I bumped into my old boyhood mate this week. He was Frank. Our gang leader. We used to play, in the street, all day and every day, when we were not at school. This was during the ’40s, both during and after, the war. Frank would decide what we would play each day, and there were 5 of us urchins. I liked most of our ‘activities’, and well remember them;
This was a great favourite. We had all sorts of dens, ranging from ones built out of unused Anderson Bomb Shelters,
Marigolds grew on ours!
to ones built in amongst the gorse bushes. Very prickly to get into, so nobody ever found them. Some would be in our neighbourhood, whereas others might be a couple of miles away – down the valley, as we would say. Nothing like hiding in the den listening to the wind and rain outside. A great place for ‘learning’ the way of the adult world outside. Nobody would dare to enter our dens!
Yea, another great favourite. We would play Cowboys and Injuns, having two sides, and each having his own gun. We would all assume the identity of our favourite cowboy – mine was invariably Gene Autry as the other boys were bigger than me,
so they were Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, etc. We usually played guns in the church grounds. Well, we were all choirboys, so felt that we were, well, like, the guardians of the church. Choir practice on Friday evenings; Sundays we had Holy Communion at 8a.m. (we were Altar Boys as well!), Morning Service at 11a.m., Sunday School at 2p.m., and Evensong at 6.30p.m. Almost owned the church!
Often we would go to the local park and play football or cricket. Trouble was, Frank was so much better than us that it would get a bit boring. He would ‘bat’ for about an hour, as we couldn’t get him out. Then, when we did, he would get us out in 5 minutes, so that he would be back ‘in’ again. Not fair. And anyway, if we had enough for 2 teams, he would pick the best players for his team. Lousy creep. That’s forgiven now, though.
Mainly played at night, in the street.
Sometimes football. (Weren’t any cars on the roads then!)
Hide and Seek. Yea, you’ve guessed. We could never find Frank, so had to ask him to ‘give up’. (We reckoned that he used to go home and hide!!!)
Bet you can’t remember the game we played; “L-O-N-D-O-N London.” Any ideas?
And a game called ‘knock me down’, where 2 of us would bend down forming a ‘back’, up against a wall. All of the others had to leapfrog onto our backs and, when all were aboard, would jump up & down like mad, trying to collapse us, to the count of 10.
Anyway, I digress from my main point. As I say, Frank was our leader, and it was generally accepted that any and everything that happened in the neighbourhood was our fault. You know what things I mean?
Apples scrumped. (also brussel sprouts, swedes from the farmer’s field, gooseberries, etc.) Well, be fair. This was during the war and we were bloody starving.
Street lamps being shot out by airguns.
Kids jumping onto the rear platform of the bus as it slowed down for a steep hill.
Our local buses
Nearly setting the church-hall on fire. Well, it wasn’t like it sounds. It was a freezing cold day and 3 of us entered the trapdoor which led under the church-hall stage, trying to keep warm. There was some dried grass there and Wiss Hixson had some matches, so we set fire to the grass to get warm. Unfortunately, in the confined space, we were nearly choked, and had to beat a hasty retreat, coughing and spluttering. And it was there that the Vicar happened upon us!
So, what did Frank say after not seeing each other for about 53 years? Well, he said that he can never forget the look on the face of our local Police Officer – affectionately known as Copper Ward – each time he knocked on his front door, or saw us in the street. Apparently Frank’s mother – a lovely God-fearing woman with 7 kids, living next-door but one to me – always started her conversation with Copper Ward with the words; “Well, was he the only one?”
I, also, will never forget that face, or the look on it. So, imagine my utter astonishment when I entered the Swansea Borough Police website and saw that face, and that look, staring at me. After all this time.
Anyway. You can see that face, and the look, above. Just as we did all those years ago.
Police Constable Ward. Good on yer mate. You never did us any harm.