Saturday 1427 – 23rd March 2013
I know a lot of the time I write about very serious stuff but this blog never started out to be overly serious it was just to encourage me to do things with my Saturdays, think more and learn. This past week I’ve been in Shropshire ( I know I really should get out more !!!! ) and one place I visited really fascinated me leading me on a nostalgic trip through my childhood and into my 20’s. It was called Land of Lost Content, the National Museum of British Popular Content and it’s housed in an Old Market Hall in Craven Arms. If you’re of a certain age I think you’ll enjoy this post !
I was rather enchanted and asked the owner, the rather inspirational Stella Mitchell, if I could take some photos ( not normally allowed) so that I could write about LLC on this blog. She very kindly allowed me to take a photo of her too which I decided to show in sepia 🙂
I determined as I was leaving that I would take a look at the museum’s website to find out more and you can take a look at it yourself here and there are some rather delightful videos here spanning a 30 yr period of the museum which started life as “Rejectamenta”
I love that name and rather wish she and her husband Dave – who she describes as an “enabler of regal proportions and capability” – had kept it because it’s so suitable for a building that is full of everyday 20th Century artifacts that would normally have been thrown away.
You can see by the photo and Stella’s note below who she has dedicated this museum to – The ordinary men and women of 20th Century Britain which I found rather moving.
You know how you somehow think you have led a very individual life? Well I know I always thought that but visiting here shows you just how much you have gone along with the fashions and fads of the day; certainly when you are young.
I am going to show you a series of photos of the exhibitions and how they have related to my life. I’m sorry that some of the photos are not very clear, there was low lighting and some items were behind plastic.
The Compendium of games was a stalwart of every household and included such favourites as tiddlywinks, ludo and snakes and ladders. You can also see one of my favourite games of the time, a version of Pick-up-sticks in the box on the left. Such simple fun..
Below you can see Cindy and Barbie dolls. They were so different and you were either a Cindy or a Barbie girl. As I remember it we had these dolls when we were around 10, 11 or 12 . I was a Cindy girl ( although couldn’t afford lots of outfits so made my own) she was much more British! and realistically shaped and you can see several versions of her in the bottom of the photo. We considered Barbie to be very American and unrealistically shapely, with large breasts and the tiniest of waists . You can see a couple to the top right of the photo.
In the next photo you can see some film memorabilia toys. These were firmly aimed at the boys of the time with lots of guns, cowboys and Indians, talk about stereotyping. ! If you look closely you will see in the box with the guns on the right, what looks like a thin roll of paper – these were called caps and were “small discs of shock-sensitive explosive compounds that provide the noise and smoke”..My late brother had a cap gun as a child and I thought nothing of it. Hmmm. I expect you can guess my opinion on them now !!
As a child and like most girls in the 50’s and 60’s I was a member of the “Brownies” and wore a uniform like the one in the photo below . I “flew-up” into the Girl Guides meaning I got my “wings” for completing all sorts of badges for things like cooking and fire lighting, tying knots and all sorts of other tasks. You collected badges called proficiency badges and they were quite the thing.. There is argument nowadays that these childhood institutions helped to keep people “in their place” and were a way of getting children used to being in uniform and discipline in readiness for the armed forces. There may be some truth in that but it didn’t work for me and seemed just like fun at the time !
I had to include Sticky Back Plastic because as a child it was used for everything Blue Peter! This was a TV programme aimed at children (it’s still going)and they were always making something or other like a doll’s house for example using things like shoe boxes, the inner cardboard of toilet rolls and especially sticky back plastic, anyone in their 50’s will remember this very well I’m sure. It really made me smile to see it.
Trends in houses come and go but one of the firm trends throughout the 40’s, 50’s and into the early 60’s I think were the iconic flying ducks, three pottery birds hung like pictures on the walls of houses? Thankfully we didn’t have them, probably because we couldn’t afford them but my mother didn’t like them anyway, thought we did have a budgie in a cage just like the one in the photo below.. he was called Georgie and I always felt sorry for him being in a cage. He used to be let out to fly round the living room for exercise before being put back and covered with a cloth for the night, presumably to keep him quiet as he was rather noisy! The room is so like many in the 50’s and Stella has the knack throughout the museum of capturing the everydayness which makes people feel right at home.
Above you can see memorabilia of a favourite on TV , we used to watch it on our neighbours TV before we had one, the British light entertainment programme The Black and White Minstrels show. It lots of singing, group dancing and white men with blacked up faces pretending to be black and it ran from 1958 to 1978. It had definite “Deep South” overtones where coy white women could be seen being wooed by docile, smiling black slaves.. It seems the programme evolved from the “Swannee River” type radio shows. You can also see golliwogs, black dolls and figures used to advertise Robertson’s jam, there were little Gollies as they were called in many costumes or playing musical instruments that could be collected.
Neither the Tv programme nor the dolls/jam jars seemed racist to me at the time but then I didn’t even know what the word racist meant and certainly wasn’t aware of it happening but then why would I be.. I was white so wasn’t going to be a victim of it was I ? I don’t remember any racist language being used in my house as a child but I do vaguely remember the word Wog being used outside in a derogatory fashion towards the few black people who I remember in the town I grew up in. I was indeed an innocent.
There is so much nostalgia for me in this museum and Stella has it divided up into many sections to cover schooldays, health, holidays, TV , pop style etc and products from confectionary to cleaning, footwear to cosmetics and everything in between. Aladdins Cave has nothing on the Land of Lost Content.
The final bit of the personal nostalgia I’m going to show you involves cigarettes. In my teens and early 20’s I smoked as did both my parents, my older brother and sister,; after all it was seen as THE thing to do and I don’t remember health risks being mentioned. What I do remember is wanting to be very cool and when we wanted to show how cosmopolitan we were we showed off by smoking french cigarettes or the Black Russians; black cigarettes with a gold tip and thought we were really “it” .. How silly it all seems now but I was as influenced by peer pressure then as anyone else.
I searched through Stella’s extensive collection of different brands and wasn’t disappointed because there they were – “Gauloises” and “Sobranies”. How foolish I was to ever start smoking and how sensible to eventually give up!
I want to end this little trip down memory lane by explaining why this museum is now named Land of Lost Content. In her own literature Stella says she was inspired by the poetry of A.E.Houseman and in particular by A Shropshire Lad and there are references throughout the museum including in the lady’s toilet which you can see in the photo below ( NO! not of the toilet!! ) and by Sir Peter Blakes mixed medium art piece “Toyshop Window” which you can see here
It just remains for me to thank Stella for letting me share a little of her wonderful museum which is itself a work of art and there is much, much more of it. I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing with me a little bit of my very Bristish childhood and I hope any of you who are ever in the South Shropshire area will visit the museum to help keep this wonderful place going. I will certainly be going back as there is so very much to see.
Here’s another link – http://www.lolc.org.uk/ .
Saturday Girl, steeped in nostalgia for a bygone age, signing off now. See you next week.
You can find my photography blog Photomania here and I hope you’ll pop over and take a look if you haven’t already.. Photos of all sorts over there!