School holidays fuelled on bread, jam and imagination
Remember the excitement of the school holidays approaching? Knowing that weeks of freedom and endless play lay ahead.
Everyone looked out for each other and the whole neighbourhood felt like one big back yard. So, as soon as kids were old enough to know how to cross a road (or had an older sibling who did), they’d be packed off for the day armed only with a jam sandwich, a vivid imagination and a firm ‘be home in time for tea or else’.
It’s true life wasn’t always easy, but having the freedom and trust to enjoy the world around us was very special and something you rarely see today sadly. Here are just a few of the many, many ways kids whiled away the hours.
The original kerb appeal
In the holidays, kids took over the streets. Kerbs were a favourite spot to sit and demolished houses and back alleys became playgrounds. No rubbish dump or drain was ever left untouched in the quest for pram wheels and stray marbles.
Swinging from lamp posts and hanging off railings
Hanging upside down off railings and bouncing balls against the wall was fun but swinging around gas lamps was in a league of its own. Climbing up to get a rope around the cross bar, then taking it in turns to launch yourself into the air. Nothing beat it!
The magic of chalk
A bit of chalk was enough to keep us occupied, be it hopscotch on the pavement or cricket stumps drawn on a wall. The game sometimes came to an abrupt end though, when a disgruntled neighbour emerged with a bucket of soapy water insisting you wash it off and then scarper.
Everything had to be conquered
Statues, railings, walls, anything in our path had to be climbed up and conquered. Just when you were in danger of getting bored, you’d spot something else to climb all over and declare yourself ‘King of the castle’ to all the dirty rascals left below.
All in together girls…
Little girls skipped in circles singing ‘Ring a ring a roses’ and clothes line were swung across the street as skipping ropes. On the rare occasion a car interrupted proceedings, the rope would be dropped to let the car drive over it, then straight back to ‘Mary, Mary set the table…’.
Mud, mud glorious mud…
…nothing quite like it for boosting the immune system! Muddy puddles for splashing in, thick mud for making pies, mud just for getting muddy. It was there and it couldn’t be ignored. Mum never felt the same way though, did she?
Endless hours in the park
There was no adult supervision other than the park attendant who came in handy for a plaster now and then. Older kids would spin the spider’s web so quickly you’d be too dizzy to get off and the high metal slide would burn your legs on the way down. Hands up who walked up the slide and down the steps instead. Much more fun.
Expeditions of discovery
Kids were out first thing and not seen again until tea time. On a bicycle or on foot, every inch of the local area would be explored and every pond and river would be painstakingly scanned for minnows, newts and tadpoles to show off in a jam jar.
Wild west adventures and war games
Saturday morning cowboy and war films would be re-enacted with homemade bows and arrows and bits of branch for guns. Those wounded in battle would dash home to be hastily cleaned up and told to be more careful next time before dashing back into the fray.
And finally… when rain stopped play
Every now and then there was no choice but to stay inside. Luckily there was still plenty to do, which was just as well because mum was usually busy. Activities ranged from colouring, painting, jigsaws and reading comics to making tanks with old cotton reels and every little girl’s favourite, cutting out and dressing paper dolls.
How did you while away the holidays? What was your rainy day activity of choice? Do you ever wish your grandchildren had the same freedom? We’d love to hear all about your favourite school holiday pastimes and mischief.
If you enjoyed going on this brief adventure back to your free roaming childhood, you may also enjoy how we used to travel around before cars took over, some heart warming memories of winters past and growing up in 1950s Britain.