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Street Games – Six Favourites from Years Gone By

If you grew up in a time when children still played together out in the street, what games do you remember playing? According to the Spring Chicken community, these six classics were the all-time favourites played up and down the country.

Hop Scotch

Do you remember chalking out squares for hop scotch in your street? It was played up and down the country but often known by different names, including “beds” or “peevers”.

Chalking out the squares was part of the fun, but a lasting memory for many is being told off for marking the pavement:

I loved playing hop scotch, but I wasn’t allowed to chalk in the road outside our house, so I decided to move further up the road.

“I spent the rest of the afternoon with a pail of soapy water and a scrubbing brush after the neighbours complained. Happy days.”

Spring Chicken Facebook followers have great memories of finding brilliant stones for playing hop scotch and keeping them hidden so no one else could use them, and some remember waiting patiently for shoe polish tins to be empty as they were perfect for sliding on pavements – especially filled with muck. The tins were often used for another pavement game, London to Paris. This involved chalking out a track and moving the stone or tin along it using only the foot you were hopping on.

Kerby

The aim of this game was to throw a ball across the street to hit the kerb on the other side. There was usually one player on each side of the street and each would take a turn, scoring a point for successfully bouncing the ball off the kerb and catching it. The next move was to throw again from the middle of the street. It was a simple game that kept children entertained for hours, but gone are the days of a car coming by being a rare inconvenience.

Two Balls Against a Wall

Another popular ball game was throwing two balls against a wall. One ball was thrown and then the other before the first one bounced back. You then moved along so that the next person could take over. Each person had a trick they could do or a rhyme they would sing that included actions involving the balls, including throwing the ball under your leg or spinning around before catching it… can you remember any others?

Skipping

Back in the ’50s, it was a Good Friday tradition to jump over a long rope in the street in parts of England, but children played in the streets with skipping ropes across Britain. When there was a big enough group, two children would swing the rope with the aim of getting as many people skipping in the middle as possible. Spring Chicken Facebook followers remember everyone joining in with the fun:

Someone’s dad found a big rope on the beach and it stretched right across the road

“My mum would skip in the middle and then others would join her until there was a long line of kids.”

Kick the Can

This was a fun game for all ages, and children would play it for hours with everyone taking a turn at being “it”. Any old tin would do, as long as it made a noise when it was kicked, and the object of the game was to run out from your hiding place and kick it before the person who was “it” could tag you.

Knock Down Ginger

Otherwise known as Knock ’n’ Run, this very naughty game was perhaps the all-time favourite street game played by the Spring Chicken community in their childhood. One theory on the origin of the name is that the front doors in council estate doors were stained a ginger colour back in the day, but in case you were an angel and never played it, the object of the “game” was to knock very loudly on someone’s front door and then run away as they came to answer it. Every part of the country had its own versions, with different levels of daring adding to the excitement.

Some Facebook followers remember earning themselves extra kudos by hiding very close to the door when it was opened, behind a garden shrub for example, or knocking on the same door again just as the person who’d answered it got themselves settled back in their chair.

It was often played in darkness, and the ultimate dare was to freeze like a statue in the garden as the door was opened. Other versions were to tie fishing line to the door knocker and then knock on the door by pulling it from your hiding place, or to knock on the door and not run away, engaging the owner in a series of planned pranks such as providing a glass of water or even a biscuit.

The more things you could get the owner to do before they told you to “hop it”, the more points you earned!

Happy Days

And, of course, it never rained:

Happy days. We were never bored, and we played outside all the time

“No TVs or mobile phones, none of us had any money, but we were all in the same boat and we made our own fun.”

Syrup tin stilts, tennis balls inside your dad’s old sock, or playing kiss chase; simple pleasures… and as so many Facebook followers have pointed out, it never rained in the summer holidays back then!

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4 Comments

  • There was no canned coca cola then, so they were usually empty bean or pea tins which were made of proper metal and much more satisfying to kick than one made of paper thin aluminium.

  • I played Kerby first as an adult in the 80’s! I remember playing a lot of ‘tick’ or ‘touch’ rugby as a youngster. And footie – with your pullover as a goalpost. And cricket – chalking the wickets against the inevitable walls you found down every side-street!

  • A game we spent hours with was ‘elastics’ – A long piece of elastic (like knicker elastic) with the ends tied ed together to make a loop. Two people stood inside the loop with it at ankle height, their feet apart, and another person performed a series of jumps catching and standing on the elastic when the sequence had been completed. The elastic then moved to calf height and the jumping/ weaving movements with your feet repeated, then the elastic raised to knee height. We never got past that but if you were particularly agile, thigh height elastic might have been attempted.
    Three people (usually girls) all took it in turn at each height. I think I can still remember the sequence… Im 60 now! :oD

  • I seem to recall the very early 50s in
    HACKNEY East London.
    There was five of us, coal hole rats
    Those houses that had been bombed and boarded up, all had coal holes, in the streets, and us being in the 5 to 7 age group were just the right size to fit down the hole, it was like going caving.
    No one told us it was dangerous, they didn’t know!
    Of course getting in was dead easy for us, getting out was a different story, just by the way the shoot was constructed with a slope at bottom, to let coal in the celler, the front doors being boarded up.
    Now to get out, was a whole different story.
    The first out got a boost up the slope, the last out, generally the smallest, had to fight like hell up the slope to escape all of covered in coal dust and all sorts of crap.
    The war starts again when you got home, you’ve been down those coal holes again, haven’t you, (clump under the ear!) who me no mum! Me and the others wouldn’t do that, would we.
    No tea again.

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