Reprint: Berks County TV web site 2012, First Use
It seems to me, kids nowadays spend too much time in their homes. Not so in my day, growing up in the 40s and 50s, on a farm with nine siblings. We had ready-made playmates, a large farmhouse, a barn and outbuildings, an immense yard, barnyard and fields to play in. Plus, we had a very creative imagination. And in this vast playground we farm kids entertained ourselves.
Inside the farmhouse
As with most girls, all six sisters played “house.” Gladys and I rooted through Mom’s cardboard closet for her few dress up dresses (she never wore slacks), hats, gloves and purses. We used the bake oven in the “old kitchen” for our cooking stove. The older sisters topped all of us for a cooking space. Anita, the oldest, who seems to have the better memory, told me, “Before you were born the “old kitchen” was the real kitchen. In the front of the house, what you know as the new kitchen, was a large fireplace where a big, black kettle hung. This was Jannetta and my pretend stove.”
When we were really young, underneath the kitchen table, over-lapped with tablecloths, served as a playhouse. Pillows from the living room sofa and chair were our tunnels.
The top of the kitchen table also served as a play space. Mostly, during the winter season, a puzzle on a large board could be found on the table. It was moved to the living room when it was time to eat.
Card games abounded on the table. Flinch was played using animal or flower names. Some odd words came from a person trying to remember someone’s flower name in order to claim a stack of cards. There was a card game Mom made up, called Pig and Hog. Once you became a pig 3 times, you next became a hog and were no longer in the game. Yet, the hog had a job to do. It was the hog’s place to get a pig to talk to you and eventually receive the status of a hog.
We never tired of playing jacks on the table. As teens, it was Ping Pong with our siblings and friends.
One corner of the kitchen held a large blackboard, on which I recall we played two games. One was Boxes or Tic Tac Toe. Two players pick either an X or an O and place it in one of the boxes. You can use any amount of boxes. The players continue taking turns placing their X or O until one player achieves 3 in a row or a draw.
The other game was called Hangman. The player has to guess the letters in a phrase, (_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ) which denotes the number of letters. If there is an incorrect letter guess, you add a limb (head, legs, arms, body etc) to the hangman figure. If all the limbs appear on the hangman before the phrase is guessed, the player looses. If the letters are all filled in on the phrase before the figure of the hangman is finished, it is a win.
Halloween was the most fun at our house. Mom had most of the church youth parties at our home. She had the best imagination. One of the games was a spooky story of a dead man. As the story progressed, Mom handed out---to our blind-folded guests---actual guts from a chicken, which were the imagined parts of a dead man.
Our blind-folded guests were also taken on a ghost walk through the upstairs rooms. Mattress springs were turned upside down and wet towels hung on a rope as they walked through them. Mom literally left us tear the house apart. She was some party girl!
Carole Christman Koch grew up in Berks County and has been published in numerous publications. She has a passion for writing and has many stories from growing up on a farm to raising children to humorous stories about her and her husband to everyday stories to season stories and more.