The things we couldn’t have lived without… 0



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Cast iron smoothing iron
The good old hot water bottle kept feet warm!

The world has come a long way since I was a boy in the late nineteen thirties – this has been what must be the greatest period of change in history, and I must admit I sometimes yearn for the ‘good old days’, when everything moved at a slower pace and your business was your own! Big Brother has crept up on us, not as George Orwell forecast, but much more stealthily and just as effectively!

To get back to times passed … One gem of the thirties was a so-called vacuum cleaner called “The Star” This comprised of a long steel tube with a handle on one end and a spout on the other. In between was a cylindrical bellows, about the size of a five-litre paint can. The idea was that you moved about the room with this contraption, sliding the nozzle across the floor and pumping like mad on the bellows, creating a small vacuum effect on the ground. Needless to say, by the time you had completed one room with this hefty exercise, you were pretty exhausted, while the room looked no better than it had before you started. The Dyson works a little better!

Another piece of household equipment was the cast iron smoothing iron. You had to heat this contraption on the gas stove until you estimated it was hot enough to iron the clothes. Then you’d wrap the handle in a piece of towel to stop it burning her hand and hold it up near your face to feel the actual heat coming from the sole. If you decided all was well, you would start ironing, at the same time putting a couple more irons on the gas, to heat up while using the first one.


Cast iron smoothing iron

Electric kettles were virtually unheard of, another use for the gas stove, with a cast iron kettle simmering away on the hob, while for the weekly bath, there was a gas ‘geezer’ over the bathtub upstairs, which heated the water as it was required, gave off an awful smell while it was working and was extremely dangerous unless the window was left open, summer or winter, because of the poison gasses it produced.

There was no central heating or air conditioning of course. The house was warmed by the coal fire, burning in the living room downstairs, with the coal smoke going up the chimney, together with most of the heat, to poison the air outside! The rest of the house was at the temperature that nature intended, apart from the beds themselves, which were at least comfortable for a little while because of the hot water bottles used each night during the winter. The only trouble with hot water bottles was that they tended to concentrate the heat around your feet and resulted in chronic chilblains until the spring arrived.

Star – vacuum contraption

It was never a surprise in winter, to find ice on the outside of my bed sheets in the morning, where my breath had condensed and frozen, especially after severely cold nights. Getting up to go to school was one of the most cheerless experiences of my young life at that time of the year, the effort to get out of my warm bed almost too much to accomplish. I invariably went down to a cholesterol rich breakfast though, which cheered me up immeasurably, eggs and bacon, thickly buttered toast with jam and hot steaming porridge all helped to put me on the road to school in a more cheerful frame of mind!

Now we have electric irons, electric kettles, air conditioners, electric blankets and all manner of electronic wizardry to help us through our day, but honestly, are we really any happier, with the loss of privacy we’ve had to suffer in order to get it?

What items do you remember most fondly from our early years that you don’t see now?

 images:  carletaorg,  Michael David Pedersen

Brian Lee

  1. I remember that we did not have an electric toaster, we had a toasting fork that you threaded the bread on, and placed it close to the red hot cinders in the fire, you would toast one side and then turn it over. Some times, if you were not careful the bread would fall off the fork into the fire and all was lost. Must admit that it had a wonderful taste with lashings of butter and jam.

  2. you were lucky to have a gas heater and stove we had a chip heater and a wood stove that stove produced some fantastic meals, no temperature guage or fancy things like that, our heater was a kerosene one and gave off good heat with the wood stove heating the kitchen area, the washing was done in a copper apart from hand washing,still think those days were far better than today with the respect, honesty and politeness and no one had to worry about looking the door.

  3. I was just reminiscing with my son-in-law today about the way my grandmother would test the oven to see it was hot enough to cook a sponge. She would put her hand in and could judge it that way. Must say I still prefer a hot water bottle.

  4. Still in the sixties we had no gas or electricity. The old Rayburn stove in the kitchen with the wood from the paddock was the best we had for heat after dinner was cooked. I used that very iron for school uniforms. Always got black off it on the pleats.The ‘old days’are not missed and I must say now we are out of the city and on the road that the quiet life of country and the stars and moon are what we appreciate so much more. No horns beeping. I miss my Mums fried scones with syrup out of the big tin. Never had electric anything or generator appliances used occasionally. I would miss my phone that is attached to me. I don’t miss gossip of small towns but chatting to country folk there is a difference and for the better. Cool lino in a doorway was our aircon back then

  5. When I was a kid we lived in one room , 4 in the family we had a tiny kitchen kitchenette but that was for cooking and eating , we shared a house with five other families and 1 proper bathroom and one laundry with a tub that no one wanted to use, but I remember the chip heater over bathtub we bathed with my Dad in his bvd undies about 3 times a week and got scrubbed with a flannel the other days and my Dad used to cut our hair and we hated the bowl look lol, my grandchildren think that was terrible the way we lived but to us it was the norm, I lived in Glebe in inner city Sydney and in those days I think it was a workingmans suburb of course today it is a suburb for the well off.

  6. Yep ! same Iron that we used on the Rayburn fuel stove. A chip heater in the bathroom . As the only boy I had to take the last bath after my sisters (Well dear the girls dont get as dirty as you )By then the water was invarably dirty and COLD we had a Carpet sweeper for the carpets and hot water bottles for the bed. we used the Body heat water from the water bottle in the morning for our wash, as we had no hot water on tap .The washing was done in a copper .and we mowed the lawn in the back yard with a push mower.If it grew long grandpa would cut it with a scythe and it looked like a modern day bowling green his sweep was so precise we had no car, we walked everywhere or to the bus or train stops .We shopped daily from the local butchers and grocery store . Milk and bread were delivered to the door by horse and cart the milk in bulk tanks and taken from a tap into our billy .I convinced my little sister that it was horses milk . Life was sweeter and much simpler we were poor but wanted for nothing . We had love and that was all that mattered .

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