Kid Time In The 30s, 40s, and 50s
By Keith Gibson
Several young folks have asked me, just what we did in the “old” days,, before there was TV, internet,
iphones, MP3 and other such gadgets. My stock answer is that, thankfully we weren’t enslaved to those things. We actually used that grey stuff between our ears to play games like Monopoly, Pit, Uncle Wiggley, etc. and to create things with Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs and a variety of build it yourself kits like model airplanes, leathercrafts and many others. We also scrounged a lot of materials. During the WWII years, we made a lot of our own toys.
We melted down lead objects to make our own toy soldiers. Yes, we were trusted with such dangerous things as soldering irons, lead melting pots, wood burning tools and even very sharp X-acto knives. I still remember the utter joy of spending many hours in complete concentration while building model airplanes from scratch. We had to lay out the balsa pieces and cut them to fit on a blueprint. We then glued the pieces together and held them in place with straight pins. No, we did not sniff the glue to alter our thinking.
The thrill of accomplishment in finishing a plane or other object is hard to relate to someone. You have to do it yourself to fully understand. Our young lives were full of such accomplishments and so we didn’t need any mind altering or enslaving devices.
We even made our own kites with butcher paper and carefully whittled sticks. We made our own glue from flour. It wasn’t the strongest, but it worked for us kids. The hardest thing was to get enough string to fly a kite during the war. After the war when string was available, a lot of us made box kites and could fly them very high.
We invented a contraption using a small pulley from an Erector Set and a clothespin, that we would send up the kite string. We made small parachutes out of a hanky, string and a homemade lead toy paratrooper. The wind would blow the contraption up to the kite and there it hit a piece of plastic that triggered a release of the parachute. Without the parachute serving as a sail, the pulley would come back down the string to be used again. We were always inventing some contraption to have fun with.
Our Dad’s taught us a lot about tools and how to use them. They also introduced us to hunting and fishing. Lots of cherished memories still with us.
We learned to use the old style soldering iron. It was a large piece of steel with a pyramid shaped point, that had a twisted wire leading to a wooden handle. The point was heated on a small hotplate. It was hard to use as the temperature varied. I used the soldering iron to make a squirt gun. I used a tall tomato juice can that had been opened with two small holes punched in the top. I drilled one hole out and soldered in a valve gut deal, so I could pump air in and pressurize it. The other hole I drilled out and soldered in a small valve that hooked to a water pistol. I could fill the can half full of water and then using a hand tire pump build up pressure to make the water pistol work. It didn’t actually work very well, but it was fun building it.
Every day was a challenge for us to create stuff. Especially when we were not confined in the local education camp.