Toys for the Boys

Toys for the Boys.

School day entertainment.

In a conversation around the ‘Hub’ table the other morning it was suggested that the toys and pastimes that kept us, (then) young lads out of mischief all that time ago might be of interest to our current and younger counterparts. 50/70 years on.     On first consideration I could not see the merit, but after a little thought, I was converted; on being reminded of how many things we got up to and the very low tech involvement in them all. In those days we were not permanently “heads down”, logged onto Facebook, Twittering, Social Commenting or playing a game on a screen of some sort, or oblivious to local and world events with sometimes frightening devices stuck in our ears. We would nearly always have a ball, bat or other leisure item in our hands, and be heading for somewhere to kick, hit, or as someone suggested, even juggle it. (I comment only on the boys). Said ball would likely be a tennis ball with no fluff on its case, and the bat often a length of timber rescued from a building site; or fathers shed. Playing ball in the street was common, with a lesser chance of being hit by a vehicle, but a better chance of receiving a clip round the ear for threatening front room windows. There was always another road!

I have decided to try to mention the activities by age, mainly based on my experiences, but bolstered by some of the other guys who suggested the subject. You can’t get away with making suggestions like this and then opting out!

What kept me happy as a baby and a toddler? My mother insists I could be persuaded from the fractious to the lovable by my father simply displaying; over his bottom lip, his partial plate; with three teeth on it. I must admit I can’t think why, but if “Mummy” said so; then it must have been so. I do recall him describing to me the clever functions of the china donkey on the bedroom mantelpiece. “If its tail was dry; it would be sunny, if wet; then it would rain, and if it fell out then there would be an earthquake. I am pretty sure I did not know what an earthquake was at the time, but all information is valuable when you can’t even walk properly yet. My playthings in the house in these early years were the mandatory Teddy Bear and numerous woollen balls hung off the pram hood. We had a dog Peter. I liked Peter. He was not quite as committed perhaps! Maybe I pulled him about a bit. When I could walk, I managed to fix his lead to my little metal peddle car and he would pull me up and down the garden. I then progresses to a three wheeled trike which I recall tipped over frequently. The need for a hanky tied round “a poorly knee” was always good for a bit of sympathy I recall. My other toys at that time were few. I had a box of wooden “Nine Pins”, complete with wooden balls, which I was only allowed to play with outdoors because the balls knocked the paint off the skirting boards. There was also the spinning top! This round thing, about the size of a medium saucepan, was pumped from above and spun round at the same time as emitting a single loud note, the pitch of which rose an octave as the speed increased. My father detested this noise so I had to wait until he was at work to traumatise my mother. I further discovered that if I let it drift into an obstacle, it would bounce off it and sometimes disintegrate. Great fun, or it seemed so at the time. I also had a “Whip and top”, but was about as proficient with this as I was with the Diabolo, which was a complete waste of my juvenile time.

A little later I had use of a wind up portable gramophone. It had been over-wound so many times that the repaired and shortened spring required that the handle be turned nearly all the time to play the somewhat distressed records. Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain Kings” was one 12 inch I could not resist. I was told that I would do the winding whilst sitting on my potty, and it more or less guaranteed a successful outcome. This device my father was again not as impressed with as I was. He did however take it to pieces and shorten the spring when my over enthusiastic winding produced the nasty “thonk”. We had a homemade radio in a wooden cabinet that he would tune into the Home Service the night before, so my mother could turn it on for me to listen to “Children’s Hour” the following tea time; complete with Mr Grouser and Auntie Vi and Co. (Violet Carson of Coronation Street fame).

I would play with Betty, the girl next door. A year or so older; she had lots of dolls and that sort of girlie thing, but would, a bit later on, engage in things like skipping. She had a chipped front tooth as a souvenir; when I pulled the rope, attached to the fence at its other end, just a bit too tight.

A treat was a ride down to the Tolpits Lane allotments on the cross bar of my father’s bike. As I sat on a folded sack I had to wriggle to allow him to change gear on the crossbar lever. I had my own little plot but don’t ever recall getting anything from it, beyond dirty.


