Street games in the 1930s

Lynton Street in October, 2002
Photo by Jack Latimer

The residents of Lynton Street, where I was born and grew up, were a varied community but the majority were young families. Most of the men had steady work, and at that time fathers were recognised as the breadwinners and the mother’s job was to look after the home and bring up the children.

Haves and have nots
Human nature doesn’t change. These roles came naturally to some, and others found commitment and responsibility difficult. As a consequence, Lynton Street had its share of have and have-nots, but most were hardworking, honest and respectable people who brought their families up the same way. In the thirties it was a struggle to make ends meet. Some children were far from angels but there wasn’t the bad language that is commonplace today and the only graffiti was in marking out in chalk the squares for hopscotch, which disappeared with the first shower of rain. There was no vandalism and most front doors were only closed at night, and no-one thought twice about leaving the key on a piece of string hanging on the back of the door.

Respecting each other’s territory
Each street had its own crowd of children and we all respected each other’s territory. We all mixed and knew each other at school and there was no real animosity. Occasionally a fist fight broke out between boys in the playground but it was generally bravado and soon stopped by a teacher.

Children’s games
The games we played in the street varied according to age. The little ones played with dolls and dolls prams. If an old sheet or towel was available, with some ingenuity this could be rigged up to make a house. Football was a favourite for the boys. If no one had a football, kicking an empty can about was the next best thing. Tag and hide and seek were good running about games. Marbles, conkers, whip and top, yo-yo and skipping all had their season and biff-bat was a craze at that time. On Good Friday it was traditional for the grown-ups to come out and join in the skipping with a long rope that reached from side to side of the street. This length of rope was quite heavy to turn. Children and adults ran in and out of the turning rope. I have always understood that this tradition came from the fishing industry that had once been so important in the old town of Brighthelmstone.

Exchanging ancient comics
Occasionally an older girl organised everyone into games such as ‘I Sent a Letter to my Love’ or ‘Here We Come Gathering Nuts in May’. There was much visiting of other children’s homes to exchange ancient comics which did the rounds until they fell apart. Boys were in the habit of opening their friend’s front door and yodelling into the passage, ‘Oo Ay Charlie (or whoever) you comin’ out’. If a break in a game was needed someone shouted ‘fainites.’ This is an old Sussex word that meant ‘truce’, but what the expression really was, or where it came from I never knew.

More sophisticated games
As we grew older, the games became more sophisticated. We spent hours playing film stars. A chosen person gave the initials of a famous star. The first to guess correctly took the next turn to choose. Although we may not have actually seen the films we knew all the star names from the cigarette tab cards. Sometimes a boy, who had tab cards that he didn’t want any more, shouted ‘scrambles’ and boys came running from all directions. The unwanted cards were then thrown up into the air to be kept by whoever picked them up. Sometimes a wanted card could be gained in this way, but more often they were the cards that everyone already possessed.

Running errands
Some children ran errands. A reliable child might be required to go to the shop with a message on a piece of paper and the money wrapped up in it. This errand runner could be rewarded with a small coin or an apple. Some residents were able to afford a few coppers to have a particular child to run their errands on a regular basis. It must be remembered that the ‘shops’ were all around us and it probably meant going no further than the next corner.

The lamplighter
At the end of what seemed long days, when dusk fell, the lamplighter arrived on his bicycle with a long pole with a hook on the end to switch on the street lamp and little groups of children gathered in the lamplight until their mothers called them in.

Comments about this page

  • I was interested to see your article about Lynton Street. My great grand father, William Merriott, was living at number 21 at the time of the 1891 census. He was living with his daughter, Mary, and son in law Charles Merriott who was a railway engine driver. William died in 1895 and I would like to know where he was likely to be buried as well as any other information about Lynton Street and the whereabouts of the Merriott family. Thanks, Ted White, Ontario, Canada

    By Ted White (08/04/2007)
  • My parents George and Iris Bonwick lived at number 17 and my Nan, Anne, lived at number 42 with my Grandad Jack. I lived at number 17 circa 1938. My parents lived there till 1996. As far as remember, Mr and Mrs Cole lived at number 21.

    By Rita Bonwick (01/02/2009)
  • I lived next door to Rita Bonwicks grandparents at No.44, Mr Bonwick was a chimney sweep, and his garden was full of soot, so we grew lovely celery! My uncle Bob lived at 48, I can remember a lot of the names of the residents, Pearson, Walls,Newland, and Tuppen to name but a few, I also remember the radio relay building at the top of the street on the left, also the labour club at the bottom. We lived there all through the war and my dad dug an air raid shelter in the garden!

