London, 1954: Kids Playing On The Streets

During the school summer holidays of 1954, photographer Thurston Hopkins went out with his camera to capture the antics of young children on the streets of the capital.

This boy is hiding in a drain access. He has removed the metal cover, and is standing on the step inside. Dressed as a red Indian, he is firing his cap gun at unsuspecting passersby.

A street, and an old piece of rope to use for skipping. All they needed to have fun.

This girl is chalking on a wall. She has even added her name and self-portrait to the artwork.

Playing ‘War’. The boy on the pavement is pretending to have been killed.

These boys have made home-made bows and arrows from garden canes and string. They are firing them at a street sign. Five years later, I was doing the same thing.

The little girl is content with her ice-lolly.

This well-dressed youngster is taking her nice dolly for a walk in its pram.

These girls have constructed a primitive ‘sun lounger’, using old crates.

Boys taking turns driving a metal pedal-car.

Friends playing on a derelict bomb-site from WW2. Something I did every year as a child.

Dirt, and a discarded wheelbarrow. Ideal playthings.

This boy is playing cricket, but he doesn’t have a proper bat. He is using a stick instead.

Who knew that pushing a cardboard box along the pavement could be so much fun?

Play Streets were closed to traffic at certain times of the day so that children would be safe.

A boy in a pedal car, wearing an oversized chauffeur’s hat.


Playing on a parked coal lorry.

These naughty boys are actually throwing gravel and small stones at passing cars!

Two boys on home-made wooden scooters. I had one just like those, which my dad made for me.

Reading comics. I used to be bought The Topper every week. One of the boys is reading that.

Birthday Boy: Ten Today!

One of the earliest photos of Ollie, taken in 2012. He is smaller than his stuffed gorilla.

When we got him then, I had no idea what a huge part of my life he would become. During that time, he has gained popularity on my blog, and we have hardly been separated. He has suffered from various medical conditions, undergone numerous operations, and has always remained devoted and loyal to me, whatever happened.

You could not imagine a better-behaved dog, especialy one who has had no training whatsoever. He just knows how to to do things, and doesn’t need to be told. Since he was a tiny wrinkled pup, he has stuck by my side at all times.

He loves to go out in the car with me, and his daily walks are a joy for both of us, despite the often heavy rain. He has kept me fit, and become my best friend into the bargain.

For his special birthday today, he has a dinner of beef sausages, and two new stuffed toys. Both are types he has never had before. A Penguin, and a Walrus.


It’s A Pet’s Christmas Too

Ollie was very interested once we started to pile up the presents we had to open this morning. He came to sniff each parcel, checking whether or not they contained something edible. As we took turns opening gifts, revealing items like new slippers for me, a new purse for Julie, and bottles of wine and other assorted items, Ollie seemed to lose interest, and walked away holding his Grumpy Cat soft toy in his mouth.

At that stage, Julie produced one of his wrapped presents. “Is this for you? Is this Ollie’s?”

The cat toy fell from his mouth, and he rushed around to sit close. As she started to tear the wrapping paper, Ollie moved his snout forward, trying to help by nudging the paper open with his nose. When the first of four toys was revealed, a stuffed Christmas Turkey, fresh from the oven, he grabbed it and rushed off, shaking it furiously from side to side.

Five minutes later, he got a toy that had been sent in the post by my cousin. It was a a small sheep with a squeaker inside,and he rushed off to get that when it was thrown for him.

We continued opening our gifts, and soon after he was shown another present. This time it was a giant happy-face carrot, and he went hysterical when that was thrown.

Last but not least, one of his favourites. A stuffed lion toy, with a very shaggy mane. That was grabbed and taken away to be immediately chewed, the lion losing a chunk of its mane within seconds.

Now the toys are scattered around the living room. They are all soaking wet from being carried around in his frothy mouth, and he has well and truly marked them with his own distinctive scent.

Worn out by the excitement, he is fast asleeep behind me, snoring loudly.

Favourite Presents Of My Childhood

Christmas is coming on fast. Too fast.
That got me thinking about Christmas presents of my youth, and the fond memories I still have of them.

I was luckier than most. As an only child I got more than my fair share, and on birthdays too.

Sometimes, I even got a present ‘just because’.
I might have won a prize at school, helped out at home, or recovered from an illness.

Thanks once again to the Internet, I can find images of the identical toys that I received.

Fuzzy Felt was a wonderful toy, if you had the imagination to make the best of it. Pre-cut felt shapes could be stuck to the base, creating anything from a flower, to a wild animal.

My Dad made me a wooden castle when I was very young. When it got broken, I got a new plastic one for Christmas.
The great thing about such toys was that you would get the ‘extras’ to use to play with them.
I accumulated a large collection of Knights in Armour, and weapons like medieval catapults that actually fired stones.
The drawbridge and portcullis both went up and down too!

Around the same time, I also got a Farm Set for my birthday.
Within a few months, I had farm animals, tractors, and even a combine harvester!
(The camels and elephant seem rather out of place in this set though)

Along the same lines, there was a Wild West Fort.
This became home to US Cavalry soldiers and cowboys.
They fought great battles against marauding tribes of Indians on horseback.

