By Denis Colclough

In High Street lay an empty tin can. The contents had been devoured but the container had escaped the dustbin. Resisting the temptation to kick the can, the thought occurred to me that children did ‘ kick the can ‘ in days long since gone, they did it for pleasure.

Thoughts came back of the Street games played before the days of television, when even the possession of a ‘wireless’ involved frequent trips to get the accumulator charged. Amongst the games played were kick the can, hide and seek, tick, rounders, tipcat, camels, leapfrog, sheep. sheep -come over, hopscotch and cricket with a lamppost being the wicket, or French cricket where the wickets were one’ s own legs. Marbles were played, and the flicking of cigarette cards was regarded as a highly skilled operation.

Items, particularly comics were the subject of barter, and exchanges made involving frogs, newts, goldfish or whatever particular wildlife was currently fashionable. Those of a more adventurous character pierced holes in a tin can, fitted a wire handle and filled the can with wood chippings. When lit the ‘fire cans’ would be swung around in circles much to the consternation of any parent who happened to see what was happening.

A seasonal game was kicking the gas lampposts to circumvent the timing mechanism thus causing the lamps to light before dusk; a lookout was usually employed to watch for the bobby. Girls participated in most games but skipping was a female activity, woe betide any boy who even held the rope end this would invite him to be called a “sissy”.

Although parks were available, and were often used during hot summer days, children felt more at home playing in their own environment and more at ease playing within sight of their own homes. For these play activities to be enjoyed required the consent of those taking part. In modem jargon’ sociological interaction’ was taking place. Children learned to relate to their peers, they were expected to tolerate alternative views, to share and to consider the rights, aspirations and desires of others. Children became less selfish and learned how to act as an individual in a group, accepting the majority view even though holding a contrary opinion. ‘Social ostracism’ or ‘you can’t play with us’ was a powerful weapon to be used against those who did not conform.

Materially children are far better off today but I believe children were happier then. I’ll have the empty tin can, my memories and imagination rather than any computer game.

Ed’s comment - More memories from Denis, many thanks

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