       Then it was 1939; and time to start school. I was dropped off one Monday morning at “Victoria Infants School” in Addiscombe Road. It was on the same block as our house, so transport was not a problem. In fact I don’t recall anyone getting a lift in those days, no matter how far they had to travel. Mothers did not have cars.  Come to that, very few fathers had them either. The reception was most unwelcoming I remember. We sat on the rather dirty looking hall wood block floor before being herded into a classroom with desks on a stepped up shallow ramp facing an enormous blackboard on an equally large wooden easel, next to teachers tall desk; with its imposing wooden chair. It gave her a view of everyone. We could feel her eyes wandering over us whilst we attempted an unfamiliar task. (Come to think of it, they were all unfamiliar.) No talking. No fun. This was the real world! Just in case you had not noticed, we were also at war with Germany by the end of the year; and were all issued with Gas masks in cardboard boxes that were to be our companions for the next five years.

After a few weeks; when we were a little less traumatised, we would pray for playtime. Not that it was all roses, even then. Whilst most of us would be chasing around with our coat sleeves tied round our necks, tennis balls bouncing, and rolled down wellies slapping on the tarmac, we always had a weather eye out for the school bullies. There was a prolific family just down the road; with a member in every year. They were all the same, even the girls. Some unfortunate would be selected most days; and taken behind the toilets for “a seeing too”. How they got away with it I do not know. Certain others, as a means of staying safe, would assist the ring leaders. These traitors usually came unstuck too. When this happened it was a good day. Just a memory, but, I recall that “toilets” was not in our vocabulary. “Bogs” was the adjective used. And I believe quite aptly.

The bell would ring at the end of Play Time and everyone would stand still! Balls would still be in mid bounce, but not us kids. A second bell would see us forming class lines before being marched back into to the classroom. I somehow doubt that this degree of control is exercised, or is indeed feasible today.

The games we played I think were limited, besides the chases we had little actual hardware. A year or two into the primary school and we started to range a little further afield after school hours. Children’s hour went by the board, and we headed for Cassiobury Park. I have written about some of the things we got up to in other mini histories. One of these is entirely about the park, so I will not repeat them here. Suffice to say we loved the park and the freedom it gave us. Conkers began to come into the arena. Without the strength to throw a large branch into the fruit we had to wait for them to fall of their own accord. We prayed for a windy night.

One or two other toys came on the scene. Catapults were rare, a fact that the park squirrels were very thankful for, and Pea shooters made from the stem of wild Parsley and Laurel berries for ammunition were used, but on a person, and at a shorter range.

What did we play with during those primary years. Table games started to interest us and we played “Tiddly Winks”, “Ludo”, “Snap” and some other basic card games. Dominoes were also attempted when my father and his mates would sit around the kitchen table and create such a fog that it must have been difficult to count the spots. I was always intrigued with the “Peg Board”. Toys were not abundant. A cotton reel on a string between two canes and called a Diablo was supposed to be capable of all sorts of tricks, but I think mine was defective! A Yo-Yo I could manage, as long as I concentrated on up and down and did not go for the horizontal or twisty tricks. Dinky toys from Woolworths were all the rage. Cars, lorries and aeroplanes, and little figures to stand by the Petrol pumps. These we used to swap and stand them in our mock-up garages. I had a gyroscope, a piece of string was wound round the shaft and smartly pulled, thus spinning the weighted centre piece. The whole thing would then behave in a most unnatural way. I did not discover its real secrets for many years! The marble and cigarette card crazes were only latent, mostly prompted by older brothers. These were all to come later. I remember Five stones, or Dabbers where we would toss up one piece and pick up the others: onesy, twosy, threesy, foursy and no-disturby. This was mainly a kerb game.

In the classroom we had slates to write on and learned some basic arithmetic on the Abacus. We also learned to be quiet and pay attention, or find ourselves standing facing the wall behind the blackboard. Canes, although frequently threatened, were not often used. This was something to look forward to! No doubt we did take in some of the information provided, but I have to admit not much of it survived for me at the time.

Although not allowed in the Playground; we had homemade wooden swords and rifles for playing with in the street. We would hit one another’s sword with our own, and fall down and die quite convincingly; when the right time in the script came up. The rifle; pointed at a target, would be accompanied with a noise made in the throat to simulate an actual discharge. The target would either clutch his breast and fall down dramatically, or shout “missed me”, and make a similar noise in his own throat. We never seemed to have clear winners in this game. Primitive bows and arrows were also used when it was Cowboys and Indians season. These could hurt! A little later came Cap Guns. A roll of paper caps, or the broken off top of a Swan Vesta match would produce a rather pathetic bang, and little bits of the match head would burn holes in your trousers. Never really caught on around West Watford.


