Living through history. Our changing food environments. 1950s – 1970s.

 

fridge (2)

While I was growing up and in the years as a young adult, as my own family mainly consumed home-prepared foods, garden-grown vegetables and eggs from our back-yard hens; swirling all around me were economic improvements and major shifts in social norms, a prelude to the storm that was to become a complete restructure of our food environments within a generation.

Working and walking

In my parents youth, in the 1930s and 1940s, times were tough with the depression, World War 2, and food rationing. The 1950s through to the 1970s were decades of relative improved prosperity. My father worked full-time. Initially he rode a bicycle to work. In the 1950s only 10% of families had cars. (2) Gradually we became a one-car and in the 1960s a two-car family. My mother was a homemaker, as the majority of women were in the 1950s. There were no modern appliances. Housework took many hours with washing, ironing, sweeping, cleaning, and chopping wood. The evening meal was cooked over many hours. In the 1950s, women averaged 77 hours per week housework. (2) As children we walked to and from school, except on rainy days when we caught the bus. After school we rode bikes around the neighbourhood or played in the back yard.

Supermarkets

Early in the 1950s my mother walked daily to the shops for food as we did not have a refrigerator. There was no supermarkets. She shopped separately at a grocery store, a butcher and green-grocer. Bread and milk were home-delivered. In the 1960s self-serve stores began opening, to begin with in the centre of town, so this still entailed walking. Later, supermarkets opened complete with car-parking.

The supermarkets firstly stocked non-perishables, then fruits, vegetables and meats. Dairy foods came next and home-delivery of milk ceased. Confectionery, historically purchased from milk-bars, moved into supermarkets completing the one-stop-shop for greater availability of all foods. (4)

Refrigerators and aseptic packaging

By the 1960s we had a refrigerator with a tiny freezer. Later we had a larger fridge with a separate freezer compartment. This enabled my mother to shop weekly rather than daily and stock up on frozen vegetables, some prepared foods, and beverages. In the 1970s, deep freezers became popular. People could buy half sides of lamb or beef at discounted prices and stock up with meat, frozen dinners, ice-cream and ice confections.

Without freezers, ice-cream and ice-confections were only available from the local milk-bar or from the ice-cream man who came around on a Saturday. Only a single serve could be eaten at a time. Or one could buy a family ‘brick’ of ice-cream, just enough for one serve each. It had to be eaten straight away. With freezer compartments then deep freezers, large 2 litre containers of ice-cream could be kept at the ready. Single-serve ice confections could be purchased in bulk. Ice-cream became something we all ate in larger quantities and more often with the advent of home freezers.

Previously, single-serve pies were available from corner stores and take-away food outlets. Alternatively women would make pies. As this was labor intensive, for my family at least, pies were a rare food item. With freezers, people could stock pies which were readily available for quick meals. Frozen fish fingers were popular with us as children.

In the 1960s chilled juices were available in supermarkets. This was in marked contrast to my childhood where juice had to be squeezed individually. It took many fruits to make one glass. Refrigerators meant easy storage. In the 1970s the development of the Tetra-brik package and aseptic packaging technology made possible a cold-chain supply. (3)

By 1970 one could drive to a supermarket and stock the refrigerator, freezer and pantry with a weekly or monthly supply of food. There was less walking, less food preparation, and high availability of fatty, sweet foods. Snack foods, convenience foods, confectionery and various beverages were readily available from this one-stop shop. By 1974  50% of food stores were supermarkets. (4)

Eating Out

We rarely ate out when I was a child, maybe twice a year. Hotels were frequented only by men. Women met for afternoon tea and cake in homes or community groups.

In 1960 laws were passed to allow licensed restaurants and in 1965 ‘bring your own’ restaurants. This allowed alcohol to be consumed at leisurely business lunches. In 1966 hotel trading hours were extended to 10 pm (4).

By 1972, when I was 18, it was newly accepted for women to frequent hotel ‘lounge’ areas. Dining out in the 1970s meant steak and vegetables preceded by an entree, and accompanied by bread and butter.

Fast-food restaurants began appearing in the late 1960s. Taco BillTM (1967), Kentucky Fried ChickenTM (1968), Pizza HutTM (1970), McDonaldsTM (1971), Hungry JacksTM (1971) and Red RoosterTM (1972). (4) Initially (at least for my family) food was purchased and then brought back and served as a family meal at the table. After a while eating out at these restaurants replaced home-dining. In 1978 the first McDonaldsTM drive-through opened, and this increased a trend for eating outside the home. (4)

Italian and Greeks immigrants meant a slow infiltration of their coffee-culture into the cities. Drinking coffee replaced tea as a main beverage for adults and with that a higher consumption of milk as cappuccinos and milk lattes increased in popularity.

Social Changes

In 1972 Labor under Gough Whitlam won power. They brought in sweeping changes, including free University education and eliminating sales tax on the contraceptive pill and placing it on the national health. This liberated women to attend University and delay having families. Ours was the first generation of career women. The 1970s into the 1980s saw the emergence of  DINKS (double income no kids), followed by the advent of working mothers.

In 1980 the next generation begins with the birth of my first child …

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This is a series of posts on our changing food environments.

Living through history. Our changing food environments 1950s to 1970s

I have compiled this information from my memory, from information in the series ‘Back In Time For Dinner’ on ABC.TV (2) and from ‘Australian Food Timeline‘ (4)

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Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.

________________________________________________________________________________________

 

This is a series of posts on our changing food environments.

Living through history. Our changing food environments 1950s to 1970s
________________________________________________________________________________
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.

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Notes and References

(1) Image: a public domain image by oksmith from publicdomainq.net CCO 1.0

(2) Back in Time for Dinner (Episode 1 1950s). ABC series July 2018.

(3) Tetra-paks were developed in the 1960s and increased in popularity in the 1970s.

(4) Australia Food Timeline

Changes in Food Availability Australia (4)
(Excerpts From Australian Food Timeline)

1940s:
1947- first cannery in Australia
1947 – first frozen vegetables
1949 – ice-creams on a stick

1950s:
1950 – food rationing ends
1951 – dried soups become available
1951 – school milk for all school children (abolished 1973)
1953 – first drink vending machines
1955 – first orange juice in chilled cartons
1956 – frozen fish fingers
1957 – Woolworths moves into groceries
1958 – sliced bread mass produced
1958 – Coles moves into groceries

1960s:
1960 – supermarkets open
1960 – first shopping centre under the one roof
1960 – first licensed restaurants
1962 – Coles ‘new-world’ supermarket selling groceries, fresh meat, fruit, vegetables, dairy, and frozen food
1965 – Restaurants open with BYO licenses, making restaurant dining more affordable
1966 – Hotel hours extended from 6 pm to 10 pm
1967 – Taco Bill
1968 – First KFC restaurant
1968 – First licensed restaurant in Tasmania
1969 – Self-serve grocery stores now dominate sale (70%).
One third groceries purchased from supermarket.
1969 – Confectionery and milk, previously available only in milk bars and mixed businesses, begin to appear in supermarkets.

1970s:
1970 – Pizza Hut opens in Sydney
1971 – McDonalds opens in Sydney
1971 – Hungry Jacks (Burger King) opens in Perth
1972 – First Red Rooster opens in WA
1972 – Whitlam is elected. Asia immigration increases.
1974 – Supermarkets now 50% of grocery stores.
1975 – Leggo launches Italian-style sauces in jars and cans
1975 – Meadow-lea margarine
1978 – Rev low fat milk (2%) [1% milk 1988] 12.5% milk sales by 1989
1978 – Big M launched
1978 – First McDonalds drive-through

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