Here are some memories from the 50s.
Dishwater detergent was new. We thought it was wonderful stuff. It made
so many bubbles. We would put it in the bathtub while the water was
running and let it bubble up. Then, wed sit there in a tub of
detergent bubbles, little considering that it was sucking all the oil
and moisture out of our skins.
There was a kind of candy, black on the outside that, lasted just about
forever. After youd sucked on it for a length of time the outer
shell would dissolve and youd get a different colour. There was
a rainbow in there, so youd suck it again for a while, then pull
it out and look at it, see what colour it was. Youd then put it
back in until you got to the very end, which was a disappointing white.
We used to get a sort of liquid plastic stuff that came in a tube at
Christmas. It came with a holder which you dipped in the stuff. You
could blow into it and make a semi-permanent plastic bubble to play
with. We discovered that you could chew this stuff. God knows, chemically,
what was in it. The slogan popular in the 50s was Duponts Better
Living Through Chemistry. I dont know if we lived better
but we chewed that stuff instead of gum. It didnt taste so great
but it had an interesting tactile interface.
In the shoe department of the downtown Eatons Department Store in Chatham
there was a machine that looked like a weighing machine with a place
where you could slip your feet in. You pushed a button and got a living
x-ray of your feet. You could wiggle your toes and see the bones move
around when you looked in the viewing port. We used it just about every
time we went into Eatons, which was often, because my dad worked there.
I understand those machines reliably leaked radiation.
There wasnt much entertainment in Chatham, so wrestling was kind
of a big thing. My sister used to go to the matches with a Catholic
girl who was really keen on wrestling. She got really excited at these
matches. Shed jump up and down, pound the shoulders of the person
in front of her and just go right off the meter. When she came back
to herself shed regret her excessive enthusiasm and confess later
to the Priest that shed become over-excited at wrestling. Hes
give her a penance where she had to say some prayers and skip wrestling
next week, so she only got to go every other week.
This same girl had a favourite snack which was boiled potatoes, cold
and sliced, with lard on bread. I understand she was a fairly hefty
Speaking of things to eat, well, my dad ate it but I didnt, there
were things called winkles. These were Periwinkles, snails basically.
You cooked them up in a salted broth and then you picked them out with
a pin and ate them.
Then there was Finnan Haddie, a kind of North Sea fish called a haddock
which was viewed with some awe in our family since we knew the folk
tale that the thumb print or finger print on its back ( a dark spot)
was there because this was the very fish that had been divided up for
the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. Thus every fish of this kind
bore the Lords fingerprint on its back. . Thats a little
out of sync because its a North Sea fish that didnt originate
in the Holy Land. Still, we were impressed and I still like this smoked
fish called Finnan Haddie. Its really good.
Another favourite fish with my dad was smelt. I didnt understand
how he could possibly eat them. You cut off the heads and tails of the
small fishes and gutted them. Then you dipped them in batter and cooked
them up. A mess of smelt it was called. Well named.
Another big deal, my dad was into protein obviously, was the prize-winning
cow. This cow had won the top prize at a provincial Fair. From the butcher
shop my dad could purchase a thick, juicy steak off the flank of the
prize-winning cow. That was a once a year very big deal.
Chatham, my home town, is in Southern Ontario which is kind of a bread
basket and vegetable basket too in Canada.
They opened up public freezers in Chatham. This was before the advent
of the larger home freezers. You could go to the pea shelling place
and get a bushel of peas. flash freeze them and have peas all winter.
You did the same with corn. There was a lot of preparation and then
you went down to this place where they froze the stuff up. Later on
in the year, you could bring some of it home to put in the little freezer
in your fridge. It was all very good because it was really fresh food
frozen at its prime.
My mother made banana wine, another big deal. It was a fine, mellow
wine. She was the kind of person who would take instructions and study
on them and follow them to the letter, so, she could turn out a darn
near perfect product. My dad, who had a slight fondness for the bottle,
discovered this wonderful wine and drank it up . There was a fuss because
she didnt make it to be drunk all at once. It was supposed to
be savored over time. That was the end of the banana wine making enterprise.
© Sonia Brock 2006