I was sitting with my mother (she is 95 years old) the other night as she reminisced about her childhood. She wondered out loud …why there is so much violence with kids these days? She could not recall any incidence when the kids in her neighborhood didn’t get along. As she spoke I began to think back on my own neighborhood and the games my generation played… It made me wonder how in the hell I ever survived…
I was born in Cambridge Ma… in an area called Cambridgeport. The neighborhoods back then was full of families whose kids filled the streets, alleys and playgrounds. We were never in the house…until the street lights came on… We played all types of games, like ½ ball, Lion’s Den and Relieve-e-o and created a few that must have origins in an insane asylum. I can remember a few I’d like to forget:
HIDE THE BELT I don’t think I have ever talked about this game outside my group of neighborhood friends. As sadistic as it may sound to you HIDE THE BELT was a game we found fun and it was played only in Stinson Court an alley off Allston St.in the neighborhood. To play Hide the Belt properly you need a Garrison Belt… This type belt was a multi-purpose belt that was used for holding up your Dad’s pants, could be part of a uniform or a weapon of discipline in your parent’s arsenal of disciplinary armaments. The guy who won the enie, meanie, minie, moe, catch a tiger by the toe if he hollers let him go, out goes Y,O,U gets to hide the belt 1st. Everyone else had to hide their eyes. When the belt was hidden within the alley the guy who hid it would yell out OK….and everyone would run throughout the alley looking to find the belt, as he barked out hints that signaled warmer, colder to where the belt was. Whoever found the belt then had the right to beat the other players with that belt until they ran back on to a safe place we called ghouls….a predetermined base.
As crazy as this sounds…we had rules…all our games had rules… No whipping above the waist…No holding and absolutely no whipping when someone touched ghouls…. Just so you don’t think we were crazy….
BUCK-BUCK Just to paint a picture this game is like a human eighteen car pileup. One guy would grab onto a sturdy fence and bend over at the waist (Mr. Tavilla’s seemed to be the favorite). Then another guy would wrap his arms around the first guy’s waist line forming a two-man horseback kind of thing. Then a third guy would run about fifty yards and jump into the air and come down on the back of one of these guys trying to break the chain. If he failed to break them apart, he then had to join the chain and the next kid would get his chance to break it. Eventually, some of the big boys would rumble down and destroy the chain. My back is hurting just thinking about the 200 pound 12 year older’ s that grew up on my street.
CRACK THE KNUCKLES Crack the Knuckles was a card game with basically the same rules as rummy. Except that the red cards added up as “Blood points” if you were left holding them when an opponent went out. For example, if you were holding a Queen and a seven of hearts, that was 17 points……which meant the player who went out was now allowed to whack your knuckles with the top part of a full deck of cards, 17 times. Blood was often a integral part of this game.
It’s no wonder my generation evolved in the 60’s into the Peace and Love, Hippy generation. I think we grew older and got tired of whipping, whacking and pouncing the crap out of each other. We must have figured it was time to try something “Far Out” or “Groovy” …. Things change when you grow up and leave the alleyway…. I survived the games somehow but, to be honest I only remember my friends and the fun we had. I never ever think about the pain… I guess it’s the same for my mom…. So, remembering the good times is the way to go, ennie, meanie, minie, moe!