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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Merry-Go-Round and Childhood Games – Part One

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Attribution to Jayhawksonsean

How many of you are old enough to remember these?

I go to the thinking about this today. As an adult, I’m so busy it seems like I’m on this thing a lot of the time and can’t get off just to take a breather. That makes me wish for the childhood days and recess when we could play and forget all of our cares.

Of course, we had these things on our playground in elementary school as well as the monkey bars and swings. Back then, people weren’t so worried about their kids falling off and breaking arms and legs or cracking their heads open. However, today there are so many regulations in place for every stage of life and playground equipment is no exception.

Today these open merry-go-rounds are possibly a hazard, so how did we manage it “way back when” and live to tell about it.

We had all sorts of destructive entertainment at home too, when I was a kid, and amazingly, we all grew to adulthood without too much wear and tear.

Here’s a brief synopsis of how we spent moments on the farm when it was time for fun and games. To go into this too much would be excessively long for this post. The whole works will be in the family book I’m writing, along with some favorite recipes, etc.

My little sister, Thea, thought that picking cotton was a form of entertainment for us. That’s because she was so small and would get tired out in the field, so she would sit down on the end of Mamaw’s long, white cotton sack, pulled down the row while Mamaw kept picking. Of course, Thea had a little burlap sack that oranges came in that she would fill first. The rest of us were too big to do that, but I can see how that would be entertainment for a child and maybe as much fun as riding in a wagon or maybe riding the handlebars of a bicycle.

It was downright hot in the field and picking cotton was a sweaty drudgery. Remember, this is southern Texas and the humidity is around 95%. Mama said we only had to pick the ends of most of the rows, but I don’t remember this at all. It seems to me the rows stretched out straight and long in front of us as sweat trickled down your neck, back, and places you didn’t even know could sweat.

My sister Scherri and I picked cotton for the spending money, so we could buy records at the Five Star Market on the edge of town. Of course, at three cents a pound we had to save our money all summer, while we were busting our butts in the heat, but the records were cheap too. They had the old 78’s and 45’s back then and they were five for a dollar. We made about eighteen cents a day in the field, so we could get a few records at the end of the summer. This was such a treat.

When I was about nine, Mama would let us three older girls go on a picnic. Of course, the picnic was walking down the dirt road to the tin building beside the cotton picker shed, eating our sandwiches, and coming home. She could still see us from the house while she watched the younger kids. Mama would make sandwiches for us and pack them into the round, empty one/half gallon Blue Bell ice cream cartons with the gold rims on the lids. She would take twine or string and tie it on each side so we could put them over our heads and off we would go with our “picnic baskets.” We would laugh and chatter all the way there and back. This was truly a high point of the day.

As kids, we made up games to play all the time using our imaginations. The old junk cars were no exception. Several of them sat among the weeds and grass that had grownup around them over the years. This was not far from the house. We would spend hours playing on those old cars, crawling along the top of them on our hands and knees, pretending we were the cars on the imaginary divided highway.

A cottonwood tree grew near the cow fence close to the house. There was an old tire swing hanging from it that we would play on.

Two chinaberry trees were in front of the house. From the bench at their base, we would pick all the chinaberries we could reach, gathering them in tin cans. Sometimes we climbed the trees if we didn’t have enough ammo because these hard green berries were for our chinaberry fights. These round berries were about the size of a cranberry and would really sting if one hit you. It would usually leave a welt. Sometimes our cousins, who lived across the field, would join in the fight as well. You had to duck for cover, while you were gathering ammo, because the berries would be flying from all directions.

On some afternoons, we would sit on the porch at Mamaw and Papaw’s house and have a contest to see who could kill the most flies. Papaw would make big fly swatters out of old rubber inner tubes.

“Oh look! I got two flies that time!” Someone would yell out. We would sit there swatting flies, drinking ice tea from mason jars, and fanning the knats away until it was our turn to use the mower. This was also grass-cutting day, so we all got a turn using the old rotary mower.

Of course, all of us girls had dolls to play with. Besides the regular dolls, I made paper doll families out of cardboard for all of my sisters. I colored them with crayons and they all had names and a complete wardrobe. When we played with those, they covered the entire long hallway in our house. Our brothers used to hate that because they had no place to walk. There were times we spread them out in the living room because the boys would be playing darts in the hallway. That could be a dangerous place with darts flying through the air, as we found out it was best to announce yourself before just sticking your head out there unexpectedly.

We kept the paper dolls in a big cardboard box Daddy got from one of the grocery stores in town. I really wish I had that box now. Sadly, I only have one paper doll from back then and I have to laugh every time I look at it because the head is a so much bigger than the body. As kids, we never noticed that.

We played hide and seek in the corn patch just before harvest season. The rows were so tall and thick and the field so vast that it was an excellent place to hide. We could hear the caw from the dozens of crows that hung around the corn patch prompting Mamaw to make scarecrows, which she placed around in various positions throughout the field. Some of Papaw’s old shirts and pants became their outfits, stuffed with hay from the barn. An old broom handle or stick would serve as a stake. This made hide and seek even better with these decoys.

Naturally, we played in the cotton patch too, jumping over the rows and chasing each other. I’m sure our squeals rang out to the neighboring farms.

All of us played with hoola hoops, jump ropes, and paddleballs. Everything was a competition when playing these kinds of games to see who could do it the longest without messing up. We varied this all the time, sometimes we had to juggle four or five hoola hoops at the same time. It was easy to be so excited and carried away with enthusiasm when playing paddleball; if you weren’t careful, it would bounce back and smack you hard.

To be continued with part two next week.


  1. Ah... things were so simple back in the day. I remember sitting in my vestibule with my best friend Darlene and playing jacks for hours. We only stopped out game to get a bottle of Coca Cola and potato chips. And yes, I do remember those open merry-go-rounds. We didn't have to plug or charge up anything to have good clean fun. Blessings!

  2. Gayle,

    Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting. Things were a lot simpler way back when. You're absolutely right about plugging and charging things up. We were totally amazed back then to get something that operated on batteries. Times really have changed.


  3. Sunni, I am a bit behind in my visitations but I am so glad you stopped by catnip. When I checked out your latest post I was sad to see it had been up since Wednesday. BUT, I am here now and what wonderful memories you brought back of my own. I still have pictures of me as a little girl in the cotton patch. What was an enjoyment to me at such a young age was drudgery to those who spent laboring hours in the sun just to fill a sack. Can't wait for Part 2. Happy Labor Day! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Sharla,

      Thank you so much for posting. I'm glad I could bring back childhood mamories. I can't keep it cats ALL the time.

      Living on a farm you learn to make up all kinds of games to play and we were all quite happy doing that most of the time. I reallly wish I had pictures from back in those days, but sadly we only have a few B/W ones. Not many people had cameras in those days, or at least not the farmers.

      We spent time playing in the cotton patch too, but mostly it was work when it came to cotton and very hot work in all that heat and humidity. We'd always be shocked how we could be out there all day and then only have picked 6 or 7 pounds of cotton.

      I get behind on visiting the blogs too, so don't feel bad. Have a great weekend yourself.



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