Indoor Amusements

June Griffin with her brother Raymond, dog Jim and cat Cinders. Raymond saved Jim's life after a fearful beating from strangers - but that's another story

June Griffin with her brother Raymond, dog Jim and cat Cinders. Raymond saved Jim’s life after a fearful beating from strangers – but that’s another story

My brother and I had some wonderful games in our small hallway, being forced to stay in and find our own amusement during cold winter days.

The banister was wonderful for sliding down although the ball at the end gave you a nasty jolt if you went too fast. Tiring of this game Raymond, my older brother, would find one of Dad’s belts to use as reins. It was tied somewhere further up the railings and we took it in turns to play cowboys. The reins were pulled and the banister thrashed into submission.

One day, Raymond was really in his stride and even had a toy rifle.

“Yeehaa!” he shouted, as his rifle arm came up and out to balance himself. There was an almighty crack of breaking glass. He’d smashed the rifle right into the face of Dad’s barometer that hung on the hall wall. That put paid to any more cowboy games for a while.

Resourceful as ever, we turned our energies to the cupboard under the stairs. It was dark and very smelly. Our old gas masks were in there still in their boxes. Pulling the rubber straps over our heads, the suffocating smell of rubber filled our nostrils. We looked like something out of Dr. Who. Raymond loved this game as he could terrify his little sister unmercifully.

Tiring of this, we found an old box pushed into the narrowed end of the cupboard. Inside it was a record player. Lying in a little well to one side of the
turntable were a dozen or so needles, in various stages of rust. A handle laid down one side.

We found Dad’s old records and laid one on the turntable. Raymond screwed a needle in place and pushed the handle into a hole and began to wind it up. As it gathered speed he gently turned the needle face down onto the record. It played Oh, My Beloved Daddy – one of Dad’s favourites. The sound was very poor and Raymond had to keep winding the player up
again to keep it going.

Moving around inside the cupboard was quite tricky as two meters were attached to the back wall, one for the gas, the other for electricity. Ours had to be fed regularly with shillings, and it was a never-ending chore making sure we had one or two safely tucked away. In an emergency, Mum always had candles in the house just in case the meter ran out in the evenings. It was usually down to us to knock on our neighbours’ doors for shillings, but they were reluctant to let you have theirs as they needed them just as much.

One evening I’d tried many houses but couldn’t get hold of one. Reluctantly, I finished up at the house opposite. I was always frightened of the elderly couple who lived there as they shuffled around bent over and appeared ‘creepy’. I was already nervous as I stood on the lower step and knocked on their door. It creaked horribly as it was opened. Their hallway was gloomy and the old man stooped over me.

The smell from the house seemed to pour out and drift straight up my nostrils. I shivered and quickly asked for an electric shilling. “So sorry, my dear,” he cackled wittily, “but I only have a gas one.”

I turned and ran for my life back down his front path as a wicked chuckle rang out as his door creaked shut.

June Griffin