During the 1940s, the economy dictated that games have little or no cost. We enjoyed a no-cost and fun game called rock hockey. It had a bit of resemblance to present-day ice hockey in miniature.
The game is best played by two contestants, but four, two on each side, is possible. The object is to push the rock (puck) through the opponents’ “goal” and to guard against him scoring. The opponents’ purpose is the same. Each player has a stick with which he attempts to push a 1.5-inch flat rock through the “goal” at the opposing players’ end of the box.
The box was usually constructed of 2-by-4‘s or 2-by-6‘s (best). The optimum size is 8 feet long and 3 feet wide but other dimensions may be dictated by the available scrap lumber. A center cross board divides it into two equal compartments. The center board has two openings near the edge that are 2 inches wide by 2 inches high. Each end has one center opening the same size. It is the goal.
The game is fast and furious but has little chance of physical hurt unless one player knocks the stick from the opposition’s hand, cracks his knuckles or hits his shin. That resembles a professional ice hockey contest.
Girl games tended to be more domestic. They often played “family.” They selected a momma and daddy then assigned an “age” of each youngster and doll. Verbal exchanges similar to those heard in real family settings were acted out. At times, tempers would flare, resulting in angry name-calling. Many parents did not realize how their children were being impacted by careless, controversial exchanges. The game was their opportunity to verbalize them as the other children responded.
I loved leap frog. Up to six boys crouched about 3 feet apart. Girls rarely participated since they commonly wore dresses to school. If I was the last one, I was required to put my hands on their backs and vault over each one. If I failed, I was out of the game. Then, I became referee-encourager. The next leaper tried to leap over each one. If he failed, he joined me. The game continued until a boy finally “missed,” resulting in crowning the champion leaper.
Especially among the youngsters up to age 12, playing church was very popular. Our parents commonly invited two or three families to mid-day Sunday dinner, resulting in a congregation of youngsters that enjoyed playing church.
First, we conducted a business meeting to elect leaders. Two were nominated for each office. The “preacher” was elected first. I refused that honor since I could not control my stuttering. Before my voice change, I was thrilled to be elected song leader. We needed no songbook since the youngsters had heard the songs so many times as to memorize them.
Mimicking our church song leader, I beat the air with my hand and stomped my foot to the beat of the song. We sang old favorites like “Amazing Grace,” “When We All Get to Heaven” and “The Old Rugged Cross.” For the invitation, I always led “Why Not Tonight?”
The elected preacher delivered a fiery sermon quoting multiple scriptures, some of which were not exactly word for word. All through his sermon, we encouraged him with “Amens,” a practice that some of us continue to this day.
Bicycle races are common among youngsters but a contest in which one rider at a time competed was unusual. On King Hill in Providence, the road was gravel with large rocks protruding. The object of the game was to ride as fast as we dared down that steep, winding hill then remove your feet from the pedals resulting in coasting until the momentum ceased. When the bicycle stopped, a referee marked that spot, then other boys attempted to outdistance it.
Competition ceased when the time to go home arrived. Often, I was disciplined for overstaying that time. For some unknown reason, Johnny, the stepson of Oran Simpson, seemed to always win. Finally, he shared his secret. On Saturday, to enhance his distance, he removed the wheels and added axel grease.
Please share details about your favorite inexpensive game played as a youngster no matter the year by email or send letters to The Daily Citizen, 723 W. Beebe-Capps Expressway, Searcy AR 72143, attention Guy Humphries.