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I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Miss Meada's Yard - Part II - Games


Like most kids, we played a lot of games. One of the boys had a cricket bat so sometimes we played cricket. Mostly though we played hide and seek, freeze tag, Mother May I or Simon Says. If there were enough kids, at least 8 or 10, we played singing circle games.

There were the traditional ones like Farmer in the Dell, London Bridge and Ring Around the Rosie. Less traditional ones like Thread the Needle, Cock-Robin and Blue Bird. And then there were singing games that had a decidedly West Indian flavor. Like:

Watch the brown girl in the ring
watch the brown girl in the ring
watch the brown girl in the ring
she sweeter than sugar than plum


One, two, three, four
follow me Mariah,
before my mamma say Mariah
give me the ball 'o zoop.
And a chummalacka, chummalacka
and a chummalacka, chummalacka
and a chummalacka, chummalacka
my mamma say, give me the ball 'o zoop.

At the words chummalacka, chummalacka the “it” person did a shimmy dance in front of the person they’d chosen. Ball ‘o zoop translates to bottle of soup. It was probably the singing games more than anything else the helped Erva and me learn "Calypso," the lilting, melodic English dialect spoken in the islands.

Sometimes we held musical concerts. Our instruments were grass blades, the trumpet shaped flower of the Geiger tree (which toots when you blow into it. See a picture here
) and combs with a piece of tissue paper draped over the teeth. Most anything could be turned into a percussion instrument, like clacking two rocks together.

Playing marbles was big among the boys. Erva and I were the only girls who played marbles. I remember three different games. One was putting all your marbles in a circle and then trying to knock them out. The second was lining all the marbles up in a row and trying to knock them off the line. In these two games you got to keep the marbles you knocked out of the circle or off the line. It was the third game I liked best, probably because it wasn’t about capturing marbles and was more about skill. It was kind of like playing golf. Three shallow holes were dug at equal distances apart and the object was to shoot your marble into the holes and make the trip (if I recall correctly) three time. You could shoot at your opponent too and knock his marble way off course. Erva and I got very good at marbles. Dad gave us these nice big ball bearings to use as shooters. It was every boy's dream to have one. They were called steelies.

There were other stand-bys like jump rope and jacks. I don't think our jump rope rhymes were different. "Sally and Johnny sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Sally with the baby carriage. How many children did they have?" And then counting the number of times you jumped the rope. As for jacks, if we didn't actually have the jacks we used small pebbles.

The flower bud of the flamboyant tree provided a fighting game. We’d each get a stamen from a bud and try to hook our opponent’s large anther. The object was to pull the anther off. The winner was the last one remaining with stamen and anther in tacked. Below is a picture of flamboyant flowers with green buds.

Sometimes we went fishing for ground spiders, a cousin of the tarantula. We’d get a long piece of grass (there was one kind of grass that worked best) with a dried seed head on it and we’d push the seed head into a ground spider hole and gently twirl it around. You can feel, through the grass stem when a spider grabs hold of the seed head. When it does you pull up quick and smooth and there it is, a large brown spider. Sometimes the boys would put two together to see if they would fight. One time Erva was spider fishing and it crawled right up the stem of the grass and bit her on the finger. No harm done. It hurt. The spot got red and swollen, like a bee sting, but she didn’t get sick. Tarantulas may look terribly fearsome but are usually non-aggressive. I read somewhere that there's a tarantula in South America that's quite poisonous, but the ones in the islands are not. Erva can attest to that.

On rainy days we played board games in The Parlor of Miss Meada’s home. It was the only room in her house we ever went into. A favorite game was Chinese checkers. But we also played checkers, whist, and pick-up sticks.

When you were growing up, was there a house or yard where kids gathered? What were your favorite games?


  1. Oh, yes! A couple of other favorite games were "Drop, Peter, Drop" (another singing ring game) and the ever popular Steal the Bacon.

    I still think my favorite game, after jacks and jumprope, was Hide and Seek with the "Home Rule."

    Wonderful fun!

    It served me good and right getting bitten by that ground spider. Were our positions reveresed, I'd have bitten the spider!

  2. Bish - I grew up in the exotic setting of Northern New Jersey. We, too, played constantly outside with the neighborhood kids. Our favorites were "kick the can" and "pick up and slaughter."
    Jump rope was another favorite with the girls, but since that was mostly just my sister and myself, we would tie one end of the jump rope to the garage door. It worked well enough.
    I also played marbles with my father. And my mother was phenomenal jacks player!! I distinctly remember one time when I wasn't allowed outside to play (I must have been sick, but I don't remember that part). My mother and I played jacks on the dining room floor for hours.
    Thanks for the journey down memory lane!

  3. That brought back a lot of memories! We played Mother May I and Red Light, Green Light. Also kick ball, jump rope, Chinese jump rope...
    We also made whistles out of acorn caps.

  4. We would NOT play hunt the spider - EWWWW!!!

    The house was our house - with 9 kids - there was always someone to play with.

    We played colored eggs - which is perfect for this time of year.

    One person was the Wolf (I dunno Y)
    The rest of the kids stood around and the wolf would say, "I want colored eggs."

    Kids said, "What color?"

    Wolf would guess a color, ""
    and the kid (who had whispered that color to everyone else) - would run toward base. If the wolf caught him/er that person became the wolf, if not the game went on.

  5. I grew up in a neighborhood with about 6 houses that kids all about the same age...we would take turn going to each others house (usually when we did something to get on one parent's last nerve, we moved on to the next house...grin)...

    I remember playing jacks...that was a favorite and kickball (if the boys were around)...

    Kids these days really don't know what they are missing...

  6. I grew up in the east end of our town where not many kids lived, so I played alone a lot. I remember jumping rope, Chinese jumprope, jacks, and of course, playing with my Barbies. We had a creek behind our house so that provided a lot of entertainment too.

  7. I grew up out in the country. I had a friend who lived a ways down the road. We would play imagination games. Most of the time we would meet in the horse pasture after school and play "Little House on the Prairie." I had long, blonde hair, so I was always Mary. Sometimes we would meet in the woods and build forts. School is where we played organized games - jump rope, jacks, boys chase the girls, red light green light. When my cousins visited we played flashlight tag and hide-n-seek in the cornfields. That was always fun!


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