Childhood adventures in the backyard before television

Jun 10, 2023
Those sweet Summer days before the era of television. Source: Getty

Standing beside our back stairs, was an old, gnarly mango tree. Mum called it a “Bullock Heart” mango. The fruit of this tree had a huge seed and not much flesh, but it tasted wonderful on a hot summer day, after running amuck as we most always were. 

The tree would develop the beginnings of these mangos in the spring, and by Christmas holidays we would be enjoying the fruit. Dad, however, would have to cover the ripening fruit to stop the Flying Foxes (Fruit Bats) from devouring the fruit before us. 

This old mango tree, with its sturdy limbs and straight, easy-to-climb trunk, provided us with a perfect place to hide, or seek some alone time, high up in its canopy.  

When we were in trouble (more often than not, especially during school holidays) mum would say to whichever one of us was perched up in that tree, for whatever reason “you can’t stay up there forever, just wait till your father gets home” as I am sure this was a common thing for mothers to say to their children when she had had enough of their daily antics.

Staying up in that tree for as long as we could, thirst would eventually get the better of us and we would have to “run the gauntlet” to the tap in the laundry or the outside hose for a drink of water. 

One branch was low enough for us to tie a rope around, which in turn was then secured to an old car tyre we had bought home from the dump from one of the regular trips we made with dad. Now tree branches, under pressure from three kids swinging on a tyre, for hours, don’t stay attached forever. One afternoon, after a lengthy session of having turns on our homemade swing, that poor, tortured branch came away from the trunk. 

The unfortunate brother, whose turn it just happened to be, flew higher than any of us had ever flown before and came crashing to a halt against the rock retaining wall at the bottom of the backyard. Well, a scream permeated from him, like no other scream we had heard before, mum was alerted to the situation and came running down those back stairs to assess the situation.

A trip to the doctor (within walking distance, was in order) and our poor brother came home with a white, plaster cast on his arm. This was the end of our days, swing from that mango tree.

One afternoon, (broken arm now healed and plaster gone) the three of us were sitting on the back stairs, discussing what we might be able to do now that we were told NOT to swing from the mango tree anymore. 

Ahh, the old Hills Hoist! It didn’t take us long to realise that this would be a perfect piece of Australian ingenuity, to swing on. It was, after all, the perfect height for us to reach if we wound it down enough, had four outstretched arms, and was strong enough to hold the weekly wash, so, therefore, it was strong enough to hold the three of us.

Around and around, we would go, hanging on to an arm of the clothesline each, our feet touching the ground at the higher end of our sloping yard, which would give us the opportunity to push off when we were slowing down. Our old, black, dog Inky, barked loudly, which would, in turn, would alert mum to our latest form of entertainment.

Now mum wasn’t always trying to stop us from having fun, and she put up with using her clothesline as a form of entertainment for quite some time.

After a while though, the clothesline started to develop a bit of a lean, until one day, while we were enjoying one of our afternoon rides, it just gave up the ghost and planted itself into the grassy slope of our backyard, with the three of us dropping off like flies.

Now, that quickly turned into a “get out of that tree, you can’t stay up there forever, wait till your father gets home” moment.

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