In 1947 my mum kept a diary in which she wrote short entries every day for about six months.
Many of the entries are so short they make perfect tweets (i.e. each entry is written in less than 140 characters, the Twitter maximum for every post.)
Some while ago I wrote a blogpost about my mum being a Twitter natural and in 2017 I'm planning to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the diary by tweeting it every day.
If you're interested in writing a family history on Twitter follow this link to @1947Diary. The first diary tweet will be on December 31st.
1947: what a year!
As well as the on-going post-war trauma there would be the worst winter weather of the twentieth century to contend with; there would be rationing of petrol, potatoes, bread and just about everything else; there would be power cuts and make-do-and-mend. But there would be, very shortly, the nationalisation of the coal mining, rail and other industries and the birth of the National Health Service and the Welfare State. The “Cold War” would start and there would be the inauguration of the CIA; the violent birth of independent India and Pakistan would take place along with the partition of Palestine; the deaths of Al Capone and Henry Ford would be announced; the Marshall Plan would be created by the USA to try and improve the situation in post-war Europe; there would be a Royal Engagement quickly followed by a Royal Wedding; the “New Look” would be created by Christian Dior in Paris while “Utility” furniture would be the best that most people could hope to buy.
My mum died many years ago when she was in her fifties but it's fascinating to read her adolescent diary entries which recorded the usual teenage preoccupations: clothes; hair; family; friends; and boys. However what the diary also inadvertently contains are insights into the post–war era that has come to be known as Austerity Britain.
I was struck by what my mum had written on 9th February 1947: “Snow! Potatoes very short.” I thought this encapsulated everything I knew about that period: terrible winter weather and food in short supply. In fact when I started looking into this, 1947 was the worst winter in Britain ever recorded up until then; and not only was food in short supply it was actually being rationed even more than it had been during World War II.
Another entry that intrigued me was written on 4th January 1947: “Went to Leeds and got some smashing cool-ee joyce shoes.” I could not imagine what cool-ee joyce shoes were but eventually managed to find out that they were a range of very stylish footwear imported from the USA that were all the fashion at the time and highly prized.
On 25th February Doreen wrote: “Stayed in at night and started re-knitting old jumper.” This reminded me of the famous phrase from the 1940s “Make Do and Mend” which has had quite a revival in recent years; clearly Doreen had learned the lesson well!
When I was writing Cabbage and Semolina I remembered how mum was still re-knitting old wool when we were children:
Mum sewed dresses for winter and for summer; shorts for going on holiday; and blouses for school. She knitted cardigans, jumpers, gloves, scarves; hats; even a woolly swimsuit.
Note: no trousers. Girls didn't wear trousers in those days.
We had new best clothes for Christmas and new best clothes at Whitsun; and then the old best clothes became our school clothes. It wasn't that it was make-do-and-mend anymore: it's just that the habits of the wartime years had stuck with our mum. She would still make us unravel an old jumper and re-wind the wool so she could knit it up again.
Thanks for reading my blog today. Click here to read more about my mum's 1947 Diary and here to follow @1947Diary on Twitter.
I'm a former primary school head teacher now enjoying family history, e-publishing and gardening. I'm the author of "Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood" and was delighted when the book became an Amazon 2015 bestseller in the Social History category. I'm the founder of Spurwing Ebooks which is at http://www.spurwing-ebooks.com for book details and information about new releases and special offers. Details of my books are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/C.-Murray/e/B009R7CRVC and the other books I've published are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Murray/e/B007AQZMZK