Happy Days: Games in the 1960s

It’s been a while since me and my boyhood friend Barry Ward jointly penned one of our rambling stories of growing up in the 1960s. But some of those, particularly the ones about food and especially ice cream continue to be read every day and are some of the most popular ever featured on here.

So, knowing we might be writing for an audience of thousands, please clear away the tea dishes, fold up the tablecloth and clear the space for “Games in the 1960s!”

Over to you Barry.

‘Noticing your recent post about Dusty Springfield I see that you incorporated a mention of my sister Hilary getting a copy of ‘With The Beatles’ for Christmas 1963 (which I soon appropriated after she turned her attentions to the Dave Clark 5).
However do you remember my Christmas present that year?  It was a game of ‘Blow Football’ possibly the most useless football based game ever invented.
The box promised great things inside….a picture of a real football match with an excited crowd.  However the game consisted of 2 plastic goals, 2 plastic straws and a ball about the size of a malteser. Even so, many happy hours were spent dribbling over my mum and dad’s dining room table, and not always  in a football sense.

I think they must have realised how useless this game was, because for my 10th birthday they bought me a game of Magnetic Football. Much more sophisticated, this came with a raised cardboard pitch raised by four supports one in each corner. Two players, one in blue one in red, which were manipulated by magnets on plastic sticks under the pitch. Marvellous ! Do you remember it ?
There was an older boy who lived in my road, called Tony Pugh. He always seemed to beat me at this game, until one day when I stuck a small piece of sellotape on his magnetic stick to reduce the effectiveness of his player. Football corruption even in those days.
Which brings me to a memory that you had some sort of cricket based game around the same time. How did that work?’

 

Well Barry, and thanks for the memories so far, the cricket game didn’t work, at all. We’ll go on to discuss Subbuteo Football, to my mind a far superior game to its Blow and Magnetic predecessors, but Subbuteo Cricket was terrible and I very rarely got it out of the box it came in.

It looked great with its green baize pitch marked out for the noble game and fielders crouched around the wickets waiting for the bowler to send down the tricky delivery that would tempt the unwary batsman into a shot that might get them caught out.

But I doubt that whoever invented it had ever actually played it. Because it simply didn’t work. ‘Bowling’ was done by flicking the bowler to bowl the ball and ‘Batting’ by your opponent twiddling a bat fixed to a wire. The trouble was that the ball was as likely to be flicked anywhere in the room as anywhere near the wicket or the bat. So the fielders, standing attentively on their cupped bases were never once know to catch the ball in them.

The players would blame themselves at first saying ‘We’ll get better at it.’ But before very long at all the game was put away in its box, never to re-emerge.

Anyway, back to you Barry, what else do you remember?

