Thursday, 6 December 2012

THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY


I have decided to continue with my ‘growing up in the 1950’s theme’ (mainly because I have nothing to blog about boating this time of the year, but plenty of time on my hands) I will start by stating the following, Jack on the mopstick, Tickey light, Tickey ball, Statues, Kick the can, Stretch, Tipcat, Leg cricket, Jacks, Chuckin arras, Bombers, May I, Killer marbles, Follaron marbles, Flickers.  If you haven’t a clue what I’m on about then the rest of this blog probably won’t mean anything either.  Of cause I am talking about how we used to entertain ourselves back in the day with ‘street games’.  Mind you the streets were much safer back in those days.  Main roads still had a fair share of traffic, but the side streets where we lived were really quiet apart from the occasional car (quite rare) an electric milk float, horse and carts  carts, delivery vans (bread, wet fish, vegetables, etc.). This made them an ideal place for us kids to play, getting you out of the house and from under your mother’s feet.  The other think being, because of living in such close knit communities everybody knew everybody else and all kept an eye on ‘the kids’ shouting at you if you got a little rowdy or out of hand “I know who you are ‘your name’ I’ll tell your father” or “get down your own end of the street” As well as all the usual games like cricket or football in the street,  we also played a wide range of street games handed down from generation to generation.  So here goes, firstly as with all the street games, either two teams would be chosen or someone had to be ‘it’ and this was always decided by ‘dipping’. Everyone who was playing stood in a circle facing inward with both hands in front of them with clenched fists. The person picking ‘it’ who also had two fists out in front would hit each person’s two fists in turn with their fist while chanting a short ditty such as “one potato, two potato, three potato, four. Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more. Whichever fist was hit with ‘more’ would be held behind that persons back then the cycle would continue until there was only one fist left and so they would be ‘it’. Another ditty that was regularly used in the same way was “Ip dip sky blue, it is not you” we used a more popular version which went “Ip dip dog shit, you are not it” I think this one was the most popular as well as the shortest, but I think it was just an excuse to swear! Picking teams would usually be by the person who’s game it was and he would choose the other ‘captain’ the rest would line up against the wall and each captain would take it in turns o pick a team member.  Jack on the mop stick, his was quite a brutal game and was banned in most school playgrounds.  One team would start by being ‘on’ and one member of this team, the pillar’ would stand with their back against the wall, the next team member would face them, bend down and put their head between the pillars legs then wrap their arms around the pillars thighs, followed in turn by each member of the team joining on the end until all team members were bent and locked together.  The second team would then run at the ‘mop stick’ and leapfrog onto their backs, followed by the rest of the team in turn until all the second team were sat on top of the first team (like jumping onto a horse back) the idea of the game was to make the ‘on’ team collapse from the weight in which case they would be ‘on again until they managed to withstand the weight then the teams reversed their roles.  Tickey light played in the dark with a torch.  The person who was ‘it’ would count to 100 while everybody else ran off, then they would go in search and if they saw someone would shine the torch at them, killing them until all persons were killed. Tickey ball, basically the same except the person who was ‘it’ had a ball which when they went in search and found someone they threw the ball and had to hit them to kill them.
Statues, The person who was ‘it’ would stand on one side of the road with their back to the rest who would be standing on the other side of the street, you would creep towards the person who was ‘it’ and when they turned round you had to stand still like a statue, if you moved and they saw you the would send you back across the street to the opposite wall and start again.  The idea of the game was to reach the person who was ‘it’ and touch them without being caught out.
Kick the can,   for this game all you needed was an old tin can which would be stood on the floor at a given spot.  One of the players would kick the can as far as they could and everyone ran off to hide.  The person who was ‘it’ would then walk to the can, pick it up and then walk backwards to place the can back on its spot.  With this achieved they would then go searching for everybody in hiding.  If they spotted you they would run back to the can and bang it on the floor three times shouting your name and “Tin can a lerky 1,2,3” you were then dead and had to stand by the can.  This process continued until everybody was dead, however at any time one of those hiding could sneak up to the can and kick it again which would release all those dead and the person who was ‘it’ hat to walk and pick the can up and place it back on its spot and start all over again.
Stretch, This game was played by two and required the use of a knife (most young lads carried a pocket knife of some description in those days, but unlike today was never used as a weapon but for carving pieces of wood or cutting branches etc.) Standing on a grass patch facing each other about a yard apart with your feet together, the first player threw the knife and tried to stick it blade first in the ground by the side of the opponent foot.  They would have to put their foot up to the knife then have their turn. Gradually your feet became further and further apart until you could not stretch any further and would fall over losing the game.
Tipcat, This game involve the use of two pieces of wood, usually made from a council beech fencing pale cut into two one about 8 inches long with each end whittled to a point (like a pencil) with your pocket knife, this was known as the cat, the remaining pale becoming the bat.  The cat would be placed on the floor and the end hit with the bat causing it to flick up in the air, as it was in the air it would be hit again with the bat(like baseball) and knocked as far as possible.  The distance was then measured in strides to the cat which would be your score, with each member of your team’s scores being added up at the end.  You could increase your score by, when the cat is first flicked into the air, if you could hit it up in the air a second time your score wound be doubled, trebled etc., however if you failed and the cat fell to the floor you scored a duck! Flickers, Picture cards could be collected for free from all sorts of different sources such as Bazooka Joe bubble gum packs, cigarette packets usually kings & queens or footballers etc., Brooke Bond PG Tips tea also contained picture cards of butterfly’s, fish and birds.. The game was played to win more cards (more usually to lose the lot!)  The game was played ‘up the wall’. You each took turns to flick your card towards a wall and try to get as close as possible to it. The person with the card nearest the wall took all the others.  However if your card landed on top of another card you won that card. Leg cricket, required a cricket bat, usually cut out of an old floor board or similar.  The ‘it’ would stand in the middle of the road and everybody else stood round in a circle.  The ball would be bowled underarm in an attempt to hit the batsman’s legs and the batsman would play a defensive shot.  As the ball came back out, or if missed went past the batsman it would be picked up by whoever it went to who would then try and get the batsman out.  Speed was essential in this game to defeat the batsman.  Jacks, this required six pebbles of equal size or a favourite was a clay roof tile broken into pieces then rubbed on the concrete to shape the pieces to the size of a postage stamp and smooth the edges, having one jack slightly larger, ‘the catcher’ (taking several hours to make a good set) five of the ‘jacks’ were held in the hand, thrown up and caught on the back of the hand.  The number of jacks you managed to catch on the back of your hand decided how many you had to pick up at a time.  The five jacks were then all gathered up and thrown to the ground

