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School Holidays, early-mid 20th Century

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What children used to do in school holidays

By the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002

When I was a child in the early 1900s no family in our road on the Huxley Estate went away in the school holidays as far as I know. Our family certainly didn't because there wasn't the money for it. However we children had a very free childhood and we could more or less do as we pleased outside the house. So we spent a lot of time out of doors.

Play out of doors in good weather

We were entirely happy to go off for a whole day at a time, and our parents never seemed to be concerned about danger. We would wander where we pleased, taking our sandwiches with us. There was never anything particularly exciting in them, either paste or jam, and we also had an apple or any other fruit that happened to be around. Some days we might be given a halfpenny or a penny to spend.

One of our favourite places was Hadley Woods a few miles away from where we lived in Edmonton (now Enfield). We thought nothing of walking there. If there was a stream around we would paddle in it. We never had a towel with us and just sat on the grass until our feet were dry.

Some days we would take nets and jam jars with us and go fishing to catch tiddlers or frogsporn. If we brought these home, we were not allowed to keep them in the house but could in the back garden.

My brother Ted and I would always have a spit and polish before we went home after our outings so that our mother wouldn't be cross. We would go down to the stream by the weir at Weir Hall, wipe the mud off our shoes with dock leaves and tidy up generally. Then we would check each other over to make sure we looked all right. We would also use dock leaves when we had been stung by stinging nettles. I don't know if they really had any healing properties, It could just have been the coolness of the leaves that gave relief.

One day when I was out with my father a balloon dropped down close to us. The men inside were lost. The lack of modern technology had meant that the occupants had to map read and steer from landmarks and the position of the sun. It was all too easy to be blown off course and get lost.

"Where are we?" a man in the balloon shouted down to my father.

He shouted back up, "Edmonton, Middlesex".

The man thanked by father and did something to make the balloon rise up higher and head off.

Play indoors in bad weather

In Winter and on wet days we played indoors.

The boys had toy soldiers and forts. The soldiers were very well made and colourful, and some had arms which were made to move. Just after the First World War there was a move against letting boys play with them as it was thought bad to encourage boys to think about war.

Trains were played with by boys and their fathers. The rails were wooden and interlocked, and some families had so many that they would cover the whole floor. The trains ran by clockwork, so had to be wound up and the carriages hooked on to one another. They really were fascinating to watch.

We girls had our dolls.

If we could get out into the streets for short periods in bad weather, we played street games.


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