WHY Couldn’t I Beat Joe Murray?
By Dave Heflin
During the school sessions we had two Recesses lasting fifteen minutes each and a wonderful one hour noon-lunch break. If we jumped rope with the girls, nothing else was going on. However, there seemed to be fads that were short lived such as marbles, yo-yos, tops, paper or balsa wood planes, and etc. in elementary grades.
First, marbles were played under bushes or on level ground with about two foot circles drawn. One set of rules was for a “loser” marble shot into the circle and then in turn, we shot at that marble. If “it” was knocked out and the “shooter” remained, we continue knocking out other’s marbles and keeping them---our “shooter’ had to remain if it failed to knock one out. As I recall we had to stay in our original location around the circle. Remember “dubs one mine” or the rule on using a “steely” as a “shooter” ? I can’t remember why it was claimed, but Joe Murray abused these rules plus several others to eventually capture your best marble, the “shooter.” By the way, we were warned to NOT keep others’ marbles via “tattle tales.”
Tops. Same size ring in the hard-packed dirt was etched, but out in the open in order to use full standing coordination. Basic game was to choose a “starter” and he tried to spin his top successfully into the ring and back out. If it stopped in the circle, the guys to your left had the opportunity to knock it out keeping your top; usually, more than two tops were stuck there. When your time came again, you could do some damage. I remember a pretty red top getting split in half by “you know who.”
Yo-yos. Cheap up to fancy brands were somewhat competitive, but you got to keep it if you lost the challenge. All types of tricks such as “walk- the- dog, round-the-world, swing set,” and others were popular.
Other schoolyard fads included pitching pennies (mainly, losing pennies), sword fights, pea (usually spit balls) shooters (always hidden from the teachers), “King of the Mound,” dodge ball, washers, chase tag, and a big hit, pull riders off of “horses.”
In secret places out of sight from Mr. Baker or teachers, we had some forbidden games played with pocketknives and slingshots. For “stretch,” each had a knife facing each other attempting to force a side-to-side stretch with only a shoe length target stickup until you missed; then, your opponent had the same chance. The game was over when one could not stretch any more. Sling shots games were limited to breaking Coke bottles, “going out for a pass” (Ouch!), and gathering around touching the shooter and scattering wildly when the rock was shot straight (?) up.
Girls, I challenge you to finally reveal your recess games. So-o-o much pleasure came from the common bonds of “boy stuff” and our frequent ecstasy of being included. Winning was not assured, but we waited a few days for a possible chance to find our niche, even if it were a simple toy purchased at Epting’s or the Golden Rule store.
I REPEAT, “Why couldn’t I beat Joe Murray?”