Saturday, December 06, 2008

Coopting the Kids

See those carefully painted lines and numbers on the concrete at the school playground? A form of hopscotch. Straight out of some how-to textbook written for recreation majors. I am appalled. For centuries, hopscotch, marbles, jump rope and many other classic games were part of Kid Culture -- passed along from older children to the younger ones. Without any adult intervention. Not any more. For one thing, those level dirt places where one could draw the hopscotch outlines with a stick are gone. Paved over. Or built over. (Although all it takes is a sidewalk and a piece of chalk, plus a handful of stones to play the game.) But adults keep sticking their noses into private places where they don't belong. Is this part of the misbegotten impulse to be children's pals rather than their mentors? Or is it that we are leaning more and more on Centralized Authority.

In contrast: having lived in several parts of the country when young, I recall hopscotch, jump ropes and jacks all having regional variations. "Sky blue"? Never heard of it til I came to Chicago, where all the little girls also played jump ropes hopping rapidly between two intertwining ropes. In California, we had a version of hopscotch that involved inscribing the names of movie stars in the squares that we owned. "Ollie, ollie ox can come in free"? How did you let the kids know that someone was already IT in a game of hide and seek? Variety. Differences. Evolution. Yes, diversity.

Of course, more than a certain amount of the blame also lies with Marketing Man. Back to my blessed youth again, there was only one doll that came with a trade mark pedigree: Raggedy Ann. One named one's dolls and stuffed toys; for example that's Julius Otto, my very own teddy bear sitting there in the chair. (No, I didn't think up that particular moniker; obviously an adult, in this case my Aunt Jo, savored the absurdity of the name.) My mother, who valued originality, would never have bought a toy that was already named -- no way! It was probably the success of Barbie that ruined everything, turning what had been the individuality of a doll into a mass market phenomenon. In this mix, TV advertising was the killer app, without which Barbie probably never would have happened. But it did. And the world is changed forever. Grump.

6 comments:

worldphotos4 said...

Being a kid was so much easier, back then.

Antipodean Curmudgeon said...

With reference to The same game but with differences. The game called Jacks in the states, in which the objects to be picked up while the ball is in the air are metalic castings of the industrial age, is called knuckle bones, here. The target objects are pigs feet knuckle bones or reasonable facimilies--plastic knuckle bones.

Hermano

PS Julius still looks as he should.

Kim said...

This is such a great post...I often think about how the world has changed since the short time ago when I was a child...I'm 27 now. It's amazing to me that in no time kids have stopped playing outside all day, running through all of the neighbors backyards without shoes, playing ghost in the graveyard until 10 at night. Our parents were o.k. with it. Not anymore...the boogyman is out there waiting to snatch us up. Quite a shame and part of the blame must be put on our news media culture of fear as well.

As for the good stuff...growing up in Chicago we had "sky blue" and 4-square in our auto-court as well. A creek to play in all year...build forts and mud stew. We loved tag and cops and robbers....although somehow the phrase got lost along the way to be "Ollie Ollie Auction Free." I never quite knew what that meant. I grew up with Barbies and Nintendos and all the other games and toys to boot...but the things I remember and the things I loved always revolved around being outside, pretending, and creating imaginary things from the ordinary. Sometimes I miss those days.

AZ said...

Kim, I Googled the rules for Hide and Seek and when the seeker cannot find the last of the hiders you yell,"Olly, olly, otsinfree!" or "All, all outs in free." I though "Ollie Ollie Auction Free" was so cute!

sheoflittlebrain said...

This is a different time for sure, hard to believe we were wo free..

Granny J said...

steve -- you're right, being a kid was a lot easier back then. I recall wandering the woods around Jacksonville by myself. But I must say that being a teen-ager was just as traumatic back then as it is now. At least for me.

bro -- fascinating and obviously an earlier version of what we USAans call jacks.

kim -- Interesting -- I thought that all the worry about boogiemen happened even before the days of your childhood. We lived in the Inner City & did have to worry, but made sure our dotter spent time at her grandparents in Evanston and, in the summer, in Florida so that she could be a lot freer.

AZ -- a good many years ago, a discussion of just how that phrase was worded cropped up in the Chicago Tribune. You'd be amazed at the variations -- but the, maybe not if you ever sat in a circle and played telephone.

brain -- I should think that kids could be reasonably free in a place like Prescott or Chino.

 
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