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A tribute to The Wombles: living in the 1970s

In England in 1977, there was a massive drought. Standpipes were out in the streets and people had to get water for everything by bucket. The concept was that we had to watch what we used carefully.

I remember many things about my child hood and realise that many other things are missing.

I often see those nostalgic ‘if you recognise this hit ‘like’…’ stories on Facebook with pictures of games/toys/sweets/TV shows etc and in general I think the options of the past may be better left there. But maybe there’s some habits worth resurrecting.

In the local chemists and drugstores you can buy any of a dozen choices, lavender scented, antibacterial, heavy duty. All of it packaged in amazing single use containers. They might be big or small, pump action or hands free!

Batteries to wash your hands?


Hang on a minute!

When I was a kid we had this stuff called oatmeal soap.


It looks a bit like this.

It came in big bars not bottles a with plastic pumps. Plastic bottles that become empty. That need to be replaced.

Washing took place each day with a bowl of water and a special device called a flannel. Once a week a large tub might be filled up. This was called ‘bath night’. Sometimes the water was used by each member of the family one after the other.

Yes we had TV in the 1970s but we had one. In our house there were sliding doors. If you needed to watch TV in the other room the doors were opened and the TV was turned around. It was on wheels. We didn’t own it we got it from radio rentals. To change channels you would stand up and walk across the room. There were three channels. Then later there were four. When the fifth came people thought it wasn’t any good. If the TV didn’t work a man came to the house to repair it.

Batteries to change channels?

The Good Life
There was a TV show about self sufficiency.

<a href="http://“>the good life
At my work place last week, I mentioned that I didn’t have a tumble dryer. There was much consternation and sucking of teeth at this. “Ah but you don’t have children!” I was told.

In the 1970s there were children. Their clothes were dried outside in the garden. A special tool called a washing line was stretched across the space or part of a rotary clothes line. It was a modern labour saving gadget.

Nappies (diapers)
Being a parent is very demanding. In the 1970s babies were dressed in nappies. These had a thin liner but were made of towelling. When they were used they were washed afterwards and used again.

The nappies of the 1970s are not in land fill still decomposing.

In the 1970s children received gifts at Christmas and on their birthdays. Usually they received one main gift and some smaller things.

Some Christmas presents were home made.

Roller skates were the most significant outdoor event that I can remember. They were strapped on your shoes and a lot of falling over happened.

In the 1970s children had jobs. They delivered newspapers. This was called a paper round. They used the money to subsidise their pocket money. This was sometimes £1 per week. To get to the job the children would sometimes ride a bicycle.

In the 1970s new foods began to be available. There was a new trend for ‘convenience food.’ Before this people would buy natural ingredients and cook them. This was before the invention of organic foods. the modern word for natural!

Many foods were home made.

People in the 1970s also ate their food from plates as they do today. When the plate had been used it was placed in a bowl of water. The plate would be rubbed with a cloth and then allowed to dry so that it could be used again.

When people needed to contact each other they could use a flat thin surface. It could be marked with a permanent line from a device called a pencil. This surface called paper could then be sent to the recipient by a service called the post. This would take a day. The recipient could then send a reply.

For more immediate communication a gadget called a telephone could be found in the hall way in some house. To contact someone else with a telephone you would turn a round handle on the front called a dial. Six digit codes were used to contact people. You would remember these codes or use a surface or paper to record them.

If you were travelling then contacting another person had two more options. A thicker surface or post card could be marked and sent with the post. Of you could find a small red glass house in the street. If it was vacant you could step inside and use a round metal object or coin to pay to use a public telephone and the same codes.

Growing up I seem to remember that new clothes were so something you got for a special event like Christmas. A new outfit to wear on the day. We had clothes that wore out. They were practical and suitable for the weather. They didn’t have names and labels with brands on.

Some clothing was home made.

If you went shopping you would take bags with you each time and use them again the next time. Some people would use a shopping trolley. Going to the shopping place could be done easily on a huge vehicle called a bus. The driver would accept 12p to take you all the way to the town.

The opportunity to go abroad was invented in the 1970s. It consisted of a trip to France, commonly on a ferry to a camping site. Before this a holiday was to Cornwall where a visit to a beach involved wellies and rain coats and buckets and spades. In France, the food would be weird and foreign.

