We asked readers to send us your memories of the outdoor games you used to play as children. We received many responses of happy summers. Here are some of them. (To read about summer games and their rules, click here. To read a full feature on “Games People Played,” click here.)
Red Light, Green Light
Oh, those wonderful summer days of years past (in my case 55 years ago) when you left your house and called for your friends down the block. I remember playing a game called “Red Light, Green Light, One, Two, Three.” And of course there was hide and seek and tag. The girls played “potsie” (another name for hopscotch) and we all had a potsie board written with chalk on the cement patio. How we loved to roller-skate. We had the metal skates that gripped our sneakers and we wore our skate keys on a string or lanyard around our necks. And those metal wheels made your legs feel like they were still vibrating long after you removed your skates. And let’s not forget stoop ball, whereby you threw a ball against the front steps and the others tried to catch it. Also, stick ball where you hit the ball with an old broomstick (sans the actual broom head).
…I remember playing handball on the side of my house after dinner each night with my dad. We also played “hit the penny.” We’d place a penny on the sidewalk and with a Spaulding rubber ball we would take turns trying to hit the penny by bouncing the ball on it. If you hit the penny you got one point, but if you were able to “turn the penny over” then you got two points. We also had a “catch” in the backyard with my Spaulding ball.…
It was fun reminiscing. If only my own children and grandchildren could have experienced these happy times when playing with friends wasn’t complicated and organized play dates weren’t necessary.
—Rita Mack, Jericho
I have wonderful memories of a neighborhood game we played more than 60 years ago when I lived on Avery Avenue in Flushing: ring-a-levio. At that time there was a lot of empty land on the block behind our block and an empty lot in the middle of our block provided easy access. Lots of space to run around. It was a democratic game—children of all ages and both boys and girls were included. I was one of the older ones at 13 or 14. Children as young as 7 or 8 could play.
It was a game we usually played in the evening in the long days of summer. The players were divided into two groups; each group had some younger and some older. One group went out to hide while the other group closed their eyes and stayed at the tree base. After a count of perhaps 50 by fives, the group at the base went out to catch the other group. You had to catch someone by grabbing the person and holding on while you said “Caught, caught a-levio, one, two, three.” The person caught had to go back to the base tree. When everyone was caught, the other team went out. However, the prisoners at the base could be freed if someone from their team would risk being caught by running in and touching the tree and shouting “free-a-levio, one, two, three.”
It was a wonderful way to enjoy the summer evening with your friends.
—Eleanor T. Krebs, Farmingdale
I was intrigued by your invitation to describe games from the past. Having grown up in Washington Heights, many countless hours were spent on playing the game of Skulzy in the streets of the city. I’ve included the layout of the game for your use (see illustration at right). When I moved to Port Washington (Salem area) in the late 70s I ended up introducing the game to my children and their friends.
The object of the game is to place a bottle cap (and if you wanted to obtain greater power and acceleration, you would fill it up with melted Crayola wax) at the starting line and maneuver around the playing board (each person taking a turn). The object was to reach the #13, which was the Skulzy. Whoever reached the center first became the Skulzy, enabling him to eliminate his opponents (after he has reached #13) by hitting him three times and then “kicking” him with the side of your sneaker (Keds at the time) at least a one-foot distance.
There can be multiple Skulzy predators. Great care must be maneuvered when reaching #13 because if you fall within the lines you lose a turn. If you land on a line you are safe.
I hope your readership enjoys this walk down memory lane.
—Norman Glavas, Lindenhurst
A Swing Set And Imagination
Although I grew up in Long Island City, Queens I spent all of my summers and holiday vacations in Bayshore with my cousins. Summers involved riding bikes, swimming in each other’s pools and playing on swing sets. Of these, my fondest memories are of the simple swing set in my cousin’s backyard. I was several years older than my cousins and their neighborhood friends and had a very active imagination.The swing set only consisted of a slide, two individual swings and a four-seater, but our imaginations made it so much more. Sometimes, the four-seater became a house that all of us lived in, a car for our pretend family outings or (my favorite), a ship in turbulent waters.Swinging wildly at full force, we were caught in a terrible storm and had to hang on for dear life to until the storm subsided.This occupied us for hours. We were out in the fresh air, getting exercise and using our imaginations.
—Josephine Joyce, Hicksville