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JIM “PAPPY” MOORE: Children’s Outdoor Games of the 1950s

By Jim “Pappy” Moore

Childhood in the 1950s was much different than today. Children played outside unless it was raining. They were expected to organize their own play with others. There were no play-dates. You, your siblings, and your friends decided what you would play, where and when.

The games outside were physically active games which required running, chasing, jumping and such. Red Rover was a game played which required at least six players, but ten to twelve were preferred. Two captains would be chosen for two teams.  Each Captain would take turns choosing players for his or her side. The young and the weak were chosen last. Each team faced off about thirty feet from each other in the front or back yard. Each child interlocked his or her hands and wrists with a teammate, creating a line of children, all with their hands and arms interlocked. One team would yell “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Billy come over!” Billy would then run toward his opposing team that had just called his name. His goal was to break through between two of the players who were interlocked. If he succeeded, he got to pick someone from that team to go back with him to his team. If he failed to break through, he was captured by the team which called his name. He would be added to their chain for the next round. This process continued until one team had obliterated the other team.

I chuckle even thinking about kids today playing Red Rover. I cannot imagine the whining, crying and self-pity such a game would have on some. And that would just be the parents.

The old favorite Hide and Go Seek was a frequent choice. It could be played inside or outside. It mimics the predator/prey roles as the one who hides his or her eyes and counts down chases, and all the others go hide and try not to be found. Little ones often fail at this game, as they do not realize you can see their feet sticking out from under a bush or behind a tree.

Physically active games required hustle and balance. Hop Scotch was played on a concrete sidewalk, driveway or street. Participants were required to Hop on one foot for a number of squares drawn on the pavement with chalk, stopping occasionally where two blocks allowed one to rest for a split second, then continue more of the same. You would make the trip there, then turn around and make the trip back. If you failed to do so with exactitude, you had to start over. Balance was the most important thing. Speed was less important than getting it right.

Jumping Rope came in two varieties. The more complicated version involved a long rope held at each end by a kid. Those two kids would swing the rope around and around until the jumper would enter and start jumping. There was usually a song or other cadence which helped the jump rope holders and the jumper keep in tempo as the successful jumps were called out loud by all who were present. This was a keen test of coordination and physical skills, for both the jumper and those swinging the rope.

The second variety of Jump Rope was the solo jumping, done by oneself. Holding the two ends of the rope, usually with wooden handles that were attached, the Jumper would jump as he or she skipped in rhythm as the participant swung the rope. Usually this was done with the rope going forward, but advance jumpers could swing the rope backward and complete the process anticipating the rope’s journey coming behind them.

Tag You’re It was just as the name says. It was a game in which someone was It, and whoever was It had to chase down and tag out by tagging another kid. Little ones usually had a tough time with this one, but they played and they learned how to get by.

Kick The Can was just that. Someone would get a can from the garbage and kids would kick it in the street. Back and forth. The can would get bent up, perhaps stepped on and crush. It was pure energy at work, and kids would have fun just venting on that can.

These were some of the games we played outside in the 1950s. They were physically active games which helped children develop physical and social skills. It is unfortunate today’s children mostly play games involving them and a small screen on a phone, pad or computer. They miss out on developing important social, physical, and speaking skills.

Copyright 2022, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.


1 Comment

  1. Lanny Parish on May 25, 2022 at 11:28 pm

    Enjoyed your article as always.

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