Our favourite toys 43: Playing outdoors and making ends meet
Posted May 15 2010 11:52pm
Memories of playing as a child in the fifties in south
London include some of the following…
Gangs were not the same as the gangs of today. We
played in streets (with much less traffic) – marbles in the gutter
and cricket, against walls with chalked-on stumps and flicked cigarette cards
across the pavement against the wall.
I remember building a scooter during the extremely long
summer holidays and scooting off to Battersea Park for the day with sandwiches.
One year we tried to build a bus using old wooden boxes from the market and my
Nan’s jam jar of old used nails. It didn’t work.
We would go to Clapham Common to climb trees, where we had a
favourite tree and by bus to Wimbledon Common, to go fishing for newts with an
old spoke-less bicycle wheel attached to the neck of a sack and dragged across
the pond with lots of bits of string tied together.
I remember prams, the big ones with big wheels – very
important to show off with. Were they called ‘Princes’? I can’t remember, but
every mum had one, blocking up the passage in the corridor of the flats! Bomb
sites always had a pram or two dumped in them – in the same way that
supermarket trolleys get abandoned today.
Like other poorer children, I got money for sweets and
presents for parents’ and friends’ birthdays and Christmas by a variety of
methods. Apart from running errands, on Saturday mornings I did ‘totting’
(collecting newspapers, rags, lead, iron, cardboard etc and selling it to the
scrap merchant, a kind of old-fashioned recycling really).
I used to collect wooden boxes from Northcote Road market,
drag them home and chop them up into sticks, then bundle and sell them to old
ladies as kindling.
In the evenings, when only the night watchman was sitting at
his brazier sleeping, we used to ‘find’ tar covered wooden blocks from sites
where roads were being replaced with ‘proper’ tarmac, which I chopped up and
sold for firewood.
I would ‘cast’ white plaster-of-Paris ‘novelties’ in rubber
moulds, paint and glaze them and then go door to door in the evenings selling
them. I remember that ‘Squirrel 9d’ and ‘Crinoline Couple 1/-’ were very
popular (and the cheapest!).
Last but not least, Susan T**** used to show us her bum
behind the Battersea Town Hall – but that’s a guilty secret…