© Copyright 1990 - G.M. Clark & E. Dixon; reproduced here by kind permission


Seasonal Games - Marbles
Seasonal Games - Kites
Seasonal Games - Skipping

There would be a sudden craze for a certain game and the craze would just as suddenly stop - only for another to take its place.

Types of seasonal games played Usual Season/Venue
Hoops Summer
Tops Summer
Kites Summer - Windy Days!
Yo-Yo's Often Spring
Marbles Dry days - all the year
Skipping Summer - good days in winter
Cigarette cards (Fag cards) Winter - indoors
Conkers Autumn


Iron hoops were frequently used in the Thirties. They were rather noisy, and when wooden hoops appeared they became more popular. Of course, the iron ones were very strong as many of them were made by the local blacksmith, but fashions change.

The hoop was bowled along by either a stick or an iron rod with a hook on the end. The idea was to keep it bowling as long as possible.

Bowling a hoop
Using a hoop for pretended horse racing
Bowling a hoop

Hoop races were also popular. One of these was Horse Races - with one child galloping with the hoop round her waist and the ‘jockey’ holding it at the back.

Jumping through a series of hoops held by other children was another use for this versatile toy. The art of keeping a hoop spinning round the body was a later practice. The West Indian children who came to this country after the war were very adept at this art.


One seldom sees tops these days, but they were very popular in the twenties and thirties when I was a child. There were two types. One was conical and the other shaped 1ike a mushroom. The dearer ones were made of boxwood and lasted for ever - a child’s forever, that is. The others, of a softer wood, soon split and splintered

Whip and Top

A stick with a piece of string tied on the end was used to whip the top. The object was to keep the top spinning as long as possible. After a time, one became quite expert, but it wasn’t easy and some children never mastered the art.


Flying a kite

The kites we used were quite simple and often made on the kitchen table with tissue paper and lengths of cane.

On a good windy day it was a pleasant experience to fly them, even though there are not many hilly spots around this district.

Bury Field was the favourite venue.


These toys were used by boys and girls. Some were made of pressed out soft metal commonly called tin! but most were wooden - smooth and brightly painted. They were flattened, rounded objects, like two halves of a penny bun joined in the centre by a short rod. This formed a deep aperture running round the centre. A string was attached to the rod, with a loop for a finger at the other end. It was wound round until only the loop showed.

When released, the yo-yo ran down the string and, still spinning, wound itself up a As with the top; the idea was to keep the yo-yo going up and down for as long as possible. Some children could do all sorts of tricks - sending it out horizontally and even vertically upwards. Most of us, however, were content if we could just make it work.


These were very much boys’ games, and I do not remember playing them myself, Marbles were used for many games, limited only by the originality of the players. Like most children’s games they tended to fall into set patterns that were easily remembered. Passed down from one generation to another, they became traditional rituals that had to be played to set rules.

If newcomers and younger children were invited to play, a lot of time was spent in explaining the rules and in ensuring that they were rigidly observed.

Cries of ‘It’s not fair,’ and ‘You’re not allowed to do that’ could be heard whenever children were playing. In this way, they were preparing themselves for the great game of living as grown ups, when their time came.

The basic game

In this, best played in the gutter (a practice unsuitable for today because of the many parked cars) because the kerbstone kept the marbles from rolling uncontrolled over the road, the starter rolls his marble along the gutter. The second boy, holding his marble balanced on the curled forefinger, flicks it with his thumb at the target. If he hits it without first touching the ground, he wins it. If not, he loses his own.


If there were more than two players, a variation was to try to hit a second or third marble so that it rolled forward and hit the one in front.

A more sophisticated idea was to make a cardboard ‘Skittle Alley'. This was an unlidded cardboard box open side down, with a number of slots cut in one side so that they formed open doors. The game was played by rolling marbles so that they ran inside. If they didn’t, they were lost to the owner of the box. If they did, one or two or more were won according to the number pencilled over the door.

One of the attractions of marbles was their colour, their patterning and their size. Some were made of a very hard baked clay, generally painted in sombre ochreish colours, These had a tendency to split and flake and were not very popular. Fortunately, most were made of a resilient glass, patterned in their depths with swirling coloured threads and blobs, so that they looked like little paperweights.


Skipping was traditionally a girls’ game or activity. It could be played individually or by a group.

Group skipping was, and still is, played with two children holding a long rope between them. The rope can be turned slowly or very fast according to the game and rhyme being used.

Often a rope was used for jumping practice when stands and a pole were not available. It was difficult to hold the rope still when someone was jumping, and fierce arguments about rules and fairness sometimes followed.

Under and Over

The players would endeavour to move under or over the rope as it was being turned, without being caught.

Running Out

As the rope was turned the children would slot themselves into it, jumping from side to side. They slowly progressed along its length, running ‘out’ at the far end.

Jingles used in skipping games

Nebudchadnezzar the King of the Jews
Sold his wife for a pair of shoes,
When the shoe began to wear
Nebudchadnezzar began to swear.

Vote, vote, vote for Gordon Mary.
Calling Mary at the door,
For she’s the only one,
And we shall have some fun,
And we won’t vote for Sally any more,

This has possible election connotations.

Skipping solo
Skipping in a threesome

Salt Mustard, Vinegar, Pepper

The rope was turned faster and faster so that by the time ‘pepper’ was reached, the skipper might have got her feet entangled and called ‘out’ before she could move away with dignity.

Cigarette (Fag) Cards

Cigarette Crad - LNER loco
Cigarette cards in the Thirties were used as a form of barter. Exchanges (swops) were made for a badly needed card to complete a set, or alternatively for a much needed marble of a missing colour or pattern, The sets of cards were in fifties and were collected with great enthusiasm. Army badges, cricketers, footballers, animals, etc, were some of the subjects of the often well drawn pictures,

One game that was played with them was called ‘flinging the farthest’. Each player held his card flat between the first two fingers and flicked it as far as possible until the set was used. The player who managed the greatest distance was declared the winner and was given a card by the other players. In another version, cards were flicked against opponents’ cards that had been propped up against a wall. If a card was knocked down, it became the property of the flicker.

Cigarette Cards

Series of cards are still given in packets of Brooke Bond tea, but they no Longer appear in cigarette packets. Perhaps we should be glad this is so. Certainly, games involving fag cards were usually played by boys, and I suppose they pestered relations to buy cigarettes so they could complete a set by swopping with other boys.


Of all games, this must be the only one confined to a short season, Every small boy knows the thrill of finding the shiny brown conker, half hidden by leaves, as he dawdles on his way home from school.

The conker was pierced with a skewer borrowed when Mum was not looking and threaded with string knotted at one end.

There was one game only, the fierce practice of trying to smash an opponent’s conker with your own. The attacking conker was swung with a sudden downward movement on to the waiting one which had to be held with a steady hand so that it hung without moving on the end of its string. The object was to keep hitting each one in turn until one of them shattered. This needed an awful lot of nerve, especially when the hitter missed and the hardened nut crashed down on his knee - or his opponent’s knuckles.

The ‘cheese cutter’ was, of course the prize. This rarity had a sharper edge than usual and could cut through the rounded ones with ease. As the days went by, a progressively smaller number of conkers survived the continual engagements and were known as ‘tenners’ and ‘twentiers’ and so on up the scale. There was a fair amount of cheating. The nuts were supposed to have gained their hardness through natural drying, but there were some that had been slowly hardened in the oven, pickled in brine or even kept over from the previous season.

Needless to say, there were often challenges, with tasting and sniffing of a suspect conker.