Tin Can Alley

When I was a kid growing up in the 1940’s new toys were few and far between, but we were quite resourceful and spent many happy hours with old, throw-away tin cans. For example, we made holes in the bottom, fitted with string and used them as stilts. What a racket we made clanging up and down the street! Now, we’d probably be issued with an #Antisocial Behaviour Order [ASBO] for disturbing the peace. 

Because of stage-4 decrepit amnesia I can’t remember all the games we played, but several involved the humble tin can. Can you remember the tin-can telephone connected with a length of string for talking to your mates? Just two old tin cans, but it’s the stuff that memories are made of. Cans played a big part in weddings too. When was the last time you saw the happily married couple’s car clumping and clattering down the road with half a dozen cans tied to the bumper?

#Now called Criminal Behaviour Order.

In an age when children must have the latest toy, I sigh and remember how things used to be and how innocent we were. We are told never to look back, but when you do, you often realise that those were the Good Old Days! Many years or so later and that little boy became a metal detectorist (‘amateur archaeologist’?) … and not a very successful one at that, because he has renewed his childhood familiarity by collecting more than his share of tin cans. If you are/were anything like me, you would’ve uttered an oath and slung them unceremoniously into the nearest hedge. Good riddance!  

Are cans worthy of study?

Well, yes they are. Imagine my surprise then when I came across several archaeological papers from the States. (Take a look.) The link I have chosen is interesting and easy to follow. Archeologist Sharon Waechter made a special study of the ubiquitous old tin can and extracted loads of information. Now I don’t regard discarded cans in quite the same way. 

From the type of lid, seam type and measurements she has gained insight into social history of the time. She concluded that large piles of coffee, evaporated milk, cooking oil and tobacco cans probably represented the kitchen area of a major work camp. Fragments of tea and opium tins found at sites were occupied by Chinese.

Don’t get me wrong – this is a learned piece of work that goes into great detail of how the seam is soldered and size can provide clues to the age of the can … and much more.

I originally penned the above on the day that the magnificent Staffordshire Saxon gold hoard was announced to an incredulous public and in the week that the West Hanney Saxon burial ground was discovered. We’re spoilt in the UK, don’t you think!

You may not be a winner of the detectorist lottery jackpot, but you can make an extra effort to the archaeological cause. Collect all your old tin cans and take them to your FLO saying just how important they are. No emails of complaint please, I’m only joking! 

Whilst Ukraine continues to make strategic advances in the WAR, dishevelled and dirty Russian troops are complaining about lack of hygiene facilities. Instead of crapping in the fields and hedgerows, the Kremlin is parachuting in large cans for them to shit in. Inevitably, the West are naming them POO-TINS. You couldn’t make it up and I assure the sceptics amongst you that I am not! Please trust me; I used to work in the public sector as a ‘Knowledge Navigator’ (Teacher).


Whatever you do, gan canny. Safe searching

10 thoughts on “Tin Can Alley

  1. Well.. Dick may think it is before his time.. But I remember those days.. Much more fun and imaginative than sitting in front of a computer screen playing video games like so many of todays youth..I do collect bottles… not so much cans, save the odd oil can John

    Many thanks again


    Liked by 1 person

  2. John another tin can game we also had was “Kicky The Tin” on pitch black winter nights whereby one person guarded a tin can in the middle of the road while the rest of the gang would try to sneak up and give the tin a good wellying and if he succeeded he would then be the new guardian, needles to say after an hour the game was disbanded.
    Hope you are still remembering the cricket matches using a bin lid in the middle of the road.
    Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the reminder, Randy. “Kicky the Tin” was perhaps the favourite game. Did you also play “Itchy Dabber? Southerners call it by another name. We used a different kind of tin for the “Dabber”.


    1. Yes Itchy Dabber around our part of Durham it was an empty shoe polish tin and if my memory serves me right the tin had to be kicked / nudged from one numbered chalk circle in the road to the next number in sequence and the winner was the first to reach the final number which was numbered 1 to 10. About 3 or 4 mates took turns but no queue jumping.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Our unique name for Hopscotch. Lump of chalk,
    a Cherry Blossom boot polish tin full of muck, and we were away!
    Do you remember playing knocky-nine-doors –
    It would be called anti-social behaviour today!
    Happy times, Randy?


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