A playground for girls. A separate playground for boys.
Seemed natural back in the ‘40’s when I was in elementary school, but it would probably be against the law now.
The girls’ playground was on a side of the building and had concrete along the building, an asphalt drive- way down the middle, and a small amount of grass with a huge rock at the edge.
The boys’ playground was a large tarred space at the back of the building and was very much a mystery to us girls. Both playgrounds were used before school and for recess: morning and afternoon for grades 1-3 and morning recess for grades 4-6. We certainly didn’t have any playground equipment and the balls and jump rope we brought from home. In school there was no physical education program, so there was no skill development, and no team work. For girls, physical activity at school was further inhibited because we were always required to wear dresses or skirts, never pants to school , jeans were unheard of, and sneakers were “only for poor kids” according to our mothers.
During recess there was one teacher to supervise the girls, two for the boys. Kids organized themselves; I guess the teachers were there to guarantee safety. We girls often gathered in little groups to chat or play games but to the best of my memory, we never formed teams. The groups were fluid, and if there were cliques or bullying, they must not have made a big impression on me as I don’t recall them. But I recall clearly many of the games that we played.
In grades 1 -2, we played the typical games that are now history: Farmer in the Dell, London Bridge, and Bluebird, Bluebird. By third grade we were often playing games with a rubber ball the size of a tennis ball. Many of these games involved bouncing the ball while reciting a rhyme and often swinging your leg over the ball [while bouncing] at certain words. One popular rhyme which you would recite while bouncing the ball was “ Charlie Chaplin went to France to teach the pretty girls how to dance. First the heel then the toe, touch the ground [you would do that] and over you go.” On words that are underlined you would swing your leg over the ball. Wildly popular was “A My Name is Alice.” “ A my name is _______, my husband’s name is ___________, we come from _______________ and we sell _______. Bouncing the ball constantly, as you filled in each blank, you swung your leg over the ball. If you missed, you passed the ball to the next player. The goal was to proceed all the way to “Z” but I don’t think the game ever got as far as “M”.
A more active game with a ball was “Polly,” with as many as eight players. The person owning the ball was Polly, and everyone else counted off. Gathered loosely around, Polly would toss the ball up in the air and call out a number (Polly 3, for example”). Everyone would run while the one called tried to catch the ball quickly She would then look for the closest person to tag with the ball. That game was the closest we came to running or playing tag.
There was another popular game played with a ball: Plainsies, Clappsies, roll the ball to “Backsies, High, Low, Touch the knee, touch the toe, touch the heel and over you go. For the next round you would toss the ball up and clap before each “task.” Hard to explain, but then you would roll the ball before each task, etc. When you missed, the ball passed to the next player, and when it was your turn again, you picked up where you left off. Of course the goal was getting all the way to “over you go” before each task. This was my favorite game, and I’ve taught hundreds of kids to play it. I particularly liked it because even at home you could practice it by yourself and see how far you could go.
The favorite activity, though, was jump-rope, and you would stand in a long line to get your turn. It was a long length of rope, usually clothes-line, with one person on each end turning the rope. When it was your turn, you would jump into the swinging rope and keep jumping to a rhyme until you missed, and then your turn was over. One rhyme went like this: “Down in the meadow where the green grass grows, there sits (Your name), pretty as a rose. Along came ____________ (Fill in name of boy, usually in your class) and kissed her on the cheek. How many kisses did he give her in a week. At this point the rope turners would go very fast (This was called pepper) and everyone would count 1,2,3, etc. until you missed. Then the next person would jump in. Sometimes there were contests to see who could jump pepper the longest.
If it was inclement weather we stayed in the classroom and played Simon Says or Dog and Bone
Seven Up, the salvation of my teaching days was not around nor was 4 squares – the most popular game on today’s playground.
Funny how these things stick in the mind. If only I could remember my passwords as easily!
Dorothy C. Judd © 2016
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