Great Depression games

Mark Green Special to the Democrat
Booneville Democrat

I have made the statement that my father forgot more games than I ever knew. In Daddy’s childhood there was little money, and there were no electronics, so people just visited (imagine that!) or read, or played games. You could get Daddy involved in a game at any time, because he loved them, and none of the ones that he knew cost money to play.

One of the most fearsome of the playthings they had was called a hillbilly. This consisted of two cast-off wagon axles with wheels, a board attached between the axles for a seat, and a rope tied to the ends of the front axle for steering. Then they would climb aboard the contraption and set it rolling down a hill. (Did I mention that there were no brakes at all?)

The particular hill that got their business is the ridge south of Highway 10 just east of Magazine. Can you imagine riding such a thing? As you bounced down the hill you naturally would have scooted forward on the board. It would have been Splinter City. If you bounced off you probably landed in a patch of prickly pears.

Another toy involved a small metal hoop about a foot in diameter. A paddle was constructed of wooden strips – one about four feet long for a handle and a short one attached as a “T” across the end. You would roll the hoop down the handle to get it started, and then push it with the short piece. If you got good at it, you could keep the hoop rolling indefinitely, steering it with the cross piece. Races were a lot of fun.

Annie Over was another game that we loved. All it required was a ball that would bounce, such as a tennis ball, and a rooftop. The players would divide into teams and stand on opposite sides of the house. When one team was ready to throw the ball, they would call out, “Annie Over!” and the other team would answer. Then Team One would throw the ball over the peak of the house so that it landed on the opposite slope. If you could get the ball to bounce on the outside edge of the roof so that it would carom away from the building, it was more difficult to catch.

When Team Two managed to catch the ball, they would charge around the house, and any opponents who were tagged had to come over to their team. The game was over when one of the teams lost all their players to the other.

One of our all-time favorites was Mumblety-Peg. There are different versions of game, but it is played by two or more persons, who stick a pocket knife in the ground from different positions. They ranged from a simple flip, to dropping the knife off various upper body parts – knuckles, elbow, shoulders, top of the head – and finally flipping the knife from a position propped on the ground by both blades. If the knife did not stick, the throw did not count. The person who finished the series first was the winner; the last one was the loser.

There was a definite penalty to being the loser. The winner whittled a peg a couple of inches long, and pounded it into the ground with the handle of the knife. The loser had to pull out the peg from the ground with his teeth – thus the “mumble” in the name of the game.

The moral to this story? You do not have to have money to have fun.