I enjoyed Jill's post here about riding in the car so much I was inspired to add a post of my own about transport back then:
I remember my daughter aged about 6 at the time asking me once “Did they have cars when you were alive?”! Having assured her I was alive now I went on to answer her question, “Yes THEY had cars but WE didn’t”! Cars were not nearly so common back in the 40’s and 50’s as they are now and most of the people I knew used public transport as did we.
I remember the trains back then – they were beautiful, magnificent things puffing out steam and making a fearsome noise. People often talk about noise pollution now but the noise on a major station concourse back then was incredible. When the whistle blew they had to get up steam to be able to pull out and the great pistons would slowly begin to turn as these magnificent beasts gradually, slowly pulled away drawing the carriages behind them. I remember the carriages were most often divided into individual compartments with bench seats for 4 passengers facing each other. I remember too the upholstery (probably made of coarse wool) which covered these seats and was so prickly to a child’s bare legs, the film of dirt on everything and the big thick leather strap used to raise and lower the window with its holes to hook over the brass fitting so that the window could be opened the required amount and kept there. If you were lucky you might be able to see out of the window or on the other hand your view might be obscured by the cloud of steam which seemed to continually rush past the window carrying with it smuts which added to the general grime on the outside. There were what looked like hammocks made of thick netting supported on wooden rails on which you placed your suitcases and below these were photographs of the towns on that line often in sepia. The sliding door to the compartment was heavy and made of wood with a glass window onto the corridor and often there seemed to be service men sitting on their duffle bags out there as there was not enough room inside to sit down. Where were they all going? Home on leave perhaps? I loved trains and wanted to be a train driver when I grew up but of course I had no idea then what hard physical labour that would have been. The fireman would shovel coal into the gaping furnace that was the engine and the water would boil and create the necessary steam to make the pistons turn. Keeping the furnace fire going on a long journey must have been gruelling. The driving compartment was open to the air – probably just as well or it would have been like an oven and probably was in the summer months. These men wore dark blue overalls as a uniform and black leatherette hats and they were always filthy from the coal dust and the heat but for some reason I wanted to be one (or failing that the lady who cleaned the trains and couldn’t understand why my mother wasn’t keen on either of those careers for me!) Going on the train was always an exciting prospect as it usually meant we were visiting relations or even that we were moving home yet again.
Then there were trams – these if my memory serves me correctly had slatted wooden seats which were not very comfortable and they clanged as they ran along the metal rails in the road. Buses which had a metal basket arrangement covering a fan at the front which allowed the heat from the engine to warm the bus. In winter it was always a scramble for the front seats nearest to this primitive heating especially as the back of the bus was open to the elements. There being no air conditioning or any other form of heat the windows were always steamed up in damp weather and the fun you could have drawing pictures in the damp and then probably wiping it down with your sleeve!
Not many people had cars then but some had motorbikes with sidecars. Apparently my father-in-law had one but that was before I knew my husband. I never had a ride in one so Jill I envy you!
And of course we walked a lot more then too.
Air travel was only for the wealthy and I never imagined I'd see the day when I would be able to get in our own car to drive to the airport to get a flight to visit friends in France or USA or wherever!! Amazing!
Now that I have moved back to the area in which I lived in my teens and early twenties I realise how little of its beautiful countryside I had seen back then because of course without a car it is inaccessible and even when we came by car to visit my mother we obviously didn’t then go off sightseeing much. I am loving discovering it all and am glad that when I was alive I finally did have a car!
For those interested I have also posted another page of my childhood memories - check it out on the sidebar.