A story of innocence and fun of a child living her best life.
GROWING UP IN ROSEWOOD in the 70’s and 80’s.
I am lucky because I grew up in Rosewood. It was a new housing estate when Mom and Dad bought the house in the very early 70’s. A lot of other young newly-weds bought at the same time so lots of kids were born around the same time and so grew up together.
Mom tells me that when my brother and myself were still very young, so young that I was in nappies, he decided to take me for a walk to the swings in the neighbouring estate. It would have been a fair old walk for two toddlers but we got there. Mom thought I was with Dad and vice versa. When reality dawned they got a terrible fright, searching everywhere frantically.
Finally Mom spotted us coming down the road along the footpath and me with my nappy down around my ankles. My brother figured he’d better bring me home at that point. Not sure how Mom took it but I’m sure she was very relieved.
We lived in number 46 and our cousins lived in number 44 so I suppose our first friends were our cousins before we were old enough to go out and make our own friends.
I loved when we played Sindys and Barbies in my cousin’s house. I had a Sindy doll but no accessories. She had jet black hair and I kept it perfect. I would skip across to my cousin’s house and we would get out all the toys that went with Sindy or Barbie. I often got to play with a camper van and a kitchen and we used to have great games. What Barbie and Sindy didn’t get up to wasn’t worth mentioning.
One of my older cousins was a great organiser she got things done. She would devise some sort of a mystery for us to figure out. We had a detective club. We took it all very seriously, making membership badges and having meetings and taking notes from these meetings as to what we were going to do before the next club meeting.
My cousin had us all focused on a house in the new housing estate called Greystones. The main reason was because you could see in the top bedroom window and there was a biker poster on the wall and there was a crazy looking motorbike in the drive. This to us meant someone bad lived there. Up to no good they were.
We would sit near the house and watch and wait to see if we could see what was going on in there. On occasion we would see the home owner coming and going and we would be in a state after it. We’d have ourselves all worked up thinking this guy was evil so our tummies would be in knots and by the time he would be out of sight we would be frantic to get home. We’d write this happening in our notebooks, date, time, what direction he went, what he was carrying, was anyone else seen. Sometimes we might find a cigarette butt on the road near the house and this would also be noted.
How nuts it all sounds now but it was so much fun at the time and we were very invested in it and determined to figure out what this guy was up to. We finally figured it out though. Nothing, that’s what he was up to, just living there, minding his own business. No big mystery.
We also played Rounders. That was mostly during the summer. We would make a plan with a few friends to meet at a certain time in the field behind our house and the word would spread. Before we knew it we could have 20 or 30 or more joining. We would form teams and there would be roaring and shouting from the side lines as we urged out team mates to run faster and then the excitement with a home run.
We could pass hours at this and then the tummies would start to rumble and the parents might come down to the field to call us in for our dinners. Mom would usually hang out her bedroom window and roar at one of us. If we were oblivious someone would eventually say, your Mam’s roaring something at ye.
We’d head in for dinner but promise to be back as soon as possible. When we returned we would play and play and play for as long as we could. The sun would be setting and we would be stretching it out as long as possible until again we got the call or the roar to come in home.
If we weren’t playing rounders we were playing soccer or chase or building camps in the ditch or get this…. Catching frogs and tadpoles in the swamp. It was probably not the safest thing to be doing but there was a bog near the back field and we used to climb over fences to get in there. Back then frogs were plentiful. They were fascinating. I was one of the girls that had no trouble catching them and picking them up and petting them. We also caught frog spawn and watched as the tadpoles developed and grew into frogs over a few days in a container.
Almost everyone had a bike back then too and we would go on long cycles around the estate and sometimes have races the length of the road or around the block. Sometimes we would peg a piece of card on to the spokes on the wheels and these cards would catch the frame as the wheel turned which sounded in our opinions like a motor bike engine when we cycled faster.
It was cool if you had streamers on your handle bars or decorations on your spokes. We often got a puncture and we could repair them from start to finish with a basin of water, a kitchen fork and a puncture plaster and off we’d go again. This is where all the kitchen forks went to. We needed them to pry the tyre off so we could get out the tube and quite obviously in our rush to get back on the road the forks got forgotten about.
If you had a racer bike with the curved handles you could loosen the clasp and pull the handles up so they looked super cool. If someone didn’t have a bike handy that was no problem we gave each other a spin on the back carrier, a “Backer” as it was known or someone could travel side saddle on the cross bar or the adrenalin junkies sat face forward on the handle bars. “No Hands” was another knack we had to master, I’m glad to say I did, but I didn’t chance it on corners.
Then came wheelies and this was a growing sport when BMX bikes came on the market. Simply cycling was no longer good enough. Now it was ticks and bunny hops. Many a time someone fell and there were cuts, scrapes, strains and breaks but that added to the drama.
Bulldog and dodge ball were other favourites. With bull dog a line of people would hold hands and then a line of people would run at them and the aim was to get through the chain and get to the finish line without being caught. Dodge ball involved lining up along a wall with someone kicking a ball at us. You had to dodge the ball and if you failed then you were out.
Skipping was a big part of the 1980’s too. Whether it was individual ropes or longer ropes held by two people and others jumping in an out and making up routines. “Hopscotch” and “sticks” which was one of my favourite games. You had 3 sticks on the ground and had to step from one side first, put one foot in each gap and then stretch out as far as you could go and that is where the edge stick would be placed.
You then did the same from the other end and as you went the gap between the sticks got bigger but you were still only allowed one step in each gap. Eventually a long run was needed to work up the speed to make the jumps and to hope not to land before or on top of the last stick as that meant you were out.
