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Changing Times | Past newspapers show the way we used to live

As we come towards the end of the year, I thought I would take a look back 70 years, to see what was occurring then.


In May, 1951, one of the main headlines in the Bognor Regis Post was, ‘Should Bognor go Continental?’ This looks interesting I thought! Perhaps it was to be a special market, new housing, and special holidays. But no, it was a “revolutionary move by the local traders”.


The new move was that during the summer season, traders would stop closing early on Wednesdays and bank holidays to offer more services to holidaymakers!


There were, of course, some dissenters who felt that they had fought a long time for shorter hours, and were now upset that there was a move to extend their hours – no Sunday opening, though.


Some felt that this radical move would make them more like the continentals with their opening hours, hence the headline. We should, of course, remember this was only six years after the end of the Second World War. There was still rationing and much rebuilding work was being carried out to bring the country back to normality.


Also in May, there was news of a new savings bank opening at No 2 Central Buildings, London Road, namely the Bognor Regis Trustee Savings Bank. The report continued with information on the first person who registered as a depositor who was, in fact, only six months old, with a £10 deposit, followed by the chairman of the urban district council with only £5.


All children born in the district in the opening week were also to receive a passbook and a five-shilling deposit. This was at a time when banking was being encouraged nationally. Can you imagine the banks today with this type of promotion? The rate of interest at that time was 2.5 per cent.


Elsewhere, in the paper I found the headline ‘Joy ride for the Old folks’ and, of course, wondered who had taken them! It appeared, however, that the local fire station had arranged entertainment for the day for a group of 400 elderly people on holiday in the town and this included a ride on the town’s fire engine.


I was interested to read in another article that there was a serious meat shortage at this time, and the British Rabbit Council – I didn’t realise there had been such a council – was making every effort to encourage the ‘production of domestic rabbits for food’.


It’s interesting to see how the wording of articles has changed over the years. The complete article was a revelation in that it explained how to make a hutch, how many does were an ideal number to keep in a small space and finally it advised that the pelts could be turned into “very hard wearing garments, gloves etc”. This paper also contained advertisements for local shops which were selling tropical birds and tortoises!


The next article was about plans for a Pets Corner in Hotham Park and included details of the cost of animals that were to be purchased, such as £1.50 for a pair of fox cubs and a pair of penguins for £140. The size of paper and the public’s need for information is so different from today, that even these trivial – by today’s standard – reports were seen to be newsworthy in the 1950s.


During 1951 much excitement was generated by the major exhibition in the country – that of the much proclaimed Festival of Britain. Transport to London varied and one could travel by train for 68p, with a third class return ticket. Alternatively, one could travel with the Southdown Motor company for 62p, which also included the entrance fee – different to the Millennium Dome costs!


Another paper from March, 1953, had a number of quite interesting advertisements, such as the one from Eroica in the High Street, which was encouraging readers to have a television so they could see Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation. Interestingly, they were prepared to give a generous allowance on ‘unused pianos’ towards the costs of these televisions.


Another advertisement provided a further insight into the 1950s. This time it was Saits and Moneys Dairies who, in a joint advertisement, advised that cream would again be available from April 1 to July 31 and because of this ice cream would be available for the same period. They also announced that as eggs had come off ration one could depend on them for a supply of fresh eggs.


There was also a major problem reported in that the residents of Felpham were annoyed with the GPO. It appears the Post Office had decided the main postal address for Felpham, Middleton and Elmer was, in fact, now to be Bognor Regis, thus “sinking the identity of these areas”. Not only had their addresses changed, but when the telephone directory was issued many addresses had been “reduced to numbers”.


One such was the Manor House which had been given a number in Limmer Lane. Residents reminded the postal services that Felpham was mentioned in the Domesday Book, long before Bognor Regis existed.


By October, 1954, according to the press, not much seemed to have changed in the town. There were more advertisements but one headline caught my eye: ‘Hospital Sunday at Bognor Regis – Shortage of Nurses reflects on Nation’. It was a report on a sermon preached by the Vicar of Bognor Regis in St John’s Church. He remarked : “It is due to the decline in the sense of vocation which is a secondary depression following in the wake of a nation-wide decline in Christian faith and standards.”


There continued a long report on this sermon, which also included the following: “The community in general and young people in particular are suffering from an unhealthy fixation over pleasure and money.” Remember, this is 1954.


In this particular issue of the paper there is a two-page spread on ‘Autumn in the garden’. This article leads you to understand how important gardening was at this time. I suppose after the war years when gardening was for food production, the use of this same area for pleasure must have been a pleasant change.


Bygone newspapers and books are fascinating in describing our life. As we move to 2020, think of how we lived then as we look forward to the future. Thank you for reading these articles weekly, and providing me with some new information, it is much appreciated. I wish you all a happy festive season and good health for 2020.

Posted in Lifestyle.