When I was a kid back in the early sixties knives were an accepted part of life. Every boy scout had a big knife in a scabbard on his belt – ostensibly for whittling wood. We also had Swiss folding multipurpose knives with lots of blades, a little saw a bottle opener and a tool for getting stones out of horses hooves – though nobody had ever done that.
We used to take our knives into school and nobody blinked an eyelid. We’d play splits on the school field (that involved throwing you knife next to someone’s feet, within a foot of their foot, so that they had to move their foot to it. Gradually you did the splits until one of you fell over or could no longer stretch to reach it). We would have target practice with throwing knives against trees. Throwing knives from Spain were all the rage for a term or two. When I was thirteen we went across to France and everyone bought these huge flick-knives with stiletto blades. They were illegal in the UK but we all had one and would play about flicking them open.
I don’t remember any of my friends actually thinking of using a knife to threaten anyone with. They were playthings. Though we did get the odd injury with someone getting a knife stuck in their foot! But all in good fun.
We all knew that knives were used in the gangs of Teddy Boys who roamed the town. They were supposed to use cut-throat razors and bike chains too and have really nasty fights. I actually saw a knife fight outside the venue of the first band I went to see (the Birds in 1964). Two Teds were circling each other and slashing out with knives while a baying crowd egged them on – girls shrieking and urging them on and other Teds jeering. I don’t remember it actually developing into anything where anyone got stabbed though.
I certainly never felt threatened. The knives we played with were somehow not weapons to us. They were either playthings or for show.
It seems different now. They are weapons and they are used to threaten, wound and kill.