I was thinking recently about my childhood and thinking about the differences between the lifestyle of a child in the seventies, to the children of the present day. Many children now have mobile phones, tablets, games consoles, handheld devices and perhaps a television in their bedroom with access to a huge number of channels. Obviously many, particularly younger children, have more traditional items, such as dolls, toy cars, Lego, colouring books, crafty things etc. I don’t recall having that many toys as a child, although I’m sure I probably had more than I can remember. I especially remember having a dolls pram. Mine however was a dolls pram with a difference! The carrycot part came off the chassis, this was wonderful, I could put my doll in the carrycot and place the carrycot wherever I wished. More importantly, while dolly was sleeping in her carrycot, I could then take the chassis outside, take myself to the small hill – it was really a very small hill – sit on it and have races with my sister. It was brilliant! It even had a brake. The hill was in fact part of a path that went around a group of shrubs we all called the triangle. Hardly originally named as it was a triangle shape.
Our house was built in the late 1960s. My parents bought the house and moved in a few months before I was born, we were the first family to live in it. It was in a road of about a hundred houses with a cul-de-sac at either end, each probably consisting of about forty houses. The area we lived in was known locally as ‘The Wates Estate’ – I’m not entirely sure it justified the description of an estate but that was what it was. We had a ‘garage en-bloc’ which was a fantastic place to play but more about that later. The houses in our little square were arranged in a way that there were five houses in a row – and then the same opposite. Perpendicular to these rows of houses was a row that consisted of a small flat either end and then four maisonettes in the middle. Slap bang in the middle of all these homes was a triangle of shrubs with a path that led to individual paths and access to the garages which were behind some houses in the far corner. It was a lovely, friendly place to live and everyone knew everyone else. For this reason it was completely safe for the children to all play out the front, on our bikes, scooters and pram chassis!
I had quite a few dolls, well about four actually. I was lucky enough to have a Tiny Tears, a Sindy, plus two others that I named Michelle and Caroline. My Tiny Tears must have had more clothes than any other in the South of England, due to my wonderful Gran and her brilliant knitting skills.
She had baby-grows, cardigans with and without hoods, gorgeous dresses, short sleeved tops, shoes, trousers, a variety of hats and even her own knitted knickers! All made by my Gran’s fair hands. She even had a school summer dress – exactly the same as mine, when I started school, it was yellow and white checked with a trim of little white daisies around the collar and sleeves. As you can see from the photo, Caroline had one too.
We used to spend a quite a lot of time playing outside, if I remember correctly. Another thing we used to play was marbles. We used to play them on drain covers – you had to dribble your marble in between the lines to try and get your opponent, or get your marble in one and of the round dips at the end. We also used to play in the same way on our rubber front door mat, we were popular with the neighbouring children for this as ours was a good one to play on. I remember the first marble I had, it was one of the large size ones with a beautiful pale green twist in the centre. It’s funny how you could identify your own marbles by the air bubbles and imperfections.
We used to arrange picnics in our front garden, stick a blanket on the grass and all our friends would come and join us for sandwiches, biscuits and a drink of squash.
Tea in the garden was another luxury we enjoyed. We had a bench by the back door and whether sat on this bench or just on the grass it made everything taste so much nicer. We were content with what we had and life for children was so much simpler in those days. They were happy, carefree times.