       A move to “Chater Junior School” in Southsea Avenue at age ten; or thereabouts, was a big step in the growing up process. We were treated a little less like “things”, and had a bit more freedom of choice. Real paper and pen and ink was another step up. You can imagine the problems a pot full of ink; set into the desk top, and a stick with a pointed metal end was going to cause with a load of ten year old boys in charge of them. Don’t even mention blotting paper! We soon discovered that breaking off the nib bits that actually made contact with the paper left two very sharp pins on the outside, and it only required the shaft to be split under the desk top and a paper flight inserted; and you had a mini dart that would stick into anything. The back of necks were a favourite target.

Catapults became more popular, and more powerful. Popular that is with us kids, not the teachers or population at large. We could buy some serious elastic in those days, a quarter of an inch square and lethal!

At home I acquired a very basic wind-up toy train set. When I say set I really mean an engine and one carriage, and about enough track to go round the kitchen table once. I can’t say that I derived much pleasure from it. It always ran out of power on the other side of the table!

A basic Mechano set appeared, and I watched my father construct mainly useless projects from the construction book. I was allowed to hunt under the table in the Coconut matting  for the dropped nuts and bolts.

It was about this time that some roller skates came on the scene. I don’t know from where, as we had no money for this sort of toy. We would share a pair; one each, and scoot like mad until the toe clamp pulled off the sole of our shoe. This event took some explaining, and rather dampened the enjoyment factor. Great whilst it lasted though.

The playground was still quite dangerous and “The family” was still very active. Fights would take place several times a week, with a baying crowd egging on the proponents. “Fight, Fight, Fight”. It invariably ended with a teacher or two wading in, grabbing an ear each, and sending the boys upstairs for a whacking by the Head Master. It did not seem to make a long time difference though. The increased freedom was matched by more active reaction to misdemeanours. A caning on the hand was not unusual, and being entirely honest; in most cases was well deserved.

We would play serious ball here. The shed entrance was the goal and everyone was in it for himself. What some of the kids could do with a tennis ball was hard to credit. Cricket was played at the other end of the play ground, with a wicket chalked onto a wall. Still the same ball, but someone had managed to get hold of a real bat. It paid to keep your eye open for a “six” heading your way.

With a different route home we were able to develop our marble skills away from the “Family”, who would have nicked the lot. Played in the gutter, we could lose, or win, quite a number of marbles on the way home up Whippendell Road, then play up and down Durban Road until tea time. I have mentioned elsewhere our delight at seeing the lorry with the Elephants trunk with which the driver would suck out noxious stagnant water from the street drains. He would then use a long handled ladle to remove the more solid gunge and tip it out onto the road. Like a hoard of Jackals we would descend on these little piles and pick out the marbles glistening like diamonds in the rather smelly moraine. Five minutes in our marble “sock” in our trouser pocket would sterilise them, and off we would go again.

At home during this period I developed an interest in gardening. We bought panes of glass and wire frames from Woolworths  to make cloches, under which I grew flower seeds and took cuttings. Nothing very serious at that time, but still an ongoing interest.

We also made carts out of old pram wheels and scrap timber scrounged from somewhere. With the war now more apparent to us we would use them to collect newspapers and sell them to the “West Hers Post” for recycling, and Jam jars would go to “Fowlers Jam Factory” for reuse. The war was effecting our lives more and more. Gas Masks were still carried everywhere and we were soon taking Air Raid Precautions when “Moaning Millie” in Cardiff Road warned of enemy action. At Chater School this entailed sitting under the hall windows with our backs to the wall to avoid being shredded should the glass be blown in by a nearby bomb. As we sat both sides of the Hall, in the event of a bomb one side would have a good view of the other side getting macerated. There was no proper shelter when I was there. Lots of bombs were falling, but fortunately not on us.

One morning; following a noisy night in the air, on the way to “Chater”, we noticed that a lot of soil had been thrown over the cemetery wall at the end of Durban Road. A chance to supplement our shrapnel and Land Mine parachute cord collection we thought! Over the wall and into the large hole we went. No sign of any souvenirs so off to school, a little mucky, and a little late, but we got away with it. At play time there was a terrific bang and sound of shattering glass. The reason was obvious when we got home, the delayed action device had blown a tombstone over the wall and cracked the end house from top to bottom. Phew! But there was still time for a few ends of marbles beyond the devastation.

Although this article is headed “Toys for the Boys”, at this time I don’t recall there were too many in circulation. It was time of shortages and austerity. Toys would have been far from the top of a “must have” list. Marbles, Cigarette Cards, Pen nibs and fluff less tennis balls, and our own efforts and imagination had to suffice.


