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Childhood games played at school

Laugh Tracks in the Dust
Milo Yield
Damphewmore Acres, Kan.

During the CV crisis while multi-generational family members are spending more time together, and the adults are seeking ways to keep the kids and grandkids happy and busy, this question has arisen: “How did kids play back in the ‘good ol’ days’ when the parents and grandparents were growing up?

So, I’m going to address that question with actual ways I played back in the 1940s and 1950s, essentially through high school. I have few recollections of play before I started in the first grade at the age of 5 at a one-room schoolhouse — the South Fairview School south of Bronson in Bourbon County, Kan.

The games we played outdoors at recess and at lunch time included:

• Of course, the school had playground equipment that included a merry-go-round, monkey bars, a teeter-totter, a swing set, and two basketball goals on either end of a tiny gravel/dirt court. And, during good weather, many kids rode their bicycles to school. There were around 20 kids in the school in all eight grades.

• “Handy, Handy Over” which consisted of selecting teams and tossing a ball over the schoolhouse roof and, if the ball was cleanly caught by a team member, that person ran to the other side of the school and tried to hit a member of the opposite team, who then became a teammate. The winning team was the one with the most members when recess or the lunch period was over.

• “Hide and Seek” or “Cut the Icebox” were similar games with one student, who was “It,” hiding his/her eyes at a “base” and the rest hiding somewhere on the school-grounds. Students tried to successfully get back to “base” without getting touched by the “It.” A student touched by “It” then became “It” and had to hide his/her eyes for the next game.

• “Blackman/Whiteman:” This game — which would assuredly be banned in the modern politically correct world based upon its name only — consisted of selecting two teams. One team was the “black” team. The other “white” team. A long line made in the dirt on the playground divided the playground into two halves — one side for each team. Then two “bases” were made, each one probably 100 feet behind the midline on both sides and a little kid (like me) was designated by each team as “bait” and made to stand on the opposing team’s base. The object of the game was for some member of your team to successfully run from the midline, around the “bait” and back in an arc to the midline without getting touched by a member of the opposing team. It that happened, then the “bait” was free to join his/her team and another “bait” was named.

• “Drop the Handkerchief” consisted of everyone standing in a big circle. One person was “It” and started the game by running around the outside of the circle and dropping a large handkerchief behind someone in the circle. That person had to pick up the handkerchief, and run around the circle in the opposite direction the try to beat “It” to the blank spot in the circle. If “It” won that race, the person with the handkerchief then started the game again.

• When it snowed, we played “Fox & Geese,” which consisted of stomping three concentric circles in the snow with a “safe home base” circle in the middle. We also stomped several “spokes” in the snow wheel connecting the concentric circles. Some student started the game as the “Fox.” The rest were Geese. The point of the game was for the geese to leave safe “home base” and run around the circles without getting caught by the “Fox.” If a student was caught, he/she became the “Fox” and continued the game.

As an aside, I remember one day as one of the youngest students in school, I got disgusted at always being picked on and usually being the first person to lose in Hide and Seek. So, when it was time for me to hide, I snuck up the road ditch way west of the schoolhouse and buried myself in some tall grass.

Well, no one could find me. I could hear the other kids and the school teacher, Mrs. Martina Street (she was an excellent teacher) hollering my name and for me to “come in free.” After what seemed to me a long time, I finally uncurled from my hidey-hole and went back to the school. That’s when I discovered that Mrs. Street wuz highly agitated at my leaving the school-grounds. I’d held up the start of afternoon classes because everyone was out looking for my little obstinate butt.

In the wintertime, when it wuz too cold for recess or lunch outdoors, we students huddled close to the big Ben Franklin Warm Morning coal-fired stove and played games. One popular game for playing on the floor was “Jacks.” There were stages of complicated maneuvers in playing Jacks and the older kids were pretty skillful.

We also played “Fiddle Sticks” in which you carefully dropped a hand-full of “Fiddle Sticks,” colored wooden sticks about 8-inches long with pointed ends. The object was to pick up all the Fiddle Sticks you could without moving another one. We kept score because different colored sticks had different numerical values.

Card games were common. The ones I remember playing were Old Maid, Authors, Rummy, Concentration and Hearts. Some older students played Canasta.

Next week, I’ll try to recall creative non-school play that could only happen on a farm.

•••

This week I’m gonna close with some wise adult truths: Nothing is worse than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.

I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t at least kind-of tired.

I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

Bad decisions make good stories.

Have a good ‘un. ❖


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