that time, if you were ill you treated yourself, only calling the doctor if all else failed, and my father’s Elderberry wine was held to be a bit of a cure-all.

It was particularly good for sore throats, rheumatism, gout, whooping cough and bronchitis. Father used Granny’s recipe, and swore that she had once cured a case of diphtheria with it – though maybe that’s carrying credibility a bit far.

That stuff was so potent, however, it would probably have served as an anaesthetic, and after a couple of shots you would no longer have cared what was wrong with you!

I’m sitting here nursing my sore knees and aching hands, and thinking, 'What wouldn’t I give for a glass or two of the Elderberry cure-all.’

God Bless and rest you Father! He was a funny soul, eccentric and old-fashioned, with a vast knowledge of the medicinal use of plants and herbs, and he set me on the path to my nursing career. I wanted to be modern, and I was so sure that he’d got it all wrong with his potions and brews, but now I’m not so sure.

I wish he was still around – with the benefit of my own experience there’s a lot I would like to ask him!

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  • What a beautiful read. I have many of the same memories.

    I always loved Sunday tea time as my ma would bring out the cake stand and provide lovely cakes and sanies that my sisters and i had helped make.

    We always went picking fruits & nuts, coming home messy, stained and full from eating so much. I still have a faint stain on my knee from wimberries (cannot spell)

    Ma made our clothes too and a day out would be taking a picnic bag with us. What lovely memories. Thank you xx

  • hi,

    that was lovely reading this! My dad used to make his own wine and i can remember going on walks with him and picking brambles and elderberrys and elderflower i think! but where we used to get these it now has houses built on the grounds, funily enough my parents live in one of those houses :D and in fact the house that my parents live in was once my grandparents house which we got when they moved to another house just up the road from their old house! my dad makes jam too i think or it may have been someone else in theh family.

    I think that when you were growing up that it was very family orientated and now adays we take for granted in some ways just how difficult it was just after the war. these days we are out working and rely on parents or grandparents to help look after children. I have been really lucky as i have never had a problem with having someone to look after or take my daughter when needed (although i have had issues with childcare but have managed).

    in my opinion there is a feeling that i need to work these days to provide a good standard of living for my daughter. I was brought up well aand i want to be able to provide this for my daughter.....i work full time and i have a nice home (rented) and i struggle to make ends meet but who doesnt. im scared that i may have to at some point have to give up working as i am struggling working full time ,travelling, maintaining the house etc etc etc im 36 yrs old and feel like im 100 yrs old most of the time but im sure that im not the only one! just got going eh.......do you not have the recipe that your dad used as you say that he used your grannys recipe?

    gentle hugs :D x

  • That was so lovely to read Moffy, thank you so much for posting your message! :)

    My Mother and I often reminisce, I love to hear about when she was a little girl in the Second World War. She remembers being told by her Mother not to talk to "the Americans" and to stay near the house. Apparently my Gran (my Mother's Mother) didn't want my Mother to pester the American soldiers who were stationed nearby as the local children used to hang around fascinated by the American accent. Needless to say my Mother and her friends did hang around near the soldiers and they were given chewing gum (bearing in mind this was a luxury as most things including sweets were rationed).

    One particular occasion when my Mother and her friends were talking to the American soldiers, they were given the usual chewing gum and also some boxes of "Nylons" (stockings). These were real luxury items and the local girls didn't come by them very often as things like this were in very short supply.

    My Mother ate the chewing gum to destroy the evidence and took the "Nylons" home. She apparently forgot about them and left them on the sofa in the family lounge - well of course my Gran saw them and questioned my Mother about them, where she'd found them etc., knowing full well they had come from the American soldiers.

    My Mother has told this story many times and always laughed at the end when she remembers her Mother quietly removing the much sought after "Nylons" which were later discovered in my Gran's underwear drawer! Gran had obviously "acquired" the "Nylons" for safe keeping and kept them for herself. I can understand this as they were treasured items. According to my Mother, her Mother never wore them and simply kept the luxuries as prized possessions!

    It shows us how much we take things for granted today when "Nylons" were so treasured years ago! :)

  • Goodness me, Libby that brings back memories!

    Nylons were such treasured possessions in the immediate post-war years, and remained so until the early '60's.

    It was my heart's desire to own a pair, and I can remember being given some for my 13th birthday. I was so little that they had to be rolled over and over to fit me, and I will never forget sitting on a hard wooden pew in chapel with suspender clips digging into my thighs.

    It was very painful trying to be a beautiful lady in those days, and I was never very good at it. When I went away to nursing college we had to wear thick black lisle stockings --- absolutely gruesome.

    Thank goodness we now have tights and leggings!

  • Morning Ladymoth

    Thank you for describing your early years post war what a brilliant recollection. I remember goig to the butchers with my Mother and after she had bought her meat the butcher taking the money would lean over and give me a piece of paper in a cone shape full of dolly mixtures. He never failed we loved going to the butchers and this would have been 1957 and m a proud toddler. Lots of memories! x gins

  • Its been lovely reading all your storys I was born October 1969 so I have no war time storys but I do have some memorys of when we visited our grandparents nan always had fresh made cakes and jams, grandad kept bees so there was always honey only one problem I hate hunny, my mum used to make jams chutneys pickles and her own wine we used to walk miles picking fruit and elderberrys, elderflowers for wine we picked nuts and anything else that was edible we also picked crab apples for our goats we had some happy times .

  • Has anyone else got any old memories we can all read about and share, it's great reading about times gone by and comparing them with today?! :)

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