Chuckin arras, (Throwing arrows) required a 2’-0” length of bamboo cane (pinched out the garden) a 3” oval nail, a 10 cigarette packet, stickey tape, a 2’-0” length of string and your trusty pocket knife.  Push the head of the oval nail up the one end of the cane leaving about half showing then tape into position.  Now sharpen the point on the pavement concrete Use pocket knife to split other end of cane into four splits about 3” long.  Rip the front & back panel out of the cigarette packet and slide them into the cane end splits (like dart flights) leaving about 1” of the cane protruding.  Hold four splits together and wrap in stickey tape.  Tie a double knot in one end of the string – job done.  Knot end of string wrapped round shank of arrow just below the flights then loop the string over itself to trap the knot (works similar to ‘thumblining’ bottom gates open) Wrap other end of string around fore finger of throwing hand so that the string is just short of the length of the arrow shaft.  Hold arrow shaft like throwing a dart with the string held taught to the knot.  Lean back with arm outstretched behind you and throw the arrow Loose the arrow at the ultimate point and off it is launched.  Used for aiming at targets, garage/shed door, tree etc. or to see who could throw theirs the furthest distance or the most dangerous who could throw theirs the highest (don’t forget they come back down)
Bombers, Two matching bolts and a nut (about 1/4 “) a box of mothers kitchen matches.  The nut is screwed half on the end of one of the bolts, the head of a match is shaved off with your pocket knife and put into the end of the nut.  The second bolt is fastened in the opposite side of the nut and tightened, trapping the match head between the two bolts.  The ‘bomber’ is then thrown at a hard object like the wall, road and pavement causing the match head to explode with a very loud bang and usually blowing the ‘bomber’ apart.  After finding all the parts the ‘bomber’ would be re armed and used again and again.
May I, a player is " it" and they stand on one pavement, whilst the rest line up on the pavement opposite. The person who is ‘it’ shouts to the others, one at a time, what is shouted makes them do different actions, that will move them across the road and toward the other side of the road.  When given a command, you must remember to ask "May I", if you don’t you have to go back to the start. The first person to reach the person who is ‘it’ wins and becomes ‘it’ for the next game. The commands used were: Pigeon Steps, Bunny Hops, Cartwheels, Watering Cans, Lampposts, Giant Steps, Rolley Polley's. Most of these are obvious, pigeon steps – small steps, bunny hops – hop like a bunny, cartwheels – cartwheels, but a couple may need explaining.
A Watering Can is where the player spits as far ahead as they can and then moves to the spot where their "gob" landed. A Lamp-Post is an action in which the player lies down on their front, reaching out their arms ahead as far as possible. Then stands on the spot to which they reached. And a Rolley Polley is simply a forward roll. The commands may contain multiples such as 3 bunny hops or 2 lampposts etc. Or even a mixture “do a bunny hop and a lamp-post" And don’t forget the reverse tactic such as "Take 3 Bunny Hops and 6 backward pigeon steps! A licence for all sorts of mayhem and fights.! 

