Aug 11 2009

Life in the 70s

Category: UncategorizedMarcus @ 7:32 pm

I was born in 1978 so what I saw of the decade was spent mostly sleeping and crying. Being grown up now and dealing with the joys of domesticity such as paying bills, working and shopping in an era of computers, privatised utilities and much wider choice of things like food and the media I’m curious about what day to day life was like back then. In particular I’m interested in the aspects of daily life that people take for granted. What was it like having just one supplier for the utilities, a regulated public transport network and shops where foreign foods were still pretty obscure and expensive? Were bills really in brown envelopes and what was it like dealing with banks and the like when there were no call centres? How did local govt behave in the days of domestic rates and before the abolition of the metropolitan county councils? It sounds like there was a fair bit of horse trading when the old Wet Riding County Council was replaced with the Wet Yorks MCC. I’m also curious about working life. I work from home with 2 phone lines and in teams where I’ve never met all the people in them but I know even 10 years ago that wasn’t possible. What was it like having a single phone line for a whole office and no email or possibly even computers?

(I know I usually just write about training but the history of daily life is something else I’m interested in)

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24 Responses to “Life in the 70s”

  1. gothick_matt says:

    Well, for one, you could understand your phone bill, and have a rough idea of how much it was going to cost if you used your phone. I got two pages worth of marketing spin and horseshit wrapped around a Terms & Conditions change from BT the other day, and I barely understood that that’s what it was, let alone what it actually meant1.

    And yes, I yearned for the seventies at that point, where you’d actually be able to tell how much a phone call was going to cost you before you picked up the phone.

    1Here’s about 10% of the email:

    The call set-up fee does not apply to inclusive weekend calls for customers on the Unlimited Weekend Plan, to inclusive evening and weekend calls for customers taking the Unlimited Evening & Weekend Plan or the Broadband Talk Evening & Weekend Plan, to inclusive anytime calls on the Unlimited Anytime Plan or the Broadband Talk Anytime Plan, calls to Freephone services and to other inclusive calls not mentioned above.

    From 1 October 2009, the call set-up fee for non-inclusive calls from landlines and for non-inclusive Broadband Talk calls will increase from 8p to 9.05p per call. The existing call set-up fee of 2.94p per call for BT Fusion, In-Contact Plus, Light User Scheme and BT Basic customers remains unchanged.

    Bear in mind I don’t even know what a “call set-up fee” is, or what plan I’m on, because I wasn’t keeping careful track of the last thirty-five emails like this. *sigh*

  2. gothick_matt says:

    Well, for one, you could understand your phone bill, and have a rough idea of how much it was going to cost if you used your phone. I got two pages worth of marketing spin and horseshit wrapped around a Terms & Conditions change from BT the other day, and I barely understood that that’s what it was, let alone what it actually meant1.

    And yes, I yearned for the seventies at that point, where you’d actually be able to tell how much a phone call was going to cost you before you picked up the phone.

    1Here’s about 10% of the email:

    The call set-up fee does not apply to inclusive weekend calls for customers on the Unlimited Weekend Plan, to inclusive evening and weekend calls for customers taking the Unlimited Evening & Weekend Plan or the Broadband Talk Evening & Weekend Plan, to inclusive anytime calls on the Unlimited Anytime Plan or the Broadband Talk Anytime Plan, calls to Freephone services and to other inclusive calls not mentioned above.

    From 1 October 2009, the call set-up fee for non-inclusive calls from landlines and for non-inclusive Broadband Talk calls will increase from 8p to 9.05p per call. The existing call set-up fee of 2.94p per call for BT Fusion, In-Contact Plus, Light User Scheme and BT Basic customers remains unchanged.

    Bear in mind I don’t even know what a “call set-up fee” is, or what plan I’m on, because I wasn’t keeping careful track of the last thirty-five emails like this. *sigh*

  3. k425 says:

    what was it like dealing with banks and the like when there were no call centres?

    You’d make an appointment and you’d see someone. You could just walk to the bank and talk to someone – or ring your local branch and speak to someone often who knew you.

    • nja says:

      ATMs were still quite thin on the ground at the end of the seventies – you usually got cash by going to a bank and making out a cheque. Bank opening times were something like ten till four Mon-Fri, so most working people could only get cash in their lunch break. As L says, you could usually talk to someone who knew you – my father set up a bank account for me when I was 16 (in 1980) and we had to have an interview with the branch manager so he could see I was responsible (even though my parents would have been legally responsible for my debts). It was a big shock something like twenty years later when Dad realised that “his” branch didn’t know who he was any more, had no power to stop NatWest’s marketing department sending him advertising literature, weren’t prepared to bend the rules on deposit boxes for an old and valued customer, etc.

