I was surprised that in the discussion of “balls” no mention was made of the fact that that wonderful pink ball with the nice script “Spalding” on it, was pronounced, at least where I grew up, as a “Spaldeen.” I also wish that someone would post some of the “girl” games: jump rope along with the chants/songs; hopscotch (lots of different rules), etc.
This is a sidewalk game of skill called “Pack.” The currency for payoffs was in “tickets” (cards); these were usually movie star cards or WWII cards depicting airplanes, ships, or war scenes. The only piece of equipment was a pack of cards (these could be ordinary playing cards) tied up with rubber bands or tape. The “court” consisted of four sidewalk boxes in a row. At one end was the base or starting line. Three boxes away (i.e. at the start of the fourth box) was the LINE. Assume that an order of play was agreed upon (more about this later). Then, in turn, one tossed his pack from the base line toward the LINE. Closest to (or on) the LINE determined the order of play for the rest of this round. If more than one was on the LINE, priority went to the later ones. To play, one picks up his pack and kneels, putting one knee where the pack was. With the other arm not on the ground for balance, one would toss (or place) his pack. One had to get his pack on the LINE to convert his pack into a KING; for only a KING could “capture” another pack. To capture another pack, your pack must lie on top of his (leaning but partially on top is OK). The captured player pays the capturing player one ticket and removes his pack from this round of the game. Getting on the LINE or capturing lets you immediately play again. The round ceases when all but one pack remains. Playing order for the beginning of the next round is the order in which players were captured in the previous round. Obviously it is good to be last (so that you can either go for the LINE or drop quite short of it to avoid being captured early. The last player to begin the round is called LARRY. How to start the game: Someone says “Let’s play pack.” Everyone immediately yells, “Larry.” Somehow (by oldest or bulliest player making an arbitrary decision) they agree on the order in which people yelled “Larry.” The first one who yelled “Larry” gets to go last; the second one, next to last, etc. Bad features: Parents did not approve of this for two reasons: (1) It promoted gambling, little kids invariably lost all their tickets to the big kids with their longer reach. (2) Very quickly, a hole would be worn in your right knee of your best corduroy pants. Good feature: It encouraged the purchasing of “tickets”: These usually came in a strip of eight which had to be cut apart. Much war history was learned by kids reading the backs of their tickets.
I grew up on the Lower East side of Manhattan — or at least that was what WE called it. Now the section I grew up in is called “the East Village”. Sigh. Anyway, I remember three different ice cream trucks (Mr. Frostee; some other company I can’t remember; and then eventually, Good Humor) in the summer. I remember the “knish man” in the winter. He was a large, grungy-looking individual wrapped in about ten layers of clothing to withstand the cold he had to endure eight hours a day. When I saw the movie, “Fiddler On the Roof” years later, I remember thinking that Tevye looked just like the knish man! Funny how, as an adult, you think about things like where street vendors go to the bathroom and/or wash their hands. As a child, you couldn’t have cared less.
I loved sitting on the stoop. It was the perfect bench – placing you close to but above the “field” so you could see all the action on the block. When we moved into the big apartment buildings, stoop sitting got more difficult, but even then, we’d usually congregate around some side entrance that had one.