Playing safely in 1940s terraced streets

Fiona Evans, January 4, Star article 'Bringing back the way we used to play out' certainly brought back memories of my 1940s childhood days and our communal ways of enjoying ourselves at street play.

Wednesday, 31st January 2018, 6:14 am
Updated Wednesday, 31st January 2018, 6:20 am
Children play football lin the street

Helen Forman’s report highlights some major facts that “In today’s society there remains tangible barriers to children playing out on their doorstep” also “The speed and volume of traffic prevents children playing out where they would like to and changes the whole environment of the street.”

Sadly Helen this is the price that the children of today have to pay for modern ‘progress’ and the growing numbers of cars and other vehicles on our roads and streets today – making it unsafe and impractical for them to play in the streets. Living in the 1940s Hull fishing docks area, the streets all cut off the main road, they were made up of block terraces built with a back-to- back passageway between.

Parked cars were non-existent because nobody could afford to run one. Passing motor transport down the street was infrequent – the regular user being the horse-drawn brewery and coal carts together with the manual fruit and veg, and rag a bone ones. In this traffic-free area the children were able to play in relative safety.

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The boys and girls played hopscotch on the pavement, marbles in the street gutters. On the pavement an intrepid gambler would prop up a 3d or 6d piece at a very low angle – from a distance, challengers rolled their marbles trying to hit the target and win the money – only genuine coloured marbles were allowed, no colourless ‘gobstoppers’.

I remember coming home at the end of the day with a shilling winnings for successful hits, and a pocketful of marbles which I had won from my turn setting up the target. Throwing cigarette cards at the side of house walls was another pastime – nearest one took the card.

Playing whips and tops, and turning skipping ropes across the street in which both girls and boys joined. Impromptu football games with a rubber/tennis ball with the passageways as goals.

Cricket was played with the street lamppost as the wicket. Should the soft ball be hit onto a house roof, someone would climb the drain pipe to retrieve it, or if that was too dangerous we would improvise a long piece of string with a solid object on the end and throw it onto the roof gutter and try to drag the ball down.

There were relay races around neighbouring streets and tag games.

Many of us can look back with longing for and appreciation of the community spirit in the 1940s and wish that the children of today could enjoy the fun that we had in a safe environment in our childhood days.

Cyril Olsen

Busk Meadow, Sheffield, S5