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Welcome to the personal website of Michael Gorey. I'm a Bundaberg-based communications professional interested in photography, reading, history, politics and travel.

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Blog / Childhood leisure memories

Gorey Things
10 November 2017 | comments: 0 | Categories: | Tags:

Childhood leisure memories

I was asked recently to describe my leisure activities between the ages of 10 and 13. It's an interesting question, especially as I can make comparisons with my children.

I have to say though, that I can't remember much about being 10 years old. In 1977 I was in grade five at St Michael's Primary School, Traralgon. My teachers were Mrs Haylock and Miss Fitzpatrick.

I played football for Southside in the under 10s competition. I was in the best three players and won selection to the Traralgon interleague team.

Apart from that, it’s pretty much a blur. I have stronger memories of the later years.

Michael GoreyCricket

Most of the summer was spent playing cricket. I only needed one other person to play in the driveway, and sometimes I practised bowling by myself.

The driveway pitch was concrete, with a boundary fence on one side and a carport on the other. There was no value from the pull shot, because of the fence, so cuts and drives were popular.

The other pitch was on a vacant block around the corner adjoining the spacious fields of the Hobson Park mental hospital. These grounds really were spacious. The hospital itself was at least a kilometre away. There was a proper cricket ground in between and tennis courts as well, which we were allowed to use.

Our cricket pitch was perfect for kids to play "tests" and limited overs games (six overs per team). It was six and out if you hit the ball over any fence except to the mental hospital, which was allowed. I once scored 32 runs in an over. We spent hours there and took the games quite seriously. I used to mow the pitch occasionally, but by the end of summer it was basically dust.

Football

I didn't play team football after the successful stint in under 10s. I lost confidence and interest, which are both prerequisites for children to play organised sport. We played kick to kick in the street and I followed the VFL.

I spent most Saturdays in winter tuning into the scratchy signal from Melbourne to hear Carlton or Fitzroy games. I followed both teams with equal enthusiasm at that stage.

The local ABC station used to cover the horse racing as well, which drove me mad. Hence I tried every trick to tune into 3LO, 3AW or 3KZ with Jack Dwyer and Ian Major. Melbourne was exactly 100 miles (160km) away, so to get any reception at all involved sitting in the car or taking a transistor radio outside in the cold and turning it to various angles.

Bike riding

I had a dragster. I just did a web search to check the spelling of dragster and found a reference from the Queensland Museum! Gee that makes me feel old. Here's the exact quote:

"It was the quintessential fashion accessory for the age 8-14 crowd. With its high handlebars, banana seat, three gears on a frame and sissy bar it was the must have mode of transport for all kids. It was, without doubt, one of the most hazardous bicycles ever to be in fashion. With the rider sitting in a reclining position over the back wheel, it was a very simple matter to overbalance backwards and fall bottom first topped by the bike. After many accidents and intense training most riders developed the skill to ride and steer on the back wheel alone with the front wheel about two feet in the air."

Yep, that's a good summary. The dragster was a blue Thunderbird model with 20-inch wheels. Its impractical design didn't stop me travelling long distances. I even ventured as far as Churchill and Morwell, about 15km away.

My parents later bought me a racing bike, but I'm pretty sure the dragster was my mode of transport until about the age of 12.

Squash

Around the age of 13, I was heavily into squash. I played in juniors and the adult D grade competition, winning the club championship one year.

Outdoor games

One of my favorite places was called "The Canyon". It was a gorge through which a small creek ran to a walled reservoir on the Dunbar property at the end of Hickox Street. I see it’s now called the Rose Avenue Nature Park.

The gorge had high walls and we used to have "yonnie" fights. Teams of two or three boys used to pile up dirt bombs and throw them at each other. There were some natural hiding places and some corrugated iron sheets that offered protection. Nobody ever got hurt, that I can recall.

I recently took my son James there and it's changed considerably. The "canyon" is part of the Traralgon Railway Reserve which includes walking tracks.

War games

Kids don't play war games today, except on computers. I guess we did because the Second World War was still in the memory of adults around us, either through direct experience or the repercussions. The Cold War was also raging, if that's the correct term.

I had toy soldiers who fought various battles. With some other boys I used to collect cards of military aircraft and warships. We played games where you selected a card to battle the other boy's card, nominating a feature, eg speed or firepower. If yours was faster or stronger you won the battle and the card.

