A Childhood with books

Even today, in this technology-dominated age, children are still encouraged to read books, and for many of us books were a big part of our childhood experience. As a 1950s child, I was one of the many girls who were pony-mad, but without our own big furry bundle of fun to care for, we had to make do with the stories of those who did, whilst we just dreamed. These books were written by such as the Pullen-Thompson sisters, Mary O’Hara or Ruby Ferguson with her series of ‘Jill’ books, that are still read by pony-mad children today, so no change there!

Beatrix Potter was a famous children’s author and I had a complete set of her books on my bedroom bookcase, which my son and daughter have inherited. Enid Blyton is one name that always comes to mind, because of the prolific number of children’s stories she wrote ranging from the small child’s introduction to Noddy and Big Ears through to the older child’s mystery series of the Famous Five and Secret Seven, and the Malory Towers books set in a girls Boarding School. She was not the only person who wrote about the middle class child at boarding school with long summer holidays; Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School, who was first written about in 1908, also comes to mind.

The interesting thing about re-reading these old books today, is how they make us realise that not only has the life of a child changed dramatically, but social attitudes have changed as well. I have a lovely colour photograph of myself winning a fancy dress competition in the early 1960s, but no way would a mother dress her child in such a way today! I was a golliwog, with a jet black face and a curly black wig. I always remember the judge bending down to me and asking “Are you a little girl or a little boy?” and so have times moved on.

Southam has its own children’s authors and one well known lady was Bee Blackwell. In her later years she was often seen at local events with her ‘Southam Mice’ that she made for charity. Here is the song she wrote for them:

Southam folk are very nice

To tolerate us naughty mice.

We share their homes and truth to tell,

We share their bread and cheese as well.

No longer do we need to roam,

We’ve chosen Southam for our home.

Now in return, we’ll happily

Contribute to charity.

To make sure we never fail,

We’ll tie a knot in every tail.

She also wrote several children’s books and we have some in the Collection that are now part of our Summer exhibition “Playtimes Past” alongside toys, games, video and books by other more well-known authors. Bee also sewed lovely cloth pictures one of which is on display depicting characters from Charles Dickens.

Come along to our latest Exhibition ‘Playtimes Past’ in Tithe Place, with displays, video and activities. Open Tuesday, Friday and Saturday mornings 10am to 12 noon. To find out how you can get involved in Southam Heritage contact: 01926 613503 email southamheritage@hotmail.com visit our website www.southamheritage.org and find us on Facebook: Southam Heritage Collection.