We were lucky too that the residents association organised a summer sports evening for us every year. There would be fierce preparation involved. The grass would be cut as usual but then the blades would be lowered and the race track itself would be cut. There would be string and flags hung along both sides of the track, loud speakers were hung and we heard the usual “Testing 1, 2, 3” over and over on the day of the event.
There were running races, followed by the 3 legged race, the egg & spoon race, the sack race and the slow bicycle race.
I never got anywhere in running but I got a medal for the slow bicycle race and then after more things were added and I got a medal in the penalty shoot out and for Tug of War. Those made me very proud. I considered myself to be made of tough stuff.
There would be a tuck shop with fizzy drinks, sweets and crisps an Ice cream van would arrive at some point and families would come from around the estate with buggies and picnic rugs and set up a base for themselves for the evening.
The residents association also raised money for a playground and goal posts so playing on the swings and the see-saws passed more of our time. The higher you could swing the better and like everything a bit of danger had to be added in. So the aim was to swing as high as possible and then jump off. I’m sure a few ankles must have been strained if not broken on those landings.
We also had the birthday parties, good old fashioned simple birthday parties. The funny thing is it was all the same friends we hung out with every day anyway, but if it was your birthday then everyone came to your house. We stuffed our faces with butterfly buns, rice krispie cakes, Jelly & ice cream and a cream and jam birthday sponge cake. We’d sing happy birthday, maybe give the birthday bumps and then out to the back garden for more fun.
I remember another thrill used to be on a hot day when we were allowed to put on our swim suits and play with the garden hose. When I say a hot day, it had to be a hot day in June, July or August. A hot day in April, May or September was no good. We’d be sweating as invariably we could have a hotter day in Ireland in April than we might have in July and we’d all be the asking the same thing.
“Mom, please can I put on my shorts and T Shirt or can we get out the sprinkler”. But we’d all get the same reply. “No it’s only April, it’s not warm enough”. “But Mom I’m roasting”!! “No you’re not you only think that and if you strip off you’ll get a cold”. Then came the next effort…”But Mom so and so said his or her Mom said they could put on their shorts” the response being something like “I don’t care what so and so’s mother said, I’m telling you, you can’t and that’s it, would you jump off a bridge if So and So was doing it? Would you? No, I didn’t think so”. And so you’d be left thinking crikey that escalated fast from wanting to wear a pair of shorts and a t shirt to suicidal actions. Best to leave that one go and roll up your sleeves and the legs of your pants and suffer on.
The other fabulous thing that Rosewood had was the Christmas party. My Mom was involved in getting that set up and it was magical for us kiddies. It was held in the community school the few times I was at it but it might have been in the community hall other times, I am open to correction on that one.
The residents association would collect presents for the kids from their parents in the days leading up to the event. Each one wrapped and named. We would get to the party and be greeted with Christmas songs and a DJ and he would organise party games and dancing. We would have treats and lots of fun all waiting eagerly for Santa’s arrival.
Finally, we would be told he was nearly here. Santa always came by helicopter we were told as the reindeers were resting before Christmas. We never saw the helicopter of course but we heard it. We most certainly did, we heard the roar of the engine and then the thud as it landed on the roof. Shortly after this Santa would come in the door with his bag of presents and his Ho Ho Ho.
He would be escorted into another room. We would all line up full of excitement waiting to meet the man of the moment. I remember going into school the next Monday and telling friends that were not from our estate that we had had a party and a disco and met Santa and they would feel a bit left out, how come they hadn’t been invited and I would proudly say…”It’s a Rosewood thing”.
Then there was the shop, or Mac’s as we called it as it was run by Mr McSweeney. If you were old enough to go to the shop by yourself you were really grown up. Then again while we might have been allowed to go we didn’t always have the money so we had to fund raise.
That was where the jumble sale came into play. We would write posters and send someone off on their bike chanting “Jumble Sale, 46 Rosewood!!!” We would sell old dinkies and marbles and dolls and anything else we got permission from Mom to sell. Kids would come from around the estate and bargain fiercely for a better deal.
There would be bangers for guns and match cards and stickers too for the collectors. I would sell stationary too as the girls often collected scented stationary and a new type of paper or note book was like gold dust. You could find anything and everything at a good jumble sale.
Eventually the best stuff would be gone and the crowds would disperse. The takings would be counted and divided and as soon as we cleaned up we’d be off over to the shop where the choice was endless.
Half penny sweets, golf ball chewing gum, Tayto crisps, Refresher bars for 3p, wham bars for 10p, edible paper, sherbet packets with a lolly inside, chocolate mice, candy bracelets or necklaces, lollipops or candy cigarettes for the really cool kids.
Ten pence got you a nice bit back then, fifty pence got you an absolute feast. I remember a bag of Taytos being 7p and Mr Freezes were 5p. Mr McSweeney, (Keith) must have had bag loads of patience as we would all come in together and crowd around asking each other “What are you getting?” and then asking the same question to Keith…”How much are they? And how much are those? And how much can I get for this much?” landing a heap of coppers on the counter.
We’d all head out one by one and wait for everyone to be done and we’d stroll home again and maybe sit in the playing field having a chat.
We had a wonderful childhood on the streets of Rosewood and in the field, out all day, calling on friends, getting into all sorts of scrapes, running, cycling, skipping & hiding. We let our imagination run wild, making friends, defending friends, looking after fallen soldiers and walking them home if necessary. Searching for the biggest dock leaves to cure nettle stings and coming together for community events. Good memories, great memories and wonderful to look back on now.
If you’ve read to the end I hope you enjoyed it.
By Lucey Cunningham