My childhood pasttimes in 1930s Ilford

The Walls ice cream tricycle was a familiar and welcome sight for many Ilford children in the 1930s.

The Walls ice cream tricycle was a familiar and welcome sight for many Ilford children in the 1930s. Photo: John Barfoot. - Credit: Archant

As an Ilford boy in the 1930s, I enjoyed seasons of simple inexpensive pleasures. Autumn always heralded the conker season, I cannot recall the last time I saw schoolboys playing with conkers on a string.

Marbles – played in the gutter on the way home from school – was another season.

Apart from health and safety issues today, the amount of traffic on the roads and cars parked in the kerb now makes it impossible.

A favourite pasttime during a summer heatwave would have been five stones, on those days played seated in the shade of a cool front porch.

One penny would buy a “Snofruit” when the Walls ice cream tricycle peddled by, the uniformed salesman always cut the triangular ice lolly into two or three pieces as requested.


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Peg Tops added variety to the seasons. The small, pear-shaped wooden top span on a central metal pin when released with a tug from string carefully wrapped around it.

Home made wooden scooters, often with large roller bearings instead of discarded pram wheels, were another favourite.

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Roller skating along pavements – before the advent of run-ins for car parking and paving stones not replaced correctly by cable TV installers – had been another season.

But my favourite seasonal game was chuck gliders, made by carefully folding our sheets of smooth paper.

Although our road was almost devoid of parked cars, the one car parked regularly between Ilford Lane and Woodlands Road had to be avoided.

If our gliders, chucked high, were carried on the wind and landed within yards of the car, the elderly owner would come to his front garden gate, waving his walking stick in the air shouting “clear off you little blighters”.

We little blighters, when big enough to ride two-wheeled cycles belonging to fathers who were away serving with the armed forces, made the most of traffic free side roads and invented cycle games for the wartime double summer time evenings.

Winter seasons included sliding on the frozen pond of Barking Park in our wellington boots and snowball battles with the Manor Park lot. These happy days end this stroll back down Ilford memory Lane.

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