Old style roller skates
How to make kites
Step ball and other street games
More Childhood stories
More stories by Jim
Old roller skates never die
When I was a kid, roller skates clamped to the soles of your shoes. The clamps were tightened by a skate key. We used to play hockey in the alley because there were fewer cars, and we had a wall on one side of our playing court—the concrete wall I referred to earlier—and a fence on the other side. That meant that our puck, which was usually an empty evaporated milk can, would stay in play no matter what we did.
Roller skates usually lasted 3 or 4 years, but when the skates finally played their last hockey game and one of them became unusable, we took the remaining skate and made a skate scooter. A skate scooter consisted of a 2-by-4 with half of the remaining skate nailed to each end. We would get an apple crate from the grocery store and nail it on the front of the 2-by-4 and then nail handles on the top of the box.
I usually enhanced mine with a super sling shot. I would nail two uprights on the front of the apple box and make the sling out of an old inner tube. My ammunition was crab apples that grew in abundance in the vacant lot. I closed in the bottom of the apple box to hold extra ammunition. We had some awesome crab apple fights. I am amazed that no one ever got hurt.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Errol Flynn were swashbucklers that we often saw in our Saturday matinees. After those movies, we all made wooden swords and chose up sides and played cops and robbers with swords instead of play guns.
That's where I could really shine. I was the best swordsman in the neighborhood. ...
No time for boredom
I often hear my grandkids and great grandkids tell me they are bored. We had NO TV, limited radio, no cell phones, no iPods or Wii, but we were NEVER bored. We would play Monopoly for days at a time on Millers’ front porch. We had to make more money for the game and we’d arrange a way for no one to go bankrupt. We played marbles, both big ring and little ring. I'll write the rules for these later.
We flew kites: two-stickers, three-stickers, and box kites. I used to fly all three on the same string. Box kites need no tail and not much wind to stay up. Three-stickers need a lot of tail and a lot of wind to get up, but once they are up, they are strong flyers. Two-stickers need medium tail, and a mild breeze to get them up. When I flew all three on one string, I had the box kite first, the three-sticker in the middle and the two-sticker on the end. The box kite and the two-sticker would lift the three-sticker until it caught enough wind to carry its own weight.
Occasionally a kite would get stuck in the power lines. We then took a rock and tied a string to it and threw it through the paper part of the kite and pulled it down. We often could save the sticks that way and use them to make another kite.
We also played Cork Ball and Bottle Caps. It's the same game with less sophistication. Cork Ball is played with an old fishing cork covered with black tape, and a broom stick for a bat. There are 2 persons on a team, a pitcher and a catcher. The catcher wears a baseball fielder's glove to catch the cork ball. The pitcher throws the ball.
If the batter swings and misses and the catcher catches the ball, the batter is out. If the batter tips the ball, he is out. If he hits the ball, that's a single. The second hit puts two men on and the third hit loads the bases. Every hit after that scores a run. There are three outs to a side and the game is seven innings long. Sporting goods houses in St. Louis saw a market and began making professional cork balls that look like little baseballs. They also made cork ball bats. They used to have Cork Ball leagues in St. Louis.
Bottle Caps is the same game, but it is usually played at picnics. Instead of a cork ball, we used bottle caps. An experienced pitcher like me could sail a bottle cap right over the plate. We spent hours playing these two games.
We also played Kick the Can and Capture the Flag.
Two, three or four can play this game. Every house on Davison Avenue had steps that led from the sidewalk to the front yard of each property. Most steps were about 5 or 6 in number. The house next to Millers’ was the best for this game. A player stood in the gutter and threw a tennis ball against the steps. The ball returned on a bounce on the sidewalk and is caught by the thrower. That play is worth five points. If the ball catches the corner of the step and returns to the thrower without bouncing on the sidewalk, that is worth a hundred points. If the ball hits the corner of the step and bounces straight up in the air like a pop foul in baseball, and the other player who is at the top of the steps catches it, he gets the hundred points. When the thrower misses a catch, it's the other player’s turn. The game is usually played until someone reaches 1,000 points.
Big Ring marbles
A ring about four feet in diameter is drawn on the dirt. Each player throws into the ring however many marbles the players agree on before they begin. Then each player lags to a line that is drawn someplace else on the dirt. The player closest to the line shoots first etc. The first shot is usually a positioning shot. The second time around each shooter tries to knock another marble out of the ring without going out of the ring himself. Each marble that is knocked out of the ring the shooter keeps, and he gets another shot until he is no longer able to knock another marble out of the ring.
If a player is able to knock another shooter's shooter out of the ring, the one who is knocked out of the ring is eliminated from the game. The game is over when all of the marbles are out of the ring.
Little Ring marbles
An oblong square 8-by-4 or 5 inches is drawn in the dirt. About 3 inches from the square a lag line is drawn. Another lag line is drawn about 6 or 7 feet from the first lag line. Each player antes up however many marbles all players agree on before they begin. Each player stands on the lag line farther from the square and throws his shooter over the lag line closest to the square. He must go over the lag line or he is eliminated. After each player is over the lag line, the first shooter begins by either shooting a marble out of the square with his shooter or shooting another player. If the other player is hit, he is out of the game. The first shooter keeps shooting until he misses or fails to knock a marble out of the ring.
When one shooter is about to "take" at another shooter, he must announce his intentions, at which time the one being shot at can shout "changes." He is now allowed to change his shooter for a pee wee or even a bee bee. The pee wee is a much smaller marble and the bee bee is exactly that. If the shooter taking the shot misses, the one being shot at must shoot with whatever he changed to before he was shot at. When a player is being shot at, he can say, "Knuckles down, screw boney tight." That means that the person shooting at his shooter has to aim his shot directly into the dirt. The game is over when all of the marbles are out of the ring.