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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