Still Crazes After All These Years

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

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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34 Responses to Still Crazes After All These Years

  1. What a charming way to round out the tale, Geoff. I can imagine your dad and uncles playing with the trains while everyone slept. Fun story. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great memories Geoff! I’ve been gathering conkers recently myself – mainly to avoid the puppy trying to eat them – and remembering those games from long ago 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. davidprosser says:

    Memory doesn’t always play true now but Tales of the Riverbank and Muffin the Mule (only legalised in the 1990’s) were two popular TV hits in the 50’s with Robin Hood as I got older . Richard Greene as the man himself. Four Feather Falls I’m reliably informed didn’t start until 1960 and I’m sure is the reason I got a cowboy set that year. I was 9. Also in 1960 Coronation Street started with family friend (Auntie) Vi Carson as Ena Sharples who sat in the snug of the Rover’s Return with two friends Martha Longhurst and Minnie Caldwell. I remember Minnie’s conversation used to be about her cat. I never thought then that the series would probably outlive me.


  4. Ritu says:

    I can’t remember the name but in the 80’s there was that planet shaped thong you stood on the board surrounding the ball, gripped the ball between both feet, provided you were balanced and jumped around! Rather like a pogo stick with no handle bars!
    Or the electronic Simon Says game where you had to remember the colours flashed at you and press them!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Dip dip
    My blue ship
    Sailing on the water
    Like a cup and saucer
    O.U. T spells

    We couldn’t spell in those days.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Crazes: Times Past | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  7. Thanks for joining in again Geoff. I know more about conkers thanks to your piece. I will have to ask Roger what methods he employed to enhance his conker. Home made games made a lot of sense in the post-war period and certainly were universal across the globe. Even Hornby train sets were desirable here. I can remember going with my grandfather to a shop above the arcade. It was full of smoke and men and the biggest train track I’d ever seen. When it comes to train sets I think the adults get a lot more fun out of it than the kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. fireflyby says:

    Hello! I loved reading this post! I too remember conkers… It was always frustrating to me that it was the boys who got to indulge in this craze… Somehow the girls couldn’t get to grips with stringing them in quite the same way!!
    A kid in the 80s I remember a number of weird crazes, from yo yos to diablos. We also used to play a card game called ‘raps’… which resulted in bleeding knuckles (and in one case, burst blood vessels).
    We were banned from British Bulldog after someone smashed their head open…

    Thanks for a great read!


    Liked by 1 person

  9. Did you have those little lead torpedo shaped things that you put pink caps between the two pieces and dropped them and they exploded with a ‘crack’, Geoff. Same caps you would put in those little hand guns. Oh… do I sound like a potential terrorist here? Dolls were never my thing anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. trifflepudling says:

    Jacks was our thing, and gonks and plastic trolls. Like Judith, we had caps but these were reels of some sort of explosive(!) in small blobs which you tore off and stamped on. The reel came in a tiny round cardboard box with a fluted lid, which I loved. We didn’t have conkers but I do collect them now. Potty putty was another, and ‘What’s the time, Mr Wolf?’, which I found creepy.
    But nice memories!

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      Grandmas footsteps happened back then too. And those slinky things that went down stairs. And spirographs… Stop it!


    • WE played ‘What’s the time, Mr Wolf?’ as well – remember feeling sick with fear. Nicer was the ‘Queenie, oh Queenie, who’s got the ball’ – but for the life in me can’t think how it was played. Was a whizz with the hoola hoop!! This is all good research I tell myself when I should be writing! Hah!!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Big cardboard boxes turned into all sorts of things (We line up for big boxes when people moved in or had big items delivered, Christmas tree forts or tree houses – eventually hula hoops. We were always running or jumping around – and a fat child was rare.
    Fun post

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Annecdotist says:

    One thing I’m left wondering about conkers is whether we just trusted each other regarding how many times it might have conquered? After all, there was no evidence, was there? Or maybe I was just naive.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Norah says:

    I love your last line, “and in my memory it is always Christmas”. What a great opening for a novel that would be!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Operating Systems says:

    Oh I’ve just remember playing chicken with a sheaf knife at scout camp, aged maybe 12. I loved a abyss!


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