I was out and about in my car the other week and happened to drive down the lower part of Moston Drive in Birches Head.
On the right-hand side a piece of spare land was still there, although boarded up, where some 75 years ago we played some of our best games.
It amazes me that the land has not been built upon to this day.
The first game was called ‘Peggy,’ this was a game of two teams. Two house bricks were placed across the top of them, then with a long baton you knocked a smaller stick into the air and whacked it as far as you could.
The opposing team would then be given so many jumps to jump the distance to the small stick. If they managed to do it they would be awarded that amount of points.
The other big game that was played on the spare land was called ‘Ringy,’ this was a game played with marbles.
A ring would be drawn on the ground and you would bet your opponent to play for a certain amount of marbles inside the ring.
Each player would have his favourite marble which he called his shottie. A line would be drawn some six feet away from the ring and each player would fire his shottie to knock as many marbles out of the ring as he could.
You had to be careful not to get your own shottie stuck in the ring as this would be termed ’fat,’ in which case you lost all the marbles and the game would be over.
If you played clever you would just shoot at the outside marbles, just to knock one out at a time.
Once you had done this, cleared the marbles, you were deemed to be a ‘killer’ and you could go on to shoot your opponents ‘shottie’ and kill him off, winning all the marbles left in the ring.
Another popular craze during the winter months were the ‘winter warmers’ where a large can would be peppered with holes and all kinds of burning fuels would be put into the can and lit.
Then with a wire handle attached to the can, it would be swung round and round until you had a roaring flame to warm your hands on in the cold weather. The health and safety people would be having a nightmare in these days.
Also during these days you would often see a kid running down the street whacking an old tyre with a big stick. These were called ‘bowlers.’
On rainy days, or if the weather was not very decent, ‘our gang’ – as we were known – would meet up at the back of our house in Hammersley Street.
At the side of our coal yard was a stable where we used to keep the horse and cart, for my family’s coal business. Above the stable was a hayloft where we kept the hay of course.
We would have to climb the ladder to the hayloft and we used it as our gang hut.
We had makeshift stools from old upturned beer cases and a ‘state of the art’ table in the centre where we played cards and dominoes.
We had also made our own one-valve crystal radio set and could listen to the Light Programme and the Home Service on medium wave.
It was also in our gang hut where we would plan many of our weekend activities. It was a pretty dusty old place but we loved it.
One of the things which I vividly remember in those long-gone days was Sergeant Flowers of the Birches Head police. He would sometimes catch us playing games in the street and tactfully he would say to us ‘I would be careful, not to let the constable catch you misbehaving as he is now on his rounds and will be here in about five minutes’.
Other wonderful memories I have are of our very nice and friendly milkman Arthur Chadwick who would come every day with his pony and trap and had two large milk churns on the back, with two long-handled measuring cans.
Customers would come out to meet him with their milk jugs to buy a measured pint or half-pint, tipped into their own jug.
Arthur was a very helpful and jovial character and sometimes when he came to my mum’s back door he would turn the handle on her mangle when she was putting the heavy blankets through the rollers.
Another character who came every day was Mr Higgins with his little brown Hovis van selling his loaves of bread directly to your door.
Whenever the lads saw him coming they would wait for him to get out of the van and then burst into song:
“Higgins’ bread, Made of lead,
“You have a round,
“And you’ll drop down dead”
At this point he would chase us all up the street.
We had so much fun in those wartime years, but as in every street there was always one ‘Mrs Misery’ who was always coming out and telling you to ‘clear off!’
And believe me we had a very miserable one in our street.
However ‘our gang’ eventually decided to get some retribution. One evening just as it was going dusk, we filled quite a large can with water. A string was tied around the can and it was placed on the top of Mrs Misery’s bay window, with the other end of the string tied to her front door knocker.
We knocked on the door and ran to hide in the forecourt of a house on the opposite side of the street.
The door opened but I cannot comment on the choice of words that came out next. It was all we could do to stop ourselves bursting out laughing.
I now often think back on those very happy years with all my pals and would love to do it all over again exactly the same.
Today, if I was young again I certainly wouldn’t want to live a life with my nose buried in a mobile phone or bent over a computer. I’m afraid I would be absolutely bored to tears.