Some years rest easy in the memory, so we have little trouble remembering them. For
me these years are the ones of my childhood spent in the town where I was born. I
entered this world on 25 May 1941, it was a Sunday evening 9.15pm in the home that I
was to spend these happy times. The address was 61 Alliance Street, Hartlepool, there
was an air raid warning in progress at the time and Mum gave birth to me in the bed
place. This was a huge cupboard on the ground floor and was built under the stairs of
the house with a bed in that was big enough to get a large family in. These bed places
were in most homes and took place of the outside air raid shelters in the back yards of
most of the houses of the era.
The home was cosily warm although the windows steamed up in cold weather. In the
evening I would play with a few of my friends who came round, we usually played with
my fort and lead soldiers. If sea coal had been put on the fire every now and then a
bang coming from the fire would make the games realistic. Stones in the sea coal
exploding would cause the bang and on occasions the wooden shell, usually a dud
match stick fired from a toy 12 pound cannon made of lead would have just been fired.
Cheers all around, any other bangs were followed by a number of lead soldiers being
knocked over by us. The sound effects created by our shouts showed the demise of the
enemy. The glow and warmth from the fire created unbelievable effects and shapes in
Favourite toys of the time were the Slinky. This was a coiled spring that was made in
such a way that if it was placed on the top of the stairs and the top end bent over
towards the bottom of the stairs then released, gravity took over and the Slinky would
traverse down to the bottom under its own steam. AMAZING, how did it do it? Numerous
Night games were different to the daytime. Night was knocky knocky nine doors for us
all. We would knock on every nineth door then off like the clappers round the back lane.
Hide and Seek was also a favourite. Torches took the place for searchlights and helped
us see in the darkness.
Daytime games for lads were Bullicas or Marbles or otherwise Glass Allies. These
could be made of wood, clay or great big steel ball bearings, courtesy once again from
the local industry. The aim was to hit the opponent’s marble with yours. Also cigarette
cards were flicked at a wall and the owner of the nearest to the wall won all the other
cards that were thrown.
Games on the seashore or rocks involved the girls in keeping shops. Different coloured
rocks would be broken up or mashed into a powder and mixed to make pretend cakes,
stone and sea coal took the part of sweets. Sea coal made liquorice sweets; the
polished smooth small pieces of glass took the part of sea diamonds. This was the
money to buy the offerings in the shop. On occasions the lads collected limpets and
they were cooked in seawater and eaten with no ill effects.