       The next move was back to Victoria Senior Boys. On the same block as my home as before. But even nearer. I could hear the whistle in my back garden and still line up in time, if a little puffed. I think I possibly started to learn here! Things were much more interesting; and science formed part of the curriculum. Perhaps the most impressive memories are of the school hall. The singing on my first morning was superb. Or at least to my untutored ear. This was also the site for physical training and we vaulted over wooden horses, climbed ropes, and did all sorts of dangerous things on large, and very coarse fibre mats. Real footballs were also available for handball, with benches laid on their sides for goals. These balls were of sewn leather panels and had a bladder with the inflation tube tucked behind a laced section. They were not only heavy; but had a nasty habit of presenting themselves laces first. Notwithstanding, they were great fun.

Another innovation was the close proximity of the Girls school. Although facilities were not shared, there were classrooms where a view of them playing netball was available. If you were not caught of course! The boys football team played netball against the girls team once a year and was much looked forward to.

We had a choice of Woodwork or Metalwork in the curriculum. I chose  the former and spent my time making yachts and tool boxes. The teacher, name omitted, was known to throw quite solid, and sometimes sharp things at a boy who may have threatened to cause mayhem. Nobody died! At around this time I purchased a set of bevel edged Firmer chisels, a Tenon saw, Mortis gauge and wooden Mallet, and although well used, I still have all of them.

It should be mentioned that this school did have air raid shelters, and we spent much of our time sitting in the damp whilst the Luftwaffe dropped bombs not too far away. I am sure this; and the fact that many male teachers had been called up to fight, did not help our education.

What did we do out of school during this difficult period. Marbles of course. We could never walk home without another gutter session. Cigarette cards were also quite important. I suppose mostly they were from fathers “fag” packets; smoking was very heavily supported in those war days, and there were thousands of them. The game was to stand one card up against the wall and take turns at “flicking” your own cards until this first one was knocked over. The successful “flicker” picked up all the cards on the floor and stood another one up. It was very easy to go out with lots, and go home with none. Or conversely, start with a few and clear the table. (Pavement). The only rule; I have been reminded, was that you stood in the gutter, where it acted like a kind of Ochi. we seemed; in retrospect, to spend most of our young lives in the gutter, or on the kerb.

Carving wooden Spitfires was also very popular. From a piece of softwood a fuselage would be roughly carved with a knife, sometimes of the pen variety, and with a piece of course sandpaper would be finished roughly in the intended shape. The wings were formed in the same way and were shown with a degree of pride in the morning after a an evening’s hard sanding. A limited amount of Balsa Wood was available which made the task much easier. Often unpainted, due to cost, we could nevertheless not dispense with the RAF transfer roundels on each wing. Attempts were made by some of the boys to make aeroplanes out of balsa wood spas covered with a sort of tissue paper. These had elastic band motors; and following a lengthy wind up procedure would fly, or at least crash, quite convincingly. Back to the bench to patch up the holes!

The Headmaster of the day was a Mr Wells, who was famous for two things. Number one was his love of fossils. He would organise train trips to Pitstone; in the Chilterns, for one of the senior classes, where, after refreshing ourselves and filling our Tizer bottles from a bucket hauled out of a well in a local school yard, we would scrabble in a chalk pit all day digging out Trilobites, or some such ancient creature, whilst refreshing ourselves with warm well water. When it was time to catch the train home we were not a pretty sight. What the other travellers thought can only be guessed at; as they all seemed to avoid our carriage. Mr Wells other claim to fame, or perhaps infamy, was his periodic purge on smokers. This unhealthy and illegal activity took place behind the Boys toilets, (Bogs), right under the Headmasters study window. At a whim, he would select half a dozen faces, call them out at morning assembly, and whack them soundly later, and in private. This seemed to have only a short term effect, so he was rarely frustrated for subjects. No one seemed much bothered. In those days we seemed to appreciate that a misdemeanour committed equalled a price to pay.

On this last subject I must not forget the science block. Seated round the lab tables on stools, some of us could not resist turning on and off the sets of four gas taps in the centre.  Corker Holmes, (He has a wooden leg) would call the offender out and produce a piece of 3/8″ pipe with a tap on the end. This would be used on the backside of a boy he called “A tap twiddling twerp”. Again it was considered a fair result, for being caught, and quite entertaining for the rest of us.