Collections

I collected coins, stamps and comics. I still have all of these collections and they're probably worth several thousand dollars. I have most of the Australian pre-decimal stamps and mint copies of many stamps and first-day covers.

I can't remember how I came by most of them, except relatives helped a lot with the coins and stamps. I think I spent most of my pocket money buying Walt Disney comics. I also collected football cards every year from about 1975 to 1978 and wish now that I'd kept them.

Television

I don't want to give the impression that I was entirely an active outdoors child. In fact, I was quite a slob at the age of 11 and very unfit. Bike riding and squash made me fit again from 12 onwards.

My parents gave me a portable black and white television for my bedroom and connected it to the aerial. We needed a big aerial on the roof in those days to pick up the Melbourne stations, otherwise you were stuck with GLV10 and the ABC.

Like the satellite dishes that you see throughout country Australia today, the roof tops of Traralgon in the 1970s were covered in 30-foot antennae.

I watched a lot of television back then and during the school holidays it wasn't unusual for me to stay up until 2am and sleep in to 11am the next morning. I watched whatever was on, mainly old movies that I can't remember at all today.

Fantasy

Most boys play fantasy games and I was no exception. I created my own world, with countries named after friends and family members. They forged alliances and fought wars. Looking back it was probably a great outlet for any frustration or aggression I might have felt.

This game was highly organised. I drew maps of the countries. They had currencies, governments, sports, etc.

One of my favorite pastimes was building things with plastic blocks. I gave them to my now-adult son Michael when he was a boy, but he hardly ever used them. I also used the blocks to represent the countries of my fantasy world. The blocks formed armies that fought each other using marbles for missiles. They also formed soccer, rugby and football teams.

Soccer was played with marbles, while a tiddlywinks disc was used for football and rugby.

Reading

I wouldn't say I was a voracious reader, but I probably read more than other boys my own age. I moved on from Enid Blyton about the age of 10, I suppose, to Alfred Hitchcock mysteries, the Jennings books of Anthony Buckeridge, my father's old Biggles books and CS Lewis. I also enjoyed non-fiction, especially history.

Was I typical? I think so. The emphasis was different from boy to boy, but we all pursued similar interests to different degrees.

Fast forward

I originally wrote this article in 2004 when my eldest son was eight years old. His outdoor games with friends were similar. They climbed trees, played down at the river and rode their bikes.

They didn't play as much sport. Cricket and football didn't dominate their attention like they did for me from 1977 to 1980. They played a little of both, also soccer and hockey, which weren't known to me at that age. They were into tennis as well. Michael still plays tennis and he was an active soccer player through most of his teenage years.

Boys in 2004 didn't collect coins or stamps. I suppose the pace of life had changed. It's become a world of instant gratification and hobbies that involve patience and perseverance don't seem as common as they used to.

They watched a similar amount of television. Michael also had fantasy games.

Instead of collecting military cards the boys collected cards with Pokemon and Yugioh characters, and fought battles with them.

The big difference, of course, was technology. In addition to television the boys today have Playstations, computers, tablets, etc.

Michael spent a lot of time playing computer games and on the internet, fortunately not to the detriment of outdoor games and fitness.

His brother James is now 13 and he's not as active with outdoor sports as Michael or myself. He plays a lot of computer games.

So how has the balance swung? In my time I would roughly apportion my leisure hours as follows: Sport 40% (mainly football and cricket), television 15%, fantasy games 15%, outdoor activities 15%, (other than football and cricket), reading 10%, collecting 5% (coins, stamps, cards).

For Michael I estimate it was more like this: Outdoor activities 45%, computer 25% (also Playstation and internet), television 15%, DVD and video 5%, fantasy games 5% (including cards), sport 5%. He did a little reading, but I wouldn't say it's a leisure activity for him yet; it’' usually school work.

I guess a conclusion to be drawn here is that boys today live their fantasies through computers and electronic games, whereas I made up my own world.

I can't say if this negatively affects their creativity or imagination. I'm sure there are experts who have opinions on that.

There's certainly a danger that kids today could spend too much time indoors and be unfit as a consequence.

  • Note: This article was originally written in 2004. It has been updated slightly. The photo shows me in 1972, aged 5.
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