Thursday, 19 June 2014

Then or Now?

Playing with my nearly three year old granddaughter always takes me back to my own childhood and has me thinking how different things are now for children.
I was born and bred in the east end of Glasgow. We lived with my gran " up a close"  in a tenement flat on the ground floor. It wasn't the nice red sandstone tenement which you will see in photos of Glasgow. Ours was the council type, three stories high. The back gardens were communal and before the war they were separated from the next block with iron railings but they were taken away during the war along the railings on the front garden and never replaced. They were taken to be used for metal for guns, at least that's what I was told.

We played in the streets as a mob,so many children all playing hide and go seek, kick the can, chases and our favourite,chap door run fast. That needs no explanation.
During the summer we were out from morning and came home when the street lights came on, imagine children doing that today.
The highlight of our day was lunchtime and having pieces (sandwiches) thrown from the window down to us wrapped in bread paper. As I said I lived on the ground floor and that was no fun but friends from upstairs would ask their mother to make one for me and throw it out their window.
A song was written about this and how it was impossible to do it from the more modern multistory flats.
We filled milk bottles full of water and went for a picnic. No cans of pop then.
Television was something we watched for maybe fifteen minutes a day. Watch with Mother,Andy Pandy and The Wooden Tops. We preferred to be outside,exploring.

As I played with my granddaughter's small table top play kitchen, I thought of the large but child size Ikea kitchen she has at home and once again I envied her. I have little toy packets of shopping items and plastic food shapes for playing at shops and I remembered how we used to play shops.


In the back court we set up shop. We raided the bins for empty cans of peas or beans, we used stones for potatoes, weeds we found growing for vegetables and old newspaper to wrap things up. For money we used broken glass (now I sound like a street urchin) and no one was every cut. It was mainly glass from beer bottles I think as it was usually green or brown. We played for hours at shops and nothing came from our homes, we found it all outside.
Today Mumsnet would be screaming child abuse and I am laughing as I type this as I can't believe it was okay with all the adults around us.

I have large trees in my garden and my granddaughter loves me to place her on a branch so she can pretend she is climbing.




We had no trees in the back court but we did have three bin shelters. These were concrete structures to house the tin rubbish bins full of ash from the coal fires and other household rubbish. In my mind they were quite high but probably only about four of five feet. We would climb on top and jump from one to the other. We called them dykes. Jumping the dykes was about who was the bravest and it was never me.


My granddaughter has lots of dressing up clothes, little tutus, Cinderella dresses, tiaras and wands. I dressed up with curtains and any spare material lying around.

When I eventually was given a Sindy and Barbie doll by my favourite aunt all the clothes and furniture for the dolls were hand made. We made wardrobes from shoe boxes,dressing tables from matchboxes with tinfoil for the mirrors. I learnt to sew and knit clothes from my mum and aunt.

My  granddaughter and Thomas (toddler I look after) have a wealth of technology at their fingertips. They have cars that go by themselves at the touch of a button and even talk to you. They have every toy you could conjure up and will never have to pretend that glass is money (thank goodness) but they still like it when I make do and mend.
I make ramps for cars from anything I can find. I make doll's beds from shoe boxes. When we had no paddling pool and a hot day I fill a large plastic storage box with water and Thomas played in it for hours.


My childhood of climbing dykes and looking through bins for things to play with did me no harm except to blacken me from the ashes. I have never been to casualty or needed stitches for any incident in my childhood.
We didn't have much but we had a good community. I knew everyone from maybe three streets around me and knew help was there if I needed it. Today I don't know the person three doors away.
The young child I was would have loved all the toys on sale today, the tv programmes and the computers.  I wouldn't have enjoyed the restrictions put on our children, as I said we were out all day by ourselves. I wonder what is getting us more afraid as a society. Are there more people around  that are a threat to our children than in the fifties and sixties. Maybe the fact most of us have cars and drive to and from our houses means we don't get to know people around us and therefore don't trust them.
The roads are much busier now and more dangerous and yet back in the sixties my dad would never allow me to have a bike because we lived near a busy road, what would he say now?

Safety first...
...and foremost

If you took a walk around the estate where I live you would see very few children. We have children here but they never seem to be outside playing.
In the eighties and early nineties when my children were young they played outside and we knew most of our neighbours, I always felt they were safe. I have since discovered that they wandered a bit further away than were allowed to presumably when I thought they were at a friends house. Kids !
Life is probably better now even with retrictions because no matter how many of them you place upon children, like mine they will always find a way around them to do what they want,and like me you won't find out until many years later,but they survived it and you will laugh.





This is the Jeely Piece Song and the man singing it was the son of a neighbour in the tenement I lived in.

