Birthday parties of the 1950s; an intense, but simple joy for Tasmanian Baby Boomers.

Just a single, very bad photo taken at one of my own parties survives. I wasn’t even looking at the camera, which was a Box Brownie of course. The kids standing on those palings propped against the barn don’t look very secure.

My birthday party in 1957.
1957, with all the neighbourhood kids from South Road, Ulverstone.

Very little needed to be bought in the those days, just jelly crystals from the travelling Rawleigh man , balloons, cardboard party hats and perhaps a new set of cake candles. Have you noticed that those little candles are still the same today? I found these in a kitchen drawer.

Birthday candles for birthday parties.

My darling mother had a devilish sense of humour and  loved to see us playing this  party game.  No expense required……every  home had flour and a pudding basin.

The flour was turned out and a sixpence placed on top. The idea was that each child had to slice off some flour until the coin fell.

The sixpence on the flour game. Fun for a birthday party.
Take a slice

It then had to be retrieved by the ‘toppler’  without using their hands. Oh my hat…what a mess. At least the floury faced person  had sixpence to spend on lollies. Health and safety rules would outlaw this now, no doubt.

On to the fun of pass the parcel; at least a dozen layers of paper before some lucky child ended up with the treasure.

Pass the parcel, a great birthday party game.

Then perhaps a game of pin the tail on the donkey. There was a legacy of drawing pin holes in the wallpaper, but never mind.

Pin the tail on the donkey...old stand-by for birthday parties

Pass the lifesaver lolly was fun, unless, heaven forbid, your partner was a BOY! 😨

Pass the lifesaver  game for kids'  birthday parties.
Careful now!


There was also the Minty wrapper tearing competition…..good for a rainy day party.


A Minty wrapper could make a birthday gae.

Something a bit more physical….. musical chairs. The excitement level would rise as each chair was removed. I’m not sure what we used for music at our place, because we didn’t even have a record player.

Musical chairs at a birthday party.

After all that exercise, time for the feast. It was impossible to have a birthday party without hundreds and thousands. White bread only thanks..



Fairy bread, a birthday favourite.

Those colourful little sprinkles were just the ticket for milk arrowroot biscuit faces. Ours always had Jelly Beans for the features.

Butterfly cakes for birthday parties.
Oh how I loved Butterfly Cakes! My mother made them for all our birthday parties.
Chocolate crackles....essential for birthday parties of the past.

I don’t think there were many savoury things on the party table at all. Well, sausage rolls of course, and mini frankfurters.

Savoury treats for kids' birthday parties.

The finale was the cutting of the cake, usually one chosen from the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake book. Blow out those candles and make a wish before the knife hits the plate.

1950s birthday parties.
From the Women’s Weekly cook book









Mine was more likely to be a sponge cake, with my name piped in wobbly letters by my mother. Very special in my eyes though.

Birthday cake for a ten year old.


It was all washed down with Kia-Ora 50-50 cordial, or perhaps more expensive, fizzy Te-Up if there weren’t too many kids.

Birthday party at Ulverstone.
Te-Up on tap at an Ulverstone party. Photo from Adrian Price


  1. That was quite a large party. I usually only had a couple of kids at my parties. We had pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs, but the other activities are new to me. I had regular cake for my birthday, but I love sponge cake–no icing, just butter slathered on each piece. Yummy! Those arrowroot faces are really cute. Thanks for sharing.

    • Pauline

      This one was unusual, Diane. It was shared with a neighbor whose birthday was the day before mine. Ours were mostly smaller affairs too.

  2. Crying from nostalgia, such lovely times. X

    • Pauline

      A special little rural community Annabelle. Our pleasures were so uncomplicated.

  3. I didn’t grow up in rural community, but wonderful to know we shared exactly the same format for our birthday parties the other side of the world to you – bar the flour and sixpence game! My mother wouldn’t have tolerated that potential mess in our Chelsea flat! Nostalgia is so comforting in our unknown world of today.

    • Pauline

      I saw a little girl on TV last night celebrating her birthday at home, and with her grandparents trying to participate via technology even though they only lived down the street.

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