Entertaining ourselves in the 1950s and early 1960s (2)

March 30, 2015 at 11:00 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family, History, Memoir | 2 Comments
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One of the things we did a lot of as children was making things. Our parents had little money to spare, and if we wanted toys, we often had to create them ourselves. I’ve already mentioned making bows and arrows and guns.

We also made dolls from the appropriately named dolly pegs, with varying levels of skill (Mum had a job keeping enough pegs for hanging the clothes on the line!). A wooden cotton reel, a few small nails and some wool made us a loom for French knitting.

French knitting   Dolly peg doll

Here are some of the other things we used to make for ourselves (or that Dad made for us).

Things Made From Paper

i) Aeroplanes: There were a couple of tried and true ways to make paper aeroplanes. One of them I have never seen anyone else other than my family use.

ii) Party hats and sailing ships: the party or pirate hat is an easily folded bit of newspaper, and most people know it. The sailing ship was a development on that, and I cannot remember now how it went.

iii) Kites: made from a cross of two sticks and brown paper. The tail consisted of string with paper strips tied to it at intervals. Often they were too heavy, or not strong enough, or not big enough to fly, but we kept trying. Occasionally, one would fly quite well.

Simple kite

iv) Dolls’ dresses: Another thing that we sometimes got on cereal packets was two-dimensional cardboard figures. You could cut them out and make paper clothes for them. You could also get a book of paper dolls with fancy clothes that fitted on the figure using flaps of paper that extended from the costume itself. They came in all kinds of period costume, so you could make up stories from the past. I only saw those once.

v) Christmas decorations: Crepe paper and newspaper made chains and twists to hang on the walls and on the tree we’d get from the bush. Silver paper from inside cigarette packets would cover a cardboard star (cut from a cereal box) to put at the top of the tree.

Things Made from Wood

i) Scooters. Dad worked with wood in his shed. When we were little we didn’t have any spare money. One Christmas Dad made wooden scooters for me and my younger sister. The whole thing was made from wood except for the wheels. We thought they were great! (Ten years later, Dad made my little brother a scooter in steel, using the footrest of an old motorbike for the base)

ii) Cars and boats: I used the off-cuts from Dad’s shed to make myself cars and boats. I was always fascinated by the circles of plywood that resulted when Dad drilled a big hole in plywood and I used to use them for wheels on my wooden block cars and trucks.

wooden wheel

Dad made a canoe for Peter when he was about 13-14. It was made from plywood and had outriggers for safety. Peter used to paddle around on the lake, exploring all the bays and creeks. I was so jealous that I couldn’t have one – indeed, I wasn’t even allowed to set foot in that one.

Things Made from Shells

One of the things we loved to do was go to the beach. We didn’t go to swim – none of us could! We went to play in the sand and at the water’s edge, and to see the sea creatures in the rock pools along from the beach. And we went to collect shells. Mum loved shells and did so all her life. Kids love shells too of course, and Shellharbour, where we went, still had a multitude of them along the beach and the rocks. There are only little ones now, and none of the larger ones we used to get.

Mum used shells to decorate around picture frames and mirrors. When I was about twelve, I made two wall plaques. They were a map of England and one of Australia, in-filled with small shells on plywood backings that Dad cut out for me. I lacquered them when they were done. The one of Australia has disappeared, but when I was looking for something for Dad in his cupboard, not long before he died, I found the one I made of England.

Shell map England re-sized

Reading, Writing and Drawing

My brother and I especially loved reading, and we belonged to the local public library from an early age; I also used to get books from school. Primary schools received the School Magazine from the NSW Education Department. There were separate ones for different grades, issued each month during the school year (ten per year). I loved these too. If I were lucky, I would get a book for Christmas or for my birthday. I remember one Christmas – 1958 I think – I got the first books of my own. I spent a lot of time as a child and a teenager with my head in a book. I loved adventure, and read as much as I could about it, I also wanted to write my own stories. I began many but didn’t get far with them as I just didn’t know how to do it.

Like most kids, we drew pictures and coloured them. Mostly what we used in the early days was the creamy white paper that meat from the butcher came wrapped in. We occasionally had drawing or colouring books too. On rainy days, when I wasn’t reading or doing jobs, I’d settle down with paper, coloured pencils and (usually) Peter’s set of compasses. These circle flower designs were one of the things I loved making. I made other designs as well as this one, but I loved the symmetry of this one and it was my favourite. These two colours, blue and yellow, were also my favourites then and I loved using them together.

Circle flower design

(c) Linda Visman

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2 Comments »

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  1. Brings back lots of happy memories of the un we ha with a pot of homemade glue, a paintbrush and newspaper. Great entry.


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