When I was a young boy from the ages of about 9 years old until 13 I lived in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA. Our neighborhood was full of young boys around the same age. While we played a lot of basketball on the street, football in the empty lot, and soccer in my back yard (until we broke a window the third time), my favorite activity was playing in the woods. In particular, the best was building a tree fort. I call it a fort, not a house, as we were there to protect our turf from the imaginary bad guys and the real ones, our older brothers! We of course, had a pad lock to secure the entry and a password was necessary if someone was already in it. We built the fort out of extra wood we gathered from the lumber yard in the area. Actually, thinking back on it this was quite a feat for 6 young men. We were probably 400 yards deep into the woods behind the nearest street and daily lugged our tools and supplies. We eventually got electricity by running the longest set of connected extension cords one may imagine. Don’t tell anyone, but we connected the line into an outside plug of the nearest home. We would stay in the woods all day long. We fished for salemanders in the creek, ate green apples from the tree of a little old lady who lived deep in the woods at the end of a dirt road. Well, actually we ate the apples until she scared us off with a shotgun full of rock salt – no foolin’! Ouch! We also slept in the fort after much begging to our parents. We eventually became friendly to the old woman by picking and giving her wild flowers. From then on, she gave us lemonade all summer long!!!
Wow, does that bring back vivid memories! I can still hear Mary Geary screaming at the top of her lungs “Oh, Car – ol”, from our front walk after school everyday. These days, it would probably be viewed as strange or rude, but in the 60’s in my neighborhood (the suburbs of Buffalo), it was standard procedure.
Hey, what about us girls?? You guys may consider our games wimpy, but we hung out and played on the streets and stoops too! My memories are hazy and I haven’t thought about those days lately, so I can only provide titles and brief descriptions — perhaps it will jog someone else’s memory: I moved away from Brooklyn when I was 7, so I played the following at a tender age: 1. Red Light, Green Light, One Two Three 2. Giant Steps 3. Statues I can’t recall, though, just what these games entailed! Anyone remember? Of course, our basic sidewalk game was Potsy. Although it is generally known as Hopscotch, in Borough Park, Brooklyn it was always Potsy. And it was still Potsy when we moved to Old Bethpage, Long Island (of course, many suburbanites had emigrated to Long Island from Brooklyn…) Girls were into Spalding balls too. We bounced ’em off stoops and against walls, and of course did the classic “A, my name is Alice, and my husband’s name is Andy, we come from Atlanta and we sell anchovies…” You were supposed to go through the whole alphabet, but I don’t think I ever did. And now, a confession: there were times when I could be the annoying kid sister: Sometimes when my older brother played stickball or wiffle ball in the backyard with his friends, if I felt mischievious, I’d skip across their playing field, calling out in a sing-song voice, “Interference! Interference!”
That was the question our parents always asked….. We had great organized playgrounds when we were growing up in the 60’s in suburban Cleveland but for some reason we’d always end up in my parents back yard…. Even though we’d continuosly break windows with the baseball (or other things) we’d still hang out in the yard. It seemed a magnet for all the kids in the neighborhood too. Where else could you develop “Mat Rash” by jumping into piles of packing foam or play wiffle ball with a badmitten raquet or participate in the ever popular action adventure game “DIE”, which pitted one “shooter” against the entire group to see who could fall off the garage, from a tree, down a hill into a creek, or basically DIE the coolest!!!! The best dead guy was rewarded with the chance to be the next judge and killer….What a game!!!
Girl games… we used to sit in the vestibule of someone’s house and play “jacks” for hours and hours. Growing up in Pittsburgh, right in the city, not in one of the cleaner suburbs, we played in the streets everynight. Red Rover, Cigarette Tag, Freeze Tag, Can’t cross the Mississippi unless you have(a shouted color) on, then everyone would run across the street if you had that color on. Anyone remember that one?
Here in Queens, Ny a suburb of NYC – being “deported” New Yorkers in my day – 1959 – early 60’s we played in the street – using the “Johnny pump”, manhole cover, etc., as our bases – and the ball definately had to bounce first. C.Umberto