Alan Mills – Street Games and My Suspended Sister

cricketbigbatGrowing up in 1930’s Leeds, we had to make our own entertainment and usually Saturday mornings were the times me and my pals got together. We used to play Touch and Pass, a kind of rugby which was played with a rolled up newspaper about 3×9 inches which served as a ball as nobody could afford a proper one. Piggy was another game we played with a piece of wood about 3 inches long and pointed at both ends. This was the piggy which was placed on the pavement and struck at the pointed end with a stick or sweeping brush handle and then hit as far as you could. You then continued this and it was first to the top of the street! Marbles, or taws as we called them were also popular and we’d kick anything about which could serve as a football. It was normal to play these games in the street in the days before they were cluttered up with cars. Street cricket was popular, we used to play at the gable end of a row of terrace houses where we’d heavily chalk the wickets on the gable wall. Heavily chalked because these games were competitive and if there was the inevitable argument when there was a close call the chalk left a mark on the ball. As a young eight year old, one Saturday, I distinctly remember being told to look after my three year old sister, which I wasn’t too happy about as obviously I was missing out on any games going on. I was told to take her out for some fresh air so off we went – complete with harness and reins which were designed to give some freedom and safety. We’d only got a couple of streets away and I bumped into my pals who were involved in a game of cricket.


One of the teams were a man short and I was pressured into playing. The only problem was what to do with my little sister. Some of the lads suggested I take her home but ‘Ma’ had firmly made the rules earlier, I was to take her out. Then one of the lads suggested to stand her on the low wall at the bowlers end and slot the harness on the ornamental railings which adorned most of the streets at the time. So I made sure her feet were squarely on the wall and looped her straps round the railings. She seemed happy enough in her innocence, my pals chatted and joked with her and she was laughing and clapping, enjoying the attention. I joined in the cricket and was soon engrossed in the game. I never noticed our next door neighbour pass by but she noticed me and unfortunately she noticed my suspended sister, off she went straight to our house and told Ma. I’d just caught someone out when I saw Ma charging up the street and one look from her and I knew I was in for it. Two strides and she caught me and in front of all my pals clouted me all over the ‘cricket pitch’ and all the way back down the street and home. I tried to take sanctuary under the table but she wasn’t finished yet. She proceeded to prod me out with the carpet sweeper handle brass end but with a bit of good footwork and a body swerve I managed to avoid her only to find myself hiding in the cellar, where after a few hours, hunger finally drove me to an armistice. I don’t mean to portray Ma as an ogre, she wasn’t, discipline and the odd beating were normal for a time much different than nowadays and I don’t think it did us any harm as the war with Germany loomed. The ornamental railings which served my sister so well were taken down a few months later and used as scrap iron to help the war effort so I never got the chance to do it again….not that I’d have dared!

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