Children at Play

In the past, children's toys and the places they played were very much dependent on the income of their parents.

Children of poor parents played in the streets in fine weather or in the kitchen when the weather was inclement, with simple toys that were often home-made. In the picture below, the original caption reads "Children playing stop long enough to have their photograph taken…".

Note that there are no play items in the picture, so possibly the game they were playing was tag or just kicking a stone around. Playing in the street was safe, because travel was by horse and buggy, ox-drawn wagons, bicycle or on foot.

Simple toys played in the street were bat and ball, skipping ropes, hoop and baton. Hoops came from barrels made by the local cooper. The hoop could be used by children when a barrel wore out. Marbles were made from wood, clay, china or glass. Codd's glass bottles had a marble in them to keep the gas in fizzy water, and these bottles were often broken just to remove the marbles. Marbles for the poorest children were musket balls, nuts or hard berries.

Children's playgrounds in parks did not exist at this time and municipal parks were places for a leisurely stroll and for listening to a concert in the bandstand.

These were not places where boisterous children kicked a ball around or used the swings. It is believed that the first children's playground in Lunenburg was built near the Academy on Gallows Hill in the early 1900s.

There was a merry-go-round for children to ride on by late 1899. A local newspaper reported on December 26th 1899 that the merry-go-round was in full operation. The Bridgewater Bulletin of February 27th 1900 records that, in Lunenburg, J. B. Russell's steam riding gallery was "opened on last Thursday evening." It was located near where Frenchy's is now.

Children of wealthier families played in the garden or went on picnics and in inclement weather played in the nursery room. Toys of wealthier children were shop-bought and reflected the parents' affluence.

In the directory of businesses operating in Lunenburg in 1888 published in the Lunenburg Progress, there are no specialist toy shops listed. However, toys could often be bought from businesses which sold general groceries and general merchandise, and those which were importers of fancy goods. They were also available by mail order.