Sande Caplin and I grew up in Westbury, Long Island, in New York. I have listened to his great stories of neighborhood adventures, playing stick ball in the street, building forts and then bringing everyone to his house so Gert, his Mom, could feed them. I remember thinking about how he and his friends didn’t need ANY toys to have the best time ever! It was all imagination, camaraderie, and playing in the street till the sun went down.
In a nearby neighborhood in the same town is where I lived with mostly girl neighbors. I can’t remember having a lot of toys or dolls. We played that game with a red rubber ball “ A my name is Annie and my husband’s name is All, we come from Alabama just to sell you Apples” and on and up through the alphabet, till we exhausted the A-Z’s. Hide and seek was a good one, and then baking cookies with my mom was also a neighborhood favorite. I know we waited for the ice cream truck to come every day, of which there were three… Bungalow Bar, Good Humor and Judy Ann, to whom we used to yell out “Judy Ann is the garbage man!”
But what toys did we have? I remember the boys in my family having Lincoln Logs and an Erector set, and Lionel trains on the tracks with the village and shops and fire company. What fun! I also remember the Slinky and of course, Candyland. Monopoly was the most popular board game at that time. I had an Uncle Murray, the quintessential Jewish uncle, who worked for a toy company. We’d see his big Cadillac rolling down the street and we knew what was next. Uncle Murray would open the trunk of his car and whip out new guns and holsters for the four kids in my family. Cap guns were good clean fun back in the day!
As far as being a girl back then, you either were a Barbie-doll-person or your weren’t. My sister had the first Chatty Cathy talking doll in our neighborhood. We played checkers and Chinese checkers but I made an important turn in my life at about that age, and became a book worm. Nancy Drew was all that and a bag of Bazooka gum! My brother and I got a Knock Hockey game about that time and killed hours competing with each other while we listened to the Supremes and the Platters on our “hi- fi.” ( Hi-fi being the newest mode of music amplification….Wow! 2 speakers!)
In the 1950s and 1960s, kids were expected to go outside and play. We wanted to be out of the house because nothing in the house was interesting and you wanted to know where all the other kids were and what they were doing. These activities did not involve much in the way of props. Our “playing” relied on imagination and energy. Many a mother simply said “you kids go outside and play,” and that’s what you did!
Our outside games are virtually extinct in this day and age. We played hide and seek, stick ball, hop scotch and rode bikes. And for the most part, your bike was a heavy duty Schwinn with no speeds, until 3-speeds became popular. We passed the time jumping rope and playing jacks, and would be able to be entertained for hours on end. When we had recess at school, some of our friends played “Double Dutch” jump rope, having two ropes to jump over at a time, and if you had no rhythm, you found something less challenging to do.
At birthday parties we played Pin the Tail on the Donkey and had dance contests. My friend Paula and I had the jitterbug, (sometimes also called the Lindy) down pat, and won all of the dance contests hands down. If you had boys at your party and your parents were upstairs, we played spin the bottle. Absolutely scandalous! It was about that time that Duncan yo-yo’s became popular. I was such a spazz at yo-yoing that I gave it up early, but I remember my older brother mastering such yo-yo maneuvers as “walkin’ the dog” and “around the world.” The first skateboards came about and soccer became a popular game.
Any way you slice it, no one wanted to stay in the house after school. Well, unless you were watching American Bandstand and wanted to know if Kenny Rossi was dancing with Arlene Sullivan and if Pat broke up with Carmen. We learned the latest dances from that show and I can even remember my mother watching with us. We actually liked our parents back then.
Life is a bit more complicated now. I don’t say that as a negative criticism, but instead, am awed and astounded at the technology that has developed since then. I remember that the few times a year my family went out to a restaurant together you had to sit there and join in the conversation without DS boxes and cell phone games. If we were really bored we would suck on a sugar cube, which came with the condiments, ie. Salt and pepper, and were individually wrapped. You had to pull off that maneuver without either parent noticing. Or at the Chinese restaurant they would serve tea, decidedly an adult beverage except at Gam Wah, the local Chinese restaurant who was rumored to have served “cat” by a dissatisfied customer.
I remember cleaning up after a group play date when my son was 4 or 5. The orange shag carpet was the hiding place for a zillion fisher price people from the plane, the boat and other vehicles. The toy box was a riot of GI Joe guys,
Well, you know me, always living in the past! Reply to this story and tell all of our readers what you liked to do in the 60’s, or the 70’s or 80’s. I would love to hear about your good clean fun!