Memory of the Day: Games People Play

So, I’m driving home from the gym today and for some reason I began remembering the different games we used to play as kids. First let me be clear about where I lived. As I have written and told before, I grew up in a farming community in West Carroll Parish, Louisiana. I spent lots of hours playing and working on my grandparents’ farm and the farms of my two uncles that lived in the vicinity. Full disclosure though, I was a town kid. We lived with my grandparents when we came back to Oak Grove from chiropractic school in Chicago in about 1951. As soon as we could though we rented a house in town. We lived in two rental houses before we bought the house on Briggs and North Streets in Oak Grove when I was about 11 years old. Well, I seem to have wandered off the subject, but my point is that I have no idea whether the games we played in town were the same games many of you played out in the more rural areas.

I will probably forget some of our games, but here is a list of a few I remember. I’ll elaborate a little on each: pickup baseball and football games were common, Wiffle Ball, riding bicycles, kick-the-can, hide-and-seek, cowboy hide-and-seek, Army, red light/green light, Simon says, mother-may-I, capture-the-flag,

Pickup baseball and football games are pretty self explanatory. I’ve mentioned before that we played a lot in the vacant lot behind the First Baptist Church, but we also played baseball and Wiffle Ball on the grounds of Wactor’s Gin. I remember playing a game of home-run-derby at the gym with Eric Yearby. I was pitching to him and he was pounding the ball deep on every pitch. There happened to be an old tomato nearby (not at all sure why that is) and I picked it up and pitched it to him. He really laid into it and made a great tomato sauce with one swing. If I recall, that ended the game because I was running for my life from him. Home Run Derby was also a great Wiffle Ball pastime in the side yard of our home on Briggs and North Streets. We would play for hours with Dennis Sanford, Eric Yearby and probably others that I don’t recall. We had no wall to hit the plastic ball over, but we had a line that you had to reach in the air to be called a home run. As long as you were hitting home runs you stayed at bat and each home run was one point. Each time you failed to reach the line it was an out, 3 outs and you were done. We played this game a lot.

Riding bikes was a constant for us. We would ride all day sometimes. We would ride rain or shine. Sometimes we made up games to play on our bikes. One of these was cowboy hide-and-seek. This game had the same basic rules as hide-and-seek, but we were all mounted and armed. A lot of our games included pretend shooting and we were all well armed. The idea behind cowboy hide and seek was this. We set up boundaries to limit how far you could go to hide and you had to dismount and hide somewhere while “It” counted to 100.  “It” was sort of the lawman chasing a band of outlaws. When he spotted one, he would draw his sixshooter (cap pistol) and shoot the culprit who had to go back to base to wait on the others to get caught. The first one caught would be “It” the next time.

Another game we played was Army. I’ve already mentioned we were pretty well armed. I remember having a black water gun shaped like a Thompson sub-machine gun. I liked to carry that and, of course, my cap pistols. We were always infantry and always an infantry squad. The highest rank in our games was sergeant. We would divide into teams and conduct operations against each other. We would use most of the eastern part of town for our war-games. Funny that my brother Wayne and I both grew up to become officers in the US Army. He graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) and I was commissioned through the ROTC program at Northeast Louisiana State College)

Kick-the-can was similar to hide-and-seek except that someone could free the prisoners. Base was where “It” would do the usual count to 100. There was also an old can there. “It” would collect the hiders by finding them and escorting them to base to be held in prison until the last was found. At some point one brave hider would make a break for base and kick the can as far as he/she could and all the prisoners would escape. As you might expect, this could be a particularly frustrating game if you were “It” and it could go on for a really long time.

One of the games we played at nearly every Boy Scout meeting was capture-the-flag.  In this game there were two equal teams. Each had an object that was the team flag (not always a real flag). The object was to capture the other team’s flag and bring it back to your flag area. Once you got the opponent’s flag back to your area, that team won. This was a really physical game the way we played it. Flag guards could tackle opponents trying to get their flag and you could capture opponents by tackling them and putting them into a holding area. One particularly rough night we had the only injury I recall from this game. Billy Tatum broke his collar bone, or rather his collar bone was broken when he was tackled trying to capture a flag.

Red light/green light, Simon Says, and Mother-May-I were saner games that we would play in our front yard. These were games we could play with our little sister and other friends who may not have held up well to some of our more brutal games. I remember particularly playing with the Soniat sisters when they came up to visit the Coxes up the street. These games were pretty calm and allowed us to have fun with new friends.

Another game our house was particularly well suited to was Escaping Prisoners. Our house had a front porch made from brick and cement with a brick wall around it. We would usually wait until dark to play this game. The prison guard (“It”) would patrol along the sidewalk carefully watching the walls. The prisoners would try to get over the wall and into the shrubs in front of the porch (about a 7 foot drop) without getting caught by the guard. The guard only had to see you and call out your name for you to be caught and you would have to get back in prison. I’m pretty sure the Soniat sisters played this game with us too.

We had other games, often making them up as we went along. Please share any games you enjoyed as a kid if you would like.

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4 thoughts on “Memory of the Day: Games People Play

  1. A couple of games that I engaged in more than Ken included “soldiers”. Me and Jerry Mizell and David Ray Butler had some toy soldiers and we used to dig elaborate trench lines under David Ray’s house and set up our troops–then throw pea gravel at the enemy until they were wiped out. Given the small number of actual toy soldiers we had, we would mostly go down to the lumber yard and buy a nickle bag of nails and use them as our soldiers. We actually used to call this “playing nails”. The three of us also spent a huge amount of time hunting local songbirds with our Daisey pump BB guns. Not sure this would be classified as a game (surely not for the poor birds). I feel pretty guilty about all the sparrows and bluejays etc that we dispatched, but those were different times. Now I just put seed out for them.

    1. You always were a troubled kid. Just kidding! I remember you playing soldiers. I also remember that David Ray’s dad put a bounty on some of the nuisance bird species. Or at least I think I remember that.

  2. War, using wooden weapons that used rubber rings from automobile tire inner tubes.
    Murder in the dark, using same weapons.
    Street hockey, using tree limbs cut with
    a branch at the end for a stick and a tin
    can for the puck.
    Older—War, using B.B. rifles while wearing motorcycle helmets with goggles and dressed
    in three layers of clothing, including an
    overcoat.
    Tackle football, flying kites, digging tunnels for club meetings, tree platforms for same reason. Swimming, fishing contest, Skeet shooting meets. And other activities.

    1. Thanks for the info Saberjet. We also did the bb gun wars when we were older, but were not bright enough to wear protection. It is a miracle we all have our eyes today. My worst injury was coming up on one of the enemy unexpectedly, he got his rifle up and I stuck my thumb over the muzzle. Hurt like the dickens, but didn’t break my skin. Lucky I guess.

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