By Lindsey-Jane, 70. Adelaide, SA
These are just a few of the snacks and meals that we enjoyed as children in the 1950s. Today, some have been adapted to be more health-conscious for future generations, and others have simply vanished, which is a bit sad. As a child growing up in Australia in the 1950s, these are some of my favourites.
In this era, much of our food was influenced by England, Scotland and Wales; Ireland, too. Our food didn’t become multicultural until the ’60s and ’70s. However, Adelaide had one Chinese restaurant called The Silver Dragon and one Indian/Sri Lankan restaurant called the Ceylon Hut. Both were very popular for those looking for something different. In the later ’60s came the Italian and Greek cafes and spaghetti moved out of tins.
Bread and Dripping
This was spread on fresh bread and sprinkled with salt and was a really yummy after school snack. Now, it would be politically, nutritionally and all kinds of incorrect, because it was solidified fat from a roasting dish, but kids loved it and it was right up there with bread and Vegemite.
Mushrooming in the hills
This activity was so much fun on a crisp autumn morning, then going back home, where my mum would stew the mushrooms for breakfast with hot buttered toast. The wonderful smell of these mushrooms as they were cooking wafted around the kitchen and should have been bottled. Did you know we call them mushies? Living in the Adelaide Hills, our favourite place for mushrooming was on the Upper Sturt golf course. Finding these white capped beauties , both big and small, was almost as much fun as hunting for Easter eggs.
Balfour’s Jubilee Cake or Fruit Buns
These were especially good when toasted and spread with butter and make me remember cold wet afternoons when I visited my Nanna. Balfours Jubilee Cake was a favourite of my Nanna’s. I loved the sweet white icing on top. We used to have it with a cup of cocoa. Balfours was an Adelaide establishment and they made really yummy cakes, pies and pasties. For a while, Balfours had their own cafe and in another part of the city, a more formal restaurant. I used to go there with my Nanna right up until she died in the mid-’70s.
The Women’s Work Depot
My Mum used to take me into this shop, which I think was in Gawler Place after a visit to the dentist and buy me something nice. The shop, a rarified little haven of high quality cooking and craft, always smelled of baking biscuits, and indeed my husband’s grandmother used to bake shortbreads for the Women’s Work Depot. At Easter time they used to make the most scrumptious marshmallow bunnies, with pale pink ears. I think one year the Easter Bunny brought me one of these delicacies.
Blackberrying in the Adelaide Hills
Often, at the end of summer, my family , my aunt’s family, as well as my Nanna would all go blackberrying and turn the event into a big picnic. We had to wear sun hats and look out for snakes (we never saw any) and be prepared to have purple stained fingers for days afterwards with a few thorns tossed in for good measure. Again, the smell of blackberry jam being made in the kitchen should have been bottled. I do hope there’s blackberry jam in heaven.
Toffee Days at School
A huge variety of toffees were sold on certain days to raise money for either the school or a charity. I was forbidden to eat the stick-jaw toffee, as I had bands on my teeth, but my favourite was usually the kind with hundreds and thousands on top. These were pre-fluoride days, so could easily end up in a trip to the dentist. A good example of pleasure and pain.
… with sawdust all over the floor.
Fish and Chips
… for school lunch. A special treat at school was to be allowed to walk up to the Blackwood local fish and chip shop and buy a shilling’s worth ( yes, really) of fish and chips. Blackwood Primary School allowed this privilege once you got to grade three. You spent most of the lunch break in a queue, but it was so worth it. A shilling was the equivalent of about ten cents. And for this you received a generous serve.
Fry’s Chocolate Bars
There were two flavours, a peppermint one, which was the favourite of my Nanna and Mum, and a five flavour fruit one, which was my favourite. Right up there with Polly Waffles which sadly became obsolete only a few years ago. Maybe they’ll have Polly Waffles in heaven. They are after all, heaven in a wrapper and consist of chocolate, marshmallow and wafer biscuit. Are you taking this down, God?
Unsliced Loaves of Bread
Still warm from the oven and delivered to our door by the baker in Blackwood. I was often in trouble for picking the end of the loaf which was still warm and making a hole. I bet some of you were too. Our baker first used to drive a horse and cart, then later he bought a van. His bread was awfully delicious, however it was delivered.
The Theme Music of Blue Hills
I often associate this with boiled eggs and toast for lunch (pre-school days) in our cosy kitchen. For anyone not familiar with Blue Hills, it was a long running radio serial that ran from 1949 until 1976 and was at one time the world’s longest running radio serial. Just about everybody listened to Blue Hills, especially the stay-at-home mums. The theme tune is lovely and very evocative.
Chooks in the Backyard
Everyone had some chooks. Once, I got locked in the hen house and couldn’t get out. I screamed and hollered to mum, but I probably scared the chooks, because one of them started pecking me.
Yes, really and truly. Delicious on a cold wet day and you’d sprinkle the crumpet with salt and pepper. Crumpets only used to be available in the shops when the days grew cooler in autumn, and discontinued in spring. Now, they’re available all year round and they’re just as nice with honey or jam, or salt and pepper. Many people laugh at me when I tell them about my salt and pepper habit.
These of course came into popularity in the 1960s and 1970s and are historical enough to mention here. They were a good place to go with boyfriends after a movie. They were mostly dimly lit and very cosy. My go-to was The Siam on Unley Road. Vienna coffees were popular and a favourite of mine with their topping of whipped cream.
Balfours Frog Cakes
I can’t leave you without mentioning these delectable little blokes. Square shaped, but rounded on top, with their mouth filled with cream, they even have eyes, which simply say eat me and you won’t be able to resist . They come iced in colours of chocolate, green, which is good for a frog and pink. Pink is my favourite, but I’ll quite happily eat the other two. As a small child I recall eating one of each, one after the other. What a little guts. I often have one on my birthday. It’s my birthday cake. Fortunately you can still buy these. They’re certainly more expensive these days. Now I want one and alas there are none in the house…sigh.
One day I’ll have to do a fond food memories Part Two, because I can think of many more but hope these have brought back some fond food memories for you, too.
Read more from Lindsey-Jane’s Hands Up — Who Remembers the ’50s? series: