Originally published 23rd April 2008

The older generation all seem to agree that the young people of today don’t seem to have much fun. There’s no doubt that grandparents have always expressed similar concerns whenever their descendants welfare is under scrutiny.

One thing they must consider is that the simple pleasures they enjoyed would never be enough to satisfy the mental scope and alertness of today’s children. Over every two or three generations a great many changes take place that have an affect on our Society and in the last sixty years there has probably been more progress made in the fields of technology than ever before.

Did You Know?

Looking back between the two World Wars, the demands made on parents from their children for toys and objects of fun were relatively small. That was probably just as well as most families had very little money to spend on them.

The houses and cottages they lived in were mainly terraced with a front door opening onto the road. At the back they had a yard just large enough to accommodate the lavatory, dustbin and perhaps a coal shed. Sometimes there was no room for the mangle in the scullery so space had to be found for that too. That is those lucky enough to have one!

A line for the washing also had to be fitted in somewhere. Many of the more fortunate families had a small garden where they could grow a few vegetables or keep half a dozen chickens. As well as coops and runs for the hens, some had a hutch for rabbits and pet guinea pigs or a loft for pigeons.

With very little room indoors, where it was not unusual for three or four to share a bedroom, the only place for children to play was outside. In the evenings, when the weather was warm, mothers often placed a chair or stool on the pavement by the front door and sat knitting or sewing while they watched the youngsters enjoying themselves.

They had hoops that they bowled and spinning tops they whipped down the road to see who could keep theirs up the longest. Lots of the girls skipped and played hopscotch while some had their dolls or other toys. The most common games played in those days by younger children were those that replicated their parents.

From a very early age all girls seemed to want a doll with accessories to enable them to nurse, undress, bath and put it to bed in a cot. Then of course they had to have other things like a doll’s pram with covers, pillowcase etc. A doll’s house with toy kitchen utensils and a tea set might also feature. Needless to say, it was only a very privileged few fortunate enough to get them all.

Just as the girls copied their mothers, the young boys often wanted junior tool sets so they could imitate their father at work. Toy replicas of kits for a fireman, policeman, bus conductor etc. as well as cowboys and indians were available to those families that could afford them.

Other favourites were Homby train sets, Meccano sets, farmyards with every kind of animal, cart and building, tin soldiers, cap pistols and many more. However, there were a lot of youngsters who had to content themselves with a drum to bang or just a hammer to knock nails into any piece of soft wood they found laying around.

When they were too old to amuse themselves replicating their parents they looked for other things to do. They played marbles and ‘five stones’ on the pavement [ideally on a doorstep] or there were games with the ‘fag cards’ they had collected. Match box tops and stamps were also popular things to collect and ‘swop’.

Another pastime was to re-enact the film they had seen the previous Saturday afternoon. At such times there were always plenty of volunteers to be the cowboy hero but very few ever wanted to play the role of an Indian!

Wet and cold weather, when everyone had to remain indoors, was usually the time to bring out the board games, paint boxes, crayons, chalks and colouring books they had been given at Christmas or on a birthday. Mother was often obliged to join in and find the time to amuse them.

Not a great deal could be done to keep them happy and occupied in such a confined space so the weather had to be quite severe before they decided to remain in the house. Particularly when they had reached their teens and were venturing further away from home. Many rode bicycles, although not necessarily their own. They would borrow their brother’s, sister’s or even parent’s who might or might not have been aware it was missing from the shed or back yard. Boys and girls were often seen riding cycles standing on the pedals because they couldn’t reach them from the seat and if it was a man’s bike, they often had to put one leg under the crossbar.

As teenagers the majority tended to move around in their own small circles. Generally made up with members of the same sex but sometimes they were mixed. Girls joining with groups of boys were often labelled ‘Tomboys’! There were various clubs and organisations they could join, many did, but most made their own fun.

In the summer there were always friends to meet for a swim or to just lounge and play games by the river. When it was too cold for that, someone would find a ball to kick about. If there wasn’t one, boys have been known to go to their local ‘slaughter house’ to see if they could get a pig’s bladder. A poor substitute but blown up they were better than nothing. If nobody could suggest what to do and they didn’t all have cycles, they usually went for a walk. In fact, all youngsters did a lot of rambling in the country. Strolling across the fields or by the river where there was always something happening.

If there was still little or no traffic on the roads today and nobody had television, computers or the technology that goes with them, youngsters would most likely do similar things and act in much the same fashion as they did all those years ago. Their ways and attitudes have changed because they have been obliged to keep up with the many changes in Society that affect our lifestyle. Individually, at all ages they have always been different and retained their own character.

Whatever progress decrees in the future there will always be those children who are too tall or too short, too fat or too thin, too loud or too quiet, too good or too bad, too energetic or too lazy, too kind or too mean as well as many other opposites. No doubt there are those that still suffer as they always did because they have ginger hair, a slight impediment or some other characteristic that differs from their fellows.

Perhaps we, as a Society, should pay more attention to those youngsters who prove themselves to be a credit to all who teach, guide and support them. We might then find that they easily outnumber those who are constantly in the news.

Public concentration switched from the bad to the good might just have a sobering affect on some of the offending teenagers who all too often seem flattered by the adverse publicity they generate.

valley lad – [FORTY-SEVEN]