BFS Prompt #8: Dime Store Games
Today’s prompt to take time out for something fun made me think back to my childhood about what kept us occupied in the dark ages before color/cable TV, computers, internet, gaming platforms, cell phones, IPods/IPads, etc., that now figure so prominently in our lives.
What were the key features of our games? First, and probably most important in our household, they had to be inexpensive. Also, since we spent most of our play time outdoors, it was helpful if the games were small and/or portable. And it was nice if they could be scaled for only one or two players or for many. There are several games that come to mind that meet those criteria including jump rope, hopscotch, Chinese jump rope, cat’s cradle, and Seven-Up Ball, but of all them jacks was my absolute favorite.
Jacks was the most enduring of all the games we played, and probably had the most elaborate set of rules. Girls would gather at each others’ homes and spend hours playing. We typically played with six to ten jacks and a high-bounce ball instead of the unsatisfactory red rubber ball that came with most jacks sets. Players started by tossing the ball in the air, grabbing a single jack, and then catching the ball after it bounced one time. Play would continue through two jacks at a time, three, four, etc., until a player was able to capture all the jacks in play in a single bounce of the ball. If a player “missed” by either not picking up the right number jacks, letting the ball bounce more than once, or by moving a jack that she didn’t pick up, play would move on to the next person. Players picked up where they left off when it was their turn again. Play progressed through several progressively more difficult rounds that might include such things as picking the jacks up on one bounce of the ball and then transferring the jacks to the player’s other hand on a second bounce of the ball, left-handed play, etc. Time and imagination was all it took for us to make a single game last an entire afternoon. The art of the play often came from being able to throw the jacks in a way that they were easy to pick up. For “onesies,” for example, it was best to throw a wide hand to minimize the chance of missing by moving a jack, but for sixes or tens, it was important to throw the smallest allowable hand to make it easier to capture all the jacks in a single throw of the ball. Our rule was that the spread of jacks had to be at least as large as the spread of the player’s hand.
As this video shows, I’m not the only girl-now-grown who likes jacks. In fact, this lady’s fun and skill at the game make me want to buy a new set of jacks so I can see if the magic is still there!