Fast Food
The special treat of the week might be Friday night fish and chips. This came wrapped in newspaper which was biodegradable and involved no plastic at all. A solid form of recycling.

Bed Clothes
Sleeping involved two items. They were sheets and blankets. The blanket was a warm woollen device that was inevitably too got or too cold. Getting between the blankets was normally the worst part.

Central Heating
Radiators were heating devices but they might not be centrally controlled. The temperature in each room could vary and might need to be switched on by hand.

There are about two albums of photos from my childhood. Each time a memory was needed either 12, 24 or 36 photos could be taken with a special camera. The photos were a complete surprise. They would be taken to a shop and given to someone. After a week, photos could be collected and it was often a surprise when they were seen for the first time especially if the film came back blank.

There was a TV show called The Wombles. They collected stuff left lying about and put it to good use instead of throwing it away.


<a href="http://“>The Wombles

I’m fairly sure that we had a lot less stuff then.


25 comments on “A tribute to The Wombles: living in the 1970s

  1. Pingback: A tribute to the Wombles: living in the 1970s | Green Lizard's Blog

  2. bee76
    April 12, 2014

    I was born in the mid 70s so don’t remember everything mentioned above but I was just thinking this morning funnily enough about the non-gender specific toys in primary colours that me and my brother used to play with back then. It’s hard today to buy presents for my nieces and nephews which aren’t either pink or blue and very much for either boys or girls which is such a shame.


    • lizard100
      April 12, 2014

      It’s odd how consumerism can be so manipulative.


  3. Sarah
    April 12, 2014

    Just had a lovely half hour sharing this with my hubby and youngest son. He remembers a stand pipe on the village green (I remember being bathed in my grandma’s kitchen sink that summer). And on nappies…when I was heavily pregnant, an elderly lady up the road told me she felt sad that you never see washing lines of nappies drying in the sun. I told her that we’d got washable nappies, she looked really shocked. I loved them. And loved the Wombles trip down memory lane. Thank you 🙂


    • lizard100
      April 12, 2014

      Ahhhhh! So glad you enjoyed it. It’s one of my longest posts. I think there may be a sequel too. You can imagine I was frustrated when it didn’t post properly. I’m impressed you used washable nappies. There were so many things we didn’t do then. Our home made Wombles were the best Christmas present ever!


  4. Expat Eye
    April 12, 2014

    So true. I remember when things were treats, rather than just being expected!


    • lizard100
      April 12, 2014

      The world went daft!


      • Expat Eye
        April 12, 2014

        Makes for better blog posts though!


      • lizard100
        April 12, 2014

        That’s the plan. Step one try and figure out how to get the ingredients!


  5. tootlepedal
    April 12, 2014

    You should have tried the fifties!


    • lizard100
      April 13, 2014

      That’s what my husband said!


      • tootlepedal
        April 13, 2014

        Radiators? Carpets? Unheard of luxuries. We had to rely on earthenware pigs for bedtime comfort.


      • lizard100
        April 14, 2014

        Earthenware pigs? We had pigs made of straw! I’ve got a feeling there will be a living in the 1970s sequel…..


  6. cheergerm
    April 12, 2014

    Great and thought provoking. My mum washed nappies (4 kidlets) too.


    • lizard100
      April 13, 2014

      Wow. She had her work cut out. Thanks for reading!


  7. gardeningvix
    April 13, 2014

    Fab post! Xx


  8. lizard100
    April 14, 2014

    I’m planning a follow up to this post.


  9. Rambling Woods
    April 14, 2014

    Great post… The 70’s…… Hmmmm… My teenage years. Little money so we were forced to be thrifty and re-users….


  10. ontheedgegardening
    May 8, 2014

    Brilliant! Very clever and funny but with a serious lesson for us all. I loved the wombles but the clangers were a special favorite.


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This entry was posted on April 6, 2014 by in recycling and tagged , , , .

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a blog by a multilingual expat-since-birth, linguist, researcher, mum of three, living in the Netherlands and writing about bilingualism, multiculturalism, parenting abroad, international life...

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