Games & Trends of Days Gone By

by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Quite often I receive emails that are truly “nostalgic pieces” of days gone by. Either the pictures show fantastic designs of 1950’s cars, complete with huge tail fins, “curb feelers” or car interior designs like the hanging pair of dice on the rear view mirror. You weren’t “cool” unless you had a pair! Other popular emails cover the simple toys and games we played back then. Remember playing pickup sticks, the multi-colored wooden sticks that you had to select one at a time without touching another one?  How about the game of jacks, with little metal pieces and a tiny rubber ball that was bounced with one hand as you picked up a “jack” with the other?  Let’s not forget a favorite pastime, your View master and the many discs that came with it. Sometimes I’d save my allowance to buy more of my favorite subjects, like travel to Hawaii or pictures of our TV cowboy heroes.

Outdoor playtime was a huge part of our day, especially in the summer. There were hula hoop contests to see how long someone could keep their hips swiveling and the hoop going. I was never good at that and would lose in minutes. We played jump rope, stick ball or went roller skating. A skate key was on a string around the neck to tighten a loose skate that was fastened to each shoe. Years later we went to an indoor roller rink to skate, renting white leather shoe skates. An organ player provided the music and usually it was favorites featured on The Hit Parade. An emcee would announce when it was “ladies choice” and it was the brave young miss that would skate over to young male teen ask him to skate and hold your hand!

When our first daughter turned fourteen I described that “in my day” young girls wore a corsage to school so everybody knew how old she was. This was not your typical floral corsage, but a unique one with different items and only a few flowers filled in. I’m not sure of the meaning behind all of the decorative inclusions, although some are obvious. For age 14 the corsage had tiny dog biscuits, which signified “puppy love” which many 14 year old girls might experience by gazing at a cute young boy next to her in class or that poster of the latest teen singing idol. Age 15 it was lifesavers and 16 sugar cubes for “Sweet 16”. You can imagine how outdated it seems now that for someone turning 18, the corsage was compiled with CIGARETTES between the flowers. Most of the time the corsages were made of candy cigarettes, but sometime real ones! After elementary and high school graduation was upon us, it was common to buy an autograph book for your classmates, best friends, and close relatives to sign. We didn’t have yearbooks like the kids have today. Our small leather “Autograph Book”, purchased at Woolworth’s five and dime store was what we passed around the last two weeks before eighth grade graduation.  I still have my book in a desk drawer and occasionally take it out and look at the lovely messages written to me scores of decades ago. Particularly heartwarming are the pages of notes from my late grandmothers and other older family members no longer with us.  Several of the classmates from those grade school dates are still close friends and keep in touch regularly. After one phone conversation about “the old days” and grade school, I scanned the page that my friend, JoAnn, had signed and emailed it to her. There in her young teen handwriting was the message to me that “we’ll be friends forever” and she was right. She was amazed that I still had my old autograph book and remembered exactly where I kept it.