Old toys provide us with a snapshot of children's lives
and playtime in the past. If we look a little closer they can also reveal things
about the larger world that surrounded children. The clothes of a
doll mimic the styles of clothes once worn by real people, while an
toy truck is a miniature version of the trucks that once ruled the
This doll belonged to May Turner, who arrived in
Carnamah with her parents as a five year old in 1916. May kept the doll at her
Carnamah home until
her death at the age of 94 in 2006.
Toys are treasured and memorable items that people sometimes hold onto long
after they stop playing with them. Some are kept because of the
memories they provide, from sentiment towards the person who gifted
the toy, or the occasion on which it was received.
Featured below is a selection of toys that filled the lives of
children from Carnamah and Coorow in the 1940s and 1950s.
There are some that the children of today will never have seen and
others that are as popular now as they were sixty years ago.
Using real bones from the ankles of sheep, knucklebones is a series
of throwing and catching games. Many of the games involve trying to
quickly pick up the bones after the jack (the white one) is thrown
up in the air. The game gets harder when you have to catch and toss
the bones in certain ways, such as on the back of your hand.
When these pencils were brand new they were sold for one shilling and sixpence, which is
the equivalent of 15 cents today.
Wooden Double Pencil Case
The below pencil case
is made entirely of wood. The lid slides on and off, and the the top
section swings out to reveal a second level.
Metal Toy Kettle
I'm a little teapot,
Short and stout,
Here is my handle,
Here is my spout,
When I get all steamed up,
Hear me shout,
Tip me over and pour me out!
Plastic Cup, Saucer and Spoon
Molly, my sister and I fell out,
And what do you think it was all about?
She loved coffee and I loved tea,
And that was the reason we couldn't agree.
Six Wire Puzzles
These puzzles were a toy for both children and adults. The challenge
was to try and work out how to move the two or three intertwined pieces of wire so you
could separate them.
Home-Made Ging or Sling
The rather rough ging was entirely made by me when I was about
11 years old.
I'd put a small stone in the centre of the leather pad and hold it
in place with one hand and stretch the rubber back as much as
possible while my other hand held the bottom of the wooden V. I'd
attempt to let go so that the stone flew off between the V and hit
the target – usually an old empty fruit tin or Sunshine Milk tin.
Gings were banned at Coorow School but on the weekend town boys and
girls would set off on bicycles for nearby scrub and gings were used
on various targets... but I don’t remember any birds actually being
-- Jill Tilly, reflecting on her ging
Snap Card Game
Snap is often the first card game played by children. The cards are
distributed equally to players and they then take it in turns
putting one of their cards face-up. If the same card is placed
down twice in a row the race is on to place your hands on the cards
and call "snap!". Whoever does this first takes the cards and adds them to
their pile. The game continues until one of the players ends up with
all of the cards.
Home-Made Chinese Checkers
The set of Chinese Checkers below was made by Mrs Moreen W. Reading
on Wellmeadow Farm in Carnamah. She used materials she
could find on the farm, and made it for her three children to play
Plastic Toys from Weeties
Weeties was a a popular breakfast cereal in the 1940s and 1950s.
For many years the cereal boxes contained toys, collector cards
or vouchers that could be saved up and redeemed for toys.
Children who ate Weeties could sign up to join the Willie Weeties
Club. Willie was a dressed grain of wheat with a crown on his head.
Eileen Reading of Carnamah was a member and received a birthday
message from the club in this envelope in 1953.
Codd Neck Bottle and Marbles
Marbles was a very common game in schoolyards across Australia.
People would use their marbles to compete against each other in
games that involved trying to hit or knock the other person's
marbles. If the game was played "for keeps" it meant the winner got
to keep their opponent's marbles.
Codd neck bottles were used for carbonated soft drinks and had a
marble and rubber washer inside a chamber in the bottle. When the
bottles were filled upside down the pressure would push the marble
against the washer and seal the drink so it didn't go flat. The
marble was then pushed down to open the bottle. Children would
search for the bottles so they could smash them and get the glass
Trucks and Wind-Up Car
A small key went in the hole on the side of the car and when turned
moved mechanical parts on the inside. The car would then move on its
Lolly Basket and Toy Clicker
When a child celebrated their birthday their friends
were sometimes given a small cardboard basket filled with lollies.
Another common gift for everyone at children's birthday parties
were small metal clickers, like the one below. The narrower ends
had a metal strip behind them that when pushed inwards made a
The small spring latched onto the hook on the end which
was then pushed down. The tension of the spring would
then make multiple parts move, including the spinning of
the red and and light blue pieces of glass.