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Family History Society

The Joys of the Family Picnic

Roadside Picnic

In a recent Sunday Telegraph there was an article headed ‘Back on the menu: the great British motoring picnic’. It was accompanied by a wonderfully evocative photo of a couple sitting inches from the roadway enjoying a cup of tea.  This sent me scurrying through my old family photos, and I found one just like it probably taken in about 1955. You can see the thermos flask and there is also a blue picnic case that belonged to my grandparents. The picnic case was made by Sirram which was established in Birmingham in 1895 originally making bedsteads but they then branched out into picnic cases.

Family Picnic

The next photo shows another picnic but this time we have our own family picnic case which was a gift to my dad when he changed his job in 1956. I still have this wonderful picnic case and it absolutely shrieks the 1950s at me. It is covered in red leatherette and the Thermos flask has the ‘atomic’ shape very redolent of the time.

Family Picnic

 I can remember many picnics over the years when this picnic case played a central role. My dad would ‘brew up’ at first using a little burner that required methylated spirits though later came a little Camping Gaz stove. We would take a teapot equipped with its own ‘cosy’ and high winds and rain didn’t stop Dad and I well remember the rest of us sitting snugly inside while he was out at the back of the car somewhere ‘brewing up’. We even used to take a washing up bowl, tea towel and some Fairy liquid and do all the washing up before we went home.

Picnic case
Picnic case

I always remember meeting some of my parents friends for a picnic and one of them said rather sniffily ‘call that a picnic?’ as my mum rustled up ham and salad and my dad heated up some tinned potatoes probably followed by tinned peaches and ideal milk. Happy days indeed.

Picnic case
Barbara Elsmore

Barbara Elsmore 26 July 2020

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09 August 2020
The notice concerning roadside picnics brings to mind a rather extreme picnic some 50 years ago. It was common thing in our large extended family group with most sundays finding 4/5 cars loaded with children and parents visiting various places in South Hampshire, most frequently Petersfield Pond, and always ending with a picnic before heading to Southsea beach to finish the day with a quick swim in suitable weather. One day my wife and I and our two children together with a similar group of friends went to London for the day in a volkswagon camper van, we parked along Birdcage Walk for a picnic and brewed up some tea on a small parafin stove on the pavement-even I thought this a little unacceptable at the time but nobody said a word, I do not think that this would be allowed today. Mike Watkins

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