Childhood summers spent scrambling up hills and swimming in waterholes

As the school year comes to a close and we approach the summer holidays, it is interesting to look back over some of the pastimes that children used to enjoy – many of which were outdoors.

Barry Ellis grew up in the town of Meadows, in the Mount Lofty Ranges.  He remembers as a child in the 1940s:

The old quarry at Meadows

We used to play up on the hills.  We’d go up over the back towards where the quarry is, and there was a big old tree up in the top corner of our paddock that we used to climb, and we used to put ropes up there and pull one another up and down in boxes and build forts up in the furze on what we used to call the back road there, on that hill that sort of overlooks the town.  And we had bikes and we used to have great fun, play down in the creek.

Used to spend a lot of time in the creek over summertime, and that was quite a gathering place for most of the kids of the town, and the mother that happened to be living closest on the day used to make sure we had plenty of sandwiches to eat and cool drinks, and that was really great…There was a nice clear waterhole there that we used to swim, and there was willow trees and there was plenty of shade and it was great fun.”

Not just the boys

Girls enjoyed the same pastimes.  Pat Rowe was just a few years younger than Barry, and she too enjoyed the hill above the Meadows township:

View of Meadows township

Meadows, with the hill on the left that children loved to climb.

Well, it was like a long, narrow strip that went to the top of the hill, grass on one side and the other side was the old furze bushes where we used to play and make our cubby houses amongst all the prickles, managed to dodge them.  We’d walk up over the top of the hill and down into the quarry for our playground, outside amusement in most cases, and the old cemetery on the top of the hill, used to wander up there.  And in the cow paddock we had a small dam – well, it was a pond rather than a dam, with the tadpoles, et cetera, so we had quite a bit of outside amusement, and we used to swim in the creek when it was hot…

Almost immediately behind what is now known as the ‘Blacksmith Cottage’, there was a nice stretch there with a big fallen tree across where we used to line up and jump into.  It was deep enough to do it in those days; (laughs) not now.  But it was a favourite spot and there was a group of about eight or nine of us that used to gather there.”

Camping holidays

Pat also enjoyed camping holidays in South Australia:

We used to go away camping for weekends into the crabbing – Lower Light and Middle Beach, I think they call it, and Dad built up a rake which was virtually a wire cage that he could drag through the sand and drag the crabs up with it, and then we’d camp overnight and cook them all in a copper, et cetera, and have a big feast.  Very enjoyable, yes.  We went fishing up the River Murray, I can remember that, in my teens, camping on the banks of the Murray, because Dad had his old truck converted to a camper van, sort of thing.  Very basic but it did what we needed, a place to sleep.”

Today, outdoor play is again becoming more popular, with organisations such as Nature Play SA encouraging children and families to play outdoors in nature.  Do you have a favourite place where your family goes now? Or a favourite place from your childhood?

Quotes from oral history interviews with Pat Rowe and Barry Ellis courtesy of the State Library of South Australia (OH 829-1 and 18).

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