We have just had a cold snap, not much of a cold snap, it only lasted for two days and the temperature barely dipped below zero’
Nevertheless newspapers were full of sob stories about fuel poverty, how some people can barely afford to heat their homes and calls for the Government to make emergency benefit payments. In the Yorkshire post this week one woman claimed that she was so unable to pay fuel bills that she was using a hair dryer in place of central heating.
To be clear I am not being judgemental here, just making a social observation.
When I was a boy houses were cold in Winter, very cold indeed and it was just an inconvenience that was part of 1960s home life.
On the 29th to 30th December 1962 a blizzard roared across England and Wales and continuous freezing temperatures meant that the snow cover lasted for over two months and the winter of 1962/63 was the coldest over England and Wales since 1740 and there wasn’t another frost free night until 5thMarch 1963.
This would have been quite an ordeal I’m certain because like most people in 1962 we lived in a house without central heating and this was in the days long before double glazing and thermal insulation. I don’t think we even had a fitted carpet! The house had an open fire in the lounge and a coke boiler in the kitchen to heat the water and that was it. Sitting around the fire was quite cosy of course but when it came to bed time this was a real ordeal.
Having a bath was a nightmare. Bathrooms were ice boxes – ours seemed to have an unfair share of outside walls. Hot water was limited and the tank (heated by the coke boiler) ran out long before there was enough in the bath for a proper soak.
I know that we had some electric fan heaters somewhere but Dad was reluctant to use these because he lived in fear of the quarterly electricity bill and we were only allowed to use them when temperatures got below well below freezing.
We certainly didn’t have anything such as this…
The bedrooms weren’t heated in any way and the sheets were freezing cold and we certainly didn’t go to bed without a hot water bottle and thick flannelette pyjamas and without modern duvets, as it got colder, we had to rely on increasing numbers of blankets piled so high that you could barely move because of the weight.
When the house ran out of spare blankets overcoats were used instead. During the night the temperature inside the house would drop to only a degree or two higher than outside and in the morning there was frost and ice on the inside of the windows that had to be chipped off with a knife before you could see outside. Our school clothes were stiff with cold.
I can remember the mornings well, first I’d hear Dad get up and after he had checked for frozen pipes and put the kettle on I would hear him making up the fire and raking the coke boiler ready for ignition. He always did this job in his maroon and white check work shirt. After fifteen to twenty minutes or so it would be time to leave the comfort of the warm bed and go and see what sort of a job he was making of it.
On a good day the fire would be well established and roaring away and the temperature in the house would be limping up towards freezing but on a bad day he would be fighting to get it going and would be struggling with a newspaper stretched across the grate trying to ‘draw’ the fire into life and the house would still be at the temperature of the average arctic igloo.
This was drawing the fire but it obviously isn’t my dad…
I can only imagine that this was quite a dangerous procedure which required maximum concentration if you weren’t to burn the house door and get it a whole lot warmer than it really needed to be.
The house would still be cold by the time we had had our porridge and gone to school or to work and then it would be mum’s job to keep it going all day so that by tea time when we all came home it was nice and warm again.
Only the living room of course so playing in our bedrooms was out of the question and the family spent the evening together around that comforting fire.
An interesting newspaper advert from 1958…
That seems like a good deal to me – a real bargain, a three bedroom house loft insulated for £5 5 shillings. Dad’s salary in 1960 was £815 a year so I am certain that he could afford it.
I might be wrong here but I think Silver Stormax is sold today as Thinsulex Silver Multifoil and still seems fairly reasonable at £103.99 for a roll 1.2 x 10 metres.