The Games We Played

Jane Clark

When we talk about the games we played as children it will no doubt reveal our age because many of those games haven't been popular for years. In the late 1940's I attended a one-room schoolhouse in Crawford County, Indiana, where we took part in several games at recess. Annie Over, Blind Man's Bluff, Red Rover, and The Whip are the most memorable.  

The woodshed next to the schoolhouse was the center for playing Annie Over.  Teams stood on each side of the building taking turns throwing a large rubber ball over the roof and calling "Annie Over." Whoever caught the ball got to throw it back to the other side.  

Blind Man's Bluff was played with everyone in a circle while one player stood in the center wearing a blindfold. That person would reach out and try to tag someone else who then took a turn at being “It.”

In the game Red Rover there were two teams lined up with everyone holding hands tightly and facing the opposing team. The first team would call out "Red Rover, Red Rover, won't you send someone over." One teammate would run fast and try to break through the line of the opposing team. If they succeeded they would capture one of the other team's players. If not, that player had to join the opposing team. Each team continued taking turns until one side had captured the most players, or until recess was over.

The Whip was not for the faint at heart. All the players would hold hands with one of the strongest students starting the circular running of the group. As the group spun faster and faster, the one on the end of the line would always feel the momentum the most and would either fall down or lose hold and be eliminated. The play continued until almost everyone was eliminated.

Another group activity that I was very good at was jumping rope. Two rope turners were appointed, and we played one of two games. “School” was played with everyone running through jumping once, then twice, then three times and so on until we jumped through 12th grade and "graduated." “Red Hots” was a competition to see who could jump the fastest. I was the fastest on many occasions with the rope turners tiring out before I missed a jump. 

Other games we played outside of school included Lemonade, Statue, Red Light, Green Light, I Spy, Mother May I? and Rock School. Some of these games I have passed on to my kids and now to my grandkids. 

Now that my grandsons are getting older, they are avid players of video and computer games and enjoy satellite T.V. and DVD movies, but my daughter wisely limits their overall use. She makes sure they spend ample time outdoors so they can rely on their own ingenuity to entertain themselves and their friends. As they grow into teenagers and beyond, I hope they will always remember when Nanny played the old-fashioned games with them.  Mother May I and Lemonade were two of their favorites.

In the game Mother May I, the players line up side by side at the starting line.  Then "Mother" tells them in turn to take various size steps (giant step, baby step, scissors step and banana split step). If they forget to say "Mother May I" they could not proceed. The ones who remember to say "May I" proceeded, and the first one to the finish line is the winner.

Lemonade is a creative game where each player takes turns acting out an activity, person or animal giving only the initials as a clue. The play begins with the phrase "Here I am to do my work."  The group responds "What's your trade?"  The reply of the player is "Lemonade."  The group reply is "Sign your initials and get to work."  They might give the initials of an occupation, a sporting event, or some kind of animal, etc, and then act out the part. It is amazing how inventive the kids can be while playing this game.

The games we played when I was a kid may seem old-fashioned, but most kids today would enjoy them if given the chance. They will never replace the games of the electronic age, but who knows, when the electric power goes out they might be happy to have something different to do!

Jane Clark has been a member of Writers Bloc for fourteen years and is Co-director of the group that meets twice a month at the Salem Public Library. She writes poetry, essays, memoirs and fiction. Her first novel True Allegiance is available on Amazon and Books A Million.


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