Being a boy in the late 1950s meant I was given guns as presents.
I loved my ‘Davy Crockett’ pistol.
This was given to me for being ‘brave at the dentist’!
As well as ‘defending The Alamo’, this was also used when I wanted to be a Pirate, or Highwayman.

I later ‘upgraded’, to a Colt 45 Peacemaker that fired caps.
This was give to me in a cowboy holster, and I used to practice my ‘fast draw’.

Summer holidays meant playing outside, and along came the ‘Spud Gun’
Push the end into an ordinary potato, and you could fire a small plug of the vegetable at anyone.
We had some legendary Spud Gun battles, using large baking potatoes ‘borrowed’ from home.
(This image is American, but my one was identical)

Electronics arrived in the form of a Train Set connected to a transformer.
This was my first set, which was added to over time.
I had more track, a turntable, signal box, and a small station too.
Trouble was, my Dad used to take it over, and I ended up watching him.

The racing-car game Scalextric was a real luxury. My set was like the one shown, with contemporary Vanwall cars.
Extras were numerous, including a Pit Lane with buildings, and a Grandstand full of miniature spectators.
Sadly, as with the train set, my Dad usually ended up commandeering both cars!

Over the years, I had hundreds of toy soldiers. But my favourites were the sets of tiny soldiers sold by Airfix.
They were cheap to buy, so I could even add to them with my pocket money.
I think I must have had every set they sold, including US Civil War, Romans and Greeks, and French Foreign Legion and Arabs.
But when I got the Desert Rats and Afrika Corps duo, I built a sandpit in my bedroom, to recreate the battles of the 1940s.

Let me now about your favourite toys, in the comments.

Showing your age

I saw this image online this morning. Some of the brands may not mean much to readers outside of the UK, but you get the idea.

What made me smile was that I was far from young when many of these things became popular. And it is not that long ago that I finally threw away my last VHS blank tapes.

Ollie: A Dog’s Christmas 2018

Ollie doesn’t instinctively celebrate Christmas of course. For him, yesterday was just another day of routine. Wake up, go outside for a look around the garden, then back inside for a small breakfast treat, followed by another long sleep on his rug in the living room. But his routine was about to be disrupted. We had to go out, and earlier than usual too. Both of us were rushing around, in and out the bathroom, getting changed into ‘outside’ clothes. Ollie knew immediately that something was amiss. We were going somewhere, and it didn’t look like he was included.

As a distraction, he was given wrapped presents. The sight of soft toys wrapped in Christmas paper always excites him, especially when he is told that the parcel if for him. The two words “For Ollie” are two of his favourite words, and he knows exactly what they mean. As each toy is revealed, his excitement knows no bounds. He grasps the toy in his mouth, and rushes around the room with it, displaying his delight to anyone who can see it. By the time all four toys were unwrapped, he was over-excited, and running around panting, unable to choose a favourite. He got a stuffed Santa, a stuffed Snowman, and two stuffed Rudolphs, one a present sent from my cousin, in a parcel addressed to him.

But as we loaded the car, and appeared wearing outdoor coats, his playful mood changed to anxiety. I gave him an extra treat to eat while we were out, but he demolished it immediately, so he could check on what we were doing. When it became evident that we were going without him, he retreated to his bed, looking glum.

We got home four hours later, and he was delighted to see us, choosing the stuffed Santa to greet us with. He got an extra treat, and I got changed to take him for a walk over on Beetley Meadows. There were some other dog-walkers around by 2 pm, so he got to meet up with a few dogs, and sniff all his usual favourite spots. But when we got back, the sight of me getting changed once more left him pacing with a worried look. He didn’t know that we had to be at a local restaurant by 4 pm, for our Christmas meal. So once we had coats on again, he looked dejected indeed. We were only out for just over two hours, stuffing ourselves with a three-course traditional meal. When we got back, Ollie was very pleased to get his own special dinner of ham and chicken, with a dog-sausage to follow. He was even allowed a few cheese savouries and crisps, as he had been left so long that day.

By the time we were relaxing on the sofa at 7 pm, he wanted to play. He had been alone for most of the day, and had some catching up to do. So he brought all of his new toys, and played tug-of-war with them, or had them thrown for retrieving. Once an hour of this had passed, he decided we were staying home now, and he could rest. By 8 pm, he was snoring peacefully, and his Christmas Day was all but over.

He is very happy today, as it is just ‘Wednesday’ in our house. Routine returns.


Searching out a Pirate Ship for our grandson recently, I started to reminisce about toys. The toys of my youth, in the 1950s and 1960s. One of my earliest memories is of a spinning top, like the one in the picture. My Mum would spin it for me, and when I was old enough to be able to push the plunger on the top, I would play with it on my own for what seemed like hours, never becoming bored with watching it spin.

Many of my childhood toys were home made. My Dad was a useful carpenter, making me a sword and shield, so I could pretend to be a Knight, and a wooden gun, for when I wanted to play at being a soldier. The best thing he ever made me was a wooden fort. This served as housing for many varieties of my figures, from Cavalry and Red Indians, to Foreign Legionnaires and Arab warriors. For a long time, it became a farmhouse for my toy animals, until I got a ‘real’ toy farm, and was also used as a garage for my collection of toy cars. My imagination made it into anything I wanted, and I would happily sit on the floor arranging it for hours.