22 comments:

  1. I grew up in the seventies and remember me, my sisters and friends all going off for picnics without adult supervision. Like you, we'd be out from morning until tea time and like you, a part of me feels sad that my own children never experienced this kind of innocent freedom x

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  2. I grew up at the same time, and in the same way as you. I remember producing plates of "dinner" in the garden with stones for potatoes, sticks for sausages and mud gravy! Maybe it is, as you say, just that there's more traffic etc. When you read all the revelations of abuse coming out about the 60s and 70s, it certainly can't be that there were fewer "bad people" around!

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  3. I grew up in the late 60s-early 80s and while I didn't live in a neighbourhood with kids, I was outside as much as possible, or at least reading and doing crafts. When my cousins were visiting from NY in summer or on vacations, we were outside ALL the time. Came in for bathroom breaks...maybe watch a fave show....then it was back out. In the winter, my cousins & I would explore the woods all around us & build forts, or sled and skate for hours if it was snowy. I rarely see kids outside playing anymore either. Between the traffic and the predators, I can see why parents keep their kids indoors or confined to a fenced backyard.

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  4. I was brought up in the 1950s and seemed to spend most of my time playing on a nearby common, even after a man was convicted of 'flashing' there. It's hard not to look back and decide things were so much better/freer then. But I'm not sure things were better for my mother - she needed us out of the way on washday as she had to stand over the wringer for hours. No such things as drip-dry, everything had to be ironed.


    I think things are just different, and try not to get caught on words like better or worse.

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  5. Yes Jo as I said I would have loved today's modern toys . I remember mum have the wringer and a washboard too.

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  6. Yes life moves on and sometimes it's not always for the best.

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  7. I forgot about the mud pies we used to make and sell in our play shop. Imagine the bacteria!

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  8. Hi Suzie! Maybe it all depends on where you live but we're all conditioned now not to trust anyone. It was great doing your own thing without patents,

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  9. I loved this post, Anne, because it also reminded me of how my kids grew up in South Africa on the farm. The things they made from making do and the fun they had - always outside. When we moved the the city, they still had fun, but they were much more restricted. I had to take them everywhere, but like you say, kids will always find a work around to limitations, so in that sense nothing has changed. By the way, their childhood was less restricted than mine. I lived in central London and my sister and I were never allowed to play in the street. We didn't even have our own biles, so as you say, it depends on where you lived probably.

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  10. I used to take off in the morning on my bike, meet up with other kids and play out.....which I suppose no parent would let their child do now ..mind you, some of that playing out involved fighting the gang from the local rough estate and playing ''chicken'' on the railway line. I think you are an incredible grandma, and the memories and experiences your little one is getting will last her a lifetime! Aren't these golden days fleeting?

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  11. I love this! I've pondered often how quiet the streets are today compared to when I was growing up. I live in the United States and was a child in the 70s and 80s, but the only thing that is different between our stories is that I lived in a smallish town and thus didn't have big apartments. Otherwise, the theme is the very same. The groups of kids herding together, running from backyard to backyard to the park and back again. Our moms didn't arrange playdates, and they didn't have to work around schedules packed with organized activities. Yeah, children today have fancy toys and modern technology and uber-protection from boo-boos, but they lack the pure joy that comes from unstructured connection with other kids and the creativity that is fostered when they have to find sticks such to turn into telescopes and such. I do everything I can to foster these experiences in my own kids, but it's more challenging when the neighborhood streets are empty of children but full of speeding cars.

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  12. It's difficult to be sure if it was every bit as dangerous for us to be out playing in the 'old days' as it is now. Maybe it just wasn't reported. I used to play out all day on 'the green' which wasn't green. It was brown with a big muddy puddle in the middle. Thank goodness we both survived it. Not sure which way is best. I would have loved all the tiny Sylvanian families you can buy for kids these days. I had two tiny plastic people and played for hours with them. Maybe we appreciated stuff because we didn't have much.

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  13. I used to play out all day, and had to come home when the lamposts came on. We often played in the woods, in fact we wandered all over, gathering armfuls of bluebells, climbing trees and generally having good fun. I can never decide whether tragic accidents happened and we just didn't hear about them, or whether we're just so obsessed with safety these days that we forget about children having fun.I know one thing, I never see a hopscotch drawn on the pavement these days, and that's not dangerous, or children skipping with a big washing line (remember them), or elastics! (I could just go on and on.)

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  14. So you were a bike deprived child like me. I never let my mum forget that. I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was in my thirties. I'm being very nostalgic at the moment.

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  15. I didn't play chicken or fight Carol,I was a good girl,ha ha. I try to let the kiddies do as many messy things as the want to because at the end of the day I can hand them back and relax.

