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Sevenses (a wall ball game played by the girls) || Mother, May I? || Red Light, Green Light

Conkers (Chestnuts): (played c1957, as recalled by Dan Delong)

During 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 a win.

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?)

If 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

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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, Ontario, 1993 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!
Wall & Ball Game - Sevenses

The 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:

7 throws against the wall and catching in both hands

6 throws of the ball and catching with one hand

5 throws of the ball but let it bounce once on the ground

4 throws of the ball under your leg and against the wall and catching it

3 throws of the ball, but clap your hands once, then catch

2 throws of the ball, but turn around, and let the ball bounce once before catching

One throw 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," says Mother.

Johnny takes his three, heel-to-toe, baby steps.

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 step

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 steps.

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.







©2004 Armour Heights Public School Reunion