The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

THE other week myself and my husband celebrated our 55th wedding anniversary and, as we had done on all our previous anniversaries, celebrated it quietly, just the two of us, sharing a meal at our favourite restaurant.

It was, of course, a time for reminiscing, looking back at our early life together, and how simple and uncomplicated it had seemed in those days even though we had little money.

Looking smart: John Croft is pictured with Linda, later to be his wife, on a day out at Blackpool when they were both aged 18. Note John's Beatle jacket and Linda's beehive hairdo.

Looking smart: John Croft is pictured with Linda, later to be his wife, on a day out at Blackpool when they were both aged 18. Note John's Beatle jacket and Linda's beehive hairdo.

We had been lucky to get a mortgage to buy our own house, the one we still live in all these years later, but we struggled to pay off the mortgage.

Paying the monthly installments was always our first priority because we knew if we fell behind our house would be repossessed.

And, after the children arrived, and I had to give up my job, as women did in those days, there was even less money in the kitty.

But our one luxury in those days was always a meal out on our wedding anniversary, but we always had to get to it on the bus.

There was no car in those days and taxis were a luxury we couldn’t afford, as was a bottle of wine, at least not until the dreaded mortgage was paid off.

Looking back, we realise that taking out a mortgage was a very brave thing for a young couple to do, but nearly everyone of my generation were doing it.

Sometimes it might only be a little one-up one-down, but couples could still buy on what was called rental purchase.

They paid a deposit and a weekly rental until the purchase price was paid off.

No matter how scarce money was, we always made sure we celebrated our wedding anniversary with a special meal at a nice restaurant. That is why we still remember them.

They were such rare and special treats – treats we all take for granted these days.

In recent months people of my generation have been sharing their memories on this page, and many of recall the simple pleasures of life.

It seems we all still long for those happy days of our childhood, our youth, our courting days, when life was so much simpler.

This week’s column from John Croft, formerly of Thornhill, reminds us of those uncomplicated days when young couples seemed to follow the same path.

They met while they were still young, courted, got married and if they were lucky stayed together.

Here is what John Croft writes about his early days, including nights out:

“People in the 1950s addressed each other formally and, apart from a couple of close neighbours, my mum always addressed people as Mr or Mrs, as did we her children.

“If neighbours told you off, you just accepted it with no backchat.

“If I incurred Mum’s displeasure while outdoors with her, she’d do her ventriloquist act.

“With clenched teeth and smiling at anyone nearby she’d say – “gait ghile I get you home”. Oh heck!

“A smacked bottom and being sent to bed with no supper was the usual punishment.

“But later on mum would bring up some milk and a biscuit followed by a cuddle.

“A mumbled ‘sorry’ from me, and everything was forgotten.

“Smoking real tobacco seemed the natural thing to do after eating licorice smoking kits as children and candy cigarettes with the red tip.

“Also smoking pretend pipes made from an acorn and a match.

“Watching film stars smoking on screen made it seem a desirable and acceptable habit, but I stopped smoking many years ago.

“I wonder how today’s youngster’s can afford cigarettes. Have they got a firewood round?

“Going to a Saturday dance was the most popular way of meeting girls, with Dewsbury Town Hall a favourite venue.

“After paying your entrance fee you’d get a ‘pass out’ and head for a nearby pub.

“The Great Northern Hotel was popular and full of older guys, with some providing entertainment playing the spoons or crooning an off-key ballad on the small stage.

“But you hadn’t to lose sight of your beer in there as some men’s sleight of hand would have put Paul Daniels to shame.

“After a drink it was back to the Town Hall before 10pm, and even earlier if it was a group such as Barry Corbett and The Mustangs, who appeared with The Beatles, or The Reverend Black and The Rocking Vicars, whose guitarist was Lemmy the founder of Motorhead.

“You would walk round the edge of the dance floor with a mate looking for two lovely lasses to split up and dance with before the ‘smooch’.

“Afterwards, along with many other couples, you’d head for the shadows behind the bus station for a kiss and cuddle and maybe a ‘can I see you next week?’ before getting the last bus home.

“I met my future wife at the Town Hall, when we were both 17, and I walked her home to get more time to make an impression.

“I wasn’t letting her out of my sight until I was sure she’d meet me again.

“The rest as they say is history, as we have just celebrated our Golden Wedding.”