Children running on Johnston Street, Leith. Sign shows the street was a designated Children's playground with vehicles banned after 4pm.

Scotland in the 1960s: A decade of children at play

Back in the 1960s when the likes of the Easter break was the only “Fortnite” that mattered, Scotland’s children were dab hands at creating their own fun from scant resources.

By David Mclean
Saturday, 19th September 2020, 7:30 am

The nation’s parks, front streets and back courts were filled with the sound of youngsters cavorting together, singing songs and playing games.

It was a time when children, free of the insular trappings of today’s games consoles, tablets and smart phones, were infinitely more in tune with the outside world.

In the cities, makeshift, and often hazardous, adventure playgrounds, “venchies”, sprang up in the place of demolished Victorian tenements.

Local kids also played in the building sites of the innumerable new schemes and new towns that were appearing on the outskirts of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and elsewhere, using their imaginations and making the most of the half-built constructions around them.

With far fewer cars on the roads, football was played in the streets almost as much as it was played in the parks.

In Edinburgh in August 1966, certain streets in the most populous areas were even designated “playing streets”, with vehicles banned after 4pm when children returned home from school.

Crazes were not uncommon. The yo-yo made a resurgence, skipping ropes and hula hoops were ubiquitous, while a punnet of marbles and a piece of chalk spelled hours of fun.

Across the land, eager pals waited patiently on their shot of the guider, a home-made, self-propelled contraption put together from old pram wheels, bits of wood and anything else that happened to be lying around.

But this was also the early days of modern consumerism and kids in the run up to birthdays and Christmases were not shy in demanding the latest Corgi die-cast model cars, troll dolls (known as “gonks”), Barbie dolls, G.I. Joe figures, Subbuteo sets and Scalextric tracks.

And popular television shows such as Batman, Star Trek and Rawhide were also hugely-influential, producing a generation of aspiring superheroes, spacemen and cowboys in the process.

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