It was about this time that I was given a chemistry set. I would boil up all sorts of solutions in a test tube with the aid of a tin can with a spout on it and metholated spirit in it. I found the formulae for gunpowder, and can only be thankful; again in retrospect, that I never got it quite right. Strong fizzles and a lot of smoke, but no bang. My Lab was the kitchen in Chester Road. This was also my Darkroom, where I would develop rolls of film in a tank, that I had loaded in the cupboard under the stairs in the dark. I must admit in retrospect that I was enthusiastic rather than successful. We all have to start somewhere!

We had an annual school camp at Cuffley. A week under canvas was apparently a character and self dependency aid. On the occasions I attended it soon morphed into an outright open warfare between the four schools represented that week. Some of the illegal activities do not bare repeating, culminating in a four corner open air Boxing tournament on the last night. It was the one and only time I have ever put on a pair of boxing gloves, and not a pleasant experience. My somewhat limited recall suggests that I hit my opponent on the nose and he bent down and cried. I stood back, aghast, and he stood back up, and knocked seven bells out of me. We visited several large industrial concerns, De Havilland’s for example, all now long since closed. Boxing figured again as we listened to Bruce Woodcock fight for the World Heavyweight Championship in our tent, with a pair of earphones in a galvanised bucket driven by a homemade Crystal Set. Winding induction coils on Vim tins and manipulating the Cats Whisker on the crystal in its little holder was how we youngsters listened to the Home Service and Light programmes of the BBC. These devices were in no way portable, for one thing they needed a long high ariel, and for another; a wire attached to a water pipe for an earth, or at camp, a metal rod knocked into the ground. The set at home could pull in Radio Luxemburg, and had a loud speaker but was not a popular source of entertainment for the adults.

I must not leave out an organisation that I was involved in for more than ten years, this being “The Boy Scouts”. Joining as a Cub Scout at the now demolished Congregational Church in Clarendon Road, I attended Pack meeting through both Scouts and Senior Scouts. I remember puzzling over knots and their uses, learning the “Promise” (I promise to do my best etc.) and being awarded badges for all sorts of things. One pastime that sticks in my mind was playing British Bulldog, which involved the Pack getting across the width of the hall with one boy trying to stop them. If a boy was caught and sat upon, he would then join the “catcher”. The most fun, and mayhem, was at the start when there was only one catcher, and again at the end; when there was only one to catch!  It was similar to Rugby Football without a ball and no rules. Uniforms would be in shreds, knees and elbows bloody, and everyone the best of friends. I would get into terrible trouble when I got home! We had none of the kit that goes with modern camping, in fact for most of my time we did not even have a tent. You try sleeping in Whippendell Woods with only a homemade sleeping bag, shared with all the bugs and things who’s home it really was.

I suspect our parents were more concerned with the war, bombing, shortages of most things, and where it would all lead; than entertaining their offspring’s. I recall being held up at the back bedroom window to see the glare as London Docks was incendiary bombed, and watching the search lights scanning the sky with the crack-crack of the Anti-aircraft guns. Add to this the crump of exploding bombs and the sudden silence as a V1’s engine cut out, and what more could you want.

One last memory. The Home Guard would practice; in defence of our home streets, in the alleyways and back doubles. They had fire crackers attached to their empty rifles, and Thunder Flashes. These last devices were struck on a match box and thrown, to produce a flash and bang that was quite impressive; even to us hardened war kids. We discovered that if we lit and put one of these devices in the heavy duty pig bins, and swiftly replaced the lid…wallop!!! The lid went over the houses and far away. Hitler had not thought of that one!

One item I have left purposely until the very last. The Bike. By the time we left school virtually everyone had two wheels of some sort. Some examples; I recall, were far from roadworthy. But with few cars about, hitting another bicycle was nowhere near as likely to kill you as present day traffic. Some of us traveled for miles at the weekend or during holidays. Our kit was made up of an army groundsheet in case it rained, a bottle of water, or Tizer, and a puncture repair outfit and pump. We could all remove and replace a tyre and stick a patch on an inner tube; if there was any space left for one. Note the absence of safety helmets or lights. “They did not make you go faster, so what’s the point”, was the general theory, We could not afford them anyway.

There must be more things we played with; and at, but they don’t come immediately to mind. My particular school days were very much effected by the war and I suppose not entirely typical of others a little younger boys. They were nevertheless mainly happy times, despite Mr Hitler’s efforts to make them otherwise. They were certainly very low tech.


Later recalls and prompts.

