I just painted 3 skelly courts in my day schools yard. I am going to teach 100 6th grade boys how to play skelly. I have over 100 bottle and Snapple caps, crayons and magnifying glasses. I am a science teacher at the school and I will be relating the game to Newton’s Laws of Motion. I will teach them the art of weighting the pieces and hiding the washers under the melted crayon. I learned the game in the Pomonok housing projects of Queens, NYC in the 1950’s. This game never goes away and it is addicitng!
I grew up in the Pomonok project across from Queens College in the ’50’s and early ’60’s. Where we were Pensies were rarely available, though known of. Any of you remember that spaldeens varied somewhat in pressure. I’d go through the box and find the hardest ones I could. They could be punched further, hit further, but their principle advantage was in handball, if you were over six feet. It was an equalizer when playing with a short guy with better skills. In close play, a low hit would send it caroming over his reach. By the way Geoff, you sure could split a spaldeen with a broom stick or those slightly larger stickball bats that were sold in some places. A baseball bat compresses the ball too much and creates a greater area of contact making a split less likely. We used to turn the splits inside out and throw them. they moved like maniacal frisbees and were almost impossible to catch. Any of you remember three box baseball, a pavement game we played when it was just too hot and humid to play anything else?
I am spreading skelly fever to my students in school. I will be painting 3 skelly courts in the school yard and teaching the basic during my science class relating the miovement of the caps to Newton’s laws of Motion. I have already taught this game to campers in a summer camp in Oxford NY where I have painted 7 outdoor courts and 3 indoor courts. We have team play and tournaments with trophies. I learned the game while growing up in Queen, NY at the Pomonok housing project.
This summer, after locating your website, I painted 3 skelly boards on some blacktop at a sleepaway camp called Camp Mesorah. I grew up in city hpousing project in Queens (Pomonok)and the last time played the game was 45 years ago. I used the Bronx rules because the 2,4,6,8 trapezoid made the game rules more exciting. The game took off. Kids were playing it at every free moment they had. Pipsie became a respected and revered word in camper vocabulary. We used metal snapple caps for skelly caps, filling them with crayons that we melted with magnifying glasses. The designs and colors in them were elaborate. Campers and counselors formed teams together(as age doesn’t matter but skill does) and a 32 team tournament with trophies culminated the season. This summer, more black top is being added and the number of courts will increase to 12. Lighting is also being added for night games. More tournatments are planned and the game with intercamp challanges. The game has already spread to 5 Towns area of LI where I was hired to paint 3 courts in driveways and backyards. hank you for helping me relive my childhood. This is the game that taught me addition, subtraction and strategy. Maybe one day we will see a skelly court on every basketball court!
I was a big Skelly player. I used to play Skelly all the time as a kid growing up in Da Bronx,Bruckner Blvd to be exact. In the late 60’s & early 70’s. Then in the mid 70’s we moved to Pomonok Housing in Queens where I continued to play. I’ve used almost every top imaginable. Pop off and twist off soda tops,glass rings from the bottles…etc. I had a top for every situation.I even used the plastic covers from coffee cans,I’m talking the 3 lb and 5 lb cans. You had to see the looks on the other kids faces and the fights when I took one of those out. One of my favorite tops was the white plastic pop tops you used to get from the prescription medicine pill bottle. In the days before child proof caps. Another favorite was the desk and chair gliders from school.The secret to a good top was the weight. The large tops were good for blasting the other kids tops into the next neighborhood but for normal game play you needed a top that was as low to the ground as possible and heavy. 95% of the time when people tried to blast me,they would just wind up flying right over the top of my cap and chasing there top down the block. My secret to making a good top ( since my days of playing skelly are long gone I guess I can let it out now…). Like I said it was the weight. The way I accomplished this was to take a medicine top or later on, a chair glider. Before I would melt the wax in it. I would place a penny or a nickle, depeding on how much weight I wanted, in the bottom of the top. Then I would melt my wax on top of it. This would give me a small heavy top that would glide the length of the street if I wanted it to. As far as the skelly board. The way to draw it was first to make a big square on the ground. Then you would make one small sqaure in each of the 4 corners. Next you would draw double boxes on each of the 4 sides in between the 4 corner boxes. In the center of the board you would draw a small box,nbr 13. Around the nbr 13 box you would draw a larger box, approximatley 1 to 1 1/2 feet larger on all sides. Then you would draw a line from each corner of the small nbr 13 box out ward to the corner of the larger box around it dividing it into 4 sections. In each one of the 4 sections you would place a nbr from 1 to 4. When you were done drawing it you would end up basically with the nbr 13 box surrounded by 4 other boxes each with a nbr from 1 to 4 in it. This center section was called skelly. During the course of the game, if anybody landing in one of the 4 boxes surrounding the nbr 13 box, they were in skelly. They were not allowed to shoot anymore untill thier top was knocked out of skelly by another top. Depending on what nbr skelly box they were in ( 1 thru 4) the person who knock them out of skelly whould advance that nbr of boxes. The way the game was played ( in my neighbor hood at least). To start the game, after choosing who would shoot first of course, everybody would have to shoot from a starting line somewere outside the skelly board. Usually around 10 feet away. You would have to shoot for the nbr 13 box first. Then you would shoot for each box in nbr order 1 to 13. Then backwards from 13 back to 1. After you made it back to the nbr 1 box. You would then have to shoot for the nbr 13 box again, once again making sure not to land in skelly. Then after you made it into the nbr 13 box you would have to shoot around the skelly box starting from the nbr 13 box. You had to make it into each Skelly box on one shot and then back into the nbr 13 box to be the winner. Typing this message has brought back alot of memeries of growing up as a kid in Da Bronx and Queens. I now live in Long Island. The kids today ( out here) have no clue of these games or how much fun they were for us. All I see them do now is hangout at the local 7 eleven smoking cigarets……What I would give to go back (in time)just for one day to be that kid again and to play……….