Continuing my tour of kids' street pastimes of the Sixties and Seventies, here are a few more blasts from the pea shooter:
1. Conkers, Cheggers or Cheggies: the timeless smashing of chestnuts on strings, this stalwart of outdoor play has probably been around for hundreds of years. Probably as long as old chestnuts! The aim was simple: with your strung chegger you would have to hit your opponent's similarly strung chestnut.
Rules varied for different hits. Splitting a foe's conker for instance was the playground equivalent of a Jedi light-sabre strike and old, hard chestnuts were prized more than your older brother's girlie mags. Unplayed-with cheggers were cooked by street traders and sold in bags to the call of "Chestnuts! Get your hot lovely chestnuts here!".
2. "I'll race you!": this challenge was applied to almost any situation that involved distance and could be used in school, in the street or indeed in the house. An example Skool scenario might have been as follows:
During double PE Sir would exclaim:
"Woods, go and fetch half a dozen caseballs from the PE store cupboard in the hall and don't take all day you big girl's blouse!"
"Winster, go with him you stupid boy!"
Strolling past the netball court Winster would say to Woods "I'll race ya!" and so to the rousing score of Chariots of Fire they would reach the hall with their lungs on the floor.
3. Furniture Climbing and Wall Jumping: climbing on furniture was an indoor hobby whereby agile children would clamber slowly across household woodwork like tables and around wardrobes and eventually up the outside of the staircase. Where the stairs where enclosed the climber would start the routine by crocodiling down the steps on his belly.
This clambering naturally spilled over into the street where us kids would climb along low ledges, run along walls, tip-toe run across cracks in the pavements, gate-vault benches and stand for ages on top of concrete bollards like stoics. This urban monkeying was eventually perfected by French kids, who called it Parkour or free running. But us Sixties kids did it first!
Holiday versions of such junior clambering included rock hopping across mountain streams, sand dune jumping and proper-type climbing on ruddy great boulders.
Across the globe kids were jumping too. Japanese kids martialed it up into the art of Taido and Brazilian kids got leaping with Capoeira.
4. Homemade Fireworks: these simple but effective outdoor efforts were usually the result of skull-deadening boredom combined with a box of Swan Vestas and a roll of baco-foil. The matches would be individually wrapped in foil and placed in cracks in the garden wall, where they would be lit. For the life of me I cannot remember what happened! For extra incendiary fun a whole box of matches would be lit at once. The big boxes of Safety matches were tricky as the prospect of them not lighting put us off. No idea what was safe about them!
5. Building dens: I've spoken about this many times: character-strengthening construction skills were perfected in yards, recs and gardens across the land. We were Ray Mears before he was. Modern society is made of those dens and we will survive.
6. Trading: back in the Sixties and Seventies we collected and traded everything: beer mats, beer caps, match boxes, gum cards. tea cards, petrol coins, records. You name it, we could get it if you had what we wanted. Trading was everywhere and its no wonder that some of that generation traded till the cows came home - Richard Branson, Alan Sugar et al. Modern society is built on the backs of those traded beer caps.
I'm sure you can think of more activities readers!