      It just seemed natural that you had a phone from the GPO, that there were only a few models available, and that they were installed by hard-wiring them into the room of your choice. Likewise getting your gas from the gas board and your electricity from the local electricity board (my father worked for the CEGB and moved to SWEB in the early eighties).

      I’ve just been to Sainsbury’s and bought a load of fruit and veg which would either have been very seasonal, a rare luxury item, or both. I don’t think we ever had two pineapples in the house when I was a child, one was a very occasional treat (and we were not badly off financially). Eight nectarines for the price of a loaf of bread? Dream on! What do you even do with an avocado? We ate a lot of tinned fruit, and we were used to the fact that some vegetables just weren’t going to be around at certain times of the year.

      Mainframe computers would have been around in some workplaces, especially running payroll programs etc, but not computers as a general tool used by most people. I remember Dad bringing home a calculator he had been given at work – one with big red LED numbers which would do basic arithmetic. I think when I took my O-levels in 1981 we were the first year to be allowed to use calculators instead of log and trig tables, and of course home computers were starting to appear by that time too.

      • oldbloke says:

        10 to 3:30, more like, for banks.

        • nja says:

          Of course, a lot of people were still paid in cash, and it wasn’t unusual for people not to have any sort of bank account (or maybe just a post office deposit account).

        • nja says:

          Of course, a lot of people were still paid in cash, and it wasn’t unusual for people not to have any sort of bank account (or maybe just a post office deposit account).

        • marcus says:

          Even in the 1980s I remember it was a pain having to wait until the school holidays to pay money into my account, and HB didn’t have any cash machines at all for ages (Barclays was the first, FWIW, but I can’t remember when it was installed).

        • marcus says:

          Even in the 1980s I remember it was a pain having to wait until the school holidays to pay money into my account, and HB didn’t have any cash machines at all for ages (Barclays was the first, FWIW, but I can’t remember when it was installed).

      • oldbloke says:

        10 to 3:30, more like, for banks.

      • nja says:

        I think the thing with the power companies is this – imagine someone in thirty years’ time asking you what it was like only having one water supplier, or one refuse collection service, or one source of street lighting. It didn’t seem at all strange that there was no competition in electricity or gas (or telephones).

      • nja says:

        I think the thing with the power companies is this – imagine someone in thirty years’ time asking you what it was like only having one water supplier, or one refuse collection service, or one source of street lighting. It didn’t seem at all strange that there was no competition in electricity or gas (or telephones).

      • k425 says:

        In my house, pineapples came out of a tin. YoungBloke saw a ‘fresh’ pineapple in Sainsbury’s on Saturday and asked to buy it. I was so surprised he knew what the thing was I agreed. I’m even more suprised that he ate a quarter of it after lunch today.

        • nja says:

          The ratio of tinned to fresh was probably 100:1 – but maybe once or twice a year we’d have a fresh one on special occasions. My mother’s uncle worked on Concorde and used to fly down to Toulouse fairly frequently, and he would come back with a box of peaches sometimes, otherwise we would only eat them on holiday (but again, tinned peaches by the ton). Mango – I still remember my first fresh mango, in an Indian restaurant, probably late eighties or early nineties? All over the place now (and usually very underripe).

          I’m hungry now. Time to go home.

        • nja says:

          The ratio of tinned to fresh was probably 100:1 – but maybe once or twice a year we’d have a fresh one on special occasions. My mother’s uncle worked on Concorde and used to fly down to Toulouse fairly frequently, and he would come back with a box of peaches sometimes, otherwise we would only eat them on holiday (but again, tinned peaches by the ton). Mango – I still remember my first fresh mango, in an Indian restaurant, probably late eighties or early nineties? All over the place now (and usually very underripe).

          I’m hungry now. Time to go home.

      • k425 says:

        In my house, pineapples came out of a tin. YoungBloke saw a ‘fresh’ pineapple in Sainsbury’s on Saturday and asked to buy it. I was so surprised he knew what the thing was I agreed. I’m even more suprised that he ate a quarter of it after lunch today.

