The solitaire game in the picture is nearly 85 years old. On the underside is the slightly faded inscription made by my great grandfather William: "To Billy on his 8th Birthday 12.6.27”. Billy was my Mother’s brother who died aged only fifteen in an accident. I remember playing with the game when I was a child, staying at my grandparents’ house. I loved to hold those marbles up to the light and see all the swirls of coloured glass. Despite its age, like my mother, it still has all its marbles. This week’s Sepia Saturday has a theme of games - board and physical, and I remembered that I had made an audio tape in 1999 of my parents’ memories about the games they played as children.
The recording was for the children in my school, as part of a project on 'Games and Toys', but it has proved invaluable to me as it has many anecdotes that I’m sure would be otherwise forgotten. I played the recording again today and was lost for half an hour, listening to them take turns with their stories, sometimes disagreeing, but on the whole chiming together with their shared memories. They went to the same junior school in Nottingham, but didn't get go know each other until they were teenagers. I wish I could play you some of the recording, as their delight at recalling some of the games, toys and incidents shines through. I'm so glad I have it as an archive.
|Mum and Billy|
Their childhood in the twenties and early thirties, was spent making the most of treasured toys and opportunities for street games. There was no television, but Mum recalls that they had a Magic Lantern, with slides of the Boer War, and, although the subject matter was grim, the excitement of seeing images appear seemed to override this. Having a brother was an advantage for Mum as, not only did she play with the Solitaire game, but also spent hours playing with Billy's toy fort. He wasn't much interested but Mum, with her vivid imagination, made up all sorts of stories for the brave soldiers. She told me that when they broke, which they did occasionally, being made of lead, it was usually a case of decapitation. Unlike the real world, this was easily fixed by judicious use of a matchstick inserted in the appropriate place, and a dab of watercolour paint to cover the scar. Also in the attic, was Mum's own baby crib full of dolls. When my Gran called the children to dinner, there would be disappointed cries as they'd only just set up the latest game and hadn't got properly started. Of course they played Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, Snap 'Ping-Pong' (or table tennis) and Mum also recalls that they had a small snooker frame, but that was one game where she didn't get quite so much of a look in, as Granddad and Billy rather monopolised it.
Jigsaws of course have been around for hundreds of years. Last year I wrote a short post; 'Life is a Jigsaw', about some lovely examples, including one over eighty years old and featuring my mother. I think it was only my third ever post and didn’t have any followers then, so I feel justified in mentioning it now, so you can pop back and see it. I like to think of Mum doing that jigsaw when it was new.
At Miss Kelsall's newsagents, the children could spend the halfpennies they earned by running errands for neighbours, on sheets of coloured tissue or crepe paper. These would be used for all sorts of crafty items. Another favourite pastime was making scrapbooks from brown paper and flour-paste glue. I remember getting huge enjoyment from this myself as a child too. They also saved up for 'Whip and Tops' to play with their friends.
|Dad - butter wouldn’t melt!|
Whilst Mum was playing skipping games with her friends, Dad would be involved in a game of cricket or football. Dad first developed his lifelong love of football when he and his friends kicked anything they could get hold of between 'goalposts' made of piles of sweaters or coats. Dad recalled one occasion when he and his pals were kicking an old WW1 Mills Bomb around, presumably a practice grenade, or one defused and bought home as a souvenir by some Tommy and given to his son. I hope so anyway. A less potentially explosive situation was the one where Dad and friends were playing cricket on the school recreation ground, and Dad hit the ball over the wall, where it smashed the window of the local police station. He recalls having cheers and applause from a group of men standing watching the lads play. What he doesn’t recall is the punishment he received - probably because it was too painful!
You can be sure it’s safe, however, to join us at Sepia Saturday this week, where you can see what other participants have made of the theme. Come on, join in the fun and games - “Do you want to be on my team?”