The Way We Were – A 1960s Childhood

Charlie Fleischer once said, “If you remember the ’60s, you really weren’t there,” but here’s a random list of items that might jog your memory of growing up in Britain in the 1960s… which ones do you remember like they were yesterday?

Peter and Jane Books

Published by Ladybird, most primary school children learned to read using the Peter and Jane series of books. The stories of lovely day trips in the motor car, helping to pick apples in the orchard or riding ponies on sunny days made life seem idyllic in Peter and Jane’s world… and let’s not forget Pat the dog.

Bathrooms and Other Mod Cons

In the real world, things were not always as idyllic. For some, the ’60s brought indoor toilets, bathrooms and hot water, but for many, going to the toilet still meant a trip outside in all weathers – toilet paper or ripped up newspaper in hand – and having a bath meant sitting in front of the fire in a tin bath filled up with water boiled on the stove. Or, for a treat, a hot bath could be had at the local public swimming baths.

Some homes now had a twin tub washing machine and a vacuum cleaner, but others still washed everything by hand and made do with a carpet sweeper.

Getting the washing dried generally meant having clothes hanging in front of the fire on rainy days, and with the coal fire providing the only heat in most homes, frost was a common feature on the inside of windows during the winter – and much fun was had drawing shapes in it. Who remembers getting out from under heavy bed blankets (no duvets) in the morning and getting dressed for school with teeth chattering?

Music, Movement and Mime

Many schools had central heating in the ’60s, making them warmer than most homes, but daily exercise in the form of regimented PE lessons or vigorous playground games made sure no one felt the cold.

A popular physical activity in primary schools was “Music, Movement and Mime”, a radio (or wireless) broadcast provided by The School Broadcasting Council.

A voice on the radio gave instructions such as, “Now children, begin as a seed and grow… grow into a tall tree… and now sway like trees in the wind…” and boys and girls in school halls all around the country would crouch, leap and sway with arms in the air as they followed the instructions in their own style of interpretive dance – often in bare feet and wearing nothing more than their vest and knickers.

Corporal Punishment


Misbehaving at school in the 1960s could result in being caned or belted, depending on which part of the country you were in.

Other forms of punishment included a rap on the knuckles with a ruler, being spanked across the backside, or slapped on the arms or legs. Corporal punishment was commonplace in schools and the debate over whether it should have been banned rumbles on.

Were you ever on the receiving end?

Another random memory of schooldays in the ’60s is routinely putting your seat up onto your desk at the end of the day. Such discipline without question – how times have changed!

The Big Freeze

The winter of 1962 into 1963 brought a great deal of hardship to many people in Britain, but, for most children, the months of snow and ice brought great joy.

Many schools were closed for lengthy periods as roads became blocked with snow and power lines came down with the sheer weight of ice, but having no power and no means of stocking up dwindling food supplies was of no concern to children who were enjoying endless days of slides that never thawed!

Toys and Transistor Radios

What toys did you dream of owning in the ’60s: Etch-a-Sketch, Sindy, Mr Potato Head, Kerplunk, Mousetrap, Action Man…?

For many teenagers, the dream was to own a reel-to-reel tape recorder so that the Top 20 radio show could be recorded every Sunday evening, or the latest hits being played into the night on Radio Luxembourg. The Beatles took the music world by storm in the 1960s but what music did you love?

Beanz Meanz Heinz

Heinz launched their Beanz Meanz Heinz TV advertising campaign in 1967 and there’s every chance you had beans for tea more than once as a child in the ’60s – maybe on some toasted slices of Wonderloaf.

But, for children, the sweets available at the school tuck shop were of far greater interest.

Feast your eyes on this selection and see which ones you remember:

Flying saucers; coconut mushrooms, Parma violets, fizzers, drumstick lollies; sherbet fountain; sweet tobacco; traffic light lollies; candy whistles, or maybe a pack of Rowntree’s fruit gums at the price of 3d. A bar of Fry’s Chocolate Crème would set you back 6d, or were you more of a penny chew chooser – what did you spend your pocket money on?

TV Favourites

Colour TV didn’t come along until the late ’60s, but what TV shows did you love to watch:

Thunderbirds; Magpie; Mary, Mungo and Midge; Doctor Who; Playschool; Do Not Adjust Your Set; Casey Jones (steamin’ and a rollin’), or how about Lassie, Flipper or Skippy the Bush Kangaroo?

If you can remember the ’60s…

If you remember any of the above, you were there. What are your lasting memories of growing up in Britain in the 1960s?

Header image credited Picture Post. August 7, 1954

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  • The sixties was a wonderful time of proper family life,were every one in your street and sometimes village knew who you were and knew your parents, looking back it was a hard life but everyone enjoyed it, proper hearty food school milk and dinners,for a small payment but free if you lived with only one parent, kids got dirty out playing but were generally healthier than today,the general attitude towards adults was a lot more respectful even if they were not your parents,not so many do gooders sitting in big offices telling others how to live,the levels of serious illness was lower, crime was still a problem but the local bobby knew you and all your family and were respected for what they did on your behalf,today you don’t have proper neighborhoods if you know next door to speak to that’s about all,if people look back they will say this is the time when we lived in Great Britain and the British people were loved and respected as good people, over the years our lives have been slowly eroded by attitudes from above,mostly where the rich and powerful had the upper hand,we have become a soft society with laws brought in by people that don’t live on the ground level of life,i am not a strong political person but i think that Brexit is the turning point of the dog that has been kicked once to often, will the powers that be just take note and start to bring back all our former standards that made britain great and respected by all, not used and abused by all the rest of the world lets stand and be counted once more even if it takes a struggle to get there, i was born in 1952 but growing up in the sixties made me strong of body and strong of mind able to cope with anything life throws at me, a lot of kids today cant cope with life at all possibly because of our eroded standards, stand up and love your fellow man no matter what color or creed learn to love and respect other people like they were family, if that was possible we can all stand proud and say we live in Great Britain, Learn to love yourself and love others the same .

    • Good Afternoon,

      Such a lovely insight into your memories of growing up, particularly the learn to love yourself and love others the same.

      Does anyone else have fond memories to share?

      Spring Chicken

  • At the top of our street, there was an old bakers. It was a very old stone building almost like a cave inside, and the ovens were huge going way back. The bakers (there were two of them) used huge paddles like a broad spade with a long handle. At dinnertime the boys from a nearby school would buy a hot loaf, the baker would then cut off the top and put a nog of butter in replacing the lid.
    We had respect for our teachers in any case if we were in trouble at school most parents would back the teacher up. Swearing too was not tolerated the way it is today, in fact you could lose your job if caught swearing even mild words. On the plus side, there were many jobs to go round but we worked long hours and there was usually one week’s holiday, also most worked a five and a half day week.

  • they were the cruel days you were violently punished for doing the slight we thing wrong you were not allowed to enter a room if visitors were in without knocking and waiting until you were told to com e in and don’t speak until you were told i was beaten with an egg tree rod and a boiler stick in school you were hit with a stick with roughly broken branches on it we never knew what childhood was i could go on and on

  • What a lovely article and interesting comments. Fave sweets were Toffos and Black Jacks and Fruit Salad chews. Loved Skippy and Robinson Crusoe. We used to hold up the coloured wrappers from Quality Street (at Christmas) over the B/W tv to pretend it was colour. Still remember having a bath in front of the fire in a tin bath with a bar of lifebuoy or Camay soap.

  • By the way, there is an error in the main text, it should read Music, Movement and Mime – freezing taking part in vest and pants – brrr.

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