Oral History Interviews

Playing in a rural area in the 1950-60s

Graham grew up on edge of Dorchester in a rural area. Remembers spending time outside playing close to his home. He didn’t venture too far from home. There was no entertainment or leisure time activities laid on, they had to make their own enjoyment. Remembers days before electricity came, of coming home from school one day and they suddenly had electricity in the home. Never got in to trouble, a bit of light mischief. Would spend days playing in the river or making and racing go-karts. Also talks about playing conkers and marbles in the street.

Graham portrait

Interview Summary

As a young child didn’t go very far, but as he got older went out from the village a bit more. They did all things, play hopscotch; put swings up in the trees; went fishing; paddling in the river. There was no street lights in those days. People didn’t have money that they do today. You never had too much homework from school. He did have colouring in and jigsaw puzzles to play in the home. Got Meccano when he was nine or 10. Most Christmas presents were clothes. Used to make your own enjoyment.

Reckon it was the 50s before they had electric streetlights. Had no televisions, used to listen to the radio. Remembers coming home from school and electric had been put in. They had a well in the front of the house where they’d get their water from. Until they got mains water put into the house. The toilet was outside. Had a front room fire and dad would cut the firewood up on the weekend ready for the whole week and had a coal shed. Talks about going to bed with pyjamas and extra blankets if it’s cold. Talks about thick walls in houses and had small windows.

Remembers having to walk up to the farm to get the milk. Straight from the farm not like today.

Played with his siblings at the age of six. Though had six brothers who lived next door to them, but when you’re really young just kept to your family. Graham has two brothers. Talks about what other kids lived in the street. Graham just used to play around Mill Lane area. Used to run up and down the Lane. Remembers making a whistle out of branches and making catapults. Sycamore or Ash was the trees out there. Used buy the rubber for the catapult in your hobby shop, buy by the yard he thinks. Talks about firing catapults, he wasn’t a very good shot.

Talks about playing conkers; didn’t play conkers at school, doesn’t think he was banned at school just didn’t really play at school. Conker trees were down at Wolfeton Manor. Talks about how to make conker (skewers a hole in middle and put string through). We discuss the rules of Conker game. Talks about picking pairs at Wolfeton Manor, wouldn’t take them home, just eat them.

Talk about playing marbles in the road outside the house and they did play marbles at school. Talk about rules of marble game.

We talk about if Graham ever had to look after his two younger brothers. No not at all, he says, his mother was at home all day and would look out for them. His dad had an allotment they would always be up there. Had to feed the chickens, get the eggs. Dad also had a few turkeys, rear them for Christmas. They were difficult to raise. Talks about his dad making dandelion and elderbury wine. They’d get a drop if they were unwell.

There weren’t activities laid on, you had to make your own entertainment. You had six weeks off from school in summer and you had to occupy yourself. There’s not much entertainment in the village really. Go out sunbathing in the field or playing in the river – they were told not to play in the river but would spend all day down there. They’d make a dam and the farmer would come and take it down and then they’d build it again.

Talk about making go-karts and racing them. Make from three by two, no brakes, but didn’t think about that. Got the wheels from old prams and the wood would be just knock together, all bit rough and ready. Went racing down the lane, hardly any traffic on the roads then. Spend days on go-karts.

Used to play around playing touch late at night, running over people’s gardens, and used to do this on pushbikes, riding around with no lights. This was about when Graham was about 12. He left school at 15. Used to go up to the pub because they had a jukebox in those days, weren’t allowed in the pub, but could go to skittle alley, had good skittle team actually. Have a glass of lemonade, never got up to any harm. Went to youth club at Stratton and they’d get a glass of Coke and packet of crisps. Then they started up a youth club in Charminster, Graham was a teenager by then, he was about 15 or 16. Always had a good Sunday school, which his dad always made him do. Otherwise pretty much please themselves what they did. Make their own amusement. Remembers an old horse in the field which they jump on and ride, remembers once jumping on backwards one day and the horse galloping off, that was something to remember.

In August-September time this farmer used to grow potatoes and they would go up and pick potatoes. A lot housewives go up and do that. But they did it and could earn good money. Had to fill your bag up and get paid per weight. Did that for several years. Earn a lot of money on that. Used to do a bit of haymaking occasionally as well. Remembers working on the farm combining and putting through thrasher machine. Talks about how many people would work on the farm. Also talks about the machinery that was used on the farm.

If the weather was nasty and stuck indoors they’d play with colouring in books and play dominoes or drafts. That’s all they had. Later Graham had some Meccano. Graham likes taking things apart and put them back together again, it led him getting into cars. They had a washroom out back and he could repair a bike here. He could repair a three speed bike with his eyes closed. Talks about Pankhurst’s bike shop where he’d help out in the shop. They used to be a Pankhurst motorbike shop just up from Shannon’s garage. They had a bigger place in Weymouth. Graham’s father wouldn’t let him have a motorbike, but a few of his friends had them and they would go racing motorbikes over the fields – one was a BSA Bantam, one her Greaves trial bike, one had a AJS.

We talk about mods and rockers who meet up at the town. Graham never got involved in that lot. He knew a few of them with their winklepickers and drainpipe trousers. They were a few years older than him. There was a night club atop a town, what is now the ice bar.

The 65 club was basically youth club in Collin Street(?), there was a school there, but they built flats now. It was called 65 club because it started in 1965. The Tavern club at the top of town was where the mods and rockers would make meet. That was the only club in Dorchester really. Top town car park was another area they’d congregate.

Graham never got into trouble really. Used behave himself. He knew everybody in Charminster at one time and that was a trouble as if he’d ever done anything wrong his parents would find out straight away. Talks about once the town flooded and the church had these holes in and Graham and his friends blocked the holes up and got in trouble for that. Nothing serious.

Graham was a good shot with a gun, he was brought up with guns. His father would go out rabbiting. Rabbits in those days was a good meal. Used to put ferrets down the holes and loads of rabbits would come up.

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