As my parents’ financial situation improved, I was bought a large plastic castle. This was amazing to me at the time; with turrets, flags, battlements, and a drawbridge that could be raised and lowered. I would line up my Knights on the top, and attack the castle with others. Each week at the shops, if I had been good, Mum would buy me one soldier, animal, or Knight, and I would stand for a long time before making my choice. I looked after all my toys too, never breaking them, or damaging them. By the time I was eight years old, I had around a hundred or more figures of all kinds, and kept them in boxes after I had been playing.

When the 1960s arrived, better jobs and widespread manufacture meant more money available, and a wider choice too. Birthdays and Christmas would see fabulous additions to my toy hoard. I received many toy guns, (no political correctness back then) and they were usually very authentic too, with working parts and plastic bullets that sometimes fired. I got metal cannons that fired matchsticks from a spring mechanism, and even a medieval catapult, that I used to attack the plastic castle. One year, I was decked out in a full Roman Soldier outfit, complete with armour, short sword, and plumed helmet. Heading off to play with the local kids, I could have passed for a Roman invader from history, at least as far as I was concerned.

Age and dexterity made it possible for me to make model kits too. I was lucky to get many aircraft models, as well as tanks and artillery pieces. These spiced things up in my games with toy soldiers, and my improving imagination meant that I could do things like glue cotton wool to the planes, simulating them being shot down. Unfortunately, I had little patience when it came to building these kits though. So my propellers never turned, and my tank tracks were fixed solid. My Dad became frustrated with this, and took over the construction himself. I suspect that was the main reason he bought them in the first place.

I still went back to my old fort and castle though. Being an only child, I could play out with local friends, but in the house I had nobody else to play board games with, or compete with when playing the many plastic toy games that were becoming popular then, like ‘Ker-Plunk’, or ‘Connect Four’. I never had any electronic toys either, as I was too old by the time these became affordable. As I got too old to continue to play with all these toys, and spent more time out riding my bike, I slowly passed them on to younger relatives, always hoping they would be looked after, and reluctant to see them go. When I see such things being treasured as antiques now, I regret not being able to store them all away.

Let me know about your childhood toys in the comments. It is always fascinating to see the changes in such things, over time.

Two Today!

Ollie the dog is two years old today. The time seems to have gone so quickly, and it only seems like a few months since he was a ball of wrinkles, rolling around on his blanket. It has not been an easy two years for the pup. He has endured three major eye operations, countless visits to the Vet, and the recent amputation of the end of his tail. None of this has changed his loveable nature, or dampened his enthusiasm for playing with his toys, or pounding around the meadow with his doggy pals.

He has been with me every day, since I moved here full-time. He is my constant companion, and devoted follower. Whatever low mood you might find yourself in, he can lift it, with a wag of his curly tail, or excited scampering, rushing to show you his favourite toy. He has become part of our family, firmly established, and it is impossible to think of our life here in Norfolk, without him in it. He rarely does anything wrong, and even when he does, it is something of little significance; like not returning when called, or chewing the nose off his latest toy. His possessions litter the living room floor after a hard day’s play, and his slobbering has to be caught quickly, or it will go everywhere. He can smell awful when he has got wet, and when he has a drink, he slops water all over the kitchen tiles. But he is harmless, as it is all unintentional, and just part of him being the dog he is.

He has given me a reason to exercise, introduced me to people who have become good friends, and enabled me to see the world from the viewpoint of a dog, in uncomplicated terms. Go out, eat, play, and sleep, four simple things that he lives by. If he is left for a while, he just sleeps. He doesn’t bark, whine, or chew furniture. When you have had enough of playing, he senses that too, and trots off to lie across the room, awaiting your next burst of energy. He has an internal clock better than any Rolex, and knows exactly what time to expect Julie to return from work; and if she is running late, he senses that too, ears raised at any car noises. He knows what time he should go out in the afternoon, and never troubles you before then. He loves to go out in the car, but can be disappointed when the short journey ends in the Vet’s car park. His main joy is the daily walk to the local meadow, and across to Hoe Rough. He never tires of the same ‘beat’; even though I might find it dull and repetitive, he adores the familiarity of his regular stomping ground.

He loves to welcome guests and visitors to the house, seeing everyone, from the postman, to our next door neighbours, as his best friends. His gang of doggy mates are checked off as they arrive, and if any are absent, he monitors the entrances to the fields, wondering where they have gone. His world is small, and his expectations are small also. I sometimes think that we could all learn something from the happiness he derives, from simple lack of expectation.

He will have extra treats today, as well as new toys; a fluffy lion, and a stuffed tiger that he got this morning. He doesn’t understand that it is his birthday, but he will appreciate the extra fuss. He is our little friend, and still only two years old. We might assume that this is fourteen, in human years. We would be wrong. Like any two year old, he is full of the joys of his youth, has boundless energy, and an inquisitive nature. He is just a dog, but he is a great dog.

Happy Birthday Ollie.