Oldham Historical Research Group

'Oldham Stories'

     'Oldham Stories'
by Mary Dickinson

Games of Yesteryear

I sometimes hear children complaining that they have nothing to do. When I was a child we always found something to do. There were lots of games we could play. We would sit on someone's doorstep or on the cold flags and decide what to do.

Sometimes the boys would want to play football, so the girls would rally round and make some money so that they could buy one. We used to buy a small piece of material and some lavender for about 2d. and make a dozen lavender bags to sell to the neighbours. When we had enough the boys bought their football, and played in the "brew" as we called it.

Then Pin-Books were brought out. These were old storybooks with beautiful pictures from other books in between the pages. We asked people to stick a pin in a page and if it went where there was a picture behind they could have it for their book. We carried our books round with us all day.

The next day we might play Whip and Top. The tops looked beautiful when they were spinning round, at least they did when we had coloured them with chalk patterns. It only needed one of us to start playing with them and soon everyone was doing it. Sometimes we played with our skipping ropes. These were usually lengths of washing line but if you had one with handles and bells on, you were the bee's knees. You seemed to get one of these for your birthday.

One of our favourite games was "Shop". We first had to ask a lady who lived near the stone yard if we could play on the spare ground. You would have thought she owned it and we had to bring a long brush to tidy up when we had finished playing. We used broken pots for money and any with gold on was a sovereign and anything with silver was a shilling. We marked out the ground into chalk squares and made cardboard squares for the prices. Broken brown teapot was chocolate, white pot was salt, sugar or flour, and red was pepper. We had to have scales and if we couldn't borrow any from home we would make some from a piece of card weighed down with a stone. We took it very seriously and would leave someone to mind the shop when we went to buy from someone else. We always tidied the yard and swept up when we had finished playing.

Another game we played was Hop-Flag. First we had to mark out the beds with chalk. You were lucky if you had a real hop- flag but someone could always bring one from the mill. We wrote numbers in the beds and then we had to hop and jump in our tum missing out a number each time. If you stepped on a line you were out.

If it was raining we would play in each other's houses. The boy next door to us had a Meccano set and he would be asked to bring it if he played in our house. We made marvellous things with it. Another boy had a Peep-Show and he would set it up on the table with a flash lamp or a lighted candle behind it. He showed Cowboys and Comics, they were smashing. Perhaps someone had a present of some doll's furniture and we would play with it on the table.

Roll call was about 8 or 9 o'clock and the younger children would go to their own homes. The older ones were allowed to stay out a bit longer but we had to stay nearby. We would sit under the street lamp and tell stories, and sometimes the boys would sing some of the old war songs. Parents would open their doors to listen to them.

We lived near Qldham Church and thebells would peal out every Wednesday and Sunday night. I loved my neighbourhood and still remember my old friends.

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