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  16. Hi Tanya. Someone pointed out to me that a mother's work was much harder in my childhood with no labour saving devices to help with housework so they had to let the hildren just get on with it. Sometimes it's good to keep the toys hidden and as you say let children find ways of using things they find.

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  17. It probably was just as dangerous but I think being out to play made us more street wise. As I said we knew all our neighbours from about three streets around. My mum used to tell me if I was getting up to no good someone would always see me and tell her.

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  18. Your childhood sounds lovely. People would go crazy now if children chalked on their pavements. No you don't see children skipping. I used to skip to the shops with my ropes and I loved playing elastics. A school near me had all the hopscotch beds painted in the playground and had patents in to show children how to play the old games. I played for hours with two balls up against a wall singing rhymes to go with it.

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  19. Golden memories! I look after a soon-to-be-four-year-old one day a week and we have such fun. I'll miss him as he starts school in September, but it does bring it all back. However, our time is split between gym tots, educational (and fun) games on the iPad and time in the garden with toy diggers making big holes ... Maybe some things have changed, but many things have stayed the same. I'm the worrier, he doesn't have a care in the world!

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  20. I was going to write something here but I think this says it best.
    Market Square by A. A. Milne
    I had a penny,
    A bright new penny,
    I took my penny
    To the market square.
    I wanted a rabbit,
    A little brown rabbit,
    And I looked for a rabbit
    'Most everywhere.

    For I went to the stall where they sold sweet lavender
    ("Only a penny for a bunch of lavender!").
    "Have you got a rabbit, 'cos I don't want lavender?"
    But they hadn't got a rabbit, not anywhere there.

    I had a penny,
    And I had another penny,
    I took my pennies
    To the market square.
    I did want a rabbit,
    A little baby rabbit,
    And I looked for rabbits
    'Most everywhere.

    And I went to the stall where they sold fresh mackerel
    ("Now then! Tuppence for a fresh-caught mackerel!").
    "Have you got a rabbit, 'cos I don't like mackerel?"
    But they hadn't got a rabbit, not anywhere there.

    I found a sixpence,
    A little white sixpence.
    I took it in my hand
    To the market square.
    I was buying my rabbit
    I do like rabbits),
    And I looked for my rabbit
    'Most everywhere.

    So I went to the stall where they sold fine saucepans
    ("Walk up, walk up, sixpence for a saucepan!").
    "Could I have a rabbit, 'cos we've got two saucepans?"
    But they hadn't got a rabbit, not anywhere there.

    I had nuffin',
    No, I hadn't got nuffin',
    So I didn't go down
    To the market square;
    But I walked on the common,
    The old-gold common...
    And I saw little rabbits
    'Most everywhere!

    So I'm sorry for the people who sell fine saucepans,
    I'm sorry for the people who sell fresh mackerel,
    I'm sorry for the people who sell sweet lavender,
    'Cos they haven't got a rabbit, not anywhere there!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I was going to write something here but I think this says it best.
    Market Square by A. A. Milne
    I had a penny,
    A bright new penny,
    I took my penny
    To the market square.
    I wanted a rabbit,
    A little brown rabbit,
    And I looked for a rabbit
    'Most everywhere.

    For I went to the stall where they sold sweet lavender
    ("Only a penny for a bunch of lavender!").
    "Have you got a rabbit, 'cos I don't want lavender?"
    But they hadn't got a rabbit, not anywhere there.

    I had a penny,
    And I had another penny,
    I took my pennies
    To the market square.
    I did want a rabbit,
    A little baby rabbit,
    And I looked for rabbits
    'Most everywhere.

    And I went to the stall where they sold fresh mackerel
    ("Now then! Tuppence for a fresh-caught mackerel!").
    "Have you got a rabbit, 'cos I don't like mackerel?"
    But they hadn't got a rabbit, not anywhere there.

    I found a sixpence,
    A little white sixpence.
    I took it in my hand
    To the market square.
    I was buying my rabbit
    I do like rabbits),
    And I looked for my rabbit
    'Most everywhere.

    So I went to the stall where they sold fine saucepans
    ("Walk up, walk up, sixpence for a saucepan!").
    "Could I have a rabbit, 'cos we've got two saucepans?"
    But they hadn't got a rabbit, not anywhere there.

    I had nuffin',
    No, I hadn't got nuffin',
    So I didn't go down
    To the market square;
    But I walked on the common,
    The old-gold common...
    And I saw little rabbits
    'Most everywhere!

    So I'm sorry for the people who sell fine saucepans,
    I'm sorry for the people who sell fresh mackerel,
    I'm sorry for the people who sell sweet lavender,
    'Cos they haven't got a rabbit, not anywhere there!

    ReplyDelete

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