       The Little sweet Shop.  Whilst at the Primary School we would visit the tiny shop on the corner of Fearnley Street. There we could purchase a penny Gobstopper, and keep taking it out of our mouths to see what colour it had changed to.  A penny also purchased a newspaper twist with Lemonade powder in it. It was consumed by dipping in a finger and sucking it. The result was tongue, lips and finger stained to a bright yellow, and a funny taste left in the mouth. We could also purchase what I believe was part of the root of a plant; possibly the Liquorish plant, that was chewed to obtain a small amount of flavour and again; an almost indelible yellow stain.

       On our way down Whippendell Road to Chater School we would stop at the Yorkshire Bakery and purchase four large; and crisp, bread rolls. “That is 960 to the Pound”. We would pull out and eat the hot dough from the inside on the way to school and smuggle in the crisp bits for later consumption. Reaching under the desk lid during lessons we would encounter at least half an inch of bread crumbs, mixed with old pencils, pen nibs; and whatever else we has chosen to store there. One boy had a lot of little balls of Mercury mixed in with his crumbs. I have no idea where he got this dangerous substance from, and he was not telling! He seemed none the worse for it.

       Comics were available on the way to Chater School too. Our favourites were the Dandy: with Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat and Lord Snooty. And the Beano, with The Bash Street Kids, and Dennis the Menace; and his dog Gnasher. Beyond school days was The Eagle and space man Dan Dare.

       Conkers.  As I mentioned, these shiny brown seeds were particularly popular, and when we were old and strong enough we would hurl large pieces of wood; which we called sticks, into the Chestnut trees and collect the heavy fall. These would be dried, a hole punched in them and a piece of string threaded through with a knot on the end. All sorts of tricks were used to make them resilient and tough. And let battle commence. It was at this stage that the trees got their own  back, with bruised knuckles and wrist contusions from the follow-through resulting from an over enthusiastic swing. And miss!

       The source of what little cash we had was earned in several ways. The most lucrative was a Paper Round. With the need to have the papers in the door before the man of the house left for work at 8 am, it required quite an early start. Never mind the weather, the paper must go through, and had to be kept dry too! All for six shilling and sixpence a week.  Assisting  the Milkman to deliver the daily pinta was another cash cow. In the early days it entailed helping to push the three wheeled cart with several big churns of milk on board, as the Milkie measured out half pints with a long handled ladle. Later the job went high tec. when the Milkie had a horse and cart. I would deliver the bottles to the doors, collect the empties, prevent the horse from eating the Privet Hedges, (he will die if he eats Privet), and sweep up the droppings into a bucket hanging on the back axle. I recall being given sixpence for the contents of the bucket on one occasion; by a lady Rose lover. A bit like winning the Lottery in those far off days.

       I possibly did not emphasis enough the role that Marbles played in our young lives. We could never walk along a road to anywhere without a “game” in progress. The fact that we spent most of our time with one foot in the gutter and with our hands scrabbling in whatever detritus we came across, would suggest by modern standards  that we should have died like flies from something horrible. In the main we didn’t! With no vaccinations available for things like Mumps, Measles and Whooping Cough we had our “poorly” moments. I recall some mother’s would have a party for the local kids when one of their own caught one of the above. Get it over with, was the thought. With one dose came immunity and some of the very nasty effects; that especially  adult males suffered from, was avoided. Marbles in the gutter; on the other hand must have subjected us to all sorts of horrible possibilities. Perhaps there was no more room for Germs in our systems!

       In another mini history I mention some of the things we did ‘Down the Park’. Sledging down Jacobs Hill, Blackberrying, collecting Sweet Chestnut’s and fishing. There was rarely enough time to engage with all the opportunities that were available. And all without ‘bits and bytes’ or even a battery. And almost no money!

       It would appear that a game called “Tip Cat”; or something very similar, was played quite a lot. Not in my part of Watford though. It sounds interesting, and could be quite dangerous, so I am surprised we did not know about it. A piece of wood was balanced on a pivot of some sort and one end was hit downwards with a club. As the missile rose vertically in the air it was further accelerated in a horizontal direction by clouting it with the club again. Furthest away won. My correspondent told me they wrote their names on the missile to save arguments. This does not sound like our modus operandi!

No doubt I will recall; or be reminded of other pastimes we indulged in. I don’t know where we found the time!


These are my interpretations of the facts and memories as I see them and I am not the spokesman for the KRA or anyone else. Please do not publish this effort in part or as a whole without permission.

Alan Orchard.

March 2019