We may not have realised it, but those of us born after the second world war, the baby boomer generation, had many advantages never known before. We had parents who survived the war. The newly formed N.H.S. meant health care was free, and antibiotics kept us healthy. We were inoculated against polio and TB. We may have begun our lives with rationing, but by the time we had pocket money we could buy sherbet dips and Mars bars. As we grew and went off to our Victorian built schools and ate our school dinners, we were read to, and then we smashed through all the Enid Blyton books on our own. At least some of our family lived near us and we had the average education that would make us into useful citizens. There was more gender equality than before, helped by women’s wartime work on the land and in factories. We played different school games to the boys in the playground. We played hopscotch, skipping, and bouncy ball. They played football. We sat on different sides of the classroom, but we could wear jeans and were free to roam. It wasn’t all equal though, girls were expected to do housework but not boys. We farm girls could ride our ponies astride which only three generations before would have been frightfully bad mannered. We had access to Brownies and Guides as our brothers had Cubs and Scouts. We could all go camping although strictly separately. We wore school blazers or gabardine macs and our best woollen coat for church.
I remember my first zip-up wind-cheater which seemed so soft and free. Church attendance and Sunday school was still quite normal. We didn’t consider beliefs much, it was just something we did. Discos were a new thing and the concept of a beef burger in a bun with chips was exotic. Mini-skirts and pop music arrived in the shops in Plymouth when I was a teenager. Blue Peter, Twiggy, Dixon of Dock Green, Mary Quant, Crossroads, Jack-a-nory, Up the Junction. We had a few shillings of pocket money, and we could spend it on sweets, books, and a comic, then the first teen magazines.
Girls had the same education as the boys apart from the woodwork and cookery classes which we were separated for. One girl in my class got special dispensation to do woodwork instead of home economics with was breath-taking.
Nylon stockings and suspenders were just going out, as we grew old enough to give up socks. Tights the colour of ‘American Tan’, which warmed up the colour of our pale legs, were coming in. They didn’t ladder as much as the old nylons, but they were still a responsibility and certainly curtailed tomboyish activities. We had a varied diet which included Angel Delight, dried mashed potato and tinned pineapple and soup. Our mothers cooked all our meals. We ate out very occasionally, perhaps on a shopping expedition. I remember we were taken to the Berni Inn at Plymouth once. It was for a steak lunch to educate us children on how to order a meal in a restaurant worked. Dad astonished us by ordering a gin and tonic. I remember staring from Dad, to the waiter, the tray, the bubbles, the slice of lemon, and back to Dad sipping away, as if he did it all the time.