Entertaining ourselves in the 1950s and early 1960s (1)

March 23, 2015 at 11:22 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Culture, History, Leisure activities, Memoir | 16 Comments
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Apart from the little ride-on horse I have mentioned before, and my older brother and sister’s trike, I cannot remember any play activities in England. However we did often go for walks in the countryside, over the local moors.

My sisters played with dolls, but I was never interested in them like they were. Dad had made gollywogs for my younger sister and me from fabric blanks he got when he worked in the weaving mill in Oswaldtwistle. Mine came with me to Australia, and I have a photo of me holding it, taken at the caravan at Reed Park, Dapto.

Me with my gollywog on the caravan step; my elder sister with her doll.

Me with my gollywog on the caravan step; my elder sister with her doll.

Making My Own Wild West

I was a real tomboy and wanted to be an explorer, a cowboy or an Indian. Inside certain cereal packets were small plastic toys to collect. For me, the best of these were the cowboys and Indians and horses for them to ride. The packets also had cut-out wild west buildings on the back that fit together. You could collect these and make your own town. It was mostly me who played with them.

CowboyAndIndianFigures

I often made bows out of the shrubs and thin branches that grew around the place, and string. My arrows I made from a green weed that grew long straight stalks and dried off in summer after seeding. Though light, they made fairly reasonable (straight at least) arrows. I made my quivers for the arrows out of newspaper.

Here I am with my sisters, posing with my home-made bow and arrow.

Here I am with my sisters, posing with my home-made bow and arrow.

I loved the poem “Hiawatha”, which I’d read in an issue of our NSW Education Department school magazine when I was about nine. The poem mentioned the type of wood, ash, that Hiawatha used to make his wonderful bow with, and I decided to make a bow for myself just like Hiawatha had. I asked my brother Peter if there were ash trees around. He laughed and said, “You’ve been reading ‘Hiawatha’, haven’t you?” I was embarrassed and denied it. He said “Anyway that’s America. We don’t have those trees here”. I was very disappointed.

It was rare for us to have ‘real’ toy guns. We would make a pretend gun from a dolly peg, a matchbox and an elastic band. Mum used dolly pegs for hanging the clothes on the line (no spring pegs then). Sometimes if the clothing was too thick, the peg would split; leaving the top part and one ‘leg’. We would use this broken peg and, with a doubled rubber band, fix a matchbox, sitting upward and end-on to it. The head of the peg became the handle of the gun, and the matchbox was the barrel. If you fitted a half-match with the rubber band stretched around it, between the box and the peg and then depressed the matchbox with your finger as if firing a gun, the match stick would fly off like a (slow) bullet. Mum would find that more of her pegs than she thought had suddenly lost one leg!

Gun& Holster set 1950s

A gun and holster set from the 1950s

As many kids did, we made rifles from odd bits of wood that had the right approximate shape. One Christmas, when I was about eight, I received a cowboy set – chaps, vest and a gun-belt with a toy pistol. It was just what I wanted, and I thought it was great – except that my skirt would get in the way of the chaps, as we girls weren’t allowed to wear pants then. My younger sister got a cowgirl outfit, so we played together sometimes, but I thought she was too girly most of the time.

(c) Linda Visman

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  1. Like you I loved cowboys and Indians. I had a cap gun before we moved to the country (and the presents dried up) and also a pop gun. I was also given a cowboy outfit with real long pants. I really wanted a Davy Crocket hat but my parents said they looked at them in the shop and they were too “mangy”. I wore my grandmother’s long stole around my head instead. It had a clip at each end with little fox faces on them.

    Your bow and arrow reminded me of the boy next door who arrived with a home made bow and arrow (with a nail in the end) and asked me if I wanted to go rabbit hunting with him. When my father found out he nearly exploded with the thought of what could have happened.

    i loved climbing the big pine trees on our farm in the country. I really didn’t want to grow up and become a girly teenager.

    I look forward to your stories as it brings back so many memories.

    • Lovely to see your comment again, Linda. I am so pleased that we have similar memories and that I am stirring yours. Funnily enough, my husband had a Davey Crockett hat & shirt when he was a kid.
      If you can’t have something you want, you can always work out a way to get something like it. 🙂
      I didn’t want to be a girl! But there’s not much I could have done to change that! Life works out anyway. 🙂

  2. Hiawatha and Minihaha, my my had quite forgotten about them. I think you would have been a wonderful Indian or cowboy Linda. You certainly had the skill set with your creativity, problem solving abilities and curiosity. Great post 😄

    • To me Minnihaha was just a girl, so not important to me. LOL. I reckon I would have done fine as an Indian in real life too, Linda – or a cowboy. 🙂
      Good to see you here again.

  3. Hiawatha – I grew up on that Linda and those plastic little models, what joy they brought me and the games we played with them. Wonderful post. 🙂

  4. I used to play with plastic cowboys and Indians, too. I’d forgotten all about them…

  5. Loved getting out in nature and playing! I was a bit of a tomboy myself and you bet cowboys and indians were on our list.
    I feel badly that children these days don’t get to exercise their imaginations in play the way we did nor do that get all that good clean air and exercise. We grew up in a wonderful era. (60s & 70s for me)

    • I am so glad that my grandkids are out and about in the wild quite often and get plenty of outdoor exercise and play. As you say, too many of them don’t – it must hinder their development is some ways.
      Thanks so much for the comment. 🙂

  6. Ouch! If you dare even refer obliquely to a G******g in England these days you get accused of racism and free membership of the English Defence League! I can’t help feeling (and I hate nostalgia, normally) that we lost something when all our toys went electronic and all our games went plastic. We were so much more imaginative then, weren’t we? It sounds like you had a really happy childhood. I’m a little guilty of envy!

    • They call them ‘golly dollies’ here now, Frederick, but I see nothing wrong with the old name. People are too politically correct in some things that no longer connote racism or any other offensive implication.
      I just hope I don’t get shot down by those word police! 🙂

  7. Ever since I read my first Sherlock Holmes mystery (in the late 1950s) I have wanted to “walk the Moors.” And thanks for liking my posting on Renaissance Musings.

  8. It was fun to be a kid in those “be home for supper” years – we all had so much more freedom. I loved riding my bike out to a creek and messing around in the water, and I also spent a lot of time under our big tulip trees building little farms in the dirt.
    Thanks for visiting and liking my Which Way post.

    • Hi Marilyn, and thanks for the return visit. 🙂 It’s good when we remember the great times, though I guess they weren’t always that way. Time softens the other times I think.


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