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School Yard Games

School Yard Games
By Joe Phillips Dear Me
School Yard Games
By Joe Phillips Dear Me

Let's play.

I asked my Sunday School class about the last time they rode a bike or ran through the yard just for the fun of it. There were no takers. Most answered with variations on “a long time ago.”

The same crowd has not been on any kind of roller skates lately either.

Roller skates were not practical in my hometown. The only place where they were usable was on downtown sidewalks and streets, and nobody wanted skating there.

Most school yard fun was made without equipment. Equipment was not needed for a game of “tag.” On a rainy day, boys were under the eaves of the roof carving things with their pocket knives.

The Kansas Woman attended oneroom schools until the eighth grade, and one popular game was “Over Annie.” It was throwing a ball over the school house roof, then running around in a mob version of taking captives. Ready or not.

She hasn't played that in a long time, and we're not about to throw balls at the shingles of this house until her muscle memory takes over.

Close behind that was “Red Rover, Red Rover.” Two lines of kids formed by linking arms cried to “send Jimmy right over” to break through a line. If Jimmy failed to break through, he was captured and joined the opposition.

There was competition to swing the highest sitting and standing. It was possible to swing higher by “pumping.” Kids “bailed out” of the swing competing for distance. The ground under the seat was plowed into a trench by dragging feet.

“Hop Scotch” and jumping rope were mainly girls' games. Girls also played with paper dolls and traded them and outfits.

Boys played games of marbles, but our school banned playing for “keeps.” Boys had a favorite “shooter,” or “aggie” marble that was larger or had more mass. Shooting order was determined by drawing a “lag line” in the dirt then tossing or rolling a marble, and the closest went first.

“Jungle Gyms” were made of steel pipe in a vertical maze and were for climbing and hanging upside down. Some included horizontal ladders.

Likely the most inherently dangerous item on the playground was a merry-goround. The larger the ride, the faster it went.

Also dangerous was a steel barrel with a pipe running through it, “Barrel of fun.” It was impossible to sit or stand on it because the barrel rotated freely and should have been called the “barrel of pain.” I think there was one at the school in Weston, but after a rash of bruises and maybe a concussion or two, it disappeared.

Playground equipment is now covered in colorful plastic with rubber mulch on the ground.

It ain't the same, but neither are we.

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