Sunday, 21 December 2014

Obb Wool Socks & The Hallelujah Chorus.

Christmas at my Grandparents house was always a very happy time, the weeks leading up to it seemed to go on for ages.  There would be several trips to the toy shop to see everything on show, my mam would say "if you're good maybe Father Christmas might bring you one of those", referring to whatever must have toy I was looking at.  Of course, the next time we visited I wanted something else entirely!  I realise now these trips where to get some idea of what to buy for me.  There were a lot of things to choose from, toy shops in those days were a riot of colour and things that made noises or performed various movements after being wound up.

There were standard items that all kids received at Christmas, things like Comic Book Annuals, games compendiums, tinplate toys made by a German firm called Shuco.  These are now collectors items and fetch quite a lot of money, whatever condition they might be in.  Another modern collectable from the 40's & 50's is toy soldiers made from lead!  Although quite simply painted they were in fact quite accurate replicas of whatever branch of the armed forces they were meant to represent and were a must have for any small boy to re-enact battles and wars!  They were hollow and, being made from lead, not too tough, so in no time at all the soldiers heads came off!  This was no problem to us, just jam a matchstick into his neck leaving a stub protruding, force the head onto the stub and he was ready to fight again.

The ultimate toy for boys though was a train set, clockwork driven but soon to be superseded by electric.  Mine was an O gauge Hornby Double O set.  I played with with for ages, at least until dinnertime!!

We also received a chocolate selection box, on looking back I see now that after the Second World War finished sweet rationing didn't end until the 5th of February 1953 so my mam must have saved up her ration coupons to get us a selection box which must have required a lot of points.   

The great night finally arrived though and off we went to bed, the way lit by candlelight and to hang up our stockings at the foot of the bed ready for "him" to visit and hopefully fill it up.  Our stockings were obb wool seaboot socks that my dad wore at sea!  I still remember the feel of those socks, bulging with items such as an apple, an orange, some sweets (more ration points!) and small "stocking filler toys".

Christmas Day always followed the same routine.  My grandma would be up very early at some silly time to get the bird into the oven and start on the vegetables and other trimmings, the smells would start to drift up the stairs quite early in the proceedings.  In those days Christmas was the only day of the year that we had a bird for dinner, usually a chicken, and it would be made to last for several days.  These days people eat chicken in various forms at least once a week, but they don't taste anywhere near as good as those chickens did back then.

We weren't allowed downstairs until the adults had gone down and
then we always knew when it was our turn to go down.  My Granddad set up his wind up gramophone in the front room (possibly the only time that room was used between funerals!) and played the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handels' Messiah at full volume!  Whenever I hear that piece of music I'm transported back to those wonderfully happy Christmases at my grandparents house.
Dinner was soon eaten and over and so, after requesting permission to leave the table, we would be allowed to play with our toys or read our "annuals", mine was the Beano and my sister usually got the Dandy.  We would swap later.
All to soon it was over for another year and so time to light the candles and return to bed.  
Christmas days over the years since have been spent in many ways, we've raised children of our own and now we are going through it all over again for a third time with our grandchildren.  
I hope you all enjoy your Christmas Day this year. 

Here are a couple of Christmas Card to finish with, one from the 1950's plus one that I've made.
Christmas Card from the 1950's, courtesy of
Ann Kennedy.  Please see her blog at
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a
Happy New Year from David Bennett and
my little dog Suzi.

From an original watercolour painting by my wife Carole.

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