‘When I look at the range of toys my grandchildren have and the quality of them I realize how times have changed. I never felt that I didn’t have many toys, I was happy with what I had, and it was always good to visit friends like yourself and discover something new…
I’ve already mentioned Blow Football and Magnetic Football and my memory of your cricket game.
When I was about 5 or 6 can remember being very fond of anything to do with cowboys & Indians. I guess there were quite a few children’s TV programmes in the early 1960’s …Four Feather Falls rings a bell, and I’m sure there were others. So I begged my mum & dad for a cowboy outfit. The attached photo shows me trying on my cowboy hat.( That’s my mum & dad, nan and Hilary in the picture.)
And here is Barry. Some time in the very early 1960s trying on his cowboy hat. Dad looks impressed but Hilary is feigning complete disinterest.
There was a period circa 1964 /65 when I was a regular on a Saturday morning at the Albany Cinema matinees.  Kids films, cartoons and ‘cliffhanger’ episodes were shown and I’m sure that many of these featured Cowboys and Indians.
Talking of those Saturday mornings, there was an entertainer called ‘The Yo-Yo King’ who would take to the stage in the interval and demonstrate tricks with his yo-yo. If memory serves me well he did ‘walking the dog’ and a few other impressive manoeuvres before inviting kids up on stage to see who could keep their yo-yo going up and down the longest.  I went up on the stage once but to my shame was one of the first to depart.  I think the same guy had previously been called ‘The Hula Hoop King’ which I think was more of a girl thing. I certainly remember Hilary was fairly adept with the Hula Hoop even if she wasn’t that impressed with my cowboy outfit.
On rainy days I can recall having a variety of games. Playing cards, snakes & ladders, ludo, dominoes, draughts, marbles all kept me amused. I remember having a spinning top, a kaleidoscope, etch a sketch and that game with a face and iron filings in which you used a magnet to make a beard or moustache (can’t remember the name of this). There were always paints, painting and colouring books and crayons as well.
The second world war had only ended less than 20 years before, and small plastic model soldiers were popular. I had a set of about 20 which I played with on my window ledge.
 I only had a few model matchbox  cars, but a lad I knew who lived round the corner who had loads of toy cars, a Scalextrix set and a Hornby train set so he was naturally very popular.’
I had loads of cars, mainly Corgi and Dinky. My Uncle Bob worked at Meccano, who made Dinky Toys. So he’d bring me slight seconds and I’d set up Grand Prix tracks and race then all around the house.
‘Thinking back there weren’t many toys that were TV inspired merchandise, unlike today. However I do remember being mightily impressed when Tommy Coulton bought a toy Dalek into school. I think Tony Temple had a  Stingray or Thunderbird model.
My favourite indoor football game was Subbuteo, but I only remember getting this when I was about 13.  I had two teams, Everton naturally, and for some reason Wolverhampton Wanderers, I think I liked their gold coloured kit. The hardware shop in Lydiate (was it called Caseys ?) did a roaring trade in Subbuteo pitch sized hardboard.’
If Bill Shankly played Subbuteo it was obviously second only to the game itself in brilliance.

Ah, yes Subbuteo, so much better than its cricket version that we never even called it Subbuteo Football. Not only was it the best of the football games, I’d say it was the best table game of any sort ever invented. Even now in writing this I can feel the urge to get the goals set up, the teams ready and start to play. My fingers can still remember the action as a wobbly based Peter Thompson runs in to curl a direct free kick round the opposition defence.

 

Mick Lyons of Everton agrees with me.

The first version of Subbuteo I remember came with cardboard players to slot into the bases. But later it got all sophisticated and you could get the game with realistic plastic figures in lots of different club colours. Early days though you still couldn’t get international teams. So I particularly remember going to ‘Hobbies’ in town with my pocket money and buying the Norwich City team Then going home announcing I’d ‘got Brazil’ – as they wore the nearest equivalent colours.

Glory days.

Back to Barry.
All of these were indoor toys or games. But of course we had the freedom and space to play outdoors as often as we could, sometimes from breakfast to tea-time. Hundreds of hours were spent in the park near where we lived in Maghull, and I can still recall the thrill of getting my first proper football, a panelled brown ‘casie’ with laces. I think I was 9 at the time, so tis would be 1963. I would spend ages smearing it with dubbin after each marathon session at the park. There seemed to be dozens of lads our age around there at that time, and you just joined in a game with whoever turned up.
Bikes of course were another means of getting around, although I only got a proper bike when I was 11. We walked far and wide before that.
Happy Days.
‘Walked far and wide’ we did indeed. And I haven’t stopped walking since. I never did get a bike though, already loving the walking, miles away from our homes, to see what adventures we could find.
We had a great time, growing up in the 1960s. Thank you Barry.

 

Further memories from those two 1960s scamps:

Food in the 1960s: Actually it was quite good
Food in the 1960s: What else we were eating
Sweets in the 1960s: Or, where did all those filling come from?

 

5 Replies to “Happy Days: Games in the 1960s”

  1. Was it Subbuteo you had or the original and superior Newfooty which was made in Liverpool ? I got my set from Hobbies but I believe you could also buy from the factory in Rice Lane.

  2. According to http://www.peter-upton.co.uk/newfooty.htm , Newfooty started in 1929 and lasted until the early sixties with a break in WW2. I got mine about 1963.A couple of years later only the Subbuteo 3D types were available. The flat celluloid types from both firms were very similar and could be used against each other. Newfooty had a heavier base.

  3. Boy stuff all that. I had a ‘Tressy’ doll, ‘her hair grows!’’ Once you’d pulled out the piece of hair and wound it back a couple of times there was not much more to do really. Sort of like she had an inverse mullet, long on top and short underneath instead of the other way round!

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