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The Thompson-Ames Historical Society
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8/24/06   The Games People Played and Still Do

Games we played as kids are still in our memories but they’re elusive because we can’t see them or touch them and sometimes we can’t remember how they were played. We remember the names such as hide and seek, tag, Run Sheep Run, Duck on the Rock or many others depending on what they were called where you lived as a youngster. They were fun games that were done to fill a gap when kids got together and someone suggested –what do you want to do? Someone would suggest a particular game and that would occupy everyone until someone would get tired of it and suggest another. Games are so necessary when we’re young as they expand our imagination and develop us physically.

However, games have changed considerably over the years and though tag and hide and seek are still played they seem to be less popular and there is a lot less physical activity. Perhaps that has some bearing on our children putting on more weight then we would like. Boys still play “catch” and girls still play with dolls but most of the old games have been supplanted by television or computer games which have far less physical activity attached. Although there is certainly a lot more finger dexterity and mental agility in some of the electronic games, there seems to be a great deal of shooting and killing accompanied by much noise and lots of action.

“In the good old days” boys and some girls played marbles which was a lot of fun and the competition was keen if you were playing with your favorite “aggie” and didn’t want to lose it to your friend. The girls developed dexterity and timing with jump rope and when there were several girls it was fun to watch the girls use two ropes or “double jumping”. Another one the girls liked was Hop-scotch where someone would mark off the lines and the girls did their hopping from one block to another. For most of these games there were usually variations to make the game more interesting or challenging.

It’s always interesting to ask someone about what games they played as a kid and immediately their faces light up as they talk about some particular game and how it was played. Ask some 50 year old woman how hop scotch was played and she will be apt to show you. It’s interesting that some of these games are still played and is a testament to how much fun they were and that people enjoyed doing for many years... One wonders when did the game of tag originate or maybe hide and seek. When we talk about games there are a lot of other games such as board games, card games, and games such as Pick Up Sticks or Ball and Jacks and many others and it seems that mankind is always thinking up something that is fun and yet is a challenge and requires some mental dexterity or physical ability to become proficient at it.

Close companions to games which are designed to provide fun are toys. Toys like games are things we have invented to amuse ourselves and require certain amounts of ability that give us a measure of pride in accomplishing a task. Toys like games have been around so long it’s difficult to know when or how they originated. Dolls probably came about due to a girls “mother instinct” while boys tend toward more aggressive or strenuous activity requiring strength or dominance over others. Toys in our country seem to have become popular after the American Revolution and continued on past the Civil War. Prior to the machine age most of the toys were made by a family and were and are known as “folk toys” Some toys were brought with people who came to America from other countries such as the Yo-Yo(China) the Pecking Chicken(Germany) or the Limberjack(Ireland). The Yo-Yo reportedly was developed in the Orient in” ancient” times and was discovered by French missionaries when China was opened up to

Foreigners and was brought back to France where it became very popular in the 1790s. It came to America with the immigrants and swept America in the 1920s Like many toys it declined in popularity but became popular again when it was manufactured with plastic and featured lots of color and even lights. Most homes today have a yo-yo but kids don’t play with them that much.

Most of our “folk toys” were produced at home for several good reasons, toys were not available in stores and they were expensive in a population that had limited incomes, the materials for the toys was available, and farm families had time in off-seasons to make them. The machine age changed a lot of that with mass production and lowered cost and new technology. The toy industry now is a multi billionaire industry. However, making a toy with limited tools which is gladly accepted by your children who derive a great of pleasure playing with it and keep it over the years because mom or dad made it is a wonderful accomplishment. Made from good sturdy materials they are designed to last so they become treasures for tomorrow.

The public is invited to view and try their hand at some of these historic toys during Gilford Old Home Day on Saturday, August 26, 2006. Thompson-Ames own toy expert, Don Frost, will be demonstrating some of these toys at the Grange Museum Building at our open house from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m.