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The Day Before Yesterday: 14 - Getting Away From All Those Boys

...We would gather together in the evenings and play under the lamplight - games of tag or 'What time is it Mister Wolf'. We played in the road with no traffic to worry about, only the odd bicycle passing every now and again...

Gladys Schofield tells of innocent days.

I said that brass bands played at various functions and celebrations. My Uncle Ernest played the big drum in the band and I was very proud of that. His wife was my mother's sister and lived about five minutes' walk from our house, down the road.

I often went to my Aunty Miriam's on a visit. It was good to get away from all those boys at times. Another little girl used to stay there from time to time. She was a niece of my uncle's and just a few months younger than me.

She used to tell me she would never grow up to marry and have children herself. I thought it strange to talk like that and didn't take much notice. But I did notice the many gifts she received. Easter eggs were always large and so many. I counted five big ones in a row on Uncle's piano, while we were content with just a small one each.

It's awful for a little girl to feel envy but I'm afraid I envied Beryl. The worst day was when I saw my aunty knitting dollies' clothes, and in a box at her side was a lovely doll with a porcelain face and jointed limbs, just waiting for a lovely pink silk outfit my aunty was knitting for it.

I looked inquiringly at her and asked, "Who's that for, Aunty?"

"It's for Beryl, Love," she answered. "She hasn't been very well and I thought this would cheer her up a bit." I must have looked crestfallen, but I didn't say anything as I didn't understand why this little girl seemed to get everything and me so little.

I knew Beryl's mother had died when she was born and that's why she visited my aunty and uncle so much, as she lived with her father and elderly grandmother. About four weeks after this episode my mum said, "Aunty Miriam called today. She wants to see you the next time you pass that way."

I had not been to see her since that day but I still liked my aunty, so off I went to see her. She showed me into the living room, and on the table was a box. "Open it," Aunty said.

I lifted the lid and there was an identical doll to the one I had seen before, only this one wore a white silk outfit. And it was really mine. Aunty Miriam had read my face better than I thought she had.

I learned later why Beryl was always showered with gifts. She had a weak heart and spent weeks of her young life in hospital. She died aged just twenty-one.

I had reached the age of ten, my brother Charles was twelve-and-a-half, and Mum had now two workers, Harold and Alfred, with Dorothy still helping at home.

It was a magical time for me with more privileges and also more responsibility. I could slip out in the evening to play with my friends after I had finished the dishes. Sometimes I would spend an evening with a friend in her house. We did jigsaw puzzles, which had become all the rage at that time.

A new store had opened in Huddersfield. It was called Marks and Spencers. They sold nothing over five shillings when they first opened; not until 1940 did the prices start to rise - I suppose we can thank the war for that. Woolworths also had a policy to sell nothing over sixpence, and they also changed at the same time.

Toys and goods seemed to be value for money then. All the games seemed to be action games. We used our energy for most. Skipping was very popular. We had a long thick rope we carried to school, and each playtime was spent in this game. The girls would queue up and run into the turning rope, one at a time, and skip as many times as they could before the rope caught them out. We had little rhymes we chanted as we skipped.

The boys all had bullies and steerers. The bully was a round hoop of steel, which was guided as you ran with it by the steerer - a piece of steel with a hook on one end about a foot long. The children ran around the block of houses guiding the bully with the steerer to see how fast it could go. Outside each house on the wall was a hook to hang the washing line on. You could tell the house where a young boy lived by the bully hung on the hook.

Our playmates were mixed. We would gather together in the evenings and play under the lamplight - games of tag or 'What time is it Mister Wolf'. We played in the road with no traffic to worry about, only the odd bicycle passing every now and again; it was quite safe. Two of the boys did small jobs for the local fish and chip shop and for their efforts received the left over fish and chips from afternoon cooking. We all shared them and sometimes we got a banquet, sometimes just a few. I still had to be in for seven-thirty, even if I stayed up a bit later when I got older.

Children were not inclined to get interested sexually at such an early age, probably because we were not so physically mature as children today. Sex education was not taught in school but was left to the individual family. How much was taught on this subject, I knew very little. It was not spoken of to the younger ones anyway. We talked amongst ourselves in the senior class, as some girls matured before others, and if a girl earned a reputation of being easy, or a boy for that matter, we knew them.

A girl was frowned on if she had a baby in her teens. She got no help from the Government in any way and was usually whisked away to some home in a town far away, the baby being adopted, or she was married to the father at an early age.

Little girls or boys were not always safe, if I made that impression. It was in most cases a relative who misused them. That too was kept quiet. Two children I knew confided in me but would never dare confide in their mothers. I wonder why their mothers never guessed. But then would they have believed them?


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