Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Friday, August 14, 2009


I WAS SURPRISED to realise that today’s Eighty Plus is No 60.

When I posted No 1 on 3rd July last year, I was really uncertain what my purpose was. The whole project turned out to be an experiment which has given me a lot of pleasure.

Recently I came to the conclusion that my main interests seem to lie in everything connected with the 1930s and 40s. From now on the contents of the blog will be a bit different, but I’m hoping that it will prove just as interesting.

(A reminder - my blog John’s Quiet Corner always includes a painting and a poem)


My parents 1922/3. They married in 1924.


You’ll notice that my father has a cigarette in his hand. That wouldn’t go down well with his future in-laws!

I don’t remember him smoking cigarettes, but he certainly enjoyed his pipe. Sometime after he retired, he gave up the habit and replaced it with - polo

My friend Adam smoked cigarettes, but he couldn’t enjoy them unless he sucked an Imperial sweet at the same time.

Of course very few folk thought that the habit was bad for their health. Indeed, some adverts claimed that particular brands were good for you. I seem to remember that Craven “A” used to recommend that you should smoke their cigarettes “for your throat’s sake.”


The 1930s were the years when the unemployed in the UK numbered more than 2 million. It was in 1929 that the Wall Street Crash occurred and very soon its effect was being felt all over the world.

Our family were fortunate during this period, for my father was in continual employment, and he and my mother were always careful with money.

But for others the situation could be pretty grim. Remember, in those days there was no family allowance, no national health service, no rent rebates, few concessions of any kind for the unemployed.

I read recently about a widow at that time. She had lost her husband in the First World War, had been left with three boys to bring up, and was relying on what was called National Assistance to support her. As a widow, she was entitled to 5/- per week plus 2/6d for each child - a total of 63p.

Apparently some kind person gave her a Christmas parcel containing a small chicken and things like sugar and tea. She had just opened it when a National Assistance inspector called. He asked about the food and, when she explained, he proceeded to calculate what the cost would have been. And that amount was deducted from her money!!!


This slide show was devised by two American students as an exercise for their history class.


During my time at primary school two important national events took place, and on both occasions we were given a day’s holiday - the Silver Jubilee of the reign of George V and Queen Mary in 1935, and the Coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. I think it was on Coronation Day our school was taken to a local cinema for a special film show. I’m sure it was then that we were all given a commemorative mug decorated with the heads of the new Monarchs.

Of course the year between those two events had seen the abdication of the uncrowned Edward VIII, and everyone had been shocked when they learned that he had wanted to marry a divorced American woman Wallis Simpson. There was a lot of bad feeling against her, because in those days divorce was something that most folk disapproved of. I remember that children in the street used to run around shouting -

Who’s that walking down the street?
Mrs Simpson with big feet!


Here a are a few of the rhymes children recited during their street games.

Yokie pokie,
Yankie fun,
How do you like
Your tatties done?

First in brandy,
Then in rum,
That's how I like
My tatties done.

One two three a-leerie
I spy Wallace Beery
Sittin’ on his bumbaleerie,
Eatin’ toffee apples.

[Wallace Beery was an American film star]

Ma maw’s a millionaire,
Blue eyes and curly hair,
Sittin’ among the eskimos
Playin’ a game o’ dominoes,
Ma maw’s a millionaire.

Eentie-teentie halliegolum,
Pitchin’ totties up the lum,
Santa Claus got wan on his bum,
Eentie-teentie halliegolum.


There are quite a number of Charlie Kunz recordings on YouTube. Charlie Kunz (1896-1958) of course was tremendously popular, and was the idol of all young folk who were learning the piano. He was an American who came to England in 1922, and stayed on. During the war a rumour was widespread that during his broadcasts his music was in some coded way sending messages to the Germans. This was completely untrue, but the anti-German feeling in Britain was strong, and that was something the poor man had to face.

Here he plays “One day when we were young.” I love this record!!!

The words, which are shown below, were written by Oscar Hammerstein II and set to one of Johann Strauss’ melodies. It was featured in the film “The Great Waltz.”

One day when we were young,
That wonderful morning in May,
You told me you loved me
When we were young one day.

Sweet songs of spring were sung,
And music was never so gay,
You told me you loved me
When we were young one day.

You told me you loved me
And held me close to your heart,
We laughed then, we cried then,
Then came the time to part.

When songs of spring are sung,
Remember that morning in May,
Remember you loved me
When we were young one day.



Trinity said...

I can barely image that the businessmen at that time would claim that the cigarettes were not harmful but good for people. They seemed to cash in on the public by creating a romantic image to make people think that smoking was cool. Greed knows no generation.
I like the poem by George Sand very much. Since the body is uncertain, only our inner beauty and wisdom that count.
P.S. The John's quiet corner is well-written, but it's a pity that I'm unable to leave comments.

A beautiful piece played by the talented Chinese pianist, Lang Lang.

John said...

Thanks for your welcome comments and the Lang Lang video. Yes, he's a great musician and quite exciting to watch!

I'm sorry I was unaware that comments couldn't be made on John's Quiet Corner. I've rectified this, so perhaps I'll get some feed-back from those who look at it. Last week astonishingly there were 91 hits.