Monday, 1 December 2014

In Many Ways 1957 was Not Such a Bad Time

Private Eye   ...ha ha, but wait a minute. Was 1957 really such a terrible time to live? There were many good things about it if you stop and think for a moment.  

In 1957, there was full employment in the UK and in fact there was such a shortage of labour that we were begging immigrants to come in from the Commonwealth to do certain jobs. Rather different from the picture now, with chronic long-term unemployment in many sectors of society, and businesses perversely recruiting from abroad to make that situation worse. 

In 1957 we were steadily paying off our national debt, which was a result of war, not of overspending on benefits. We went on paying it off throughout the Thatcher era, but now it is steeply rising again and we have sold off most of our national assets as well. 
In 1957 we owned our own Post Office and a letter cost 2d.
In 1957 the UK had a large, vigorous and thriving fishing industry that flourished because we controlled our own waters. Now it has been reduced to shreds and our fish stocks ransacked and looted by mega-trawlers from EU countries.
In 1957 we had an immense national railway network with hundreds of little branch lines that have since been closed down. You could go almost anywhere by train and the railway provided a secure lifetime's employment for a multitude of the working class. In 1957 most people expected to have a "job for life". You trained as a nurse, a midwife or a teacher and you were not sacked at age 35 to make way for someone younger who could be paid less.
In 1957 the state pension was enough to live on.
A 3-bedroom semi in a London suburb cost £2,500, which was about five years' earnings for the average person. Now it would cost around fourteen years' salary.
Cadbury's was alive and kicking, producing real British chocolate in its factory-in-a-garden at Bourneville.
We made our own cars, bicycles, radios, knives, forks and scissors instead of importing everything from China. We even made our own china...
In 1957, the National Health Service in Britain was free. Completely free. People paid their taxes and in return got FREE prescriptions, FREE dental treatment and FREE eye tests. You could also get free glasses, or if you didn't want to be seen in the free ones you could get free lenses and buy your own frames.
Council care-homes for the old were free of charge.
In 1957, there were free grammar schools in every part of England. The academic standards they aimed at  - and mainly achieved  - were staggering compared to today's state education. Very high standards of literacy and language learning were taken for granted. The standards of most O-levels were comparable to what they call A-level today. Or higher. And school gave you free milk.
In 1957, if you won a university place, you got all your fees paid, even if your parents were very rich. If they weren't very rich, you got a free grant to cover your living expenses. This continued even if you were on a six or seven-year medical course. There weren't so many universities but there were plenty of training colleges and technical colleges which were also free of charge and guided young people  straight into work. 
In 1957, most children were born in wedlock, with two parents formally committed to supporting and bringing them up. From the child's point of view that was a decided advantage.
In 1957, Britain had a sizeable and effective armed force. It had a numerous army, a well-equipped navy and the best Air Force in the world. Now we couldn't defend a children's playground.

In 1957, your rubbish was collected weekly from outside your house, not fortnightly.
In 1957, you could drive your car into the middle of London or Oxford or most towns and find somewhere to park it  - FREE.
In 1957, public libraries were so well funded that they stocked a wide range of newspapers and would also get any book you asked for, free if you were still at school, or for a ridiculously low fee if you were an adult.

As far as mod cons go, the basics (washing-machines, fridges, radio, TV, telephones and central heating ) had been invented but because there was much less traffic on the road you could safely cycle almost anywhere you wanted to go. When you switched on the radio or TV you would hear bearable standards of English without endless swear-words or phrases like "He was sat over there". TV was still black and white, but at least you would switch it on and off without having to find some blasted control and point it at the box, press buttons and wonder whether the blasted batteries have run down.
In 1957, we still owned half of the world's broadcasting frequencies. We hadn't sold them off, unlike now.
There were twice as many pubs in England then, and five times as many little village shops.
And in 1957, we made our own laws. We were not subject to arbitrary decrees from the EU commissioners or absurd rulings from the ECHR. Our Parliament governed our country. Now we have given away our own sovereignty, blindfold as we were never told the truth about it. We were told we were entering a "free-market zone".


In some browsers, you may have to click on the title to make comment box appear.

No comments:

Post a Comment