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Street Games we used to play

Once upon a time there was no television, you were lucky if you had a "wireless", telephones were few and far between, computers were unheard of.  Cars were very, very rare items.  Most streets were ideal places to play without the fear of being run over or even being chased by police.

There were very few commercially produced toys or games but, as children, - we had to use our imagination and resourcefulness in play.  We would play with anything, well virtually anything, that came to hand.  What is surprising is that the games we used to play were almost the same " in various parts of the world. 


Most of us owned marbles as a kid, and maybe even played marble games.  We had our own peculiar names for our favourites, "cats-eyes", "aggies", "bombsies", "taws" and "alleys" etc

Marbles is a street game people have been playing since before there were streets. The ancient Egyptians played games with small balls made of clay. In Renaissance Italy, glass blowers made glass "marbles" as children's toys. The first book about marbles was published in England in 1815.

The marbles I remember are the brightly-coloured, machine-made glass marbles as well as the BIG off-white bombers or jaloggies.  And the games you played might have gone by names like Potsie, Forts, Ring Taw, Bossout., all the marbles, knuckle down, Playing for fair, and play for keeps or Keepsies ("winner keeps, loser weeps").

Apparently some girls who were fed up playing with dolls would sneak up on the boys who were engrossed in the game and steal all the marbles they could lay their hands on.  This was sometimes known as "Smuggling" and in Scotland was known as "Boory".

Marble games have faded as a pastime, done in by asphalt paving, the preponderance of motor vehicles, the rise of television and video, and the disappearance of the bits of gap sites or  waste ground (all have been snapped up by housing developers)... But there are pockets of marble diehards including a national tournament that's been held every year since 1922.

One of my favourite pastimes was playing with a hoop!  Sometimes known as Hoopla.  Hopps were simply old wheels from bicycles or carts " with the spokes removed.  Then we would use a stick or an old bit of metal like a poker - about a foot (30 cms) in length -  and hit the wheel or pushed it  with the stick - until it gathered speed.  The noise of the wheel and the illusion of speed was music to our ears!  

At one time I was lucky enough to find an old metal cart wheel which was about 2 feet in diameter with a 6 inch wide rim.  I used a metal poker to get the wheel moving and boy did it move!  And what a noise!  In company with a dozen pals, we all took our hoops a few miles out into a country road which had a gentle slope to home and then got them up to speed.  I guided mine with a poker and headed for home.  As we reached the built up area the clattering noise and resultant echoes were exhilarating.  Closer to home we let them go to crash into the gable end of a house.   

The Scottish equivalent was a "Gird and Cleek". or Gir"n Cleek"   These were made from steel rods " usually by a friendly maintenance worker at the local ironworks.  The Cleek was the pushing part - a metal rod about 10 mm thick, a handle formed at the top by bending back the rod and at the bottom a "U" shaped -formed to push the Gird, which is the round circular hoop, again made from 10 mm steel rod. When pushed along the road it didn't half clatter.

I am amazed that we boys and girls always got away with so much and often wonder what the neighbours must have thought about these young tearaways creating so much noise!   

Hopscotch began in ancient Britain during the early Roman Empire. Roman foot soldiers ran the 100 yard course in full armour and field packs, and it was thought that Hopscotch would improve their foot work. Roman children imitated the soldiers by drawing their own boards, and creating a scoring system, and "Hopscotch" spread through Europe.

In France the game is called "Marelles", in Germany, "Templehupfen".  "Hinklebaan" in the Netherlands, "Ekaria Dukaria"  in India, "Pico" in Vietnam, and "Rayuela in Argentina."  Funnily enough in Scotland it is nearly always called "beds" or Peever.

In order to begin the game, each player must start with a marker such as Cherry Blossom polish tins, match boxes, bean bags, pennies, and other assorted items were used. Hopscotch boards can be found in most school play areas but in our day they were easily set up with a good piece of chalk on a pavement or quiet road.

How to Play Hopscotch

The first player stands behind the starting line to toss her marker in square 1. Hop over square 1 to square 2 and then continue hopping to square 8, turn around, and hop back again. Pause in square 2 to pick up the marker, hop in square 1, and out. Then continue by tossing the stone in
square 2. All hopping is done on one foot unless the hopscotch design is such that two squares are side-by-side. Then two feet can be placed down with one in each square. A player must always hop over any square where a maker has been placed.

A player is out if the marker fails to land in the proper square, the hopper steps on a line, the hopper looses balance when bending over to pick up the marker and puts a second hand or foot down, the hopper goes into a square where a marker is, or if a player puts two feet down in a single box. The player puts the marker in the square where he or she will resume playing on the next turn, and the next player begins.  Single squares must be hopped on one foot. For the first single square, either foot may be used. Squares marked "Safe" "Home" or "Rest" are neutral squares, and may be hopped through in any manner without penalty.

Boys  and girls   played the real team game of Rounders " this involved  a ball thrower, a hitter, and fielders - turned out to have similar rules to cricket but was also like baseball. 

The "pitch" usually consisted of 4 jackets or stones placed approximately 20foot apart in a square.  Teams took it in turn to bowl and field or to bat - hit the ball. The ball was thrown to the hitter, who had some sort of bat " usually a bit of wood with a carved handle " the idea was to hit the ball as far as possible, then run "round" the square as often as possible -  until the other team returned the ball into play.    

Tip Kat
he Kat was a piece of wood 2-3 inches long, whittled down to a near point at each end.  The player hit one end of the Kat with a stick " this caused to Kat to be "tipped" up in the air " when it was at a suitable height the player hit the Kat and tried to get it to travel as far as possible.  This could be a solitary game or could be played competitively in small teams.  The winner was the person or team that moved the Kat the furthest with the least "Tips"  

Hide and Seek

First you pick someone to be it (the person to seek) then he/she turns around and counts with their eyes closed at the "base" while the rest of the people hide.  Then "It" says "Ready or Not, Here I Come" and rushes to find everyone.  Then the people try to get to base without getting tagged or else they are "It".  If the person who is "It" doesn't get someone in three tries he gets to pick a man to be it! 

Skipping Rope Games

Nowadays, it is well known that  one of the best ways of keeping fit is with a skipping rope. However in my young days skipping was mainly considered to be a girls game, boys caught playing skipping would be "cissies".
Salt and Mustard was one of the most popular games: Two people were needed to turn the rope or only one if one end was tied to a lamppost or fence.  The players jump over a revolving rope, chanting repeatedly "salt, mustard, vinegar, pepper." Each time they say pepper the rope gets faster. As people fail to jump the rope they have to stop jumping, the last one in is the winner and gets to hold the rope. 

Five Stones or Jacks,
Two players sit face to face; more than two sit in a circle. To decide who goes first we used everything from eenie-meenie-meinie-moe to throwing the jacks up in the air and trying to catch as many as possible with both hands together, thumb to thumb, palms down. Whoever catches the most jacks goes first.. The player up gathers all of the jacks in one hand, gives them a gentle toss and scatters them onto the ground, anywhere inside the space encircled.  Following that, he/she tosses the ball into the air. The object of the game is to pick up the designated number of jacks with one hand and catch the ball on the first bounce in that same hand.



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