It occurred to me recently as we approach Guy Fawkes Night / Bonfire Night, that a tradition from my childhood seems to have been eradicated altogether. No longer do you see children standing in the street clutching a home-made guy, or with the guy sitting benignly in an old pram. Back in the 1960’s myself and friends, complete with our guys, would shout ‘Penny for the guy!’ at passers-by, and if we were lucky (or looked cute enough) an avalanche of pennies would come our way.
Before the age of 7 I lived with my parents in a flat on the busy Commercial Road in the East End of London. My dad would construct the guy, and without any of us worrying about paedophiles, I would stand alone on the junction of Commercial Road and Burdett Road with the creation, and harass shoppers going about their daily business, or people rushing home from work. Because of the busy thoroughfare I would soon be overwhelmed with pennies, and would have to trudge upstairs at regular intervals to deposit my gains with Mum.
I always looked forward to the run-up to 5th November, and as I grew older we children were out on the street with our guys for weeks beforehand, totally unsupervised. These days it seems that children are confined to their rooms playing computer games, or at a supervised activity, and their childhoods are all the sadder for it.
I looked for a free photo of a guy on a bonfire (which unfortunately of course was the guy’s destiny) and could not find even one, nor I do have any photos from that time either. However, all those in the UK who are ‘of a certain age’ like me, will doubtless remember a much loved tradition that has now sadly died out.
Does anybody else remember standing in the street shouting ‘Penny for the guy!’? I assume it was a nationwide event and not just in London?