Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: April 1983 Volume 21 Number 2, Pages 69–74

Club Members Remember : Some Games We Used to Play

Club Members

Page 69

Many of the games our club members remember playing were informal outdoor games, enjoyed with a minimum of equipment or preparation. The "rules" were generally simple. Everyone knew them - or they were developed as the game went along. For the most part, all that was needed was a field or flat surface for the playing area.

Here are some of the ways kids had fun in yester-year!


Nursery Rhyme Games

Throughout early childhood, many of the games we played were with the singing of nursery rhymes. Infants were entertained with "Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake"; toddlers fell down to "Ring Around the Rosie"; and when six or more pre-schoolers could be found together, they were often encouraged to form a ring for "Drop the Handkerchief", with several verses of

"A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket, I wrote a letter to my love, and on the way I lost it."

One player was "it", walking around the outside of the ring and dropping a handkerchief behind someone in the circle. This started a race between the two of them, around the ring and back to the starting place. The loser was "it" for the jnext chorus.

"The Farmer in the Dell" and "London Bridge is Falling Down" were both adapted for indoor and outdoor recess. These games began under the teacher's direction, but they grew more and more to our liking as we named additional characters to stand in the ring with the farmer, or played "untaught" nursery rhyme games, such as "Jack and Jill". (This was not on the parents' or teachers' approved list as falling down was considered too rough!)

Barbara Fry

Page 70


Red Light; Still Pond, No More Moving!

Outside, we played Red Light. The person who was "it" stood a tone end of the field, with his or her back turned, and counted "1-2-3-4--5-6-7-8-9-10-Red Light!" in an uneven cadence. Any one caught moving, after the words "Red Light" was out of the game. The process was repeated until only one player was left. The last one left was the winner -and "it" the next time,

Janet Malin

In another variation of the game, the person caught moving after "Red Light" returned to the starting point, rather than being eliminated from the game. The winner, and next "it", was the player who crossed the field to reach the end line first. You can imagine some of the arguments that occurred over whether a player was really detected moving after the words "Red Light"!

Bob Goshorn; also mentioned by Molly TenBroeck, Mildred Kirkner

Still another variation was called Still Pond, No More Moving! My game-loving aunt from Minnesota brought it to my childhood home. The mechanics of the game were the same as above, but a certain fillip was added as it was expected - though not required - that each player freeze in an amusing pose at the end of the count. When "it" called "Still Pond, No More Moving!" (rather than "Red Light"), a grimacing "Statue of Liberty" or Rodin's "Thinker" or "Columbus Discovering America" or simply a wild clownish statue might greet his eyes.

As for arguments about detected movement, many were the cries of "You fudged!". Nevertheless, it was a great way to wile away a summer evening in the after-glow of the setting sun.

Liz Goshorn


Fox and Geese

A fresh snowfall was an invitation to make a track for Fox and Geese. Snow five or six inches deep, on a level lot, was ideal. The players ran around a broad circle, ten or fifteen feet in diameter, to make the track. After the outer ring was tramped down, spokes were cut to the center. A small round space at the center of the wheel was made for a "safe" area.

The game began with the "fox" in the center and the "geese" on the circumference. The fox chased the geese up and down the spokes and around the circle, the geese who were caught leaving the playing area. Players could rest in the safe area for a short time.

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When all the geese were caught, the game was over and a new one was begun* The next fox might "be a volunteer, or the last goose to be caught. The rules were somewhat flexible, and made by conferences and agreements with all parties participating,

Barbara Fry

We played Fox and Geese when I was a student at Walker School. Two lines of players stood facing each other, some distance apart. Two players, standing between the two lines, were the foxes. The other players were the geese.

The geese ran from one line to the other - without being caught by the foxes, A player who was caught was out of the game,

Eleanor Dunwoody; also mentioned by Janet Malin


Hide and Seek ("Hidengoseek") Kick the Can

One player was "it". He or she stood at a base (usually a tree or post) and counted to a predetermined number, ending the count with "Anyone-around-my-base-is-it!". While he was counting, the other players found hiding places, (You soon learned to count very fast!)

The person who was "it" then looked for the others. On finding someone, he called out the hiding place ("I see you, behind the cellar door!") and then raced back to tag the base. If "it" strayed too far from the base, the other players could leave their hiding places and run to the base, declaring "In clear!" (This was the reason for the admonition that "Anyone-around-my-base-is-it!".)

When all the players were either found or "in clear", a new game would start with a new "it" - though if someone were too well hidden, he or she might simply be left there for several games.

Bob Goshorn; also mentioned by Janet Malin, Barbara Fry, and Molly TenBroeck

Kick the Can can be considered a boys' version of Hide and Go Seek as the rules were similar, but I can remember only boys playing it.

The base in this version was a tin can - since this was during the Depression, more than likely a Campbell's Pork & Beans can - that was placed in the middle of the street. The "it" counted to 100 by 5's while the rest ran to hide or get some distance from the can. The object was to get back to and kick the can before "it" could kick it. The game usually got quite physical, as any method could be - and was - used to prevent the can from being kicked.

I can still hear the sound of that can rattling across the black top and feel bruises and skinned knees - but it was fun.

