Sydenham in the twenties.
Saturday was a great favourite for us kids. No getting up early to prepare for school, but one could enjoy a lay-in if parents allowed us such luxuries. Saturday meant freedom, one could do as one liked (after any domestic chores at home, of course.) but what did we do? By today’s standards, very little! We had no electricity and the associated games and distractions AND very little money to play with! So priority was centred on raising cash. What little “pocket money” had been given to us was absorbed in the many sweet shops on the way to school, so some form of fundraiser had to be thought up. A popular “earner” was to be seen at the entrance to the gas-works early on Saturday mornings when a queue of lads would be seen with their “soap-box” barrows waiting to receive a barrow full of coke on receipt of “Tuppence” old money. This would then be trundled around the streets for sale at “Tuppence” a bucket, a great little earner. Once the stock had been cleared then the empty barrow would be put to good use in collecting horse manure, of which there was always a plentiful supply available in the streets after the milkman and baker and many other traders had made their deliveries. The ill-gotten gains from this venture, sold at “tuppence” a bucket to amateur gardeners for their rhubarb and other delicacies from their back gardens and the proceeds from the coke would be sufficient to finance the afternoon visit to the “Queens Hall” for the “Fourpenny rush” and “gobstoppers” to chew on during the film show.
Of course, this was not the only Saturday morning activity for the young. A very popular activity was running errands for neighbours, shopping and other chores, all of which brought in some ready cash but not everything centred on raising cash. There were many other activities such as a visit to the swimming baths at Forest hill, a morning’s activity for 1p followed by a penny piece of current loaf from “Norwoods” the bakers, opposite the baths. An alternative would be a bicycle ride out to West Wickham woods and, of course, “Conkering” during the autumn when we would set out to Coperscope Road which was lined with horse chestnut trees to gather conkers. There was no “health & safety” in those days and the main danger of conkers was to get in the way of huge lumps of wood that were thrown into the trees to bring down the conkers. Many a split head resulted from these actions.
Following the “Conker” season came the “Penny for the guy” in which a multitude of home made effigies of Guy Fawks was displayed close to the railway stations to encourage donations from homeward bound workers for fireworks, (the chip shops benefited here). Of course, when that season finished it made way for carol; singers as Christmas approached.
In the twenties, a year was made up of seasons. There were periods for various games, mostly played in the roads or school playgrounds, which was evident by the chalk marks in the road surfaces. There were race tracks marked where racing cars made of “meccano” would be raced on the end of a length of string and, of course, markings for “Hopscotch”. The wooden palings of front fences would be marked with chalk lines as lads would run along to the rattle as the chalk moved from one piece to another. Another popular activity was cigarette cards of which there were many games, but they became a source of currency and many transactions were settled with “Fag cards”. There were a hundred and one games played which one never hears of today, but to the writer of this screed, the one thing that stands out in memory is the whistling of popular tunes of the day by errand boys riding their shop bikes along as they made their deliveries.
In the twenties, there was so much for youngsters to do which fed their imagination. Give a child a cardboard box and he would play for hours. Today the only box to entertain is the T.V it would seem.
The History of Sydenham from Cippenham to present day. Links to photos especially welcome!
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