The new suburb then.
The smallest of reflections on how we got here (see previous post).
As a child, I lived in one of the first suburban areas of Cork City, the site of a small village where surrounding farms were being sold off and the suburban phenomenon of tract housing was levelling and concreting the landscape.
We were new to the development and arrived from a small town in East Cork where we were surrounded by relatives and community activities.
Here the landscape was strange though for a little while, we were still surrounded by lowing cattle and harvesting of crops but knew nobody.
We had no car and no phone. Our house had a fireplace in every room and a tiny gas stove in the kitchen along with a small coal stove which heated the water. Out back there was a coal/turf shed. All those fires had to be lit sparingly in winter to keep us warm. But it was the lap of luxury for my mother as we had left a third floor cold water flat in the small town.
There was no washing machine or dryer. My mother had to wash everything by hand. There was no fridge. There was a "cold safe" out back behind the coal shed which kept meat and vegetables "cool" with a mesh door. My father, a government employee, grew our winter stock of vegetables in the large fertile (a former farm section) back garden. My granny would get on a bus from her small village holding and often bring us chickens and the blessing of a turkey at Christmas, which would be hung in the cold safe. We would have to pluck them and save the feathers for cushion fillings.
Mum made most of our clothes and "cut down" my father's old trousers for my four brothers and made my dresses. She knitted our hats and sweaters and gloves. Hand me downs were part of our existence. There was no shower and the bar of soap was used for hair and skin in our weekly baths. Toothpaste was in a tin which seemed to last forever. It seemed to me, looking back, that we shared one toothbrush which was only replaced when there were hardly any bristles left. Combs and brushes were communal. Shoes were repaired. Clothes were darned.
The village had everything we needed, a butcher shop, a small grocery shop, a post office and a pub. And milk was delivered first thing in the morning and the fresh bread was delivered in the late afternoon. The post was delivered morning and evening. There was no garbage. None. No plastic bags. Paper was used to wrap school books, or fire starting. Baskets and cloth bags for daily grocery shopping down the road. We had a compost heap for kitchen waste.
Excursions to town were on the bus and were rare. Usually to get us new shoes or in later years school uniforms. Our best clothes were for church and our wardrobe holdings were slim. My mother wore a shop coat over her clothes to protect them as she did her chores in the kitchen.
My father cycled to work, about two miles into the city. The money saved on transit was put towards our annual holidays on an island off the coast of West Cork which was completely primitive and had us shoeless for the summer running all over the place with no supervision and swimming all day. It was life changing in so many ways and fostered in all of us children a deep, compelling love of the ocean and for self-entertainment.
All this to say, life was way simpler then. A movie was a treat. Radio was entertainment at night. There was no television. Library visits were Saturdays. I remember hauling out 10 books for the week.
Consumerism and retail therapy were unheard of.
Television and its commercials changed much of that. Our first one was installed like a god in the dining room in the early sixties. Our minds were filled with the American lifestyles shown on this magic box. The endless closets filled with clothes, the fabulous kitchens, the huge living rooms! The cars! Shampoo!
We all looked around and saw how shabby we were, how impoverished, how lacking in the luxuries.
We wanted more.
And by gum, we were going to get our share of it. Or more. And we did.
Ant thus we lived happily ever after, amen.
The suburb now.