2014-02-21 / Senior Savvy

The Games People Play

By Florence Archambault

When you get to be my age and have as many children, grandchildren and greats as I do, you see how the games kids play have changed through the years. Recollecting the games I enjoyed as a kid in an industrial city north of Boston, many time-honored favorites come to mind. Of course, we played tag and hide-and-go-seek, as did most kids from the 30s and the 40s. Our house backed up to a short deadend street, and across that street, directly behind our house, was a vacant lot that a neighbor flooded every winter so neighborhood children could have a place to ice skate (six of the kids were his). We played crack-the-whip all over our “pond.” Skaters would form a straight line and hold hands, and then we would all skate round and round in a circle. Nowadays, in retrospect, I think it was probably a little dangerous for the last kid in the line if they lost their grip, but there were plenty of times that we all collapsed on the ice when the lead skater went down.

Florence Archambault, of Newport, is 83 years young and well-known for her community volunteerism and teaching and writing family history. Florence Archambault, of Newport, is 83 years young and well-known for her community volunteerism and teaching and writing family history. Our sidewalks were covered with chalked hopscotch grilles, and we loved to jump across the squares to retrieve our stones. This was a favorite pastime among the girls, as was jump rope. I wish I could remember some of those catchy rhymes we sang out as we jumped. Who can forget the exhilaration of jumping when the rope went faster and faster – we felt like we were on fire!

Another favorite of mine was jacks. I taught my girls to play when they were younger and I had a good time taking part then, too. I can remember watching the boys vie for baseball cards, flipping them against the side of the house. The one whose card was closest to the wall got to keep them all. That was how they used to “collect” cards.

At the end of my street, there was a wide expanse of hard top where we rollerskated. Many of the families living in our area did not have cars and there was less danger from vehicular traffic than there is today. Remember those skates that we had to fasten onto our shoes with a skate key?

Indoor games were just as exciting. The whole family would play a game called Easy Money, a board game that was similar to Monopoly. Many a happy time was spent around the dining room table trying to amass a fortune and win the game. We also loved Chinese checkers, pickup sticks, and Old Maid.

On rainy days my mother would don her raincoat and rubbers, take an umbrella, and journey up to the corner drug store, three houses away. She would purchase an assortment of penny candy, and she and my grandfather would spend the afternoon playing Bingo with us around that dining room table. Prizes would be the pieces of candy, and when we were finished my grandfather would divide most of his winnings between us three kids.

Another indoor activity my mother came up with was playing store. She would open her canned goods at the bottom, wash them out, and save them, along with any empty boxes, for our “store.” She made a counter for us by setting one of the leaves from the table across two chairs in the bay window of the dining room. We had a toy cash register and play money, and we would play store by the hour. It was loads of fun and helped us with our arithmetic as we learned to make change. Each of us took turns playing the storekeeper and the customers.

We also did a good many jigsaw puzzles. Someone would always try to palm a piece of the puzzle until it was almost finished, wanting the dubious distinction of putting in the last piece.

These are just some of the games that I can remember. I’m sure that those of you who grew up in Newport and elsewhere fondly recall many others. Things seemed a lot simpler in those days, and meals weren’t the only activities occurring around that big round dining room table.

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