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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Games People Played From Coast To Coast


The Games People Played From Coast To Coast

Growing up, my family moved a lot.  My father’s occupation resulted in multiple relocations.  We moved from Long Island, New York when I was five, to San Marino, California, and back again to Long Island when I was nine.

This was in the fifties.  There was no internet, and TV was somewhat limited, yet many things I learned on one coast, were exactly the same on the other coast.

All kids played “Hide and Seek” not that unusual, but the rules were the same, and the all-clear call seemed to be universal, “Ally, Ally in free.”  (Some will say Ollie, Ollie in free, or Ollie, Ollie oxen free, but it was never written down, so the pronunciation is subject to interpretation.)

I played touch football on both coasts.  There were no written rules for the game, but it was always four downs, no first down and on fourth down the question was always “Kick or stick.” (Punt or go for a touchdown.)  Regardless of the score, games were generally decided by “Next touchdown wins.”

Baseball was the same on both coasts as well, although for some reason kickball was more popular in California.  If there were not enough kids for two teams, both coasts figured out having only three batters, no right field (if you hit the ball to right it was an out,) the on-deck batter was the catcher, and batters and fielders rotated after there were three outs.  On both coasts the game was called the same “One-a-cat” I have no idea why. 

If there was not enough room to hit, we learned to catch and throw playing “Running bases.”

It seemed like all the games were the same on both coasts.  At school recess we played, “Tag," “or “Freeze Tag.” “Duck Duck Goose” was the same on either coast, as was “blind man’s bluff.”   

If it rained we played “Tic Tack Toe,”  “Hangman,” or “Battleship” inside.  All these games were before Parker Brothers sold them at toy stores.  We made our own battlefields with graph paper and everyone knew all the rules.

Card games were the same no matter where we were relocated.  “Solitaire,” “Spit in the Ocean,” “War,” “Go Fish,” all games, all names, all rules were the same.

I often wonder, did word of mouth bring all these games to both coasts, or do children just naturally invent the same games with whatever materials or tools that are available?

18 comments:

  1. I'm guessing parents passed down the games from previous generations, although my parents never taught me any of those. And I have never heard of anyone playing battleship on paper!

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  2. It was all a lot simpler than -- not to mention cheaper!

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  3. The similarities between coasts are interesting. Here on the "north coast," Minnesotans argue about whether the "right" term is Duck, Duck, Goose, or Duck, Duck, Grey Duck. Can't figure out exactly where the grey duck came from!

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  4. I don't know, but kids are kids and one good idea and one move across the country can spread these games quickly.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  5. I think these games traveled to both coasts, and other parts of the country, when cars made it possible for people to move around and new types of jobs made people relocate from coast to coast.

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  6. I was wondering the same as I was reading. Interesting how kids can be the same all over, but the adults seem to develop different looks, attitudes and interests as time goes on. I guess the geographics have more of an impact than I'd given thought to.

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  7. what does Ollie Ollie Oxen Free mean, anyways? Like, I know it means to come out from hiding (right?) but where did those words come from?

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  8. Actually, I invented all those games and secretly sold them to Hasbro.

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  9. We moved a lot too joeh and the like you, the games never seemed to change all that much. Our favorite in either the north or south was kick the can.

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  10. kids like you who moved around spread them like a virus. ;)

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  11. One thing for sure; try and change a rule and all the big kids were on you like you know what.

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  12. It must be a supernatural conspiracy. Similarly, I've always wondered how babies knew to love the remote controls for the TV. My youngest son was about one when he would attempt climbing the couch and other pieces of furniture, trying to reach that remote. Turns out my one-year old niece in Germany was doing the same thing.

    It's not like they were talking to each other..."Hey, those remotes are cool things!"

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  13. Wait! No Heads Up, Seven Up in the rainy-day classroom? No Annie Annie Over in the yard?

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  14. Without electronics, kids had to invent or die of boredom. Word of mouth has always been a powerful way to spread a culture - even coast to coast.

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  15. I bet kids just were inventive with what they had to work with. Those were the days of fun play, weren't they?

    betty

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  16. It IS an interesting question, isn't it? MY WIFE and I feel there is some secret "kid underground" that supplies knowledge to children and which all adults have erased from their memory once they enter puberty.

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  17. We played mummley peg which was a game played with two boys with pocket knives. This game morphed into all kinds of games.

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