Simple Living 1940s Style
Where we were living, most house blocks were about 30 or 40 perches in size. That is 800 or 1000 sq. meters, much bigger than the 400 sq. meters that developers are now dishing up and Councils are rubbing their hands about, these days. House blocks these days don't seem big enough for one of the mighty Hill's Clothes Hoists of the 60's, let alone the washing lines and mango trees of the 40's. There must be a whole generation of kids that don't know how to build a cubby house, let alone a tree house.
A big part of our 'playtime' in those days was spent building, and then playing in, our 'cubbies'. We had a huge old mango tree which hung over a corrugated iron shed - a perfect place for a cubby on the roof with extra 'floors' further up in the tree.
In the yard of our old house, we had two mango trees and a tamarind tree, and at another place we had two big poinciana trees in our back yard alone. I feel a bit sorry for kids that have nowhere to play outside and no games to play except computer games. City dwellers seem to be living in the biggest house on the smallest block of land these days. My Mother always used to say, "Go out and play in the yard." These days there is no yard to play in.
Most yards had room for the odd game of cricket ... and if there wasn't space enough in the backyard, there was always the street.Cars on the street were very few and far between so there were lots of community games with other kids in the street after shcool.
Do you remember when everybody had a vegie garden and fruit trees and chooks or a duck pen in their back yard? Fresh fruit, picked ripe from the tree, fresh eggs and home grown vegetables, all to be had in your own backyard. Who could forget the delicious drake or cockerel roasted for dinner on special occasions.
Safety and Security is another thing that has changed over the last few decades. As I said earlier, all the kids used to walk to school. As far as I know, no one had ever heard of Stranger Danger. We used to walk over to mates places, several blocks away, or they would come to ours. We used to walk to the swimming pool on our own, or go to the pictures on Saturday arvo on our own. As far as I can remember, the only risk I ever faced was being picked on by some bully on my way home from school, and that wasn't very often. Funny thing, as I recall, habitual bullies were bigger than the kids they picked on, but smaller or weedier than others of their own age.
Even when we were away from home and the front door was locked, the key was placed in the first place anyone would look, in the garden at the bottom of the steps. Very often, even when out, people would leave their windows open, and only closed their door to let people know they were out. When cars became more common in the 1950's, and modern style of living encouraged people to drive to work, the common practice was to lock the car doors, but leave the windows half way down, to let a bit of breeze in and keep the car cool. Then, if you came back with your hands full, you didn't have to dig for your car key, you could just reach through the window and lift the catch. Of course, cars didn't have air conditioning in those days.
Push bikes were the most popular means of transport for getting to and from work. The only traffic jams in the 1940s and '50s were at three o'clock when the high school kids hit the street, and at four o'clock when the Railway workers spilled out on to the causeway on their bikes. Bikes going in all directions. I well remember one ex-serviceman who bought his first car in the late 50's. He continued to ride his bike to work. The car was only used to take his family for drives on weekends. Oh for the pace of simple living!
My first bike was a Christmas present in the late 1940's. It was gleaming blue enamel and I was as proud and as pleased as a dog with two tails. I couldn't ride at that stage so I wheeled it all the way down to take it to the Island, where we were having our Christmas holidays. Next morning, I was just at the wobbling stage, when my good friend Johnnie came past on his bike. “A new bike,” says Johnnie, “Come for a ride.” With that he took off and I took off after him. Around the back road went Johnnie at full tilt with me trying to keep up, but falling further behind. Heading back towards home, Johnnie shot across the narrow foot bridge over the creek, and that's where he made his big mistake. At the far end of the bridge he stopped, and, still sitting on his bike, nonchalantly leant against the rail, waiting for me to catch up. I shot across the bridge after him, but stopping at speed was not in the first lesson, and since there was nowhere else for me to go a collision was inevitable. Johnnie and I ended up in a tangled mess of kids and bikes, with Johnnie spitting chips and saying uncomplimentary things about my riding ability. But at least the superior smirk had been wiped from his face.
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