Saturday, June 6, 2015

Never Too Old: Street Games for the City

Greenwich Village, 1958

Ruby thought I should tell you the games we played growing up here. Well, I did, really. Ruby says you won’t care and we don’t play this stuff any more, but I said a lot of you don’t live in the city and you don’t KNOW all the cool games you can play here.

First, you need to know that most blocks in the Village have stoops, which means little stairs and railings, in front of all the apartment buildings. (Ours doesn’t, but a lot of them do).

1.      Jumping Rails
My favorite game was stoop jumping and I still do it every now and again. You start at one end of the block and jump over the railings of each and every stoop until you get to the end. Think it’s easy? Try it and see.

2.      Foot Races
These are just hundred-yard dashes up and down the block. End of the block is the finish line.

3.      Street Hockey
You need to find a hockey stick and puck and that’s not always easy, but lucky for us, Gordy’s dad let us use his hockey stuff. You also need roller skates and somehow, Nell-mom found them for us. The manhole cover on our block was the goal. You have to play close to the middle of the block so you don’t lose your pucks down the sewer openings. Otherwise it’s like hockey. Fun.

4.      Johnny-on-the-pony
You get two teams and the more kids that play, the better. We mostly had to go down to Brooklyn to my friend Jerry’s house to play because there aren’t enough kids in the Village to do it.

One team plays the horse. The leader stands right up against a wall, and has to be kind of a tough guy. Each person after him is part of the horse and has to bend over. The first buries his head in the stomach of the leader. Other team members bend behind each other, grabbing each other at the waist to form the back of the horse.

The other team mambers are called the riders. They run,one at a time, and jump on the back of the horse as far as ahead as possible to give other people room to land. You’re basically trying to see how many kinds the horse can carry before it falls down.

I think of it as a real city game because it’s all about how tough you can be. Ruby won’t play because she hates it. (Now and again, though, I’d get Sophie to try. She would always be a rider.)

5.      Kick the Box
You find a cardboard box about twenty inches in size and kick it back and forth at each other – trying to “get” someone before they get you. Object is to dodge the kick. You can play in the alley, basements and even on someone’s roof, which is the  best, I think. You play with two people – sometimes more. Ruby is good at this game but if she loses, she gets grumpy during dinner.

6.       Stickball
This is everybody’s favorite, I guess. It’s exactly like baseball only you use a broomstick for a bat, a Spaldeen or tennis ball instead of a baseball and manhole covers or whatever you can find instead of bases.

Then there’s the stuff everybody plays, like marbles or jacks or cat’s cradle. Lot of other city games too that you can find here

I’d still play sometimes if there was anyone around here that  wanted to. Don’t tell Ruby, though. She thinks we’re too old.

--Ray Tabeata

Stickball game: Cliff
Ray: family photo