This is a great Thread, sorry I came late to it. Before I tell my own stories, let me tell you what I tell my grandchildren when they marvel at the way things were in my youth. I tell them that things really SHOULD be better for them, otherwise the hard times, struggles and hard work of their ancestors, have been for nothing.
I begin with my Gran, born in a Romany caravan in 1878 in the West Country of England. Could not read and write but could calculate a budget and was never cheated when buying. Married my granddad (B. 1876) and they lived in the Staffordshire Potteries, where granddad was a Potter and they had 13 kids in a 2 rooms up 2-down terraced house. Granddad, a well-educated son of a Master Potter who died when he was a child, was a Founder-member of the original Independent Labour Party of Great Britain. He numbered amongst his friends, HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and other famous authors, playwrights and philanthropists. The problem was his politics, which led him into labour struggles and strikes at a time when there was no dole. Only 8 of the 13 kids made it into adulthood and many of those, including my dad, had Ricketts and other diseases caused by pollution and malnutrition.
My dad hated all this and eventually he and his brother met two girls, friends who eventually became my mum and my Aunt. They both married in 1926 and those here of a certain age from the UK, will know what that means. The General Strike, which came during the Great Depression of the 1920's. Dad and uncle walked for many miles around England and wales, finding work here and there, sending as much home as they could. Then they heard of a new coalmine opening in Nottinghamshire and walked there in the clogs they themselves made after working in a local Blacksmith shop. that's where they stayed and that's where my two brothers and I were born and brought up. Unfortunately, the baby girl who would have been our sister, had died in 1926 at 3 months old, thanks to mum not having much food during the time she carried the baby.
I grew up the youngest of 3 boys by 15 years, in a mining village. Coal fires, coal oven and one of my chores was to clean out the oven every other Sunday, winter and summer. The fire was let out the night before and I had to strip that old oven and clean it on the back yard, then reassemble it and light a fire. Dad would run me a bath and I would wash off all the muck, run another and be finally clean, then we would sit down to a massive "Fry-Up". Bacon, sausage, mushrooms, cheese, tomatoes and fried bread. (Muesli? HAH!) The fire would heat the oven whilst dad and I would pick our vegetables from the garden (in Summer) or fetch them from the Salt Hole (in Winter). Then mum would prepare the Sunday Dinner, for about 2:30, whilst dad and I went for a walk in the local countryside: we lived in the middle of what was then Sherwood Forest, although nowadays there are signs up to tell you that is so, most of the old, dense forest is gone now. On Mondays, the house was a "NO GO" area, as mum baked the best bread I ever tasted that day, every week.
I was born in 1945 so missed the war that my parents and brothers lived through, but I remember the Rationing. It is very true that we had a much healthier diet in those days, despite the "Fry-Ups!" We grew our own veg, most of us kept chickens and the local shops did not have the facilities to keep frozen food, so it was always fresh.
Wolfgang I served in BAOR for 8 years and that service began in 1968. I know that there was still a great deal of the old Deutschland around then and I spoke to many of the older Deutsche Volk. What was done to places like Dresden and Hamburg was a crime, but then both our countries suffered in that war. My first wife was German and I worked with her when off duty in her Gasthaus. I met many ex-Afrika Korps soldaten there and I never met one to dislike. I left the country with memories of many friends and it taught me to realise that people are the same, basically the world over: a minority of bad, a lot of good and a majority who just want to bring up their families in the best way they can.