Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Barefoot days.

Children in wartime were much the same as today with our street songs and games we made the best of the possibilities offered. One of our street songs which was sung often was called Barefoot Days.

Barefoot day's when we were just a couple of kids,
Barefoot day's oh boy the things we did,
We'd go down to a shady nook,
Take a bent pin for a hook,
We'd fish all day, fish all night,
But the darned old fish refused to bite,
Then off we'd go down some old cellar door,
Slide and slide till our pants were tore,
Then off we'd go home to bed,
While mother got busy with a needle and thread,
Oh boy what joy we had in barefoot days.

There were street variations of this and sometimes wartime verses with Hitlers one testimonial often mentioned.
Children can make the best of the worst times and we did just that.
Did we grow up traumatised I think not. Did we grow up thinking we had missed our childhood, certainly not.
We remember the fun and companionship, the joy of playing our games always outside, inside was for sleeping and eating.
I am trying to pass on some of this joy to my grandchildren and am happy to see they like the outdoors as much as I did. Never give up on the young.

6 Comments:

Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -
your barefoot boys takes me back a very long way to before the war when about the only thing to cure the rampant unemployment was to have a good old war and get rid of many of those people who were always expecting to be paid for hanging about on street corners - and not even singing about it.
We children didn't know how poor we were - as no one told us - we just enjoyed playing all day long and as you say - houses were for eating and sleeping in.

Somehow - my brother had a new pair of boots - all bright nad shiny - this didn't last too lomg as he was over the fence and playing football on our gravel pitch and puddles - subsequently the sole of one boot parted company from the reat of the boot.

On arriving home Mother broke into tears and my 9 year old brother comforted her with the words that " he would buy her all the shoes she wanted when he grew up".

It was 1941 when he signed professional forms for Aston Villa.F.C. that the first thing he did was to buy Mother all the shoes she needed even up to the day she died in 1986.

Tuesday, 10 October, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Funny, my mother sent me to school in shoes, I begged her to get me boots so I could be like the rest of the kids, shoes were for Sundays.
After seeing my bruised face from fighting the bullying she gave in and I got my boots complete with segs. No more bruises no more calls of pansy but Dad hauled me off to the boxing gym and told me to learn well as it would save me trouble in the future, you can imagine how mother took that.
We had kids who got Mayors boots. They came to school in winter with sandshoes full of holes stuffed with cardboard. The school would give them a pair of heavy boots with punch holes in the side so the parents could not sell or pawn them.
They too had to fight their corner as others looked down on them. Children can be very cruel.

Wednesday, 11 October, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

One of the things my Great Uncle Michael (born 7 January 1893) used to say was "You've never been born". When he was 14 he left school and walked 2 1/2 miles to work (and the same back again) and was pushing tubs of coal with his head against the tubs (bogeys if you like). So I think you had quite an idyllic childhood in some respect fellows!

Michael also used to say about when he was at school and some of the other children turned up in their bare feet "they were butched". They lived down by Whitehaven harbour and used to do boxing, just like you mention Frank, and learnt to swim by jumping in the harbour from the harbourside. All good clean fun really, despite the inherent dangers we might now see. But they did learn how to look after themselves and learn right from wrong.
You fellows did much the same if I have gleaned your very interesting memories correctly. In many ways deep down children are still the same. Perhaps, being a little older than I am you have a better insight on this than I do. As you say, Frank we should never give up on the young! Let them learn what happened in the past and learn from it, because they are the future.

I must say I've really enjoyed reading all these comments. Some things were different in childhood in former years. Possibly the influence of WW2 changed some things? The girls of my grandmother's family were not allowed to go swimming in the harbour even when young, although the boys could go. My grandmother never learnt to swim. The role of girls was seen to be to help out in the house. What 'Mother' said was "Gospel". So, before WW1 the childhood experiences of boys and girls were a little different in my family at least. By the time of my own childhood my own outside activities were broadly similar to my older sister and her friends, and of course I went ballroom dancing the same as she did. But then that was the 1960s, when we were benefitting from all the efforts of those who had gone before.

Wednesday, 11 October, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Many of us kids learned to swim by skinny dipping in Billingham beck.
We would walk down the Old Mill Path and across the field to the horse shoe bend. The boys stripped behind one bush and the girls behind another then in we went all together, no one bothered about the sexes, I suppose we all had sisters and they were confounded nuisances at times.
Two young lads drowned in the beck and we were banned for a while but the next spring we were all back again.
Mum took me to the Billingham Baths which I loved but still went back to the beck on warm days.
A lot of my cousins in the Durham mining area also left school at twelve or thirteen and went into the pits with my uncles.
They grew up fast and soon bore the scars of pit work. Those blue scars from being hit by falling rock could be seen when they bathed in front of the fire before pit head showers came in.
Some of the kids who played the games on the green with us also left school early and went into war work in the ship yards and the steel works, even in the war years things could be tough for kids.
Yes Joseph I was lucky in that my parents could afford to send me to school until I was sixteen.
With the uniforms sports kit and books it was an expensive business.
There were many talented kids who passed the eleven plus but their parents needed them working to help feed the family, those kids never got the chances people like me got,
The official leaving age was fourteen but very few made it to fourteen. Kids of twelve often gave up school to work although it was against the law.
The school Bobby would chase them up for a while but in the end gave up knowing it was better the family ate than starved.
The war brought full employment and with many women working people began to have money in their pockets, not that you could buy much during rationing.
Today poverty is not having an Ipod or the latest computer games, trainers or hoodies.
Those kids probably feel just as deprived as the kids without boots or food in the bellies did in our time.
It is all relevent to the times we live in.

Thursday, 12 October, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Scotland was as hard hit by the depression as anywhere else and many of our friends left school early to start work and bring home possibly 10 shillings a week to stave off starvation. I was fortunate and was kept on till the war broke out and managed to obtain enough credits and matriculation to St Andrews, to which the war cancelled as we could not afford the fees as the grants were suspended.
This was not too great a hardship
for at that time not too many went on to University as it waa estimated that only 4% of the population was capable of acceptig the teaching. It was long after the war and Mr Wilson's legacy of the RedBricks that suddenly the capable population increased to 10%
- amazing !
Many of my cousins particularly in the Cumnock area of Ayrshire worked down the pits and one - Andrew McCann - pulled a whole shift of bogies on his own in order to relieve his mule who had already done two shifts - the fact that he was only 16 at the time shows a great spirit and concern for animals which he kept all through his short life - the fact that he died early of heart failure speaks to that concern.
There was as much heroism down the pits as there was on the battlefield which gets back - I think - to the character building that poverty brings in it's wake and which appears - on the surface at least - to be missing to-day. As Frank points out - poverty to-day is at a higher level

Thursday, 12 October, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Some very interesting insights you all have. I think you are right comparing the different perception of 'poverty' over the years.

Most young kids seem to have the latest 'state of the art' technology, clothing and so forth. The pressure is on for parents / grandparents to get the latest. So if your kids haven't got the latest 'it' thing they can feel poor. One of my former history teachers at school used to say "Things change but they stay the same". As you say, some things are relative to the times.

Thursday, 12 October, 2006  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home