With the volume of traffic on the roads these days, it is hard to imagine deserted roads but that was the case 70 years ago, and that is why we were able to play in the road. Not until the orchard was grubbed at the back of the old school did we have a playing field so the road was our only alternative.
As boys we played football with a tennis ball near the forecourt of the “Tavern” where the road was wider. The girls played with their skipping ropes chanting rhymes as they jumped in time to the whirling rope. They also played Hop Scotch while us boys preferred Leap Frog.
Some games were shared such as the various versions of Hide and Seek. We both had Hoops. The boys’ were iron ones made by a local blacksmith, the girls’ were wooden and both were propelled by short sticks. I have seen iron hoops spinning out of control down the hill by the station gates and clatter to a halt near Honeyball’s coal yard! Whips and tops were another shared game; tops were coloured with chalks creating a kaleidoscopic picture as they spun. Crazes came and went such as the Yo Yo and Biff Batt (a small ball connected to a wooden bat with a piece of elastic). Some games played by the boys were dangerous and they get no mention here.
One pastime that would raise a few eyebrows today was “Dunging” but at that time it was part and parcel of the country boy’s life. Arrangements for this activity were usually made in the school playground during the afternoon break. “Where are we going tonight?”. “Lets go dunging.” “We’ll go towards Frognal, we went down by Hale’s last time.” So we duly met after school with our trucks and armed with a coal shovel we set off. Now the working horse, unlike it’s cousin in the paddock, was not allowed to stop, so our equestrian deposit was spread along the road. If there were two trucks our “find” would be carefully measured and a well shod heel would mark the middle.
The countryside then rang to the sound of a tin shovel on a metalled road. When our tucks were fully laden we returned home to replenish the pile at the bottom of the garden. We provided two services; one, we kept our fathers with a never ending supply of organic fertilizer and two, we kept the roads and lanes around Barrow Green clean and tidy. No such by-product from the motor car! Any children reading this please, please forget any ideas you may have of playing in the road.