The innocent schoolyard games of yesteryear

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

WHO NEEDS AN IPOD? These youngsters didn’t have to worry about traffic while they played marbles on Main Street in 1901

Ask a kid today about his favorite game and he’ll likely give you the name of a video game. Hide and seek, hop scotch, jacks, jump rope, baseball, marbles and kick the can are no longer in vogue.

Years back, jump ropes, jacks and marbles appeared with spring’s sunny days. After having abandoned them during the cold, wet months, we’d untangle grubby jump ropes, count marbles and jacks and replace the cords on their drawstring bags.

Taking this equipment to school was as important as remembering our lunches and homework. Teachers insisted that we stash jump ropes in the cloak room and bury marbles and jacks in our desks until recess, but we couldn’t resist cautiously lifting the lids of our desks to sneak a peek during class.

Sheltered by the child sitting ahead of us on the pull down seat attached to the front of our desk, we were rarely caught if we pulled out a couple of marbles or jacks. But if the teacher spied them, the penalty was to put the entire bag on her desk for the rest of the day.

Boys played marbles on the playground during recess or on any smooth patch of dirt after school. They’d prepare for the game by drawing a rough circle with stick. After deciding how many marbles each player would ante, they’d toss them into the ring and take turns shooting from outside the ring.

Flicking their shooter marble from between thumb and forefinger, they’d aim to knock a marble out of the ring. If they did so, they’d shoot again from where their shooter stopped. When they failed to knock a marble outside the ring, the next player was up. In some games the shooter claimed each marble he knocked out.

While the boys played marbles, the girls crowded onto any available concrete surface to play jacks. The basic game started by tossing out ten jacks. The first player would bounce the small ball and use the same hand to pick up a jack or jacks, catch the ball and put the jack or jacks in the other hand or in a pile . Starting with “onesies,“ the game advanced to “tensies,” picking up all ten jacks in a grand sweep, then reversed its way back to “onesies.” Your turn lasted until you missed the ball, moved or dropped a jack . Then the next girl took over.

Jumping rope was a group sport with a long rope and a turner on each end. Jumpers would line up to run in as soon as the person jumping faltered.

Those waiting as well as the jumper chanted a verse to set the pace and action. When it was your turn to jump, you would shout out the name of your favorite verse, such as Red Hot Peppers or Teddy Bear, as you ran into the rope.

Today’s kids don’t know what they’re missing.



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