    • nja says:

      ATMs were still quite thin on the ground at the end of the seventies – you usually got cash by going to a bank and making out a cheque. Bank opening times were something like ten till four Mon-Fri, so most working people could only get cash in their lunch break. As L says, you could usually talk to someone who knew you – my father set up a bank account for me when I was 16 (in 1980) and we had to have an interview with the branch manager so he could see I was responsible (even though my parents would have been legally responsible for my debts). It was a big shock something like twenty years later when Dad realised that “his” branch didn’t know who he was any more, had no power to stop NatWest’s marketing department sending him advertising literature, weren’t prepared to bend the rules on deposit boxes for an old and valued customer, etc.

      It just seemed natural that you had a phone from the GPO, that there were only a few models available, and that they were installed by hard-wiring them into the room of your choice. Likewise getting your gas from the gas board and your electricity from the local electricity board (my father worked for the CEGB and moved to SWEB in the early eighties).

      I’ve just been to Sainsbury’s and bought a load of fruit and veg which would either have been very seasonal, a rare luxury item, or both. I don’t think we ever had two pineapples in the house when I was a child, one was a very occasional treat (and we were not badly off financially). Eight nectarines for the price of a loaf of bread? Dream on! What do you even do with an avocado? We ate a lot of tinned fruit, and we were used to the fact that some vegetables just weren’t going to be around at certain times of the year.

      Mainframe computers would have been around in some workplaces, especially running payroll programs etc, but not computers as a general tool used by most people. I remember Dad bringing home a calculator he had been given at work – one with big red LED numbers which would do basic arithmetic. I think when I took my O-levels in 1981 we were the first year to be allowed to use calculators instead of log and trig tables, and of course home computers were starting to appear by that time too.

  4. k425 says:

    what was it like dealing with banks and the like when there were no call centres?

    You’d make an appointment and you’d see someone. You could just walk to the bank and talk to someone – or ring your local branch and speak to someone often who knew you.

  5. oldbloke says:

    Supermarkets hadn’t been going that long in the early 70s, so there was a much better choice in the rest of the High Street.
    I didn’t eat Indian, Chinese, or Italian until 72.

    • marcus says:

      I moved to Hebden in 1984 (might have been 1983) and the only supermarkets it had then were both independents, Tru-save (where Spar is now) and Greenwoods/Nisa (which had some of the space taken up by the Oasis off-licence, although the shop on the corner of Crown St/Carlton St was a separate greengrocer that was cheaper and less posh than the one on Bridge Gate (still open but I can’t remember its name). Before that I was living in Leeds and the local supermarkets were a small branch of Tesco (now this closed branch of Kwik Save) and Grandways (on this parade of shops IIRC). Assuming I remember correctly, I used to live here in the house with the rather overgrown hedge.

      • marcus says:

        Grandways is here on the right, next door to the chemist and the distinctive aqua blue of Barclays. That photo was taken in 1980 when I was probably still in a pushchair. Got my old address (198 Harehills Lane) from a 1981 telephone directory but I know before that we lived in a now demolished house just off Scott Hall Road. Even nearly 30 years ago Harehills had a few rough edges (racially mixed, although I was too young to understand what was going on, and not the most affluent part of town), which is probably why I’ve never been particularly middle class.

      • marcus says:

        Grandways is here on the right, next door to the chemist and the distinctive aqua blue of Barclays. That photo was taken in 1980 when I was probably still in a pushchair. Got my old address (198 Harehills Lane) from a 1981 telephone directory but I know before that we lived in a now demolished house just off Scott Hall Road. Even nearly 30 years ago Harehills had a few rough edges (racially mixed, although I was too young to understand what was going on, and not the most affluent part of town), which is probably why I’ve never been particularly middle class.

    • marcus says:

      I moved to Hebden in 1984 (might have been 1983) and the only supermarkets it had then were both independents, Tru-save (where Spar is now) and Greenwoods/Nisa (which had some of the space taken up by the Oasis off-licence, although the shop on the corner of Crown St/Carlton St was a separate greengrocer that was cheaper and less posh than the one on Bridge Gate (still open but I can’t remember its name). Before that I was living in Leeds and the local supermarkets were a small branch of Tesco (now this closed branch of Kwik Save) and Grandways (on this parade of shops IIRC). Assuming I remember correctly, I used to live here in the house with the rather overgrown hedge.

  6. oldbloke says:

    Supermarkets hadn’t been going that long in the early 70s, so there was a much better choice in the rest of the High Street.
    I didn’t eat Indian, Chinese, or Italian until 72.