Friday, 18 November 2016


Children play differently these days. They spend more time indoors with electronic devices and you could say that their mode of play is of necessity state-of-the-art, bearing little resemblance to what amused those of us roaming the streets in the latter part of the nineteen forties and early nineteen fifties. Games I recall being most popular were HOP SCOTCH, CONKERS, MARBLES, KNUCKLEBONES, KNOCK DOWN GINGER, TWO BALLS, HE, DONKEY, THE FARMER’S IN HIS DEN, STATUES, TRUTH DARE OR PROMISE, WHAT’S THE TIME MR. WOLF and KISS CHASE….. all of which could be played in the street and needed very little apart from willing participants. Sometimes sticks of chalk, balls and rope were necessary to ensure a good game but a lot of fun could be had with no apparatus whatsoever. Of course there were also organised playgrounds in local parks with swings, slides and roundabouts but in those days it seemed that only the very youngest children were attracted to them. I don’t know how we would have reacted to the Adventure Playgrounds that came twenty years later and were so beloved of my oldest son when we lived in London. A lot of the time it seemed that boys and girls over a wide age range played reasonably happily together although some games were considered to be the preserve of boys rather than girls. Emerging from the bombardment of a major war was a plus when we were growing up. Bombsites abounded and were enthusiastically occupied by the generation of children that followed the conflict. These were places where we could safely throw stones, make camps, light fires and even roast potatoes. We came before the era where beautification, high rise flats and car parks took over these excitingly unkempt and wild places. When the boys played by themselves the games were generally more violent with a lot more simulated maiming and killing. Males between the ages of five and ten spent a great deal of time with their arms outstretched being Spitfires and Hurricanes but it was very unusual to see a girl involved. Girls liked to tuck their skirts inside the elastic bands of their knicker legs and practice hand stands and cartwheels and it was an atypical boy who would be likely to join them. In a game of cowboys and Indians girls would occasionally take on the role of Indians but never cowboys. A great many girls served whiskey in the Dodge City taverns. One of the most daring games of the era was LAST ACROSS which greatly concerned motorists and bus drivers. Children lined up beside the kerb, selected a particular bus or lorry and when it got close enough all would run across the road. The child closest to the vehicle’s bumper was the winner. This game could also be played in a most satisfactory manner utilising the nearby railway line. FILM STARS was extremely popular with the ten to fourteen year old girls of Northfleet in Kent. It evolved as a kind of guessing game where one child stood a short distance from the others, possibly on the other side of the road and called out the initials of a film star. For instance if my friend Molly was playing this would invariably be D.D (Doris Day). As soon as one of the players thought she knew who the star was, she raced across the road and back again, then shouted out the name. If her guess was correct she changed places with D.D. but if it was wrong she had run for nothing. The game escalated when two or three runners still had failed to make the correct guess. We found it a great deal of fun at a stage when we were starry eyed about the famous and still reasonably athletic. Playing KISS CHASE generally began when we were twelve or so and it was usually the last game of the day as darkness descended and was played in the alleyways at the top of the street, farthest away from the prying eyes of parents. Once we reached school leaving age the game rapidly ceased. We had become far too sophisticated! How many of today’s more worldly children would recognise any of these games I wonder.


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  2. Recognise lots of those games - they were still around in the late 60's/early 70's thank goodness!