    By Gerald Peacock (27/02/2009)
  • I lived at No. 37 Lynton Street until I was 14 when we moved to Clayton Road, not far away. There were my parents (Jim and Win), my two young sisters (Pat and Margaret), grandparents (Jack and Nell) and my Aunt Mary. My younger brother John, was born after we left the street. So it was a case of the Jeffery residence being slightly overcrowded! I think I remember Gerald, who was I recall good at sketching and drew a really good picture of the Palace Pier – well, I thought it was good at the time -although perhaps my memory is playing tricks, it was over 56 years ago. Was there another Gerald? We came to the street after having been bombed out in Grosvenor Street, so I grew up in that austere post-war period. Some of the names I remember are Dennis and Kay Pratt, Freddie Newland, the Dines (just a couple of doors up), Brian ‘Josh’ Shepherd and Roy Bradrick, whose young sister Carol died tragically in the smallpox outbreak; the street was filled with grief. My mother worked for the Ward family who ran the shop at the top of the street – one of the two sons was Graham Ward. Who else? Oh, David and Teddy Cole lived in Elm Grove and Ted was a super artist, went to Art school and made it his profession. I also remember the relay wireless station near the top of the street, we were connected. Then there were Charlie and David Gillam (playmates of mine) and Mrs Green and her two daughters Rosa and Frannie – that’s about it!

    By James Jeffery (07/04/2010)
  • Hi James. I lived in Clayton Road between 1960 and 1964 with Mr and Mrs Beer. Did you live there round that time as I would love to have my memory jogged?

    By Tracy Sadough (13/01/2011)
  • Hello Tracy. I had married and left 16, Clayton Road in 1959 but my parents (Jim and Win) lived there with my two sisters and my brother during your time, and I often visited. Does that jog your memory?

    By James Jeffery (25/02/2011)
  • I lived at 56 Lynton Street from 1943 till 1969.  I remember Jim Jeffrey, Terry Woolven, Carol Beck and all the others that Jim mentions. There was also Fran Green, David and Mick Patrick, Roy Pearson and Mick and Pat Robinson who lived in Queens Park Road

    By david gillam (12/05/2011)
  • My old work mate & friend Phil Bonwick (Boz) lived in Lynton street, he told me he would never move house because he had so many friends in the Labour Club, down on the bottom corner of Lynton St. He passed away a few years ago now, and I miss him.

    By Martin Phillips (23/02/2012)
  • Hi, I am trying to trace ……..

    Editor’s note: Sorry Daisy but we have had to delete your post. We are no longer allowing requests to find third parties as sharing information like this breaches their privacy. We recommend you try Friends Reunited.

    By Daisy (25/02/2012)
  • Does this mean that we can no longer mention the names of people we knew from a particular area?

    Editor’s note: No David, it is perfectly OK to mention people you knew in the past. What we cannot allow is enquiries relating to the whereabouts of individuals now. We have had many complaints regarding this, as information gleaned via the website has been used in the past to contact people who do not wish to be contacted. Hope this clears the matter for you.

    By David Scott (27/02/2012)
  • I remember a Roy (I think) Bonwick from the Lynton Street area who worked with me at Radio Rentals, School Road, Hove.

    By Barrie Searle (29/02/2012)
  • Does anyone know anything about Margaret Clark who lived at 20 Lynton Street on 22nd January 1941? She is my maternal grand-mother.

    By David Grundy (18/03/2014)
  • Message to Roy Bradrick: Roy, driving home after speaking to you this morning it ‘clicked’! “Living History” that’s what you must have been referring to, so I went in to check and located my comment which touched on the smallpox outbreak, and your dear sister Carol who was a victim; so awful. But my contribution was in 2010 and I had made a number of comments on other local subjects, so it was understandable that I couldn’t mentally exactly pinpoint it. Hope you read this. Best wishes, JIM.

    By James Jeffery (06/03/2017)
  • I was wondering if anybody could please tell me which school or church children living in this street attended?  Also if families attended a slipper baths? I’m particularly interested in any info pre-WWI.  Thank you.

    By Amanda Scales (13/05/2017)
  • Hi Amanda, most of the children in Lynton Street attended Elm Grove Primary, transferring to St. Luke’s Secondary, unless they passed the 11-plus, in which case the would go on to Varndean Grammar. I was the odd-one out in the street, because as an ‘RC’ I attended, first, St Joseph’s Primary in Milton Road, and then St. John the Baptist Secondary at Bristol Gardens, which would relocate to Woodingdean. All of us boys would attend the Cobden Road Public Baths, perhaps the girls did too, I can’t recall. Best wishes.

    By James Jeffery (19/08/2017)

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