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Child's Play

For those of us who have grown up in a world of television, video games, and the Internet, it can be hard to imagine how children used to entertain themselves before these inventions. For the children of Independence Heights, their entertainment often depended upon their own creativity.

_____Mary Lee Taylor remembers entertaining herself with the typical toys and games of the early 20th century. She and her friends would play marbles, fly kites, roll tires, and ride scooters. However, a large part of Mrs. Taylor’s playtime was spent close to home. “We had a garden. We also had chickens and ducks,” she adds, “so there wasn’t [an empty] moment around my place.”

_____Mrs. Edward Peters and her friends entertained themselves by jumping rope and playing London Bridge or baseball. Even without radio or television Mrs. Peters felt “there was always plenty to do.”

_____Although she was ten years younger than her closest sister, Lota McCullough Charles was never without a playmate. She recalls that she would go over to houses with other children her age in the neighborhood, and sometimes try to stay for dinner. But every time she would be sitting down at her neighbor’s table, her mother would call her back home. She fondly recalls her time at play, “We enjoyed playing ball in the streets. They weren’t paved then.” Mrs. Charles also remembers the kids’ ingenuity at finding or making up games for themselves. For entertainment she and her playmates “crawfished” or played fiddle sticks or hide the switch. “We just had to make our own games up.” She laughs at the memory of herself playing jacks for so long that her hand would shake from exhaustion.

_____Like most other children her age, Sarah Jenkins enjoyed playing with jacks or marbles, but the activity that she liked best was helping out at home. “I loved to clean up and make the house beautiful,” she admits. “I loved to cook, too, when I was a little girl. My mother was a very good cook, and I loved hanging in the kitchen with her.”

_____Ethel Mae Alley remembers that children in Independence Heights did not spend all of their time playing, though. She explains, “They were raised to keep house. They were taught that they had obligations [to] the home such as helping mother clean, keeping sister and brothers.”

_____Jacks are played by first scattering the jacks on the ground. With one hand the player bounces a ball, picks up one jack without disturbing any others, and catches the ball before it bounces again. Captured jacks are transferred to the opposite hand. Next the player bounces the ball and must pick up two jacks. Play continues, picking up three jacks, then four, and so on.

_____Marbles are scattered inside a ring drawn into the dirt with a stick. Players each choose one marble from the ring to be their “shooter”. Players hold the “shooter” as shown at right, and use their thumbs to propel the marble into the others. The player gets to keep any marbles that are knocked out of the ring. The player with the most marbles wins the game.

_____Fiddlesticks are played with any group of smooth, same-sized sticks. The sticks are held upright over the playing area and released. The player must remove a stick without disturbing the others. The player’s turn continues until the removal of one stick disturbs another. This game can be played for points, if the sticks are colored differently, or for gathering the most sticks.

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