Toys were something you got at Christmas, birthday's, possibly when you were ill or when a relation came to stay and that was it. They were often treasured items which you would carefully look after as if life itself depended on it!
At a very early age my entertainment was playing with toy soldiers or cowboys. I'd get a Corn Flakes box and make a few turrets out of them, stacking cushions around them for hills and play for hours. Around the mid 50s I got my first Meccano Set, No.4 I think, but it was a large enough kit to make a Tower Bridge of sorts. I had a clock work Hornby train set which always seemed to go so fast it kept coming off the tracks on every bend.
In my Aunt's house I had a Bay Window to play in. There was space enough between the writing desk and window big enough for me to manoeuvre around quite easily and this kept me occupied for ages. You see, it was my Captain's Bridge and I'd sail the seas to all the parts of the world which although I'd seen pictures I thought they didn’t really exist. Therefore, I was going there to check out it was true or not!
A few days after the coronation, I had my tonsils removed, I remember the gas mask being put over my face now! Even the hospital bed was a play area for me. I had a few model cars and by putting my knees in the air, I could race two cars against each other down my legs!
It was in hospital that I first saw the story of Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing reaching the summit of Everest. I saw the pictures in a daily newspaper, and it was the talk of grown ups around me. Instantly, my knees were suitably placed to look like the mountain itself and two of my toy cowboys became the first to climb the peak at least five times a day!
We simply didn't have the distraction of other things, fewer toys but a lot of imagination!
An endless list of playtimes. Trees were about the best thing for me. They can easily become houses, mountains, castle's and hideouts in which to try and avoid Sunday School (but it never worked!). The other most important thing they became were simply trees! I soon found myself with twigs the shape of a Colt or a bow to fight off the nasty Sheriff of Nottingham's men.
If you were lucky your dad would make you a swing!
Normal things became something else; the wheelbarrow was the bus or an Atlantic Class Locomotive speeding its way from London to Dover for the boat train. Yes, the wheelbarrow then transformed itself into a cross channel ferry!
As the 50s progressed I got a few of the 'larger presents'. My first bicycle was second hand, one of those with a single brake, always black and something you cleaned once a week or got your ears clipped. This substituted the wheelbarrow and before long the imaginary journeys of the garden were transferred to the pavement going down our road. Being a no through road, the barren land at the bottom became a good terminal station!
I was then lucky enough to get a Hornby 'OO' gauge, three rail Hornby set and my Aunts dining room was soon filled up with 'train'. I'd find bits of wood and draw houses on them, make hills and tunnels out of green tablecloth. I even had a cricket ground and many a closely fought test match was played between my gauged people, albeit most of them batting with a newspaper in their hand or waving a flag!
Every Christmas and birthday wish for quite sometime was for something new to do with the train set. Airfix kits were popular, and I soon built up a collection of water towers, proper station buildings. But even then, I was quite happy building my own from anything I could find.
All this carries on through your life. I'm sure that people in my age group are happier that something works than if it looks right or not. Also an in-built desire to make your own and be proud of it, even if we can afford it.
The 1950s were hard years for many. People of my parents age had come out of a war in which they lost some of the most important years of their life and it couldn't have been easy for them.
But, if you couldn't find happiness, you could in your imagination!