Games of the Past ...
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wall ball game played by the girls) || Mother,
May I? || Red Light, Green Light
Conkers (Chestnuts): (played
c1957, as recalled by Dan Delong)
the Fall, while walking to school, horse chestnuts could be found
on the ground in many locations. We gathered perfect chestnuts,
drilled a hole through each, then drove a piece of butcher string
through the hole with a nail, and tied many knots below the chestnut
so that it would not fall off.
During breaks at school we would challenge each
other to a game of Conkers. One player (the defender or receiver)
suspended his chestnut and allowed the other player (the attacker
or hitter) to take a high speed swing at it with his chestnut.
As shown in the drawing, this action required two hands - one
to restrain the chestnut until ready to fire, and the other to
propel the chestnut by yanking the string. If you conked (hit)
the other guy's chestnut, then you kept on hitting, until
you lost your status as the "hitter" by missing. Play continued
until one chestnut cracked and was completely knocked off the
string. The winner could then tie a knot in his string to signify
It was considered sportsmanlike to always let
the player with the fewest knots (wins) take the first shot.
Equals could decide who hit first with a coin toss or a card
flip. Could you cheat at this game? Yes, in several ways. Although
some did not consider this to be a "cheat", you could harden
your chestnut in an oven, and be willing to say you
hadn't done so. (Hardening
in an oven caused the outer skin of the chestnut to loose its
shine, but so did leaving the chestnut out of its shell for a
few days. So, how could you really tell if the nut was cooked?)
the defender held his chestnut on a very short string, which
seemed to take some force out of the impact, that too was considered
to be cheating. In such cases, with fingers so close to the
chestnut, the defender could easily be struck on the hand by
a poorly aimed shot. If you hung the chestnut on a very long
string, or caused a slight movement at the moment of impact,
and the other guys caught you doing this, then you had to
give the attacker another swing.
According the Murray Pattersons's book, "The
Golden Days of Yesteryear" (published 1998), in which he describes
growing up in the North End of Peterborough during the 30s and
40s, he played the game too, and he learned that Europeans also
played it before his time.
Over the intervening years, a disease seems to
have attacked most of the old chestnut trees. However, in our
time, the school yard squirrels must have enjoyed all of these
broken chestnut pieces, after we left for home.
For the complete
story about Conkers, visit http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/conkers.html
|Request for more game rules and play experiences.
Who wants to follow
up with mention of other games? Send your recollections
to Dan Delong.
Our games included sports cards, marbles
(in Spring mud), and yo-yos. A popular recess baseball game
was called "move-ups".
The girls played Hopscotch, Red Rover, skipping,
hoola hooping, and ball bounce chanting (one game had the
ball placed in a stocking).
At home, after supper, we played Kick the
Can and Red Light Green Light. In Winter, it was street hockey,
free out door rink hockey, and sledding (Nicolls Park and
Armour Hill); in Spring, soccer and baseball.
|from My Town - My Memories by
Clare Galvin, Prudence Felicity
Publishing Inc. Ennismore,
||p.163 We played games: miggles, alleys, jack-knife, softball
in the Albion Field (sometimes my brother would lend me his
glove), run-sheep-run, potsy, kick-the-can, statues, hide-and-seek,
chestnuts and battling tops. We built snow forts and had
countless snowball fights. And last, but certainly not least,
we played cowboys and Native people.
Girls, who were never good at anything, had their own games.
They played jacks, May I?, tag, singing buttons (on a string),
I Spy, hop scotch on the sidewalk squares as they repeated "Step
on a crack and you'll break your mother's back".
They also threw a sponge ball against a wall, caught it or
tried to as they went through a silly ritual, singing standard
lyrics like a Gregorian chant: "Ordinary, moving, laughing,
talking, this hand, the other hand, this foot, the other
foot, front clap, back clap, front-and-back, back-and-front,
tweedle, twydle, curtsy, salute the flag, bow to the king
- and roundabout." I believe this exercise gave birth
to the expression: "Off the wall."
Girls skipped incessantly, single rope or double Dutch, while
they chanted things like "Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor,
rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief." When someone
missed the rope, the name being called at the time they faultered
indicated whom they would marry. They also chanted: "One,
two, buckle your shoe - three, four, shut the door." And "Mabel,
Mabel, set the table." Or "See-saw, Marjorie Dam." This
is what girls did. Strange creatures. Hardly enough to keep
the mind alive!
& Ball Game - Sevenses
player tries to accomplish a set series of bouncing skills
without a hitch. Any interruption causes the player to
start again from the beginning. Start with:
against the wall and catching in both hands
of the ball and catching with one hand
of the ball but let it bounce once on the ground
of the ball under your leg and against the wall and catching
of the ball, but clap your hands once, then catch
of the ball, but turn around, and let the ball bounce
once before catching
of the ball, but let it bounce, then bounce it again
with the palm of your hand, then scoop it up with the
palm of your hand against the wall, then catch
|Mother, May I?
"Johnny, you may take three baby steps,"
Johnny takes his three, heel-to-toe,
Mother yells, "Hah, Hah! You have to go
back to the line because you didn't say, 'Mother, may I?'".
Mother/Father has been standing with her/his
back against a wall, while facing and calling to each of
her 'children' with instructions like: "Sally, you may take
two giant steps." If any child gets close enough to tag Mother/Father
when she/he is not looking (able to protest), then that child
becomes the new Mother/Father. The children will try to sneak
in extra steps. If caught, they must return to the line,
or to the other side of the room (if played indoors).
Steps are: Baby - heel-and-toe, Regular -
normal, Umbrella - normal walk with a turn, Giant - biggest
Mother/Father may request backward or forward
steps. The children are safe as long as they say, "Mother,
may I?" before moving, and they do not get caught while sneaking
|Red Light Green Light
||The "Policeman" stands facing the other players, who stand
behind a distant line, or at the other side of the room.
When the Policeman turns around, and when he says, "Green
light," the players quickly move closer. As soon as the
Policman shouts "Red light!", he turns around in an attemtp
to catch anyone who is still moving. When caught, the player
must leave the game or return to the starting line. Whoever
gets close enough to tag the Policeman before he shouts,
"Red light!", becomes the next Policeman. Of course, the
Policeman might trick players by whirling around before saying,
"Green light" just to see if anyone is moving before the
official signal is given.