Why Did The Squirrel Cross The Road?

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By Helen Morgan

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First Published 3/3/2022
Last Updated 3/3/2022

 

To help under 5s cross the road safely. This was The Tufty Club.

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Fig. 1 Tufty Club Badge 
© RoSPA
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Fig. 2 Tufty Club on TV
© RoSPA
Click On Image To Watch TV clips of Tufty (Youtube)
Click Here to See an explanatory
Tufty 1962 Newsreel (Youtube)

 

Adults of a certain age will surely remember with fondness the stories, short films and merchandise that surrounded a character called Tufty Fluffytail. Along with his friends, he helped children to realise just how dangerous crossing or playing in the road could be.

The
Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) introduced preschoolers and their parents to Tufty in 1953. By 1961 The Tufty Club had nearly 25,000 local groups nationwide. Parents enrolled their children who then received their Tufty badge, a treasured possession. By 1962 ROSPA reported a significant reduction in the number of child fatalities on our roads. The message was obviously getting through.

To reach even more children, the
Government Central Office of Information took a step further by commissioning six short films from the company who had created Camberwick Green and Trumpton.  They used the mellow voice of Bernard Cribbins to narrate them, but these were hard-hitting messages being delivered to small children. Who could ever forget the trauma of seeing “naughty” Willy Weasel being knocked down?! Or the vision of a flattened football or squashed ice cream!!

By the 1970s it was estimated that 2 million children had enrolled         .  

 

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Fig. 3 Tufty's Kerb Drill c 1970
© RoSPA
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In Heald Green, our very first Tufty Club was held at St. Catherine’s Church Hall on June 27th 1964. By all accounts it was very well attended and would become a permanent fixture on the last Saturday of the month from 10.30am-12.30pm. Incredibly the organiser, described in the Contact Magazine as “ a very capable young lady” was a 14 year old called Miss Gillian O’Hagan who lived on Lea Road. She was “ably assisted” by 5 helpers: her sister Ruth, Yvonne Holmes, Janet Rands, Janet Holloway and Sheila Gaunt. It would be wonderful if any of these ladies still lived in the village.  In this day and age of safeguarding protocols, it's unlikely running a club this way would be permitted today.

At their disposal was equipment such as large polystyrene animal figures, miniature road signs and zebra crossings. An appeal was put out for a pedal car and tricycle to aid the girls as they demonstrated road safety. Mothers could enrol their children at the hall for 2/6d and the child would then receive a book and their Tufty Club lapel badge. The whole club was sponsored by the
Urban District Council’s Road Safety Committee   .

 

By September 1965 it was time for Gillian to move on and thanks were given for her interest, imagination and effort to promote safety on our roads. The call was put out for her successor. It was hoped that at the next meeting, on September 25th,  someone would step forward to speak to the Road Safety Officer, Mr. S G Deacon, who would be attending   .

Mrs. Hohne of
St. Ann’s Road, came forward and took over the running of the club. It was obviously proving very popular as the venue had changed to the larger Public Hall and was now meeting twice a month on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays. The timing had changed also and was now 1.45pm - 2.45pm, enabling mothers to still do the school run and collect their other children. Mums with children under five could stay for tea and biscuits or leave and return   .

 

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Fig. 4 The first Tufty Club Book 
© RoSPA
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“Who remembers The Tufty Club...at St Catherine’s Church? I loved my Tufty Club hanky."
- Pamela Knowles, 2021

“I only ever went once. Was so excited. Got there and it was shut for school holidays. My mum was so cross she refused to take me again."
- Po Hutton, 2021

“We went to Tufty Club in the Public Hall!"
- Sue Mallinson & Irene Jagla, 2021

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Fig. 5 The first Tufty Club Book 
© RoSPA
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During 1967 it was noted that although the membership was not stable, with children moving on to school or leaving the area, the numbers remained constant at around 30. Games, songs and activities continued to be the way to teach small children about road safety. Patricia Holme and Valerie Melten were in charge in March   . 

Sadly, due to illness, Mrs. Hohne disbanded the club in September, imploring anyone with an interest to speak to the Road Safety Officer, Mr. Deacon   .

By June 1968 the club was now being run by Mrs. Clarkson of Rose Vale. It was still at the
Public Hall, but was now only once a month on the second Thursday afternoon, from 2pm-3pm. At this time she had “as many children as she can manage at the moment” and a plea went out for parental help. This was a familiar theme with many clubs within our village. To help more children to learn basic road safety before going to school, Mrs. Clarkson needed help   .

 

Mrs. Clarkson soldiered on and continued to appeal for helpers in Spring 1969. A coffee morning had been held and the profits were being used to buy records and educational aids to continue helping with promoting child safety on the roads. The children had given a demonstration of their knowledge to their mums. Both Tufty merchandise and lingerie could be bought at the fundraiser!!   .

In September 1969 the club resumed its hourly class, still under the guidance of Audrey Clarkson. Its most longstanding members had now left for school and Tufty wished them “very happy school days.” Spaces were again available for 3-5 year olds     .


By the end of 1969 and following on from a Society Evening at the Public Hall, new members had been found. Audrey was clearly not happy at what she called “quite severe criticism in the Press concerning the methods of teaching road safety to children” through the Tufty Club method. She was keen to mention that there were now 4000 clubs across the country. She asked for parents' comments on whether the club was “out of date” and now needed a more “straight approach”. She was keen to debate the topic    .

Time moved on and by the Autumn of 1973, Mrs D Reilly of Westwood Road had taken over the running of the club. It was still at the Public Hall for an hour on the 2nd Thursday of the month. “A child’s safety on our busy roads is very much dependent on good training,” she said. ”Please make every effort, IT IS IMPORTANT”     .

In 1975 Mrs Reilly asked for a new leader to take over and to contact Mr Deacon, Public Road Safety Officer working at Abney Hall in Cheadle.  She described the roads as now having “heavy traffic”     .

After that I can find no other mention of the club in the Contact Magazines, so can only assume no other organiser could be found. Perhaps the idea of a talking squirrel was now seen as old fashioned and dated? RoSPA revamped their figurehead in 1979 and 1993 with more up-to-date graphics. However, all good things come to an end. Today, Tufty memorabilia is still highly sought after and collectible. Have a look in your loft!
 

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Fig. 6 Tufty and the Green Cross Code
© RoSPA
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