Childhood memories are the most precious of all because we have carried them with us for so long! We hope you enjoy sharing memories of the 50s and 60s with David Wardell in second part of The Games We Played.
Skipping was often popular too. Considered more of a girl’s game, sometimes it was unisex with a long length of rope tied to a lamp post or telegraph pole with one person to turn it or else two people with one either end. There were lots of skipping songs and chants though many were known only to the girls. Of the ones we used locally I recall :
Bobby Shaftoe went to sea
Silver buckles on his knee
He’ll come back to marry me
Bonny Bobby Shaftoe..
My mother said
I mustn’t play
With the gypsies in the woods.
If I did …She would say
Naughty girl(boy) to disobey.
Down in the valley
Where the green grass grows,
There sat Janey
Sweet as a rose. .
Other chants were Janey and Johnny sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G .. , “Salt, mustard, vinegar , pepper ….etc.” , during which the speed of skipping was rapidly increased to make it harder to keep up eventually tripping up the skipper.
Kathy Cassidy -Jump Rope for Heart the Heart and Stroke Foundation
Wooden Hoops and Butter Barrels
Sometimes we would use the wooden hoops from butter barrels which we had managed to procure from Wilkinson’s the Grocers on Gosforth High Street. These could be bowled along using a wooden stick or cane to keep them going. Good fun but the novelty never lasted for long.
When somewhat younger , we would play games like “Mums and Dads” or “Teachers and Schools” with someone chosen to be the head person dictating to the others and telling them off for not doing as they were told. We all wanted to be parents or teachers . In Autumn we would seek out conkers and then we would have to treat them to make them stronger and harder. Pickling in vinegar was a popular method and/or careful drying. A green conker would shatter easily. After this they had to be drilled or pierced and threaded on a piece of string or an old bootlace. Taking turns at smashing our conkers on each other’s would become pretty uncomfortable when the conker smashed down on our hands missing the target almost completely. Not everyone could land a good clean shot.
Pencil and Paper Games
If the weather was bad or we could find a good reason to be inside, all sorts of other games came in to play. Pencil and paper meant we could do noughts and crosses or oxo or perhaps a game of hangman or joining the dots to make boxes in a pre-drawn square.
Battleships was also good and didn’t require the fancy later plastic boxed versions. If we wanted a laugh we would do consequences with a sheet of paper, each person writing an answer in turn to a list of questions. The answer being folded over and concealed till the end when we would get a good laugh at the silly stories that unfolded……sometimes quite rude as well.
The Cocoa tin telephone. How do you send a text with this ?
If we were feeling creative a couple of old cocoa tins and some string allowed us to cobble together a telephone intercom system. This we would later use outside though not normally for very long . Novelty items never seemed to endure for a prolonged period of time.
Sometimes we would just make paper aeroplanes using either the traditional simple design or the somewhat more complex version that some of us knew which involved a lot of careful folding, as did the paper origami fortune teller . The Japanese paper folders could barely compete with us kids who became very adept at these constructions.
Board Games and Models
Failing all the above we would resort to any manufactured games we might have such as draughts, Ludo, Chinese chequers , snakes and ladders , or simple card games like snap, Happy Families or Old Maid. Not forgetting of course that old favourite, Monopoly . A game of this could sometimes last for several days but not without several major arguments about the correct rules. Each family played with their own minor variants of the rules and this would cause considerable trouble as we fought to retain our own version of the rules. Naturally someone would also start to cheat, stealing funds from the bank whenever anyone took a loo break or overnight when we each returned to our own homes. Construction sets were a source of prolonged entertainment for boys with Meccano sets and some with Bayco sets spending extended periods producing models.
Meccano Construction- a road roller
Gosforth Toy Shops
Beyond all this we would seek further fun from the toyshops, of which there were just two on Gosforth High Street, The Toy Cupboard and Clarksons but not forgetting Woolworths. Boydell’s, Pastimes and others would come later. Balsa wood gliders were good and we would take these off to the Little Moor to fly them until they smashed up or got stuck in a tree. This very often didn’t take very long . Stink bombs were kept for use near bus stops and shop doorways and cap bombs could be used anywhere outside . There were also little plastic parachutes with dangling parachutists. Unless we were very careful these might get in quite a tangle.
When we had no-one to play with we could sit at home with Mr.Potato Head which required a real spud and didn’t come ready made with a plastic potato as it does now. (Potatoes were also good for our spud guns).
Some of us also succumbed to collecting habits, stamps, cigarette cards or bubble gum cards, match box labels , sea shells and coloured stones from the beach were all desirable to some. Toy cars and garages and model railways all came in to their own for a while until boredom took over once more.
