The Class distinctions that prevailed in our Society up to the Second World War no longer exist. The comradeship that emerged during those dark years when everyone, no matter from what background they originated, suddenly became equal. At times, like those when the siren had wailed and the whistle of falling bombs could be heard above the drone of the aircraft, people huddled silently in their shelters were fully aware that in such circumstances there could be no discrimination.

They all had exactly the same chance of seeing another sunrise. At the end of hostilities, when men and women returned to civilian life, the Trade Unions played a big part in ensuring that the old Working Class got a better deal than the one they experienced between the wars. Their task was made easier when the new Labour Government proved to be the people’s choice.

Did You Know?

The whole population was six years older and everyone, like many of the things that had been so familiar to them, had changed. Other than their demob suit many didn’t even have clothes that would fit them. Food remained rationed for some time although, if you could afford it, as each year passed more and more goods became available on the ‘black market’.

Expectations were high but in many cases people got on with their lives and planned their future on promises. Urged on by that popular phrase, ‘We will build a Land Fit For Heroes!’ Words that were often repeated by people in authority,

All essential services like Electricity, Gas, Water, Telephone, Railways etc. were Nationalised and the NHS was born. Everyone wanted the best for our young citizens who had sacrificed the prime years of their lives to serve their country. Life didn’t suddenly become easy when the war ended. Some had their old jobs to return to but others hadn’t, they had to look for work. Many men and women in Rural areas had been employed in ‘Service’ before they enlisted. Under the new Government the old Upper Class could no longer maintain their way of living and there was less and less call for domestic staff or the likes of gamekeepers. Many were forced to move out or occupy just a few of the rooms with the help of no more than a housekeeper. Their estates, some of which were taken over by Trusts, survived by opening their doors to the public who seemed keen to see where and how they had lived.

It seems the War did erode that strict Class distinction the country had depended on for so long. Or did it? It certainly brought together the Middle and Lower Classes whose position in the structure had been determined by their family’s achievements and Social standing. The Governments determination to bring in Comprehensive Schools and abolish Grammar Schools seemed to endorse this. Nevertheless, schools like Harrow and Eton seemed able to carry on, thereby confirming the Upper Classes were still with us.

So what makes a person or family Classy? It certainly has to be something more than money. Many of the people today who are able to afford to buy a Stately Home and live accordingly would never be able to meet the criteria necessary to break into that circle. The descendants of the old Gentry have a bearing that is very different and might well be hereditary. Even those who lose all of their wealth seem able to maintain their distinctive character and dignity.

Those individuals that acquired their money and position through business, the arts, sports or other means were brought up in a very different environment. They have to learn the hard way and face the consequences of mismanaging a fortune. They might try to copy the ways of the Aristocracy and surpass their wealth and belongings but many generations will have to go by before they have any chance of becoming a member of that Upper Class circle.

Can we be sure there is no longer any Class distinction among the rest of us? There is a belief among scientists that a zone in our brain responds automatically when we consider our own position in Society. It has an impact on our behaviour as well as our health. Studies showed that as an individual’s rank improves and he moves up the ladder, his chances of having heart disease and dying early became less likely. They also reacted differently when confronted by someone considered to be higher than them in the ‘pecking order’.

It would be easy to dismiss a person’s indulgence in this as play-acting by flamboyant characters like the fictitious Mrs Bucket [pronounced Bouquet]. If that’s what you think, next time your telephone rings and your partner picks it up, listen carefully to see if their voice sounds as it does at other times. Many of us develop a telephone voice without being aware of it.

Ask yourself why you are inclined to associate with some people and not others. Is it because you are really attracted to them or is there something that urges you to try to make their acquaintance? Is there someone you have not met formally and don’t much like the look of, yet for some inexplicable reason when you are in their company you wish they would come over to speak to you.

Perhaps we should remember that man has always been a communal animal. Every Group and association select their leaders and lieutenants carefully in order to be competitive and have a chance of getting the best from life. This immediately creates a situation in any Society where everyone looks up and down the ranks to see who is directly above and below them.

Do we constantly make such assessments? Or do we just get on with our daily lives believing we all have an equal chance?

valley lad – [FORTY-NINE]