The 1950s: Workers’ Playtime, South Pacific and a pince nez

img Q 50 UWe move forward into the 1950s as we look at everyday life in the decades of the Queen’s life. Princess Elizabeth became Queen in 1952 and her Coronation was in June 1953. It was a year of rejoicing, but, as Valerie Preston recalls the 50s were also years of austerity:

Valerie’s childhood home was 16 Welby Street, Manchester not far from St Chrysostom’s Church. In 1957 the family moved round the corner to 11 High Street (now Hathersage Road) and finally they had a bathroom. Valerie, the daughter of Herbert and Ivy Chadwick lived at home with two sisters and one brother.

High Street, later Hathersage Rd

High Street, later Hathersage Rd

Food was still rationed so the family ate whatever their mother could find to cook. Cooking and baking was done on a fire range, and also using a gas cooker. Clothes were often ‘hand me downs’ from older or bigger relatives. Valerie’s mother made the children’s clothes, particularly dresses.  The girls wore full skirts and never trousers!

Pastimes at the time included simple street games such as skipping, throwing balls against the wall and hop scotch. There were very few cars and so it was easier to play in the street. The family didn’t have a television but enjoyed listening to the radio and remembers the theatre organist Sandy McPherson, and the comedian Sandy Powell with his catchphrase Can you hear me mother? 

Workers PlaytimeThe radio variety programme Workers’ Playtime on the BBC Light Programme was another favourite.

Visits to the cinema were popular and favourites there were films with Norman Wisdom and the ever popular South Pacific. 

Church was part of family life and Valerie remembers girls being allowed in the choir at church for the first time, at the request of the new organist, Noel Preston, who was to become her husband. They married at St Chrysostom’s Church in 1961.

Post war austerity meant holidays were not taken until Valerie was 15. Her first holiday was in the Isle of Man and later holidays were in North Wales.

Valerie went to Plymouth Grove School where the head teacher was Miss Grono, who always wore a pince nez. Miss Mcrimmon, the geography teacher spent each lunch time in St Joseph’s Church – and later became a nun. Valerie remebers her confidentally saying that Manchester would never have the skyscrapers the United States had because the ground in England couldn’t support them.

For memories of the decades see: 1990s,  1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, 1940s, and the 1930s


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community where people of differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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