It’s possibly due to the difference in size of the confectionary that I remember as a child and the size I became as an adult, but I’m sure everything has become smaller; well, perhaps not everything, but I would argue that confectionary certainly has. I’m sure that Wagon Wheels were the size of their namesake, and Mars Bars, Curly-Wurlies and Milky Way were all half the length of my forearm.
The lost boys
Does anyone remember Five Boys chocolate bar? It had five faces of a scruffy oik ranging from crying pathetically to smiling triumphantly. Cry pathetically and you’ll get what you want – a narrative that they wouldn’t get away with now. It was a series of photos taken in 1886 of Lindsay Poulton, and used during the ‘Five Boys’ launch from 1902. It was produced by J.S. Fry and Sons Ltd. of Bristol.
The Five Boys chocolate bar showing here in the advertisement from about 1910 was probably its original size.
Size isn’t everything
Other things just aren’t what they used to be. If we were still using imperial weights and measures these confectioners would insist that there are 14 ounces to the pound now. And I’m sure boiling water isn’t as hot as it used to be.
Cars are bigger and more reliable but are they better? All the safety features in modern cars – air bags all round, crumple zones, sophisticated steering and suspension and the like – require more space. As a consequence, not only do drivers think they’re immortal, but the cars don’t even fit our roads and parking spaces any more. I would humbly suggest cars would be much safer if all this stuff was removed and instead had a spike fitted in front of the driver. Or perhaps a person walking in front waving a red flag.
Remembrance of things past
I asked the WARTS (Walkers and Ramblers Tenacious Stalwarts) walking group what they miss from their youth. Some answers were quite predictable like proper letters in the post, telephone and police boxes, doorstep milk, bread and Ringtons Tea delivery (Ringtons may still provide a delivery service). The rag and bone man and the little blue bag of salt in the packets of plain crisps are also missed.
Dogs seemed to feature quite a lot. One said there were lots of stray dogs in the past (very true) and another said there are too many dogs now (probably also true). I would add that there are certainly too many cats.
Another suggestion was bacon cut from a spinny, whizzy thing while you waited, and where you could also decide on the thickness required.
Vesta chow mein and Disque Bleu
Two of the WARTS came up with surprising suggestions. One was Vesta chow mein and beef risotto and the other was cigarettes. I suspect that the first of these happy memories was formed while the person in question was at medical college, busily getting themselves highly educated and with no time for a proper meat and two veg. The other was from our ‘Lieutenant’, as we call him, possibly recalling showing off his filthy habit in the dormitory of his private school. Even though none of the WARTS smoke now, he waxed lyrical on the subject. On and on he went: Turkish fags, Sullivan Powell, Benson and Hedges, strong untipped fags in stylish tins and boxes – Benson and Hedges Virginia, Gold Flake, Players No 3, foreign fags – Boyard, Gitanes and Disque Bleu, untipped in maize paper.
He got himself in such a nostalgic tizz that he repeated himself at least twice. I have to agree on one of these, though: when I wanted to appear sophisticated, I would smoke Disque Bleu. I know it’s a big stretch of the imagination to believe that a hairy-arsed biker would want to appear sophisticated, but there you go.
Changing attitudes to smoking
We had a public dispensing machine in Birkby that gave out a pack of five Woodbines with five matches.
We weren’t told smoking was dangerous in those days, in fact some companies advertised that they were good for the throat and chest. We now know the full horrors of smoking and how it can shorten our lives, but they fail to explain that the shortened bit isn’t when we’re young and shiny and could drink, dance and debauch all night without a care; unfortunately, the years we gain by not smoking are when we’re wandering the streets naked looking for our mum, or lying in bed hoping someone will come and change our nappy soon and when they have we accuse them of nicking our money.
More memories of times gone by
Embassy Cigarette gave coupons with every packet that could be cashed in by sending for items from their catalogue similar to say an Argos catalogue. Another similar system was Green Shield Stamps, which were given out from many outlets. The proprietor would calculate what you had spent and tear the appropriate number of stamps from their stamp book, which we then stuck carefully in our own booklet ready for cashing in at our town centre Green Shield Stamp shop.
Other things that are rare if not gone forever are fondue, Pippa Dee parties and Tupperware. It is perhaps difficult to imagine, but people could have fun while contemplating the benefits of a plastic container with a fancy puff lid.
Allowing nature to dry ladies’ hair with the help of a few rollers, a comb and some Sellotape was the norm. Now there are hundreds of products and machines available to knacker the hair, then an equal number of products and machines to recover the hair from permanent destruction. If some of your hair stays on your ‘natural latex’ or CPAP pillow in the morning, then there are many cosmetic companies ready to offer to transplant hair from another part of the body where it isn’t needed just now – though perhaps next week we may want it putting back, and I’m sure the same cosmetic company will be more than willing to oblige.
By eck, that has been a jolly good rant, I feel more than ready to face the world again.