Anyone growing up after the war had an electric octopus, maybe two or three.
Homes back then were built for the needs of the day and in those days needs were simple. Electricity in homes was relatively new and very few people had many electrical appliances. As a result of this, homes were built with very few electrical outlets.
In our home we had one receptacle in each room and upstairs, where the bedrooms were, there was just one outlet on the landing.
As people became more affluent and small appliances became popular the need for more outlets, to plug these things into, became a bit of a problem. In England, this problem was solved by the use of an adapter, which made the one receptacle able to take several plugs, in some cases there would be one adapter plugged into another which meant that five or six appliances were all plugged into one outlet, creating the appearance of a big spider or octopus.
Radio, lamps, television and an electric heater were usually permanently plugged in but vacuum cleaner, electric iron, sewing machine etc were also brought into service and they also needed power from this overloaded outlet. For some reason small appliances in Britain did not come with a plug, just a wire, this meant that plugs were purchased separately and put on to the wire. I had a girlfriend who, for some reason, didn’t buy extra plugs so she was permanently changing one plug from one appliance to another. This didn’t seem to bother her in the least and did this as long as I knew her.
Strangely enough, our electrical system very seldom blew a fuse, I guess this was because there was usually only a couple of appliances actually being switched on at any one time.
Upstairs the sole outlet could only be of any use to the bedrooms if extension cords were plugged into it. These trailed across floors making walking around in the dark rather hazardous.
Several years ago some friends and I were looking for accommodation while we attended a convention, in New Westminster. We found a lovely old home offering bed and breakfast and made our reservation.
Upon arrival we found the hundred year old house was beautifully furnished but not updated so, on entering our bedrooms we found old, saggy, double beds which we had to share. The result was that whoever got in bed first rolled into the middle and the partner sharing, then rolled on top. Most of us spent all night hanging to our edge of the beds, trying not to squish one another.
A small dressing room had been turned into an ensuite bathroom but was so small that getting up from the toilet included bumping your head on the wall. There was no closet but there was an old fashioned wardrobe, this had three hooks on the back wall on which we had to hang the many fancy dresses of the three women in the room. This meant the wardrobe door wouldn’t stay shut and was frequently walked into.
The electrical system had also been left in the past so there were extension cords running from the landing, under bedroom doors and across floors in each room. I guess they had never been visited by the electrical inspector! Surprisingly, six of us survived five nights in this death trap and, apart from a few bumps and bruises, all left relatively unscathed.
It seems that even beautiful mansions had their own electrical octopus, or is that octopi? Whatever they are called they are things of the past and very unsafe. Nowadays, an octopus should only be seen in an aquarium.