Play days...

IMAGINATIVE sports and games were created by children in the pre computer days. Skipping, hop scotch, five stones, and marbles, are just a few of the games children would spend hours playing without a power-socket in sight.

IMAGINATIVE sports and games were created by children in the pre computer days.

Skipping, hop scotch, five stones, and marbles, are just a few of the games children would spend hours playing without a power-socket in sight.

Few would say “We have got nothing to do” or hang around spraying graffiti because the council had not spent thousands of pounds on a new sports centre.

A game of football would be made up on a piece of open ground with a couple of sweaters as “goal posts”. The latest football kit was not on offer so the “shirts” would play the “skins”. There would be great debates as to whether the ball had gone over the imaginary cross bar or not. There were cries of “post, post” as the ball hit one of the sweaters on the ground used to mark the goal.

A game of cricket would often be with the stumps painted on a brick wall. A piece of chalk would mark out a game of hop scotch on the pavement or playground. A series of squares and numbers provided great fun until the next shower of rain.

I never quite understood what dictated the “seasons” for some of the games we played at school when I was there in the 1950s and early 60s. The marbles season would see children arrive at school with bags of coloured glass marbles to be bowled or flicked at your opponent's marbles on the playground. Children who had fathers working at one of the town's giant engineering companies used to be the envy of others as they played with steel ball bearings from the workshops. Some of these were huge and quite heavy.

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Suddenly it was decided that the marbles season was over and it was time for five stones (or snobs). The roots of this were simply with five stones, but most had small coloured wooden cubes or little metal shapes to play with. To turn up with the wrong game “out of season” was a social gaff as big as wearing the wrong coloured shorts at the golf club today!

Nature made the conker season easier to define. There were great theories of how to make your chosen “weapon” survive. “Soak it in vinegar or bake it” were a couple theories, but a direct hit from another conker soon saw these ideas smashed.

Skipping was always seen as a girl's thing unless boys were training for boxing! It took great skill and timing for rows of children to leap in the air together as somebody counted while the rope was spun by friends at each end.

There was a strange game called “Muddygiddy” when I was at Landseer Secondary Modern School, Ipswich. This involved two teams. One would form a long “horse” for the others to leap on to try to make it collapse. It was about as friendly as a rugby scrum!

School organised sports and games in a more formal way. I must admit I was useless at them all and always finished playing for the “muck-ups”. The teachers would train the better boys at football while we chased a football round the field like a swarm of bees. Offside meant retrieving the ball from over a fence! The muck-ups was the sports equivalent of sitting at the back of the class making raffia mats while the class did maths or English!

A big day out was the annual Junior School sports day at Ipswich Town Football Club. It seems amazing now that in the summer hundreds of children packed the ground for running events on the main pitch. Children would walk cycle or bus from schools all over the town to take part as their chums cheered from the stands.

Teachers oversaw the chaos and the Mayor would arrive to present the awards. From the late 1960s the ground ceased to be the town's sports field.

I have seen some playing rounders and football with sweaters as goal posts on local parks but most of the others have become largely forgotten games and sports.

I expect there is a rule now that forbids spinning ropes, bowling marbles in the direction of other children or jumping on the backs to try to knock them to the ground. Some would see the event at Portman Road as a negative attitude to the losers. In some schools conkers can only be played if the pupils wear goggles and gloves!

Ipswich Museum is organising a major new exhibition called “Ipswich at Play.” The exhibition will be at the Town Hall starting in July. The museum is asking for help from readers of Kindred Spirits. They would like memories of childhood games and sporting activities from the fifties and sixties. The museum wants your memories and any photographs you may have.

The museum has been holding memory sessions on the subject and the next one of these will take place at Ipswich Town Football Club, Portman Road on May 26-27. The Event is being organised by Ruth Gillan who can be contacted at the Ipswich Museum in High Street, Ipswich on 01473 433544 or at ruth.gillan@ipswich.gov.uk .

What memories of sports and games do you have? Write to Dave Kindred, Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN. Please include any photographs you have. I will pass your memories and photographs on to the Ipswich Museum after featuring them in Kindred Spirits.

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