Entertainment Long ago


Some young folk recently inquired from me, just how did we entertain ourselves prior to the arrival of Electronic entertainments such as Radio, Cell Phones, Cinema, and television? Were we ever bored? The short answer is no, not even a little bit. Then, we were very adept at entertaining ourselves. For a start, we got out and about more, enjoyed outdoor picnics, visiting within short walking distances, say 5 kilometres. As well, there was an excellent Railway service. Later when older, Fishing and Hunting were alway possible. There was alway something to do. Some games at school came and went, such as knuckle bones, hop scotch, marbles, spinning tops. Then as now we enjoyed excellent Libraries, I must confess then I always had my nose in a book. As a result of this I scored very high in an University Intelligent Examination. I don’t think I was brighter than the other average students; just better read. As well in towns, even small villages there were many Clubs catering for every conceivable need, be it Sport or Entertainment. I remember back to when we arrived on transfer to Milton, there were some 200 clubs that you could join catering for every pleasure or interest. One difference with today that I have noted, when we wanted something to happen, we didn’t sit around waiting for someone to do it for us, we did it ourselves. Say, we decided that we would like to have a local dance. With another cousin Charlie Smith, we organised it ourselves. All we required was ten shillings for hall rental, and another ten shillings for a pianist. A quick run around town to nail posters to Lamp Posts, and we were in business. We weren’t interested in making a profit, as that wasn’t the object of the exercise, all we wanted to do was to break even.


Mainly in the winter the Returned Soldiers or similar Clubs, ran card evenings where they played ‘Euchre’, or ‘Five Hundred’, these were very popular. However of all the card games we played back then, only Bridge and Poker seem to have retained their popularity in the face of competition from Television. However ‘Solitaire’ card game has enjoyed a revival because of the fact it is one of the games provided by ‘Windows’ on their computer operation system. There were also Places in New Zealand where regional Card Games were played, especially on the West Coast. There the miners played a game called ‘Forty Five’, I came across the same game in New Caledonia, still being played in small settlements. Another card game that was very popular was Cribbage. Every home would have a cribbage counting board, or one made from a large bar of soap. Every home too of course had their large selection of board games. Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Drafts, Chess, and Monopoly were the most popular. One thing I learnt from playing these games that the true ‘makeup’ of anyone quickly came to the surface. Bad losers quickly signalled that they would be difficult people to live with, you didn’t need to be a phycologist to work that out.


As young children we all played out on the road, should a motor car happen to come past, we would move onto the side until it passed and waited until the dust cleared, then carried on. My father about this time purchased a car, a new Model T Ford. The fact he couldn’t drive didn’t bother him, or the fact that he didn’t have a licence to drive it. He had owned a motor bike sometime in the past so had a good understanding of the principals of being in charge of a motor vehicle. After all, they did supply with the car, an instruction manual. This was frequently referred to on our initial outing, with the whole family on board we took off to Murdering beach. The car ran out of puff on ‘King’s Hill’ the steepest part of the trip. Out came the manual to read up on the instructions. I can remember another strange character-istic of this model. It went up very steep hills better in reverse. It seems that the car had a lower gear ratio backwards. Alas, it’s not the same today, there just isn’t the excitement and romance we had then on any journey.


Another form of entertainment that has passed us by, and that was a ‘Community Sing’. These were normally held in Movie theatres and the song sheet was projected onto the screen. They bored me to tears, but they were every popular with the public. On occasions as well, some of the ‘Shorts’ at the cinema during a film screening were also ‘sing along’ short films with a bouncing ball marking the place on the screen. I didn’t like these either.



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