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go back to the last page you were on Memories of the 40s : Hoarding School

Smokey

Although some confusion is now noticeable, at that point in history, the question of gender was obvious enough. Physical differences, such as pudding cut versus ringlets, could usually be taken as a rough guide, but the acid test of gender was that boys collected things, and girls didn't. Perhaps the male attempts to control his world by categorising and labelling, whereas the fairer sex simply appreciates the variety of life.

These attitudes to collecting somehow reversed during puberty. Dresses of little girls had no pockets, whereas mothers learned to be careful how they investigated the contents of serge shorts. As adults, the same girls now carry handbags holding survival kit for at least a fortnight.

I have collected most things, although I admit there is little to leave to posterity. I started with foreign coins, and will probably end with names and dates of ancestors. In between were insects, cigarette cards, and locomotive numbers. Sadly, the importance of each of these was never really appreciated by my parents.

At my first school, upstairs in a large house, my collection comprised numerous German coins, several bullets, and various bits of twisted metal. I then became very interested in natural science, but this was brought to a halt when the domestic infestation was traced to my ant farm in an old aquarium under the bed.

At primary school every small boy carried a wad of cigarette cards held together with an elastic band. There were two categories of card; one you collected and maintained in pristine condition; the other, more dog-eared, was used competitively. My collectibles were badges of RAF squadrons and 'Soldiers of the Empire'. The competition was to squat about six feet from a wall, and holding the corner of a card, skim it so that it landed as near to the junction of floor to wall as possible. Any number of players could participate, the owner of the winning card taking possession of the losing cards.

On to grammar school, when every railway platform and embankment held groups of small boys writing down locomotive numbers. Some of these boys, now much older, are still there; but I don't see the magic of steam days. This activity was never understood by my mother, particularly when she realised that books could be purchased with all the numbers already collected and neatly printed.

Collecting was a form of preparation for life. Self-esteem was measured by holdings of whatever one's peers considered of value. These holdings could be obtained by purchase, but more satisfyingly, through competition.

Written by Smokey