Actually, Wheels and Simon, the 1950s were far from grim. Rationing had ended by the very early '50s (the last product came off "the ration" in 1954), there was more, and more interesting, food available - it was the beginning of a general interest in Italian, Chinese and Indian food and I tasted my first kiwi fruit (called Chinese gooseberries back then) and my first avocado in the late 1950s, courtesy of Peter Mason, the very forward thinking greengrocer on Hollins lane. Colourful and fashionable clothing was available for women and children and men could afford a decent suit from the "multiple" tailors. The general standard of housing all over the country was greatly improved over that of the pre-war period (largely due to the activities of Mr Hitler) and council housing was available for those who needed it.
The NHS was up and running and there was no need for a "post code lottery" when it came to medical treatment. Free glasses and dentistry were available. Antibiotics meant women no longer died in childbirth except on rare occasions and pneumonia, scarlet fever, diphtheria and similar ilnesses were no longer the scourge they had been pre-war due to improved treatments, drugs and vaccination. Operations were safer and techniques had improved, partly thanks to advances made made in treating wounds during the war. And no-one died because they couldn't afford the Doctor or hospital treatment.
Primary and secondary education was free to all according to his or her abilities and even university education was a posibility for "the masses" (assuming they were bright enough) with grants available for the less well off, thanks to the 1944 Education Act. Free school milk with free school dinners for those who needed them also contributed to better health in poorer children.
People were being moved out of big city slums into bright new houses in bright new towns and on out of town estates. Most houses had electricity by the 1950s. It only came to Marple in about 1936 and the war had stopped it's spread but it had become the norm by the '50s although there were still a few older cottages still lit by gas. HP was more widely available and consumer items - 'fridges, washing machines and even motor cars - were becoming reasonable expectations for most people. Vacuum cleaners, modern detergents, the availability of cheap hot water, all lead to cleaner, healthier homes and people. These domestic improvements made it possible for more women to go out to work thus improving family incomes and because girls were getting a better education they weren't limited to jobs in the two mills in Marple or in shops or service and they could aspire to a better life than their mothers and grandmothers had had. The 50s were also the beginning of the teenager culture and a whole new music, radio, television, fashion, etc., "life style" was growing up round them.
In the 1950s Marple reflected these general improvements and was a bright prosperous little town. There was a thriving commercial life and residents could buy anything from a pair of shoes and a pound of butter to a car and a television set without setting foot out of what was still called "the village". There was a cinema, a theatre (The Carver), a library, a labour exchange, the council offices where you could actually speak to the official you needed, the park, the recreation ground, 5 ladies hairdressers and two barbers, two ladies dress shops, a gentlemen's outfitters and a tailor, 3 children's wear shops, shops selling household linens, wool, dress and furnishing fabrics, 4 butchers, a cafe and a "posh" restaurant, 3 radio and television shops, several grocers and greengrocers, two shoe shops and a cobblers in case you needed your shoes repaired (yes, we did that in those days, we were odd like that), a hardware/ironmongers shop, a dry cleaners, 2 banks, a building society and a post office, several packs of Brownies and Cubs, and companies of Guides and Scouts, the Lads and Girls Brigades, Church youth clubs and Sunday Schools, a well-respected (then) secondary modern school and at the end of the 1950s the planning and building of a grammar school and a clinic catering to the health of babies, children and expectant mothers. Not bad going for the "grim Fifties"
Television may have been black and white with shades of grey but life certainly wasn't.