February 20, 2013

Crossword puzzle prompts memories of kids games


---- — In a recent crossword puzzle, the clue was “childhood game.” My husband, Toby, and I started to name all the childhood games we played and had a lot of laughs.

Toby came up with Follow the Leader. He said as a boy, growing up in Schuyler Falls, he and his friends would even play this fun game in the dark.

They climbed to the upper beams of the old grist mill in Schuyler Falls, walking across the beam with only two dim flashlights, one with the leader and one with the guy at the end of the line.

He shakes his head now and admits they could have been killed had they fallen from that height. Did we ever think of the dangers when we were young?

Another game popular in Schuyler Falls in the 1940s was Kick the Can. A variation on Hide and Seek, the person who was “it” had to make sure the people hiding didn’t make it to the can. If they did, you were “it” again. I wouldn’t be good at that game. I hate being “it.”

One of my favorite kid games was Red Rover, Red Rover. I was thrilled when I heard, “Let Susie come over.”

I asked one of my grandchildren if they ever played Red Rover. The confused look was enough to tell me that if it’s not a video game, most kids today haven’t played it.

When I was really young, Duck, Duck, Goose, was a favorite. For the younger set, everyone would sit on the ground, in a circle. The “farmer” would walk around the outside of the circle, tapping each one on the head and say “Duck” until he or she came to someone they wanted to be chased by. Then they would say “Goose,” and that person would have to chase them, trying to tag them before they sat down.

Needless to say, I seem to remember tagging the cutest boy in the circle.

I did not play Blind Man’s Bluff. I absolutely refused to let anyone block my vision then ask me to wander around trying to tag someone.

Capture the Flag was for the boys, not very lady-like, and they got mad when the girls beat them.

Dodge Ball was abusive, in my book. As I look back, it was good for getting all the anger out but not good for the person in the middle of the circle having the ball thrown at them.

Mother May I seemed an awful lot like daily life. The “mother” stood at the head of the room while all the “children” stayed way back and asked permission to move forward. The mother would give permission for a certain number of steps or deny that request.

I didn’t like asking permission for anything back then. Kind of sheds light on my teenage years.

I got to play a game that most of my friends did not. It was called Drive the Old Desoto Around the Field. We had a second car, an old, dark green 1949 Desoto, that my mother drove. Somehow, when I was about 12, they let me have it to drive in the field next to our house.

Pretending I was on a racetrack, I’d slow down and pick up my “passengers,” my brother, sister, cousins, friends. There was a huge boulder, about half the height of the hub on the car, and they would stand on the boulder to make sure I didn’t hit them.

One day, I must have been going too fast, because I hit the boulder. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but that ended my Desoto driving days because it bent the hub so badly that it was no longer drivable.

Dad and Mum decided it was too costly to fix, and that would avoid any more accidents. That old Desoto has a special place in my heart and explains my nostalgia for old cars.

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Email her at