Play time in the 1950s

There was never a shortage of ways to keep ourselves entertained back in the ‘50s. We didn’t seek expensive options. We made our own fun . . . often for free.

Since there were about a dozen kids in our neighborhood, we never lacked playmates. I still keep in contact with several of my childhood friends and, like many seniors, reminiscing is what we do best!

Hopscotch was a favorite game among the girls. I remember that we tossed a flat stone onto each square as we moved from “1” to “10.” Care was taken to keep our feet within the lines so we wouldn’t lose our turn. Hopping on one leg and landing inside a square was a breeze back then. Today it would be a challenge!

Riding our bicycles was a daily activity. We often attached a playing card to the spokes with a clothespin. The faster we went, the louder the noise! However, one problem slowed us down. Back in the ‘50s the streets were resurfaced frequently and a layer of sand was added on top of the tar. That pesky layer of sand caused problems for bicycle riders when we rounded a corner too quickly. Many a kid was reduced to tears as a parent tried to remove sand particles from scraped knees and elbows. Considering the fact that nobody wore bicycle helmets back then, we were lucky to escape with just minor bruises.

A piece of clothesline rope kept us entertained for hours. When regular jumping got boring we switched to “double dutch.” This involves two people turning long ropes in opposite directions. My friend Betty Clark and I tried using the lever of her garage door when we lacked a third person for turning the rope. As you might guess that idea didn’t work out well. But we should get an “A” for creative thinking!

The sidewalks on our street were a popular place to rollerskate. All of us had silver-colored metal skates that attached to our shoes. A leather strap went around the heel. The skate’s length and toe grip sections were adjusted to your foot size by using a key. There was a hole in the key that allowed a string to be inserted. This allowed us to go flying down the sidewalk with the key hanging from our necks. Once again . . . no helmets, elbow or knee pads. Talk about the “school of hard knocks”! I could probably manage to rollerskate today but I have forgotten how to stop. Guess I had better pass!

A friend reminded me of the many hours we spent playing jacks. I had forgotten exactly how it was played so I “googled” the rules and was amazed that we went from “onesies” to “tensies” with relative ease. Throwing a ball in the air and grabbing the appropriate number of jacks on just one bounce sounds pretty challenging to this senior citizen. The game was definitely a good exercise in eye and hand coordination.

Because my parents owned an extra lot next to our house we were able to set up both a badminton net and croquet set. Gigi Corsones (locally known for Gigi’s Steak House) lived next door to us. He loved to join the neighborhood kids for a game of badminton. He shared great tips for getting the “birdie” over the net. We all appreciated the ice cream trip after, too.

Occasionally a parent would join us kids for a game of croquet. Striking the colored wooden ball through nine wickets kept us occupied for hours. The flat surface of our side lawn was a perfect spot for that game. Recently I came across the croquet set in the back of our shed. Maybe it will make it to our lawn next summer. Croquet, anyone?

As I look back on all these activities I can see that we acquired skills that served us well later in life. It’s a good thing our parents never told us that we were learning something as we played. It would have spoiled all our fun!

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