Leighton Haney; also mentioned by Janet Malin, Elizabeth Goshorn

Page 72


Prisoner's Base

Two captains chose their teams, with the same number of players on each side. The teams stood facing each other, some distance apart,at their base, or "jail". The object of the game was to go out and tag the players on the opposing team, who then became prisoners and put into the jail. The prisoners could be freed only if rescued by one of their teammates who was able to elude the guards around the prison or entice them from their positions so that another could make the rescue.

The team that captured the greater number of the opposing team was the winner.

Janet Malin; also mentioned by Eleanor Dunwoody, Molly TenBroeck


Bottle Caps

All that was required for this game were caps from soda bottles, a piece of chalk or coal, and a paved surface about ten feet square. The playing area was chalked out with a six foot square and twelve numbered squares, about 4" by 4" each, around the perimeter, arranged so that to get from one square to the next required shooting across the entire area. In the center was a thirteenth square, about 12" by 12", known as Poison! or No Man's Land or Deadman's Box.

Snapping the upside-down bottle cap with the third finger and thumb, the object was to proceed from square to square in sequence. The cap had to be in the square - "liners" did not count. Anyone who landed in - or was knocked into - Poison! had to stay there until someone knocked him out, either accidentally or for a negotiated price (some marbles, a candy bar, a promise to return the favor, or whatever). The first player to go from 1 to 12 was the winner.

Bob Goshorn



We played baseball all summer, even without "Little League" or organized teams. In fact, usually there were only about a dozen or so of us altogether - boys and tomboys alike. Instead of having teams, we played "workie-up".

There were three batters, the other nine playing the regular defensive positions. (If there were only eight fielders, we'd do without a second baseman.) When a batter was out, he'd go to right field, the catcher would become the next batter, and each player rotated to another position: right field to center field to left field to third base to shortstop to second to first to pitcher to catcher.

Page 73

If the batter was out on a fly ball, he would take the position of the player who made the catch, that player at the same time becoming a batter. Many a pop fly was dropped as several fielders collided, trying to make the catch to become a batter!

Not only did this make a game possible with only a dozen players, but it also gave each of us a chance to play each position as we "worked our way up" to be batters. By the end of the season, incidentally, the baseball (frequently a "nickel rocket" to begin with) was covered with black tire tape, which we used to patch it "together when it became badly scuffed or the seams split.

Bob Goshorn

Other outdoor games included tag, dodge ball, skipping rope, hop scotch, marbles, Blind Man's Buff, and King of the Hill.

In addition to outdoor games, some members recalled a few porch or parlor games.


Up the Stairs

On summer nights at home, as we watched the seasonal crowds pass our house, walking to and from the park, we invented a neighborhood game that sent us up and down the front steps. The player who was "it" held a stone in one hand. Taking turns, another player would guess which hand held the stone# If the player guessed correctly, he went up one step. The one who made it to the top first was the one to hold the stone for the next round.

Barbara Fry


Quaker Meeting

On a warm summer evening we would all gather on some one's front porch or steps to enjoy this quiet game.

One person would stand before the rest of the group of children and recite

"Quaker meeting has begun
No more laughter, no more fun,
If you show your teeth or tongue
Out you go - and don't come back!"

Then it was up to that child to try to make the others smile or laugh. And when a player did so, he or she was out of the game.

The leader might tell jokes, stories, make faces, dance, or do other things that would make the kids laugh. This went on until all the children smiled.

Betty Haney

Page 74


Musical Chairs

When our teacher, Miss Emma Wersler, bought a portable organ, it was the first musical instrument in Walker School. We used it to play musical chairs, only we used our desks in place of chairs when we played the game.

A student, often my sister Marion, played the organ as the rest of us marched around the desks. When the music stopped, each one sat at a desk. After each turn, a desk was removed, so there was always one less desk than the number of players. The player who did not get a seat was eliminated from the game. The object was to be the last and only person remaining in a chair.

Eleanor Dunwoody


Find the Button

Find the Button (or Hide the Button) kept us busy in the farm parlor while our mothers fed apple pickers or threshers. We spent many an hour deciding who was "hot" or "cold" or "lukewarm" as the players moved near to, or far from, the hidden button. We chose to play the game in teams rather than the usual way of having one person "it". The challenge was to find ever better and new hiding places - and somehow we managed a continuing supply of unique and different places to hide the button.

Barbara Fry

Other indoor games included a variety of card games, among them Pit, Old Maid, Rook, Authors, and, with a regular deck of cards, Hearts, Rummy, and 500.

500 was played, and fought over, on the porch. Mother bought us "Hoyle on Games" to settle arguments - but Binky, our dog, chewed it up one day while we were eating lunch. She seemed to know we couldn't agree, even with the rules!

Elizabeth Rumrill

There were board games too - Checkers, Parchesi, a game called "Polaris, which was about the stars and constellations, sort of an early trip to the moon idea" - as well as jacks (remember "Eggs in the Basket" or "Pigs in the Pen"?), tiddledy winks, jackstraws, dominoes.

And there were also pencil and paper games, such as Complete the Square, Battleships, and the perennial Tic-Tac-Toe.

They were perhaps simple games - but they were also a lot of fun!


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