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Spare time

How did people use to spend their spare time in the Old Suburb? Here are some ways remembered by the inhabitants, based on some memorabilia and materials collected by the Society of the Storytellers of the Lower Town of Gdańsk.

  • Bottle caps game. A game which was very popular with children. Frequently it imitated the Peace Race (a bicycle race). Bottle caps belonged to different cyclists but very often they were identical. To make them look differently, various state flags were cut out of paper and stuck on the caps.
  • Matchbox cars. Being an owner of a matchbox car was a dream for many boys at that time. Matchbox cars could be bought at a market place or at a Pewex shop (an internal export company). Buying such a toy was a real treat. If you could not afford it, you could try to get a car catalogue. Car catalogues were sent by foreign companies. To get such a catalogue, it was necessary to send a request in English, in which you stated that you were a Polish enthusiast of motorisation and you would like to get a catalogue. Children used to rewrite such letters from each other, making a lot of mistakes. As a result, grammar correctness was poor and the message was sometimes difficult to understand.
  • Collecting chewing gum stickers with Donald Duck.
  • Collecting sticker albums. They were very popular in the 1970s and 1980s. It was possible to buy them at a newsagent’s. There was only one newsagent’s booth at Embankment Square. Children used to buy albums with empty spaces for stickers. Such albums were, in fact, mini-encyclopaedias because they referred to various fields of knowledge, for example: nature, history, geography. Stickers were sold in packages – 6 stickers in each package. Four of them belonged to one collection and two remaining ones were from other collections. Children used to exchange stickers among themselves to complete their album collections. There was not anything worse than an album with two or three stickers still missing. Newsagent’s booths offered various sticker packages, so children used to hunt for desired stickers all over Gdańsk.
  • Philately. Collecting post stamps was also very popular after the war. Stamp albums were passed from generation to generation. Stamps were collected by themes, states, shapes, etc. A package of post stamps would make a perfect Christmas gift. Stamps were purchased at philatelic shops, newsagent’s booths, they were unstuck from postcards and envelopes by soaking in water or steaming over a pot. Sometimes corners were damaged during such operations. Such defective stamps were referred to as „cancers”. Children used to exchange stamps. The most beautiful and desired stamps were the most colourful ones.
  • Collecting sound postcards. It was possible to buy them at the market place at Chmielna St. On one side of a sound postcard one or two pieces were recorded and it was possible to listen to them on a record player. On the other side there was some space for writing a text, an address and for sticking a post stamp. It was also possible to record your greetings on sound postcards.
  • Do it yourself. Making various objects, such as kaleidoscopes or binoculars, from materials available at home, following instructions provided, among others, in books by Adam Słodowy.
  • Reading magazines. A lot of young people used to buy newspapers and magazines to get colourful pictures and posters featuring actors or pop stars. At the end of Świat Młodych (a newspaper) there used to be a comic strip entitled Tytus, Romek and Atomek. Every weekday it was possible to read articles on various subjects. On Tuesdays Świat Młodych provided articles about actors, fashion and astronomy. On Thursdays you could read about motorisation, nature and jokes. On Saturdays there were articles about music and some puzzles to solve. In the 1980s a German magazine Bravo became highly popular. It was very difficult to get. You could buy it at a market place or from someone who brought it from Germany. Some pages or posters featuring actors taken out from Bravo and put into plastic covers were often sold at market places.
  • Spending spare time with your friends at the courtyard. Courtyards were the places where neighbours used to meet, to socialise, to organise weddings, to enjoy a meal together, to send children to play. Courtyards were also the places were some domestic animals were kept: hens, turkeys, pigeons or pigs.


A sticker album.

The photograph presents a title page of an archival sticker album. The page is white, the inscriptions are black and there is a colourful illustration featuring various bird species. At the top of the page there is an inscription in bold: “Birds of Poland”. On the left top of the page there is a logo of the publishing house – an “IS” inscription set in a double square frame. On the left side there is a description: All interesting things on stickers for collecting in special albums. Kings of Poland. Aeroplanes on Which the Poles Used to Fight. Pop Stars. Polish Olympic Champions. Continents – Africa. Vintage Cars. Birds of Poland. From Athens to Moscow. Racing Cars. Other albums in preparation. Under the illustration with birds there is a large inscription: New for collectors.
A sticker album. Kings of Poland. The photograph presents two pages of a sticker album – they are white and the inscriptions are black. On the left side of each page there is a short biography of a particular king of Poland – Sigismund I the Old, Sigismund III Augustus. On the right side of the each page there are stickers already stuck in the places under which their appropriate short descriptions are printed. The illustrations present particular kings, the emblem of the Polish eagle used in the particular historic periods and coins.

Children used to play re-enacting scenes inspired by books.

The photograph features a plastic red-and-yellow toy car. The inside of the car and its tyres are black. Next to the car there are four old slightly tattered books: „Pan samochodzik i Winnetou” (Mister Automobile and Winnetou), „Dywizjon 303”(303rd Squadron RAF), „W 80 dni dookoła świata” (Around the World in Eighty Days), „Awantura o Basię” (Argument About Basia).

Magazines and newspapers for young people from the 1980s.

