Do you remember Pathé News? Taking the train to the seaside? The purple stains of iodine on the knees of boys in short trousers?’ So asks Paul Feeney, author of evocative nostalgia book A 1950s Childhood in Pictures, out now from The History Press. The book features exclusively Mary Evans Picture Library images, drawing on one of their undoubted strengths: black and white photographs of children and street scenes in Britain in the mid-20th century from eminent photographers including Roger Mayne, Henry Grant and Maurice Ambler.

This perennially interesting genre has been further enhanced by the work of a new contributor to the library, Paul Kaye. Mary Evans are now able to exclusively offer complete access to an archive containing the work of Paul’s father and grandfather (also both called Paul), who worked together in successful partnership for 37 years.

Girls with their dolls in a Balham street, SW London ©The Paul Kaye Collection/Mary Evans Picture Library
Girls with their dolls in a Balham street, SW London ©The Paul Kaye Collection/Mary Evans Picture Library

This provided an experience that taught Paul’s father to find and create pictures that would strike a chord with the public and commissioning editors, while an early career in show business lent a theatrical flourish to his work.

He had an undoubted talent for telling a story and his images, which are populated by a cast of children, cheeky and charming by turns, strongly evoke a sense of time and place. Photographed in the Kaye’s local area of Balham, South London in the late 1950s and early 1960s, they present us with a nostalgic view of childhood – one where kids ate fish and chips out of newspaper or rowdily filled cinema auditoriums on a Saturday morning. A time of skipping ropes, handstands and secret dens; puppies, The Dandy and pop from the shop. The Paul Kaye Collection conjures up what seems now a lost world without sentiment and instead with pitch-perfect humour and empathy.

A 1950s Childhood in Pictures – a Mary Evans & History Press collaboration
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