Home Made Toys

by Bill Newman

I can only think of about three things we played with that had to be bought. Rubber balls headed the list. There was no way we knew of to make a rubber ball. A football could be made by old newspapers folded into a tight package and tied or taped together. A baseball was easily made by putting tape of some sort around a ball of string somewhere near the size of a baseball.

Spinning tops could not be made nor could a Hi Li. These items were in short supply except for the rubber balls. Someone always seemed to have a ball.

There were two kinds of rubber balls the pimple ball which sold for .05 and the smooth pink colored ball made by Spalding which sold for .10¢. There were also tennis balls but we never even asked the price of those.

We made scooters and what were called "Soap Box" racers out of old wood fruit boxes or whatever was available. A major tire maker sponsored what was called "The National Soap Box Derby" each year. The grand winner won a college scholarship. The power that propelled the racer was a strong push down a steep hill. If there were any safety precautions I don't recall them.

Guns were made from clothes pins and a few other easily obtained pieces of wood. One type of gun would shoot elastic bands made from cutting up a used inner tube. Another type of gun shot square pieces of paper board. Both were forbidden by mothers and the police. It was a sure thing that someone would be blinded, though I never knew it to happen.

Skelley was a game easily played with beer and soda bottle tops. This was in the years that all beverages came in glass bottles. To play Skelley all that was needed was a supply of bottle tops and a piece of coal or chalk to draw a layout similar to a pool table on the sidewalk. The rules were not unlike some kinds of billiard games.

On a hot summer's day when there was nothing to do we would walk to a large vacant lot on Clinton place and smoke "Chinese Cigars." A "Chinese Cigar" was really a pod from a catalpa tree. The pod was three to four inches long and about the diameter of a medium sized cigar. There was a large problem with a catalpa pod, it was solid inside. This made it impossible to smoke like a cigar, we just lit the end and let it burn.

A wooden cheese box was worth its weight in marbles. You could usually prevail upon someone in the hardware store to cut five small holes in the box. The holes only had to be a little larger than a marble. Above each hole a one digit figure was written. The box was put down any anyone could roll their marble toward the box. If it went into a hole you won whatever number was above the hole. If it did not go into a hole, the roller lost his marble.

There were numerous other games that we played that did not require any equipment. There was "Fifty Scatter", "Ringaleavio", "King of the Hill", and "Kick the Can", though for that one an empty can was needed and very easy to come by.

When I look around the streets of city today I seldom see any kids and the ones I do see are not playing any games. I guess the streets today are not safe to walk on let alone play games on.


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