The Airfix kits from Woolies were prized and inevitably led to fingers being heavily coated in model cement with it’s strong odour of pear drops, the end result adorning one’s bedroom for year’s to come. Afterwards we would peel off the dried cement from our fingers like a second skin.
Some of us had John Bull Printing outfits , very much inferior to even the cheapest modern day computer printer but much more fun and time consuming as we tweezered the letters in to the printing blocks. If this failed then out might come the little pocket solitaire games that were popular too.
Pockets Full Of Useful Bits!
Outdoors once more we boys could fish out our pen knives and do a spot of ‘whittling’ with a piece of wood or a stick. Carrying knives was quite normal and almost ‘de rigueur’ for a boy along with a pocketful of useful bits of string, buttons, rubber bands pebbles and other assorted treasures. Barely any room left for the ‘clean’ handkerchief which Mother always insisted on us having – no tissues available then— and using your sleeve was frowned on by adults but commonplace with kids.
Another boy’s knife game was a ‘dare’ game. We would stand with our feet wide apart facing one another and take it in turns to throw our penknives to stick in the ground between each other’s feet. After each throw we would bring our feet closer together until the gap was really narrow occasionally causing small accidents to ensue.
An activity popular with girls and with smaller boys was making ‘perfume’ . We would get a jam jar and lid or a small bottle like a pill bottle and then collect rose petals and other floral delights which were shoved in to the bottle along with some water before giving it all a good shake , creating our perfume. It never smelt of much and certainly didn’t resemble the real thing in any way at all.
Heading Out From Gosforth
As we got a little older we would depart Gosforth and head for the Exhibition Park all geared up with a fishing net and a jam jar tied round with string. Nets were either standard commercial ones or else home made from a cloth flour bag, or part of a ladies stocking, and some coat hanger wire with a long garden cane. We would trawl around the side of the lake fishing out all sorts of rubbish but sometimes getting lucky with tiddlers, minnows and sticklebacks. These fish were often diseased with large swelling along their sides and rarely survived long at home in a bowl or jam jar. When fishing was over we could then enjoy the giant slide, witches hat, seesaw, swings and climbing frame. These playground joys were also to be found in the Central Park and Paddy Freeman’s as well when fishing was off the agenda .
The middle of October saw the availability of fireworks. There were few restrictions and penny bangers and jumping jacks were readily purchased from the many shops that stocked them . Safety regulations were minimal. Boys especially liked to throw the penny bangers around the back lanes and streets and the jumping jacks provided fun where people tried to avoid them jumping around beneath their feet. If you could, you helped with setting up a large bonfire somewhere as well gathering in as much old wood and bits of furniture as one could get. We were never near enough a large public bonfire but many of our friends and neighbours had their own “firework display” in the street or back lane on Guy Fawkes night.
When snow was plentiful we would turn our efforts to making an igloo
Following on from the conker season in late Autumn and Guy Fawkes, winter would bring it’s own joys when frost was hard and the snows had fallen which tended to be much more often than today and in far greater quantities. Slides were one of the first areas of importance. A long strip of footpath would be turned in to a sheet of solid ice polished to perfection along which we would glide rather precariously after a running start. Snowballs would follow, scooping up the snow off walls and cars and the more nasty minded would scrub each other’s faces with a large handful of snow. When snow was plentiful we would turn our efforts to making an igloo which took a great deal more work but when finished we could sit inside and freeze to death. Rolling giant snow balls went well also with the large balls being used for a snowman. We had to be careful here as the streets were not as clear of dog dirt as today and this would become attached to the giant balls. We could also earn a bit of cash as people liked their front paths and the footpath outside their houses to be cleared.
Naturally our thoughts turned to sledging. No big Cow Hill then although I believe there was a smaller version. We would take our sledges to the Dukes Moor where a small slope existed leading down to the stone walls of the adjacent houses. It wasn’t a long slope but still popular as it was near to home. If there was more time most kids went on the trolley bus with their sledges to Gosforth Park to where there was a larger slope behind the Church in the Park and not far from the old tram track. Lack of sledges was not a great problem as you could use a plastic sack or a tin tray to slide on. We would come flying down the slope with great abandon only to have to come to a very abrupt halt at the fence across the bottom of the field.
There were many more games that we used to play. Children can be very inventive and created all sorts of different self-entertainments. I am sure that many readers of this blog will be able to recount a large variety of additional games and activities.
© Copyright David Wardell 2020
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