Dave and I started our married life like many other young couples, not much money but lots of hopes for the future. Our first home cost us very little as it was run down, had no indoor bathroom and was very small. However, we scraped together enough for a deposit and had our own home where we could lock the door and keep the world at bay.
Being struggling newlyweds, living on a shoestring budget never stopped us from brightening our environment and our spirits by redecorating our home. Lancashire people were always ready to roll up their sleeves and do a spot of “beautifying” as it was known locally.
Most of the people I knew used wallpaper for the walls and ceilings of their homes. Paint was mainly used for doors and window trim. Those were the days of wallpaper that had protective edges that had to be trimmed off, not a job for the inept. The rolls of wallpaper were slowly unrolled and the half inch edge carefully trimmed off with scissors. An unsteady hand meant a wavy edge that would prevent the wallpaper from being lined up properly on the wall.
We never removed the old paper so it was not unusual to inherit five or six layers of it when you moved into a home. When you did decide to scrape it off, it was such a challenge that it usually just got partly done and abandoned as it was just too much trouble. In this case or if you had bumpy walls, which were very common in such old houses, you used a special paper called Anaglypta, this was very thick with a lot of texture and covered up a lot of mistakes. This special paper was only available in white and had to be painted over, the resulting effect was quite nice.
To start the job you began by mixing your own wallpaper paste, this was a bit tedious as the paste had to be mixed until all lumps were dissolved and a thick glutinous mess was in the bucket. The kitchen table was usually used as the place to cut the paper into the correct lengths, then, the paste was applied. This was a very messy job as paste was applied to about one third of the length of the strip of paper. This was then folded into itself and slid down the table while the rest of the paper got the gooey stuff brushed on. This was then left a few minutes to absorb the paste.
Papering the ceiling was a test of most marriages. Standing on a plank that was balanced on the rungs of a ladder at one end and a chair at the other, was a risky business. Add to this the sticky wallpaper that was quite often draped over the head and face of the “helper” as it was unfolded and brushed onto the ceiling. When the “captain” of the team had his end of the paper stuck to the ceiling, there would be an awkward moment while he changed places, on the plank, with his assistant. The remaining piece of wallpaper was then exchanged and the helper got the job of holding the remaining paper against the ceiling with a broom, while the boss tried to straighten out the air bumps and attach the remaining paper to the ceiling.
If you managed to complete the ceiling without having a fight, the next step was the walls. This was so much easier than the ceiling and usually just the captain did the paperhanging while the helper pasted the next piece. Not too much attention n was given to matching up the pattern, as long as the edges met nicely. Going round corners was a bit of a challenge as most older homes didn’t have very straight walls and there could be as much as two inches difference between the length of the top and bottom of a wall.
Clean-up was quite a chore as the paste had dried onto all surfaces that it touched and had to be scrubbed off. After clean up the job was usually left overnight and then the top and bottom edges of the wallpaper were trimmed to give it a neat finish.
In later years, wallpaper had the edges trimmed at the factory but, when we left England in 1974, pre-pasted paper had not come on to the scene. However, by that time we left many people were using paint on their walls instead of paper, so redecorating was a much easier chore.
We papered several ceilings during our early years and yes, we had some tremendous fights, but we survived. Our home now just needs a paint job every few years so no stress required, however, we find other things to fight about, hey we have to make life interesting!