Catapults

If you had no money, we used rubber from old inner tubes. The problem was that it would snap at full stretch and give you a nasty smack.

My most prized possession as a young boy was my catapult.  These we made with a good V shaped tree branch cut down to size.  Then you got two leather braces fastened to the two arms, with an oblong of leather (usually a shoe or boot tongue) fixed in between to give you some ‘elastic’.

If we had no money, we used rubber from old inner tubes. The problem was that it would snap at full stretch and give you a nasty smack but the best elastic was purchased from Lionel Clark’s Cycle Shop in North Shields.  It was ¼” square and was used for propelling model aeroplanes.  This gave you the ‘Rolls Royce’ of catapults.

We would go down the Farthing Line to the docks and (now much to my shame) try to hit the many birds in the trees.  We would gather pebbles on the shoreline, find bottles and tin cans and practice our aims, but we then embarked on what I see now as a very silly and dangerous game.  There was an old large derelict house and we would split into two groups.  One side defended the house and the other attacked.  How no-one lost an eye, I do not know.

I once fired at Harold Scott in an upstairs window.  He threw his hands up to his face.  Everyone stopped and we rushed to him.  The blood was coming through his fingers.  I thought ‘My God’, his eye is out.  We had to force his hands away to see the damage and we were relieved to find the stone had hit him right on the bridge of his nose and split it to the bone.  Never was a lad so lucky and he still carries that scar today.  That was the end of that game for ever.

I now realise that those catapults were lethal weapons and we were terribly fortunate we did not have an accident but ignorance is bliss and we all thought what a great time we were having.

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