The photograph presents an old periodical „Świat Młodych. Harcerska Gazeta Nastolatków” (Youth’s World. The Scout Periodical for Teenagers) (the white text on the red background). The periodical is white but its rims are yellowed and tattered. The text is black. In the left top corner a colourful picture of dancing children is printed. In the background some spectators can be seen. The texts of the articles are illegible but some headlines can be read: Tomorrow is the Mother’s Day. We wish all the best to our irreplaceable and only…, Straw … candies, Not the worst way.
The photograph features some old and slightly tattered newspapers and periodicals: Bravo, Together, Youth’s World.

Bottle caps for playing.

The photograph presents a black box with some bottle caps in it. Inside each bottle cap some small pieces of paper are stuck. These are colourful national flags and the names of the countries: Japan, Brazil, Cyprus, Yugoslavia.

Children used to collect chewing gum stickers with Donald Duck.

The photograph presents a collection of various chewing gum stickers with Donald Duck. The stickers present adventures of such characters as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto. The photograph also features an old, originally packed piece of chewing gum. The wrapping paper is red with a yellow inscription “Donald Bubble Gum” and Donald Duck’s head.

A kaleidoscope.

The photograph features an old, slightly battered toy kaleidoscope. It is blue and there are big white and red stars printed on it along with small green stars.

A post stamp collection.

The photograph features a page taken out of a post stamp album with a collection of post stamps. At the top there are some triangular post stamps and at the bottom of the page some rectangular post stamps are placed. The triangular ones present various species of fungi whereas the rectangular ones feature various species of flowers and wild animals.

A comic book Where does soda water come from? by Tadeusz Baranowski.

The photograph features an old newspaper with a headline Where does soda water come from? by T. Baranowski (texts and pictures). It is a colourful comic story presenting two characters – a short artist painter and a tall hunter. The story presents some failed attempts at painting an image of the hunter on canvas or curving it on a rock surface. The story is not finished – to be continued.

A comic book Tytus Romek and Atomek by Papcio Chmiel.

The photograph presents a newspaper with the fourth episode of a comic story by Papcio Chmiel Tytus, Romek i Atomek. The story is about an argument between Romek and Tytus. Romek hits Tytus on the head with a book and Atomek tries to prevent them from fighting.

DIY instruction books.

The photograph features an old, slightly tattered DIY instruction book Do-it-yourself. Binoculars and Periscope by Andrzej Marks. The book has a blue cover with a black-and-white illustration presenting a boy looking through his binoculars. On the left side there is an inscription Beginner Constructors – It Is For You! Scout Publishing House.
The photograph features an old, slightly tattered DIY instruction book Do-it-yourself. A Rural Handyman by Jacek Węgrzynowicz. The book has a yellow cover with a black-and-white illustration presenting a bird feeding house on a stick. On the left side there is an inscription Beginner Constructors – It Is For You! Scout Publishing House.
The photograph features an old, slightly tattered DIY instruction book Do-it-yourself. Knight Armours by Zdzisława Szkodówna and Janina Wunderlich. The book has a green cover with a black-and-white illustration presenting a knight with a shield and a lance. On the left side there is an inscription Beginner Constructors – It Is For You! Scout Publishing House.

Constructing binoculars – a description.

The photograph features a page from a book. The text is printed in black and it says, among others: Field binoculars. We suggest starting your work with constructing a pair of monocular binoculars. To construct it, you need only two lenses and one tube for each lens, 19 cm long and of the inner diameter which is equal to the outer diameter of the lens - that is usually 4 or 5 cm. The tubes will be used to construct both tubuses for the binoculars. If you do not have any metal or plastic tubes, you can roll them from some packaging paper…

A book by Adam Słodowy, the author of Do It Yourself, a popular TV series.

The photograph presents a cover of a book by Adam Słodowy: It Is Not Difficult At All. The cover is black, the title is green and in the centre there is a colourful illustration of a boy sitting at his workshop with a saw and a piece of wood.

A list of addresses of foreign companies to which children used to write, asking for catalogues.

The photograph features a page of a checkered notebook with a list of foreign companies to which children used to send requests for sending them car catalogues, among others: Renault, Automodelle catalogue, Nysa c521, Mercedes, Mickey Mouse, Buster, Lego, Jaguar, Saab.

A toy engine.

The photograph presents a toy engine on the tracks. The engine is black with red wheels. The tracks are brown. There are some books visible in the background.

A sound postcard.

The photograph presents a sound postcard (a type of a vinyl record) with a picture of colourful flowers in a blue vase printed on it.

A matchbox car.

The photograph presents a heavily battered toy car. Some remains of red, black and white paint can be still seen on its body. The car does not have any glass windows. The inside of the car is of a sandy colour – there are two seats and a steering wheel. The tyres are black.

A toy.

The photograph presents a plastic toy which is a labyrinth for some metal balls. At the bottom there is a little stick with a spring allowing the player to push the balls up into the labyrinth. Under the transparent upper part of the labyrinth there is a colourful picture featuring horse riders. At the top of the labyrinth there are four pockets for the balls with the number of points printed on them: 10, 20, 30, 40.
The photograph presents a colourful plastic toy which is composed of a green frame and little square elements inside. Each square element has a number on it. The square elements are connected with each other but it is possible to move and shuffle them. One spot is empty in order to allow the player to move other square elements.
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