School Playground Games Of My Youth
Last week as I was perusing some old columns looking for something to post this week, I came across this one. A few years ago I had been in Idaho Falls doing some research on Tautphaush Park for a piece I was writing for Idaho Magazine. As I wandered around the park, I noted several baseball diamonds. Seeing the youngsters out there playing baseball reminded me of my youth and the baseball games we used to play at recess time at school. In my school days, baseball in our neck of the woods wasn’t a regular league sport, so our baseball playing was limited to recess. We would choose up sides and start a game at morning recess, which would continue through noon recess and on into the last recess of the day. We kept a running score throughout the day, and the winner was declared at the end of the final recess. Sometimes, if there were enough players who were not riding the bus, the game might continue for a while after school.
I hope you’ll forgive me for sounding like a braggart, but I soon got tagged with the moniker “Baby Ruth,” because most of the time I was at bat I managed to hit deep into the backfield, which usually resulted in a home run. Because most of my hits were high fly balls, my reputation as home run king could easily have been thwarted if the outfielders would only have moved back a little farther into the backfield; but for some reason, they liked to play closer in. So, who was I to encourage them to move farther out and ruin my home run average.
As I was thinking about these baseball games, my mind wandered back even further to the playground games we played as a diversion from baseball. How many of you reading this column today remember Pom Pom Pullaway, Fox and Geese, Red Rover-Red Rover, send “Billy” (or whoever) right over, just to name a few. Then there was a game called snap the whip, which the older boys played. Even when I got older, I never participated in that one much. As I remember, it got pretty rough for the guys out on the end of the whip.
In the winter- time, when we boys tired of playing Fox and Geese with the girls, we would build snow forts, choose up sides and engage in snowball battles. This sport had many variations for determining victors. The one we used was when a person got hit with a snowball, he was taken prisoner, and put out of play. When a team was reduced to zero players, the game was over and the opposing team claimed victory. These battles often carried on through all the recesses, just like the baseball games.
The school grounds in Grace where I spent the first seven grades also had a low spot. The school custodian would flood this spot, which made a nice rink for ice-skating. As I remember, we boys would try to cook up a hockey game, but the girls soon put the kybosh on that. They didn’t necessarily like to play hockey, and they didn’t cotton to us boys tying up the skating pond to play hockey, either, which deprived them of the opportunity to skate.
As I remember it, also, one end of the ice pond was reserved for a running slippery slide, and the girls would join us boys in seeing how far we could slide on the ice. We would put a mark down, at which point we were to begin our slide. We would back up, get a running start, and at the mark, start our slide to see how far we could go. Some of the girls were pretty good at this, many times out sliding the boys.
I wonder how many of these games of yesteryear are still played on the school grounds by the youngsters today, or if they have been replaced by other forms of play.
For more memories of the 1940s, you might enjoy reading my book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. You can obtain a free copy by clicking the “free download” button at upper right of this page.