From the age of five in the late 1960s, to my mid-teens in the late 1970s, we kids “played out” from just after breakfast ‘til the sun went down and then, moving closer to home, we played on the streets ‘til bedtime.
Often our play took us to the rec’ – the recreation ground off Oakwell Drive – where we spent many a summer’s day footling around, and not just in the summertime but all year round.
In those days, the rec’ was surrounded by an eight foot wooden fence which was its own playground to be climbed and used to repel all other barders, or to quote Mallory to be climbed simply “because it’s there”.
First stop the playground. The swings; perhaps 12 feet high, four swings hung from the arched steel frame with wrought iron chains and brightly coloured plastic seats.
The framework was there to be climbed – again, because it was there. We would wrap our legs around the poles and shimmy to the top to sit upon or hang from the crossbar.
We would try to unseat one another from the top or leg-wrestle our mates until one gave in and dropped to the ground and it was hard tarmac in those days, none of your spongy-soft tarmac look-alike that today’s pampered kids enjoy.
We would sometimes even use the swings for the purpose which they were intended. Of course, a simple sit and swing was not enough – unless we were chattering about other things.
If you used the swing you had to get as high as you could. The object of the exercise was to get the swing above the height of the crossbar whereupon the tension in the chains would loosen and you would plummet down until the tension was taken up with a snap of the chain causing the swing to careen wildly about.
The bravest among us would do this whilst standing on the seat, not sitting like, well, like a wuss! Then the ultimate daredevil stunt. Leaping from a moving swing.
You get the swing as high as you dare then let your momentum propel you from the seat forward onto the grass or tarmac depending on which way you’re facing.
If there were too many of us to have a swing apiece there would be “two ups”. One sitting on the seat one standing with their feet either side of your bum driving the swing ever higher, the added weight giving increased momentum.
Two roundabouts, one with seats for toddlers, one with bars for the big kids.
Both were there to be spun as fast as possible. All aboard except one who would stand at the edge and get it going at breakneck speed until one or all were flung aside collecting bruises and grazes.
I have scars to this day on my knees, shins and elbows from my days on the rec’.
Lastly the slide. It seemed mountainous then but was perhaps 15 feet high on a grassy mound with a view over the landscape to Shipley Park ahead and just next door, the fire station where we could watch Pugh Pugh and Barney McGrew et al being put through their paces on their training tower. We would take old candle stubs and wax the slide until it was so slippery we could shoot off the bottom like a shell from a cannon.
Cue more bruises and grazes and a bath with a capful of Dettol before bed. Oh! You poor pasty youths with your PlayStations and Xboxes.