Marbles, games played with marbles were varied and numerous but some things were common.  Marbles came in two types and two materials.  You had glassen (glass) marbles and ironies (steel balls out of large ball bearings) and the two sizes were a normal playing marble was about 15mm diameter, while a larger aiming marble known as a fobber was about 20 -25 mm diameter some people would not  play against lads who had ‘an iron fobber’ for fear of them breaking their glassen marbles.  Follaron marbles, (Follow on) First player rolled their marble off as far and in whatever direction.  The second player then tried to roll their marble to hit their opponents.  If they did they won that marble if they missed the first player had a choice of either rolling away again or they could turn and try to hit their opponents marble.  I have known this game go from one end of our street and back again many times.
Killer marbles, There was another game played with marbles called killer which involved digging several small hollows out on a patch of dirt and throwing marbles in various of the hollows but for the life of me I can’t remember the details, boo hoo. I still have a little bag of glassen marbles somewhere, can’t find them though (So it’s true, I really have lost my marbles!)
British Bull Dogs, Ip dip a poor soul to be "it" they stand in the middle of the road.  All the rest line up against the garden wall.  When the person who is ‘it’ shouts "Bulldogs" everyone rushes head-long for the opposite wall on the far side of the street.  The person who is "it" has to try and stop one of the players and lift them off the ground.  If they succeed, the player caught joins the catcher in the middle.  As more players are caught and lifted off the floor, the number of catchers increases as the players dwindle away, until one is left, the winner.  Obviously this game can get a little rough with fight regularly breaking out.  As you can see from the above games, they bred tough kids in The Black country, as well as any areas where these sort of street games were played and the other point worth noting (parents of small children approaching Christmas) they cost nothing!  I am sure that most kids of today, if you tried to get them to play these games you would just receive a blank look, for if it isn’t hand held electronic has all singing and dancing lights, bells and whistles and the only exercise is through your two thumbs, then they would show no interest at all, and besides you would probably be stopped by mamby pamby rules of ‘non-competitive sports only’ ‘encourages violence’ etc. etc. instead of good old character building learning to be competitive in life, wanting to be a winner. Ok ok rant over,  well that’s it again, a bit of a long one but until next time .
Don’t bang ‘em about
Blossom.

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