Friday, May 15, 2015

A Dangerous childhood?

By present day standards children between the wars lived quite dangerous lives in their leisure time.Hours spent without adult supervision, roaming hither and thither with just a few friends.Country children were off into the countryside, often miles away
from home, following footpaths through farmland, playing in woodlands, climbing trees, crossing streams and sometimes rivers. If their were no tiddlers to be seen then the water was OK to drink!

Chasing rabbits using slingshots or makeshift catapults which often caused more damage to the firer than to the wildlife they were aimed at.  Bows  fashioned from small
saplings and string fired arrows made from any woody material which fortunately was rarely straight enough to allow the flight to be true. Making camps in the woods  from anything available and lighting camp fires to toast some bread or whatever they had, which if they had the skill, might even be a hedgehog.  Picking blackberries in fields which also contained a bull, but  of course it was quite safe providing you weren't wearing red.

City children had only slightly less freedom.  Off to the park where although the playgrounds were often supervised the equipment was mostly of the kind which is regarded as being too dangerous today.  Swings with heavy wooden seats hanging from strong chains.
 Umbrella swings, cast iron rocking horses and rope maypoles provided the thrills that youngsters wanted and would still want if they were allowed. Twenty foot high slides which  had no safety rails, but no one seemed to fall off no matter how much pushing and shoving there was on the stairs climbing up.
Even five year olds were entrusted to go to the local shop to make purchases, "running errands" it was called which was OK as long as there were not too many items to remember.

The street was also a play area suited to cricket, football, hopscotch, skipping, rounders as well as makeshift swings from lampposts. The traffic, of course, was considerably less than today and much of it horse drawn, which provided the more adventurous the opportunity to gain a ride by hanging onto the back of a cart.

  Those living in the riverside area also had the traffic on the Thames to watch, tugboats, steamers, barges and still the occasiona rower.  The watching was
often from precarious perches on walls or the steps leading down to the river itself.  There had been warnings from parents that falling in the water would result in having 25 needles because of the dirty water, but this was no deterrent.

If the Tower of London was within walking distance then there was the man made beach.  There were always adults about of course, but not necessarily the parents of the children who were there.

Where these children neglected by being left unsupervised in that environment?  It was not considered like that then and who is to say that it was wrong.

These images are mainly from the Facebook group Old school eastenders

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