White goods

Moving to a council house when I was six years old was a step up in the world. We still had an outside toilet, but we did have a bathroom, with an enamel bath and a wall-mounted washbasin, instead of a tin bath that was hung on the wall when not in use.

We also had a kitchen with a scullery to the rear. In the farm cottage, the kitchen had been a galley with a wooden wall separating it from the living room. Saucepans hung on hooks on the wall and would fall to the floor each time a jet from the local naval air station broke the sound barrier. In the council house, the kitchen was a room with its own fireplace, with cupboards, with space.

In 1967, electrical goods were not plentiful, there were still houses that had none at all because they still had no electricity supply. Our kitchen had a three ringed electric cooker with a grill and an oven. We had a chrome plated kettle. And we had a fridge that was taller than the small boy who would open the door to look for drinks of milk.

The fridge looms large in the memory. It was white with a yellow trim. One day a woman called at our house and sat in the kitchen and talked with my mother. Before she left, she put a sticker on the side of the fridge, “Approved by Good Housekeeping Institute,” it said.

I never knew why the woman had called or why she had left a sticker on the side of our fridge. The sticker was there years later and I always thought it showed that we had a good fridge, but that did not explain the purpose of the sticker. Who was being told it was a good fridge? Did we need to know that somewhere we kept our milk and butter and cheese and meat was approved by an organisation I had never heard of? (Not that I would have known what the word “organisation” meant, anyway).

Perhaps the fridge was regarded by some as a status symbol. I remember an American writer recounting a story from a community in the Mid West where a church invited members to submit recipes for a cookbook. Many of the recipes included “jello,” the clear intention was that readers who had submitted the recipe had a refrigerator.

Had there been no white goods, memories of that kitchen would still remain happy ones. It was always a place of warmth, full plates and a family around the table.


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