On 30th May I interviewed George Skeggs for our Oral Histories archive. I’ve known George since 2012, having first met him when I was researching a photographic project in the West End (where George has now lived for several decades). However, George grew up in the East End, and was only too happy to share his memories of how he used to play there as a child.
George started life in Shoreditch and spent his early years in a cramped, 2-room tenement – shared with his parents and 3 siblings – in Brick Lane. His playgrounds were the local bombsites (there was even one just across the road from his home); his toys were makeshift and home-made. For example, a scooter ingeniously made from skirting-boards (salvaged from bombed-out houses) with ball-bearing wheels and decorated with coloured electrical tape and bottle-tops. Or, for dressing-up: a cardboard headband decorated with pigeon feathers (Cowboys & Indians), and a cardboard eye-patch held on with a rubber band (Pirates). Quite brilliantly, George has made some sketches of these creations to share with us:
In the early 1950s, George and his family were re-housed in a new flat in Hackney. As you can see, the early “static go-kart” had evolved by then into an actual go-kart complete with pram-wheels. It was steered with string used as “reins”. George and his pals would go charging down hills in their go-karts (sometimes two-up) and, even though the karts had “brakes”, accidents were common and, says George, part of the thrill – !
Around the same time, George would make fishing trips to Victoria Park pond or Regents Canal, brandishing a home-made fishing net and a jamjar on a piece of string. He’d take his “catch” home to his mum at the end of the day, and neither of them would be able to identify what was staring back at them through the jar (see picture below!).
This is just a fraction of the happy memories George has shared with us. George is among the first interviewees for Best Days of Our Lives. If you would like to share your memories of childhood play with us, contact us on olivia[at]raiseup.org.uk or 020 8981 8811 – we’d love to hear from you.
Posted by JT