Homes in the 1940s
Many children in the 1940s lived in small houses or flats. In towns, many people lived in small terraced houses. There were blocks of flats too, though not as tall as the 'tower blocks' built after the war. A typical family house had a sitting room and kitchen, with two or three bedrooms upstairs. Not all houses had bathrooms or indoor toilets.
Many houses had windows stuck over with paper tape. In an air raid, the blast-force of a bomb exploding could shatter windows along a street. Tape across the windows stopped the glass shattering into thousands of pieces, and causing injuries.
In the Sitting Room
In many homes, people sat to relax in the sitting room (also called the lounge, parlour or simply the 'front room'). Here they would read, listen to the radio or chat. They ate meals in the kitchen, or the dining room if there was one. The sitting room was often the 'best room', kept for visitors.
In most homes a coal fire warmed the sitting room. There were gas and electric fires too, but few homes had central heating. In cold weather, people sat around the fire.
It was a good idea to keep a candle in every room. During air raids, bombs often hit power cables and gas pipes. Then people were left in the dark, without electricity or gas to light their homes.
Some homes had gas lamps, but by the 1940s gas lights were a bit old fashioned. Many homes had electric light. Every window had 'blackout curtains', which were drawn at night. If not, the ARP warden came along, shouting 'put that light out'. 'Blackout curtains' stopped light from rooms showing from outside. There were no street lights either. The idea was to stop lights from towns guiding enemy planes to drop bombs.
Coal fires kept people warm in winter. Coal was a very important fuel. It kept people warm. More important, it kept factories and trains working.
In families, children often shared bedrooms. In bed, they snuggled down under blankets and eiderdowns - very few people used duvets. Some bedrooms had a jug and basin for washing your face and hands in the morning. Not every home had a bathroom. Children kept books and toys in their bedrooms, but there were no TVs, and no computer games of course.
Some homes had only an outside toilet, and in many homes it was chilly going to the bathroom at night. So small children often used a 'chamber pot' (potty). The pot was made of china and was kept out of sight under the bed.
Baths and Toilets
Not every 1940s home had a bathroom. Many poor families washed in the kitchen, and had baths in front of the fire. The metal bath was filled with hot water from pans and kettles. In bathrooms, hot water often came from a gas heater.
The wartime ration for a bath was 5 inches (12.5 cm) of water once a week. The idea was to save water. In some families, it meant several people used the same bathwater, one after the other!
Not all homes had an inside toilet. You used an outside toilet in the backyard or garden. To avoid a chilly walk in the night, you could use a pot kept under the bed.
Doing the Washing
Washday meant hand washing or boiling dirty towels and sheets in a 'copper' or 'boiler'. This was a metal tank filled with water heated by gas. Few people had washing machines. A washboard made scrubbing easier.
After rinsing (in clean water), wet clothes were squeezed through a 'mangle'. The mangle had two rollers, turned by a handle. As you turned the handle, the rollers squeezed water out of the wet washing. The clothes were then hung on a line over the fire or outside to dry. They were 'aired' on a fold-up wooden 'clothes horse'.