Games We Played

July 10th, 2009

I spend a great deal of time reliving my youth. Mostly wishing I could go back. Sure, there were things I’d change if offered the opportunity. One thing’s for sure, I’d have damn sure stashed back more money and in safer places. 

Marbles; it was marbles that got me thinking about bygone days. The marble games on the west coast and in the south were pretty much the same.

I wasn’t just good, I was very good — but my brother Lowell was awesome. He could clean out a marble circle like Minnesota Fats could clear a pool table. Right thumb nail had a hole it from wear caused by shooting marbles. Got to where no one wanted to play against him. The other kids nicknamed little brother “The Hook” because of his right index finger, which had been injured and healed crooked.

Marbles is an innocent game that teaches fair play, diligence, and interaction with your peers. The game gets you outdoors and maybe a scraped knee, but that’s all part of growing up.

Horseshoes, simple and pretty straightforward but a serious and hotly contested game in adult circles. Good game for kids to learn. Good exercise for body and mind. I couldn’t believe it first time I laid eyes on a set of horse shoes made just for the game and not for a horse, too.

Jump rope, an old standard dating back to…when? Good, honest exercise. Thought of as a girl’s activity, rope jumping was popular with boys as well. Good way to meet girls if you had a mind to. 

Softball and hardball. Old standards dating back over one hundred years. Both are based on the American sport of baseball. Just like the others I’ve listed, a minimum of equipment is needed to play. I’m mentioning this fact because none of the elementary schools I attended had any playground stuff other than maybe a foam rubber ball and jump rope. 

Have you ever tried the old “Hoop and Stick” from way long ago? A simple, curse-provoking devil’s invention that can make you crazy just getting it to do what you want. It’s as the name implies — just a metal hoop off an old wooden barrel as well as a wooden stave or slat from the same barrel. All you got to do is use the stave to roll the hoop in a straight line in front of yourself as you are running down the sidewalk or roadway. Wooden barrels are pretty rare, so parts for this toy are hard to find. I never mastered the wicked thing, but alas, my kid brother could make the hoop come alive. 

Twilight hide-and-seek was a summer thing. Kids could run and play until well after dark. Lots of running and yelling on Friday because the upcoming weekend meant you could sleep in on Saturday. Little kids, big kids, boys and girls, everyone could take part. Fireflies, honeysuckles, and freshly cut grass smells. It was great. 

Volleyball, tennis, and badminton are all good for your reflexes. None require batteries or hard drives. Lots of these games require you to be the source of memory and do the math in your head. Believe it or not, nature gave you a computer built just for you. 

Kick the can was about as simple and straightforward as you can get. Sort of a mix of hockey and soccer minus a lot of extra gear. I’ve played it for hours on end. Best you play on grass, else you get lots of scrapes and cuts.

Cowboys and Indians was kind of the grandfather of modern day paintball. Lots of fun minus the mess.

In fact, there isn’t any real need for all the electronic games we have today. Kids have found ways to entertain themselves for thousands of years without a single AA or AAA battery.

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3 Responses to “Games We Played”

  1. Harvey |


    Got me thinking about summer vacations when I was a kid — baseball games were the big thing EVERY DAY. I was the little brother to my big bro Steve — 3 years separated us but at that age he was, in my eyes, a “big kid” and a GREAT brother. He had the friends and I was always the tag along and I must say that he always made sure I got involved in the games or whatever. He always was, and is to this day, my best friend.

    The one thing that always sticks in my mind about those summer days was a picture of “our gang” that I found after my mother died. I was surprised to see that I was a really chubby kid. Why surprised, because I didn’t realize I was overweight — not once did anyone call me “fatty” or anything like that — I’m not sure but maybe I can thank my brother for that too!

  2. Larry |

    Speaking from my own experience, big brothers love little brothers about better than anything. Even though I now have my own family, Lowell still has a special place in my heart. By the way, I was the chubby one in our family.
    As time takes us into the big city life of the brothers Ennis you’ll see that we lived a lot of our life pretty much like you and your brother. I remember summer vacations very well but winter wasn’t so bad either. Cold snowy nights on snow sleds, riding on dark deserted residential streets. Aw yes, life was good!!

  3. Tom |

    I remember pretty much the same kind of life as a kid, including all the games. I tried the “hoop and stick” thing a couple of times, as I remember, and found it totally unmanageable. I have to say, though, on jumping rope that where I grew up it was strictly a girl thing. A guy who did it was subject to ricidule, to say the least.

    Children today are much worse off for the lack of freedom, time spent outdoors, and socialization with peers that characterized kids’ lives not so long ago.

    When I was a kid, being indoors wasn’t such a good thing. There was the grainy black-and-white TV to watch, but that was mostly later at night. Otherwise, you were subject to job assignments from your mother or, even worse, boredom. Even reading was better done outside, sometimes up in a tree where everyone would leave you alone.

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