Thursday, August 24, 2006
Games people play
I really had a happy childhood growing up on College Avenue here in Holly Springs. Games were a great part of my life. My neighborhood friends and I had a wonderful time playing in the street at night, not in the daytime. It was during the Great Depression; there weren’t many cars, particularly at night and the streetlight was bright. We would play “Kick the Can’ and “Hide and Seek.” It turned out to be a dangerous game though.
Mrs. Gibbons, a genteel, lovely, older lady, lived next door to the Newsoms in an antebellum house that’s gone now. She lived alone and we were not respecters of boundaries and our playing stretched out of the street over into Mrs. Gibbons’ yard.
When one of us hid under Mrs. Gibbons’ window, it scared her to death and she got her .45 pistol, that she had to hold with two hands and pointing it out the window, hollered at the intruders in her yard that she would shoot. It would have been terrible to have been shot by Mrs. Gibbons.
Today, although I am not old, I am that old lady’s age and I don’t want intruders in my yard either and I might do the same thing.
We used to play “King of the Hill” on the bluffs in Strickland’s pasture (the same one Cora played in last week in this column.) Inside games were popular with us, too. My parents never played anything except dominoes and I love dominoes to this day. Somewhere I discovered the card game “Flinch” and I asked my mother to buy me some cards. One twilight there was a knock at the front door and Christine, my sister, went to the door. There stood a delivery boy from the drug store and he was delivering “Flinch” cards that my mother had ordered.
Christine couldn’t believe our mother was ordering cards from the store. My mother never ordered from the store and never bought a deck of cards before. After that, I had “Flinch” parties in my living room for my friends and me. Also, when the new game “Monopoly” was invented, that was more fun, wanting to buy Broadway and Park Place on the board.
Checkers were fun, too, but old men were the checker players and they used to play on the Courthouse lawn on town benches. It was a great, cheap way to pass the time and they had checker champions among them. There were tennis courts all over town. One was in the corner of the Walter Place lot on the southeast corner of the lot.
There was a tennis court on the northeast corner of Francisco Place and there was another between Linden Terrace and the Coopwood House. The back yard of the Mississippi Synodical College had a basketball court and ping pong courts, but it was walled off with a six-foot board fence, so it was forbidden to us.
Tommy Quiggens built a swimming pool in his back yard but that was strictly private. He also built a lighthouse, the only one ever in town, and it had a moat around it. However, there was no beacon as there was no point in it as it was in a walled yard. It’s still there. A silent unlighted lighthouse. What a life!
Back to the games we played. One of the most dangerous and foolish we ever played was going to the Compress and leaping from one cotton bale to the other. I remember the bales teetering as we jumped. Of course, we didn’t ask permission, as the answer would have been a resounding “No, indeed!”
When I was small we went to parties and played “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” and that always scared me. I was fearless in climbing a tree or jumping off a cliff, but that blindfold was scary. When I was really small, I remember “London Bridge is Falling Down” or “Ring Around the Rosy.” Then about a decade later when I was older, I remember the thrill of playing “Spin the Bottle!” Now that might have been my favorite.
Decades later, when I moved to Vicksburg, my daughter was so enamored by that picturesque Old Man River, she created a “Mississippi River” game that really impressed me. Then she married a man with a river connection.
Nonagenarian Chesley Smith said when she was a child that they played, “Jump the Rope, Jacks and Hop Scotch.” She said at the Presbyterian Church on the broad front walk, the concrete had cracked into perfect hopscotch lines and she used to hopscotch there. Octogenarian Ira Shipp said boys played marbles and he used to play until his knuckles were raw. They also played with yoyos and horseshoes. They played with washers when they didn’t have horseshoes. Ira said there was an art to pitching those washers into the holes they dug in the dirt at each end of the game and four players could play.
Childhood games of the past were so wonderful and made (mostly) fantastic memories.
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