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The Day Before Yesterday: 10 - Make Believe

...I played on my own a lot of the time, building an imaginary house for dolls. The walls I made by borrowing some of Dad's books. I could make different rooms this way. I used matchboxes for beds and my dolls cost one penny. They were made of celluloid, similar to plastic. They were about two inches high with moveable limbs, threaded with fine elastic. A shop just up our road sold the little darlings. I don't know why I loved dolls so much, but if I saved two halfpennies, I could buy a dolly. This I often did until I had a little family...

Gladys Schofield recalls the imaginative games of her childhood.

In the long winter evenings when the tea had been cleared away, we would play our games of make believe. We ate in the large living room at this time as it was cosy, and the large round table accommodated us all better. This table was made to swivel over and tip onto its end. The middle part had castors so it could be pushed to the side of the room when not in use to make more space.

Most of the make believe games were boys' games. We would be pirates with chairs for ships and the carpet the ocean, or anything we had read about and could re-enact. Our imagination would run riot.

Other times we made shadows on the wall in the firelight, using our hands in different positions to make animals and birds. This also was a time for roasting chestnuts (the edible ones, not horse chestnuts). We had a toasting fork, a much larger version than the table fork. This we did with the chestnuts until their skins split and in some cases looked quite black, but the roasted nut was lovely. It was a slow job toasting enough for all of us. You also made toast this way by sticking bread on the prongs and holding it near the glowing coal on the fire.

I played on my own a lot of the time, building an imaginary house for dolls. The walls I made by borrowing some of Dad's books. I could make different rooms this way. I used matchboxes for beds and my dolls cost one penny. They were made of celluloid, similar to plastic. They were about two inches high with moveable limbs, threaded with fine elastic. A shop just up our road sold the little darlings. I don't know why I loved dolls so much, but if I saved two halfpennies, I could buy a dolly. This I often did until I had a little family.

They slept in the matchboxes for beds. I also learned the art of cutting down an empty tin in half with Dad's tin scissors. As I cut around the middle, I would leave a strip for a handle running up to the top. Bending this over, I had a pan with a handle and could boil little concoctions on the edge of the fire.

We had a row of gas lamps up our road and one was outside our house. They were tall with a lantern-like top (nicer than the electric ones of today). One panel in the lantern opened. A lamp-lighter came every evening at dusk. He had a light on the end of a long stick which he pushed through the panel to light the lamp. With going to bed early, I would lie awake sometimes with the curtains drawn back, and if it was raining the raindrops would glisten as they ran down the window making shimmering patterns in the lamplight.

My brother Harold had left school at this time. The leaving age was fourteen. He was a very bright boy and it was a shame he didn't go to high school. He passed his exams. But it wasn't so easy as today. The uniform, books and fees were all beyond my mother.

Harold didn't seem worried, he was quiet spoken and was more like my mother's side of the family. He got a job straight away in the office of one of the mills. They soon knew his value, because he never looked back and attended night school to better himself at his job.

I can't remember what meat we had for Christmas before Harold was working, but now each member of the staff was presented with a turkey at Christmas time by the owner of the factory. With Harold being a member of a large family, they presented him with the biggest. Harold was of light statue, if the turkey had been alive it would have been better taking him home, as it was nearly all uphill on his homeward journey. We got a turkey every Christmas from then on until he married aged about twenty-eight.

Children did not go flatting. They stayed in the family home until they married. If one didn't marry they usually ended up taking care of the old folks. That happened a lot, as not many homes for old people were around.

We had two picture houses within walking distance. All the family went to the first film I ever saw, only the little ones stayed home. I was five so I was allowed to see it. It was before talkies and called The Lost World, all about prehistoric animals.

It must have been something special in those days. The seats were packed with families. The animals walked with a slow jerky movement. A lady was playing a piano in the foreground, faster and slower, depending on what was happening on the screen. At the climax she played so loud, finishing so fast, her fingers just skimmed across the keys. I was more interested in watching her, as the picture frightened me. It was a poor imitation compared with today's standards but not bad for a start.

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