I hated parties, all sorts of parties, but especially those involving loads of kids, such as the annual Sunday School party. This was an event that I would quite happily not have attended but as my grandfather was superintendent of the Sunday School and my mother was a teacher it was imperative I attended also. Not that I didn’t get on with all my peers in the Sunday School, I did, it was all the annual temporary hangers-on that I disliked, and of which I disapproved, that suddenly swarmed like wasps around a jam jar.
There were two events annually in the Sunday School calendar when, a few weeks before, attendances would suddenly increase, the party and the Sunday School trip. Suddenly there’d be an influx of kids that wouldn’t normally bother to attend but with the promise of a free treat or trip they’d join-up for a couple of weeks beforehand. In addition, there were those kids who turned up at these events who never set foot in Sunday School and whose only qualification was that a parent or grandparent was a member of the church or was somehow otherwise associated.
It always seemed these hangers-on were the most rowdy children and I’d try my utmost to hide in the background and not become involved in any of the boisterous and noisy games that these young usurpers seemed to take a delight in participating. It didn’t always work and as I was always a little uncoordinated, catching the dreaded spinning plate before it fell to the floor was impossible and I was always having to perform a “forfeit” of one sort or another, and once they knew my number they thought it was funny to keep repeating it until some kindly organiser would take pity on me and let me sit out the rest of the game. Most of the other games were very easy to avoid playing by getting caught “out” in the early stages, musical chairs for instance; and then there was “Postman’s Knock”, what a ridiculous and embarrassing game for kids of ten or eleven years old and even more silly when you recall how strict and narrow-minded many chapel goers were in those days. Then there was the ritual of food, very unpleasant being slyly flicked with jelly or sandwich crusts or squirted with juice from a drinking straw and I’d do my best to sit well away from the rabble.
Thankfully though the party would all be over in a couple of hours and I’d be able to put the dreaded experience to the back of my mind – until next year.
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I have no photographs of any of our Sunday School parties of the 1950s and early 60s, so have once again turned to the wonderful collection of childhood photos belonging to Philip Howard who has kindly allowed me to reproduce an appropriate party picture to illustrate this tale.