logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as an older child

Formality in British society
before and during the 1950s

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Formality was a way of life in the 1940s and 1950s - and certainly also before I was born. I accepted it as normal. It only really struck me, when it started to change in the 1960s.

Before then, only the immediate family and children could be addressed by their first name. My mother, for example, would even introduce herself as 'Mrs Clarke', and because she had been brought up to formality, she always referred to and addressed all her acquaintances as 'Mr This' or 'Mrs That'. In this she was by no means alone.

Letters to my father went one better. They were addressed as Mr L. G. Clarke, esq. He was very proud of the 'esq' which was short for 'esquire' and meant that he owned property, albeit just an ordinary semi-detached house. Before he bought 9 Brook Avenue, Edgware, he was just plain Mr L. G. Clarke.

The informality of first names for just about everyone came in from America somewhere around the 1960s. I understood that the idea was that a managing director of a company was just 'one of us'. About the same time, the usage of 'esq' was dropped.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.