Lunchtimes at Primary School 1950s

school pic
Both Sue and Margaret remember school games as going in crazes or fads. It was suddenly, as if by magic, swap card season. Nowadays you would explain a fad by noticing a particular advertising campaign, but that doesn’t account for the fads in the fifties and early sixties. Few people had television sets. No, clearly, it was magic!
Swap cards could be bought at the newsagent, and came in many special categories. (linens, pairs, “old fashioned”, horses).

blue boy
One had to know the value of particular kinds of cards in order to get a fair swap. Once a possible exchange had been agreed upon, each participant would leaf through her pack. This was closely watched by the other person who would ask the person to stop when a desirable candidate came into view. The process was then reversed to find a possible swap for it. Sometimes an exchange would take place, and sometimes not. Sue still has her swap cards.
Another season was hoops, made of cane.
hoops group
Scattered around the playground were individuals with gyrating hips, waists, necks, arms and legs. Neither Margaret nor Sue were very accomplished at it, but they participated, because that is what one did.
Another very individual fad was yo-yos.

coca cola yoyo
The best were coca cola ones, but there were others. Really clever people could do “around the world”, “walking the dog” etc.
Jacks, or knucklebones, which were actual joints of lambs they had eaten, were played in partners or groups. This was one of few games that we remember was played by both boys and girls.
You had between one and five of them in your palm, and had to toss them up and catch them all on the back of your hand. We played this crouched or sitting on the ground.
The boys played alleys, or marbles.
boys with alliesmarbles
Marbles of different sorts had particular value. Bigger ones were called “tombollers”. There were cats eyes and other special ones. Playing involved risking your alley, as the winner of a game kept the loser’s alley. This didn’t seem to go in fads, presumably it was dependent on the weather, as it involved digging hollows in the dust. There was something called “dukes” involved. …. secret boys’ business. Alleys were kept in cloth bags, always home made.
Groups of girls did skipping.
girls skipping
Presumably someone must have lugged a heavy rope to school for this. One person each end turned the rope and people would run in, timing their run with a skip and then jump until they missed and the heavy rope caught them on the leg. Margaret wasn't very good at this either, but Susan remembers her own skipping skills entirely differently. There were esoteric rhymes that went with skipping. Sue and Margaret both remember this one:
The big ship sailed on the Ally ally oh
The Ally ally oh, the Ally ally oh
The big ship sailed on the Ally ally oh
On the first day of September.
The captain said it would never never go
Turns out it’s a traditional song, linked to the Manchester to Liverpool canal, which opened in the 1890s.
There was a shelter shed for each gender, for when it rained. It got packed then, but when it wasn’t raining you could play “pussy in the corner” which involved running across and jumping into the corners, up on the bench seats that ran around the inside walls.

Down the back of the oval were massive blackberry thickets. There were snakes and big rough boys there. Fights happened down there. Sometimes the boys built tunnels through the blackberries, through which brave people crawled, even girls. (Girls wore bare legs and dresses or skirts all year round.)
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