It seems strange now but once upon a time we didn’t really have any gyms. They were very far and few between. Now they’re in shopping centres and office blocks and seemingly on every town street corner. So what did our mothers do to keep fit?
Well firstly, we don’t think our mothers ever gave much thought to the subject. They were just too busy! Let’s look at a typical day for Jenny’s mum, Doris, in the 1950s.
The day might start with an early cup of tea and then preparing breakfast for the family and maybe a packed lunch for her husband.
As Doris didn’t drive, she would walk the younger kids to school, this would include pushing the pram with the baby in it. Now these were big, heavy and clumsy carriage prams not like the strollers that are popular today. One good thing about them though was the small tray between the wheels and below the carriage itself. This was ideal for carrying small items needed for the baby or maybe a few items bought from a local shop on the way home. Any extra shopping was placed into paper carrier bags and either suspended from the pram handle or placed near baby’s feet on the pram mattress. Of course this meant that the pram was even heavier to push but the whole activity certainly toned up the leg, abdominal and arm muscles.
All this was back in England, which meant the family lived in a two storey house. So, once Doris and baby arrived home, the days work continued. Whilst the baby snoozed or wriggled on the rug, Doris would clear away and wash the breakfast things, mop the floor and wipe down various surfaces in the kitchen. Then she might go upstairs to make the beds, clean the bathroom, tidy clothes, maybe vacuum too. Sometimes the windows may need washing.
Once upstairs was finished upstairs it would be time for Doris to give the downstairs a going over too. The lounge would be vacuumed, the sofa cushions plumped up, kids toys put away and again, sometimes, the windows would need washing (they lived very close to a railway line, back in the days of the old steam trains, so soot was an ever present menace. The cleaning, both upstairs and down would also have included a lot of dusting and polishing. Once again, what with all the climbing up and down stairs, lifting and bending, the chores were definitely a good work out for all the important muscles.
Back in the days before mod-cons became readily available and affordable Doris would have to hand wash all their clothes. Small items were boiled in a very large saucepan kept just for that one purpose. We haven’t seem them for years but you used to be able to buy large wooden tongs for lifting the hot sodden clothes from the water. The washing was then transferred to the kitchen sink for rinsing. Large items like sheets and net curtains were washed directly in the sink before rinsing too. Sometimes a scrubbing-brush was used for heavy stains. Imagine the muscles used with all the washing being agitated, pumped up and down and then the squeezing and wringing out.
Doris was fortunate to have a big old iron mangle in the back yard. This had two rubber enclosed rollers which, via a large hand wheel, rotated in different directions enabling Doris to run her wet clothes through to squeeze as much water out as possible. The rollers could be set at different heights to allow for the variable material thickness.
The clothes were then pegged onto a clothes line using a forked tree branch as a prop. With four young kids and a husband, (and all that soot!) Doris spent a lot of time boiling and washing clothes.
Of course, the work wasn’t finished there, there was still the baby to play with and to look after. There was also the ironing, the cooking, collecting the kids after school (it was almost a mile each way) and of course, as there was no spare money to keep buying new clothes, Doris did her fair share of darning and repairing too.
It is a different world today. Women are not expected to stay at home (in the western world) – it is their choice, which is a good thing.
In some ways, mothers are even busier and tear about all over the place dropping the kids at a crèche or school, then going off to work, then repeating the process all over again at the end of the day. Somehow the modern mum has also to find the time to do the shopping as well. The modern house today has all sorts of labour-saving devices and mothers don’t, now, get the work out that our mothers did, hence the popularity of the gym.
Not just a place to get fit but a chance to have some “me time” too.
If readers have similar memories, feel free to share, meanwhile,
Keep On Rockin’
P.S. The above photo is not of Doris, just one we grabbed off the internet and may be subject to copyright.