Kiss Chase, Marbles and Freedom
Shocking tales of kids making up their own childhoods!
by Andi Mindel

Violet was born in 1912. She is of a generation of children who grew up before TV. She now has her own room in a small care home in Hove, with her own television.

"We used to play marbles in the gutter. We used to play with the boys", she says. "Oh, I remember, we used to cut the buttons off our coats and play with them in the streets!" She delights in her memories of the games she used to play as a child. "The boys would chase us into the bushes and if they caught us they would kiss us."

Violet was six years old when she walked to school on her own. Her mother was a housewife and her Dad worked on Palace Pier. She would play on the swings in the park on her way home from school, and her mother never worried about her safety. "There were men about, but they didn’t worry us."

"My mom had a gramophone she did. We didn’t have much money. She bought it in a second-hand shop and we’d have our friends over and dance around the kitchen." Violet talks of playing Ludo and card games, of spending time reading, and of always having friends dropping by to play in a much less structured fashion than seems to happen today.

Violet had one son, Keith. "He liked TV at night. But then I had trouble getting him to bed, I did." Violet says of children today, "They don’t know they’re born."

At 94, Violet watches the 1 o’clock news on the TV six feet away from the arm chair she spends most of her day in. "Then I’ll watch another two hours in the evening, and I go to sleep at 8 o’clock."

Beanie was born in 1941. Her daughter, her husband and her two grandsons live with her in Hove. "We used to sit around the table and talk about the day we had", she says. Beanie remembers that she was able to talk to her parents about her problems, and they would try to sort things out.

"I went to school on my own when I was six, not far from the Woollies on Blatchington Road. There used to be benches there, and I would go and talk to the old people sitting in the seats."

Beanie’s family were the first in their street to get a TV. "There used to be queues of kids waiting to come in," and then, "We’d go over the Downs tadpoling, or blackberry picking. We never had a stressful childhood, and I think that’s because we talked more."

"You just love talking, Beanie," pipes in Dom. "She talks to everyone." Dom was 13 in 1949, growing up in London when his father brought home a TV, but the doodlebugs and the underground shelters were more of a novelty to him.

Maggie, 95, grew up in Westminster and also remembers the bombs that marred her childhood. "We made our own pleasures. We played marbles and with cigarette cards. We’d buy a packet for a penny and we’d throw them at a wall and see which one landed closest to the wall." These days, Maggie enjoys her TV, and watches all the soaps on the TV set 6 feet away from her bed, in her room in the care home, a few doors down from Violet.

Violet in Brighton who made the first contribution to the White Dot pre-tv generations archive, passed away last week aged 94. Thank you Violet.