Baby Boomers had it way too easy is a phrase bandied about every time pensions or housing are mentioned. (And at the risk of sounding like a pantomime) "Oh no we didn't!".
Baby boomers are post war babies, born in the baby boom between 1946 and 1964. It has been said that we had it too easy, I suppose it depends on what is considered easy and what socio-economic group you belonged to. I don't think I had it easy.
I was born into a working-class family, living in a council house in a new town. My parents and grandparents were from London and all had survived WWII.
ChildhoodWe did have a great childhood. The summers were always sunny and lasted most of the year. When the sun wasn't shining it was snowing and we played with our sledges down grassy hills. We played out from dawn to dusk and nothing bad ever happened.
In reality I remember the reports of the Moors Murderers. Mary Bell and the Cannock Chase Murders. Many of the sex crimes coming to light now at children homes, churches, schools, clubs and elsewhere happened when I was a child.
I did the weekly shopping every Saturday, alone. I took the pushchair and a shopping list and went to the local Co-op. I had a number to remember and my mother would pay for the shopping later in the week, I was about seven or eight. This wasn't unusual, many of my friends did this too.
As soon as I was old enough I got a job, my first was when I was eleven, delivering newspapers. I delivered one hundred papers every Wednesday evening, rain or shine with my friend, Yvonne. If one of us was away the other would do the round alone. If we didn't turn up once then we lost our job.
My neighbour was a hairdresser so on Saturdays I would go to work with her and wash hair all day for five shillings (25p) and that included tips.
At fourteen I was old enough to get a "proper" job and worked in a newsagent selling papers, chocolates and cigarettes. I worked every Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. I earnt ten shillings (50p).
SchoolingWe had lots of schools in my home town. My infant and primary school was about a five minute walk. We had large class numbers, thirty plus, and only one teacher, no assistants or helpers. There was capital punishment which meant that children could be punished by being caned or hit with a slipper. If you were ever punished you would keep it quiet as parents would punish you again for being naughty.
We all took an exam, the 11+, to see if we were good enough to go to the grammar school or if we failed we would go to the comprehensive school.
We didn't have calculators so all our maths were done with log books and formulas. In physics we knew nothing of strangeness and charm, nuclear physics didn't exist and the only black holes we knew about was the gap between our bed and the wall where everything disappeared into.
We could leave school at fifteen, this was raised to sixteen in 1972. Even though I went to a grammar school most of my contemporaries did not go to university, they went to college and learnt how to type. We were not taught anything useful like typing, woodwork or metalwork at school as typing wasn't a career and the others were only taught to boys. I went to a girls' school.
HomesThere is so much we didn't have. I remember the house being freezing cold in winter and waking up to ice on the inside of our bedroom windows, there was no double glazing then. We all went to bed with hot water bottles, except my sister, she had an electric blanket, pure luxury. The problem was being brave enough to run upstairs in the cold to turn it on before bed time. We had a real fire in the living room and a blanket on the stairs. If you needed to go to the toilet you'd grab the blanket and wrap it around you to keep warm.
Television was in black and white and it was only broadcast for a few hours a day. We only had two channels, in 1964 we got a third channel and colour. The television would take about fifteen minutes to warm up and you have to leave the sofa to flick the switch to change channels.
We were lucky we had a back boiler so in the winter we always had running hot water but many didn't. We would have to put the emersion heater on for a bath and no-one I knew had a shower, just plastic tubes with spray heads pushed onto the bath taps that gave only freezing cold or boiling hot water. They also had a habit of popping off the taps.
We also didn't have;
- fitted carpets
- central heating
- automatic washing machines
- tumble dryers
- mobile phones
When we were saving to buy our first house, prices were rising faster than we could save for a deposit. Houses were sold before the signs went up and the advert was published in the newspapers. When we eventually managed to buy our first house the interest rates on mortgages rose every month and finally hit 15%. They stayed at that for a very long time.
WomenThere was definitely no equality between men and women. Women were still expected to stay at home and raise children and typically men did nothing around the house. My father never changed a nappy even though he had four children.
Unmarried mothers had their babies in maternity homes and many babies were taken away for adoption. When I had my children maternity leave was for thirteen weeks. Six weeks before, the week of confinement and six weeks after. Contraception was condoms, although we didn't call them that, Dutch cap and in the late 60s the pill.
There were no laws against discrimination. It was not illegal to have signs or adverts excluding people because of their colour, nationality or gender. Male homosexuality was illegal and offenders could face a prison sentence.
HolidaysPeople did not go abroad as flying was very expensive. When I was little the only people I knew who went abroad were our next door neighbours. They went to Rimini in Italy every year. They caught the train, it took two days to get there and two days home. I was so jealous as they had photos of a swing on the beach near the shore line.
Most holidays were at the seaside in caravans or if very lucky in a chalet at a a holiday camp. We went to a camp in Mundesley in Norfolk. It was the best holiday ever, the chalets were like sheds, no bathrooms, only a sink. All six of us squashed into one room. Ballroom dancing in the evenings for the adults and entertainers for the children every day. The beach was huge and sandy but the sea was so cold. I hated swimming in the freezing sea with all the sea weed. My mother would sit on the beach covered in coats and blankets, she hated the cold too.
If you are a Millennial I do feel for you. You have to pay for your university education, have no pension to look forward to and only the few can actually get onto the property ladder, but we had it hard too, just in a different way.
Are you a Millenial or a Baby Boomer? What do you think?