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?