Irene Waters has a new ‘Times Past’ prompt, this time looking at
Irene has mentioned conkers – this was a big one and involved lots of skill. Not only finding the right size and strength but also experimenting with the artificial hardening – my early experiments in performance enhancing techniques (these I applied throughout my legal career though the boosts of choice – cake doping and IV coffee drips – were not unusual: we were all Lance Armstrong back then: ‘Everyone does it’). For conkers the two preferred methods were baking in a hot oven (useless as it dried them out and they fell apart) or soaking in vinegar (also useless as they became soggy and fell apart). But we would boost we had cracked it when trying to out psyche our opponents. People claimed to have fivers and sixers (the number of wins) but looking back that was all bull; after a fight the winner was invariably so damaged he lost in the next round to a newcomer.
I’m a child of the 1950s so our crazes were home made. Marbles a little but they were easily lost. Pretend car chases involving Matchbox models or maybe Dinky cars.
But mostly, we boys had a lot of ‘it‘ games: Stuck in the Mud being a favourite. Choosing your team involved some form of chanted selection process.
Two favs were
Ip Dip Sky Blue, Who’s It, Not You
Which dealt with choice by exclusion. This was easy to fix; and
One Potata, Two Potata, Three Potata, Four, Five Potata, Six Potata, Seven Potata More
Which required the selector to hit the closed fists of the candidates, each chant corresponding to a clump. By the time I was nine I’d worked out who you’d get this way and if it was my turn to select I was very choosy where I started the fist thumps. In theory this made me a smarty pants, but it often failed to be out into practice as I
rarely never found myself as a leader to be able to apply my cunning-wheezery
Stuck in the Mud was eventually banned when one boy lacerated his knees in an enthusiastic rescue which required you to dart between the legs of you captured team mate. Tarmac playgrounds and bare knees have never made a good combination.
We moved onto a tag using patches of wet tarmac as safe zones – it rained a lot I recall.
Perhaps the biggest craze was our Triange-Hornby 00 trainset. We had really cool stuff in those far off days – exploding cars with caps, a log carrier that emptied into a bunker, a windmill powered rocket train that flew off at the corners. We made a set of houses and fields, the station being Braintree and Bottingham – funny what you remember. Every Christmas we set it up, the Archaeologist and me, anticipating some extra piece of kit to add to our fun. Apparently, after we went to bed, Dad and my uncles played for hours too.
I think the set is with the Archaeologist – somewhere the pieces still fit and, in my memory it is forever Christmas