Times - Boys at Play
Bob McMillan 2008
Obviously I can only comment on boys toys as no self respecting boy would ever be seen getting involved with girls! Toys were simple compared to todays high-tech stuff but were completely adequate for the period.
My toys were of course mostly cars, Dinky Toy cars with the odd Corgi toy finding its way in as time went on. Toy cars back then had none of the features and finesse expected of toys today, you got a cast metal body, painted a relatively suitable colour, and four wheels that rotated but did not steer or move up and down with suspension. Only later in my childhood did plastic windows appear on toys, up till then they were just openings in the diecast body.
Eventually steering and moving wheels appeared and, oh joy and delight, opening doors! Plastic boats, tin soldiers and plastic soldiers also featured but cars were dominant. Later the Airfix plastic model kits became available and my room was festooned with Lancaster bombers, spitfires and Flying boats.
Most of my time was spent playing with my Meccano construction set. This simple collection of metal strips, plates and screws allowed youngsters to build almost anything their young mind could conceive. The flat green painted strips came in several lengths and were augmented by long angled sections, curved quarter circles and triangular corner bracers. Rectangular and tapered red plates with folded edges formed the base for most projects while flat red sheets could be used to enclose the green frame. Tiny brass screws, square nuts, a small screwdriver and a spanner allowed the assembly to be secured and made rigid.
The addition of axles and tin-plate wheels (red with black to represent the tyre) allowed many more designs to be created. Later, a clockwork motor and a gear and chain drive set provided the means to introduce motion. Much of my set has survived both myself and my son Fraser. Much of it had to be retrieved from Frasers filing system.. also known as EAS. e verywhere and a nywhere s torage!
The Trix Construction Set was similar to Meccano but the pieces were of brittle aluminium coloured material and they were punched with many more holes than the Meccano equivalent. With Trix you didnt have the range of parts you had with the Meccano, at least I never saw them in any of the toy shops.
My Dad also made me small bricks which made great additions to my stock of other toys. Matchboxes filled with clay and fired in the kilns at the brickworks were he was an hand-brick maker, created bricks about 50 mm x 30 mm x 15 mm. Swan Vesta matchboxes created longer, slimmer bricks. Add a couple of rectangular Scone bricks and garages, stations and harbours became a reality to this child. The pattern on the carpet served as roadways while the lino round the edge of the carpet served as water.
As domestic family entertainment was centred round the radio, a child could play, parents could do their work or sit by the fire, and still listen to whatever was on the radio. Compare this to modern day living where you sit glued to the TV set to the exclusion of everything else and spot the difference to the development of a childs imagination and creativity!
The BBC Light Programme or the BBC Home Service was the day time choice but later in the evening Mum would tune to Radio Luxembourg for Hospital Sister, the forerunner of televisions Emergency Ward 10. BBC programmes such as Music While You work, Workers Playtime, Womans Hour, Down your Way, Desert Island Discs and Mrs. Dales Diary provided easy listening.
At tea time, around 5 pm, there would be Childrens Hour followed closely by "Dick Barton Special Agent". In the evening there would be a comedy programme such as The Clithero Kid, Round the Horn, Educating Archie, The Navy Lark or Hancocks Half-hour.
Derek McCulloch - Uncle Mac - was a favourite with his programme Childrens favourites and his signing off line Goodbye children, everywhere became synonymous with childrens entertainment. Aunty Kathleen, Kathleen Garscadden was one of the longstanding presenters of childrens programmes on the BBC network.
Radio programmes were easy listening, inoffensive and very descriptive. I can still recall being scared by Journey in to space, where Doc, Mitch and Lemmy battled over adversity in this thrilling serial. Many years later I read Charles Chilterns book from which it was adapted and good though the book was, it was not a patch on that radio serial!
This seems very low tech and mundane compared to todays child play but it was the breeding ground for a fertile imagination, creativity and the ability to Think outside the circle as they say in modern parlance. We had little, expected little and learned much.