Changes in kids games have stark contrast between generations
I subscribe to several magazines and newspapers for most of my information. I also browse through the internet sources to try and stay up to date on recent events. When it comes to newspapers I have two favorites that get first glance. One is the sports page and the other is the comics. After that, local news fits in and then a quick glance at world and national news. Part of the reason for subscribing to magazines and newspapers is that on occasion I find a topic that I can get an article for the week. After about 35 years of writing a column you will find yourself looking for any news item on fitness, health, eating for fitness, and running that might fit a ‘Run With Moe’ topic.
This week the comic page had a Blondie (and Dagwood) strip that caught my attention. Dagwood was showing two young boys some of his photos and things from a scrapbook he kept. Comments from the boys were such that the memories and photos Dagwood was showing them were like “Are these real things?” “Is that a picture of you climbing a tree?” Dagwood told them about some of the activities he did as a kid. “We carried slingshots, hung on monkey bars and stayed out till dark.” The boys asked about the aspect of liability issues and if it was dangerous.
Of course, when he told them, “We had cap guns and played board games.” They were starting to question some of his stories. When he told them about putting baseball cards in the spokes of their bikes to make it sound like a motorcycle it was something almost beyond their imagination.
As the boys left Dagwood’s house they commented, “It’s sad how Mr. B’s generation had to compensate for not having smart phones.” Then the last caption had Dagwood asking Blondie if she wanted to play a game of Scrabble or Clue.
The comic strip made me think about the changes that have taken place for activities and games that children played when I was young versus kids today. I wonder how many still play board games like Monopoly, Clue and Scrabble. Most games today are on smart phones. Monkey bars have almost been eliminated from playgrounds because of liability issues and possible injuries. There are still some versions of Monkey Bars on playgrounds today, but looking back at some of the construction of those in past generations, they are gone.
I wonder if sling shots are still popular with young kids today. Any branch that had a ‘Y’ shape to it soon became a sling shot after you attached a couple of strips cut from an old rubber inner tube. Dagwood didn’t mention “rubber guns” made from a wood carved pistol, or rifle, that had a clothes pin, or string on it to release the cut strips of rubber from an old inner tube. Battles and wars, cowboys and Indians fights, were all fought with flying circles of rubber inner tubes. If the rifle barrel was long enough you could have three or four inner tube missiles attached for a modified machine gun. The best part was that when you got hit with the rubber band, it didn’t hurt and no harm was done, other than you were out of the game.
Looking back at scrapbook photos of my very young youth I can’t imagine what would happen if I had a birthday party today at a playground for the celebration and went in costume. My costume consisted of a cowboy hat, leather vest, leather chaps, boots and Roy Rogers cap pistols strapped to each hip. I can just imagine drawing out my cap pistols and shooting off the caps as we played “cowboys.” Of course the “cattle rustlers” all had cap guns too and were shooting back. If you ran out of caps, there was always the old standby of, “Bang, bang, I got you,” to fall back on. I am sure it wouldn’t be long before the real police showed up because of some concerned parent fearing for the safety of their child.
The primary thing about kids playing long ago versus today is that most games either had you riding a bike or running. If you played “cowboy” you had to learn how to run in a gallop to be the horse. Riding a bike fast made those baseball cards on the spokes really hum. Climbing trees is still an in thing with kids today. It is tough for a parent keeping the kids to lower branches for safety concerns. We used to climb to the very top on windy days so that we could sway back and forth in the wind. It was a one-time thing, because at 50 feet, or more, up in the tree you would only get one fall. My hands were one big callus from finger tips to the palm of my hand. This was cool to me, except when I had to take piano lessons and my fingers were all stiff and hard for any fast song. Needless to say my musical career and ability was short lived after a few years.
Thinking about those days long ago we only had limited TV, if at all, no smart phones, video games, or computers. To get rid of excess energy the only option was to run, ride, climb, or wrestle on the lawn. The comments from Dagwood’s young visitors of, “It’s sad how Mr. B’s generation had to compensate for not having smart phones,” got me to thinking about that generation. Looking back at that generation of childhood, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.