Friday, 3 July 2015

More childhood reminiscences

Yesterday's post got me thinking about my time spent in the infant and junior school playground - and as a pupil I'll hasten to add! If my leisure time of wandering the fields, woods and waterways was out of synch with the ways of today's kids, what about my school time? For the time being, let's forget about what went on in the classroom, suffice to say that it was all chalkboards, milk breaks and the manual ringing of a heavy brass bell to announce break times. It's out in the playground that I'm interested in!

In the early to mid 1960s us kids were still surrounded by the echoes of the Second World War. Our grandparents possibly served in it, our parents certainly lived through it and there were still comic strips, picture cards and TV programmes (All Our Yesterdays and Hogan's Heroes) that would not let it fade away. As boys we would re-enact British v German battles, starting off with a few of us linking arms and shouting out "Who want's to play war?" As more boys joined our throng the cry to arms would build until an unspoken critical mass was reached and then we broke off into different sides. It was now that we could use phrases that we had gleaned from Captain Hurricane such as "Schweinhund", "Himmel" and "Raus". We knew nothing about their meaning. If we had had enough of killing each other we would play 'It', deciding upon who would actually be 'It' by sticking out our balled-up fists and reciting "One potato, two potato..." "Ip dip dog's shit, you are not it", or the now outlawed "Eenie, meanie, miney, mo..."

There were many other playground chants. I assume that some were universal, others very local. The girls were largely responsible for these (although us boy's had our very own bawdier versions). When they weren't French skipping or cat's cradling you might hear:

"What's the time, half past nine, hang your knickers on the line,
If a copper come's along, hurry up and put them on!"

or, a regional variation of;

"What's the time, half past nine, hang your knickers on the line,
when they're dry bring them in, put them in the biscuit tin"

Or does anybody remember;

"The Salvation Army all free from sin,
Tried to get to Heaven in a corned beef tin,
The corned beef tin wasn't made very well,
The bottom fell out and they all went to Hell"

One particular favourite of us boys was to all link arms, and menacingly march across the playground, reciting in as gruff a voice as we could manage;

"Mrs Marden,
Walking down the garden,
(All make loud farting noise)
Beg your pardon,
Mrs. Marden!"

We used to howl with laughter at this, and what started off as three or four boys doing it quickly turned into twenty. At that point the teacher on playground duty would break up the merriment.

The girl's really did corner this market, with all sorts of chants and rhymes associated with various forms of hand clapping. A playground back then was a museum of folklore and traditions. There is an infants and junior school close to my home, and I can confirm that playtime is still a noisy affair. I'd love to observe what the children get up to, and if any of the 'old favourites' still survive - but alas, if I did I would most probably be promptly arrested and reported to social services.

7 comments:

  1. It gets better 'n better Steve. We also had conkers, marbles, 5 Jack, "feet off ground", hopscotch.
    I remember when I was about 9-10, that when all houses had bottled milk delivered to the door, that some had sterilised milk delivered in tall bottles with a ring pattern round the neck. I discovered that the local shop paid 2 old pennies for each empty bottle taken back there. So I used to wonder round the streets some nights collecting these empties from people's doorsteps and taking them back to the shop - made quite a bit of money doing that.

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    1. Oh, that reminds me Derek, we used to return lemonade bottles to the shop for a refund!

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  2. Yes,all those,although the words of your chants are unfamiliar,we had coach outings when it was considered essential that the boys all sang "she,l be wearing woolworths knickers when she comes",to the tune of she,l be coming round the the mountain,always on the way home, and yes we used to go round the back of the shop get the empty's and take them in for the refund ,but the shop keeper soon caught on!,I was a particular fan of conkers!,anything to do with the outdoors!

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    1. And milk bottle tops pecked by the cheeky Blue tits.

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  3. Yes,all those,although the words of your chants are unfamiliar,we had coach outings when it was considered essential that the boys all sang "she,l be wearing woolworths knickers when she comes",to the tune of she,l be coming round the the mountain,always on the way home, and yes we used to go round the back of the shop get the empty's and take them in for the refund ,but the shop keeper soon caught on!,I was a particular fan of conkers!,anything to do with the outdoors!

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  4. The school coach sing-a-longs were a classic 'naughty schoolboy' environment Laurence, seeing how far we could go before a teacher told us to pack it in. Great laughs!

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