Monday, August 26, 2013

Kid Games ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

As I sat on my screen porch at dusk this evening trying to come up with a decent idea for this week’s column, I noticed the sky beyond the screen was changing.

Grey-blue clouds began stacking on the horizon like a pile of dirty dungarees.

Then they slowly shifted, and the sky turned rose as the sun sank lower.

I love that time of day, those few moments between daylight and evening when lightning bugs blossom on the humid air like tiny garden lanterns.

Author Carlos Castaneda called it a magical time. I have to agree.

I was lost in thought when I heard my great nephew Jordan out in the front yard.

His Nana had brought him over to chase lightening bugs.

He was running around jumping, laughing and squealing with joy. He was catching the little flickering critters and putting them in a jar that his grandma Debbie held for him.

He’s a very smart 5-year old, and he’s better with computers and electronics than most adults, but he’d rather be playing outside.

Hearing his laughter and watching him play gave me an idea: a column about what kids did
before TV, iPads, electronic games, and computers.

We had a black and white TV when I was growing up, but it would never have occurred to me to sit inside during summer to watch it, no matter what fuzzy images crawled down the outside antennae and into the old RCA Victor.

For one thing, if I was inside my mama would find something for me to do, and nine times out of 10, it involved things I didn’t like doing. “Go clean out under the chicken roost,” was her favorite chore for an idle kid.

So to avoid clamping a clothes pen on my nose and shoveling a half-ton of fresh chicken manure, I made myself scarce. 

My friends and I spent the long summer hours playing games that most kids today have never heard of.

I decided to do some informal research, so I posted a question on my new “Rick Watson columnist” Facebook page: what games did you play as a child. I got a ton of feedback.

It was obvious reading through the comments that many people had similar experiences when they were younger.

Linda Parker Spears said she and her friends slid down hills on cardboard boxes. Mike Sawyer said they played on a Flying Jenny, which is a homemade merry-go-round. 

We spent countless hours spinning on our flying jenny. Everyone who rode that baby a few minutes stumbled off as drunk as Cooter Brown.

John Bender said he and his friends played kick-the-can. Kick the can is basically a game of hide and seek, with home base being three cans stacked one on another. 

The one that’s “IT,” had to find the other players and then race back to touch home base before that person (or any other player) kicked the cans. If the cans got kicked, everyone was free to hide again. 

I loved that game.

Times have changed and technology has made our lives easier, but that’s not always a good thing.

Many of our kids weigh too much. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think they would be better off if they would lose the remote and spend some time chasing lightning bugs.


  1. Oh I soo agree I remember the fire flies we used to have in the fields and they were wonderful to catch and even just to watch at night. Such remarkable creatures.
    We used to sit or lie in the tall beige hay mixed with green grass and the smell was incredible and we'd run through cedar forests on a soft bed of pine needles which formed sort of small hills in between the trees. It was easy to pretend you were Robin Hood living in this forest. we made hiding places out of wood branches we'd find broken on the forest floor, climb trees and hang off tree branches, check out the frogs in the swamps and watch the behavior of squirrels and other creatures we'd find. I always loved thecountry and the lakes and swimming.
    I'd swim and pull my boat across our lake every day in summer with my dog. we were both very strong swimmers and I'd dive down to 30 feet under water with my snorkle . It was here I decided I needed to learn diving. But after I got my Padi certificate I saw people went down to 200 feet and this didn't interest me. I liked the first 20 feet where you would find grasses and fish and rays of sunlight.I could sit there and just enjoy the view.

    Kids miss all these things today sitting with TV and iphones.

  2. I used to love love love skipping rope and hula hooping - especially when the hoop made rattly sounds! Awwwww memories! take care

  3. Dear Rick, I agree that most of us--not just children--don't get enough exercise. I'm walking again--20 minutes a day is all but that's better than nothing--and doing so lifts my spirits and helps me sleep better at night.

    As to games I played as a child, they were simple, but so much fun: hide-and-go-seek; hopscotch, marbles, statues. In that last game, the leader would take each of our hands and twirl us about and then when he stopped we had to assume the statue pose and not move. And if the leader saw us move or twitch then that person was the next leader. That's how I remember it but maybe that's not right.

    We also played "Red Rover! Red Rover!" and baseball. Lots of baseball.

    And we used our imagination and played war (this was during World War II). We played Hitler and the Nazi and we marched on Poland and tried to invade England and the other side were the Allies and they invaded Europe and repulsed the Germans.

    One of my playmates had long floppy black hair and we always chose him to play Hitler with his hair hanging over his forehead. He'd hold his left index finger over his lip like a mustache and "Heil" us! What fun we had winning that war! Peace.

  4. "Duck Duck Goose" was my favorite. Of course my brothers did not care for it so I had to wait for my cousins ( sisters) to visit us to play. Sometimes we played that game in school during recess. Oh those days !

  5. Red rover, red rover, send Janie right over.


  6. I totally agree, we had so much imagination... our children need to have ideas given to them... we played for hours on end on our own :)

  7. We also had a black and white tv and only 3 stations. Only Grandma would watch it in the daytime..she would say "I'm watching my program".."Days Of Our Lives"! We rode bikes, jumped rope, made forts, climbed trees, swam, and a fav game always played at dusk (don't ask me why) was "Statue Maker". A fun game that I think we made up. I remember my parents sitting on the porch watching us, chatting with neighbors and just enjoying the evening.


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