I was intrigued to come across a posting on a friend’s Facebook page that identified some of the games and hobbies children were into in years gone by, reflecting how things have changed since. It got me thinking of things I got up to as a child who despite having caring parents was left to my own devices for a lot of the time, often being reminded by my mum she always managed to find something to do. I then began to reminisce on the things I did up to the age of 11 (when I left junior school). I seem to recall all of these in a positive light and am grateful for having the chance to get to do these things.
I played endless games of football with the local kids in the park and anywhere else we could play without being told off or harassed, away from adult supervision, with makeshift goals and pitches.
Not as popular as football, but summer was the cricket season and along with a few chums we went to the local park to play. I recall playing with makeshift wickets and hard balls (no pads).
- Tin can copper
Fascinating game where all but one child goes and hides and the one left behind then tries to seek them all out. The idea is either one of those hiding manages to get back to homebase (a tin can) or the searcher having spotted someone hiding runs to the tin can and bangs it with a stick saying “tin can copper, I see <name>”.
- British bulldog
The idea was to cross an area of playground without being caught. If you were, you were lifted off the ground with words spoken over you “British bulldog 1-2-3”. You then joined the catchers until the last person was caught, after which a new game began with the last person caught being the catcher.
A strange game played with pen knifes and two people facing each others. The idea was to throw the knife into the ground next to your opponent. He would need to stretch his leg to the knife and return the favour. The game finished and a winner was declared when the loser was unable to stretch further.
The idea was to build up a collection of marbles, ideally by winning them off others. There were variants to the game. The most popular was to scatter equal numbers of marbles from each contestant around a small hole in the ground. You then flicked each one into the hole completing your turn when missing. The person who flicked in the last marble was the winner and retained all the marbles.
This was a seasonal game played in the autumn when conkers were dropping from conker trees. The idea was to carefully drill a hole into a suitable conker and thread in a piece of string with a knot at the end. You then played with someone having done the same, trying to wack his conker until it broke. The idea was to accrue as many wins as possible with your conker until it got broken by an opponent. Some strategy was involved, including baking or placing in vinegar your conker to make it impregnable.
- Collecting stuff
Stamps and small picture cards that came out of packets of Brooke Bond tea, were the collecter items I recall most. I built up a modest stamp collection until the interest waned and I took pride in trying to build up a full sets of cards, trading with other children to do so. I came in at the end of the era of cigarette cards but do recall there was an interest in this too and also bubble gum wraps.
- Board games
The main board games were draughts, ludo and snakes and ladders. I also got to play chess and dominos. I was later introduced to Monopoly and Cleudo. I also got to play with cards. I recall snap and happy families among the early card games I played.
- Chalky games in the road
There was hopscotch of course, although that was more for the girls. But there was something else where an area needed to be marked out, and I seem to recall one was to manoeuvre a stone around obstacles drawn with chalk, standing on and using one foot.
- Go karts
(Especially for kids with enterprising dads who were willing to help build them) – but we did have go carts and we did race them (no motor assistance of course but it was fun at the time).
Especially good if linked to a secret hideaway. In my case, I got to build fairly modest dens, but at least it was my own space.
- Toy animals
A quirk for me and my sister. While dolls were for girls we did each have a collection of stuffed animals and would embark on imaginary naval (or similar) expeditions with each animal playing a part.
- Books and comics
I am pretty sure my lifelong interest in reading began before I reached double figures. And if not books, I was an avid devourer of comics like the Beano, carefully following any series. I seemed to recall Superman and war comics becoming a matter of interest toward the end of that period.
I think me and my chums were inquisitive and we did explore places further afield, especially later on and when we had bikes. This was linked to adventures based on the Lone Ranger and Robin Hood etc.
- The magical mystery woods
I was lucky insofar there was a wood at the end of my garden and I spent hours playing in it. I also spent time climbing trees and scrumping apples as well as building basic adventure playgrounds.
- Special events
I recall we always did something around bonfire night and used any opportunity Christmas or Easter gave.
I was lucky that my parents did take us children on outings when they could. One of my fondest memories was boat trips from the end of Southend Pier. We also spent a lot of time at the beach.
While I did not last long in the Scouts (from aged 11) I did fully partake in Cubs activities, which I liked.
- Sunday School
At my parents insistence I had to go to Sunday School but I did find it a positive experience and enjoyed special events like outings and parties that was put on.
21. Toys and stuff
I suspect in the main my generation had less toys than the present one, although we did share I seem to recall e.g. model trains and scale-electrics. There was a phase of building model planes and ships from airfix kits. And there were the odd yo-yos going around.