I grew up in England and America, and even Italy for a short while. When I’m talking to someone about my childhood, I often base my answers on what I did in one country. You would think that my childhood stories would be the same since I grew up mostly in two English-speaking countries, but actually my childhood was very different depending on where I lived.
Growing up in England v. Growing up in America
Seeing a Movie
- England — Movie theaters were only in large towns. Many families only had one car, so relied on public transportation. I don’t recall any family outings to the movies. When I was a teen I saw Stars Wars twice and E.T. once…both times with a friend.
- America — My parents took my sister and I to the drive-in movie theater several times. Going was a fun family event. My sister and I dressed in our pajamas. We sat on the front bench seat in my parent’s Dodge Coronet. One movie I saw was SO inappropriate for children, we saw the James Bond movie, Goldfinger. I’m going to hazard a guess that my parent’s plan was to take us to an adult-type movie so late at night so that we would fall asleep. I guess that was a date night for them! I don’t recall ever eating popcorn at a drive in, but I do remember snuggling up in the car with blankets and pillows we brought a long with us.
Going Out to Dinner
- England — As a little kid living in England, I remember only going out to dinner to on special occasions. There were no counter service restaurants in the 70s. A McDonald’s restaurant didn’t come to my town til the early 80s…and the townsfolk were up in arms about this development, too. McDonald’s had to build a storefront that matched the other stores in my town’s main shopping district. No huge M. No large signs. I remember eating dinner in a train carriage converted to a restaurant.
- America — In America we ate out at least once a week. The standard of living was higher in America. My parents didn’t have to scrimp and save as much as they did in England. My mother once told me that in England in the late 60s/early 70s, she bought meat only once a week. The Sunday roast beef dinner, became leftovers for two nights, then the rest of the week was meatless meals heavy on potatoes. In New Jersey, we ate hamburgers and fries at Gino’s, fried chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken, and pizza burgers at a silver-sided diner where we listened to Elton John and Kiki Dee sing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” on the table-mounted juke box. I still remember how messy, but oh so good, those pizza burgers were.
Going to School
- England — I was driven to school when I was an elementary schooler. later, I used a school system-issued bus pass to take buses and trains to school. There are no yellow school buses in England.
- America — I was a walker to my elementary school, except when it rained. On rainy days, my mother would pile us in to her Dodge Coronet and drive us to school. I remember that she always wore a robe and perhaps curlers to drive me to school. It wasn’t until I was in 4th grade that I was a little embarrassed about the way my mother dressed. I kind of remember her having car troubles and standing beside the car wearing her robe waiting. My kids would be mortified.
Going on Vacation
- England — It was “holiday” not vacation. English families look forward to their holidays ALL year. Most families take two weeks. Some businesses close for holidays. Instead of the federal holidays that we have in the U.S, in England there are Bank Holidays. There’s a day in June and another one in August. Families will plan their holidays around these Bank Holidays. When I was a kid, all families took vacations to the beach. When I was in elementary school, my family went to Southport or Blackpool for day trips, or to Cornwall or Newquay in the south of England for longer trips. Driving long distances in England took hours and hours as there were few major highways. My dad would send off to the AA (British version of AAA) for a “TripTic,” a spiral bound booklet with page after page of directions for how to get to Cornwall. Sometimes if the major roads were clogged with traffic, he would take the signposted only in summer “Holiday Routes.” These routes were on sleepy, winding, slow country roads, that were aptly name the “Horror Routes.” When I was a tween and teen, we ventured a little farther a field and for three summers in a row took a 2-week holiday to France. We were different to my parent’s friends who mostly flew to Spain and Majorca to soak up the sun, while my parents preferred to mostly tour historic sites, with only a day or two at the beach.
- America — Traveling through America is a huge childhood memory for me. My parents first emigrated to the U.S. in the early 70s. Since they didn’t know how long they would live in New Jersey, they traveled as often as they could. I remember roadtripping to West Point, NY, to see the U.S. Military Academy; Cape Cod; Colonial Williamsburg, VA; Skyline Drive, VA; Amish Country, PA; Toms River, NJ; the Jersey Shore; and Niagara Falls. One time we even flew to Walt Disney World. I think we were there in 1974 or so. It was during the time when instead of buying a Park Hopper Pass, you bought tickets for each ride. An A ticket got you on Tom Sawyer’s Island (I think). And a B plus C ticket got you on the Dumbo ride.
Writing this post was a trip down memory lane! I have lots more Growing up in England v. Growing up in America stories. I’ll save them for another post. Until then check out these posts:
- Yummy British food…yes, I said yummy
- Teeny Tiny British Houses
- Rain Is ALWAYS on a British TV Weather Forecast