Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fun and Games when I was a boy

Juliana Smith at the 24/7 Family History Circle blog has posted another set of five questions for people to reply to in honor of Family History Month. This week, the topic is Fun and Games. Here are my memories:

1) What was your favorite game when you were a child? Were you a board game enthusiast? A card shark? Or perhaps a kick-the-can kid?

I invented my own baseball game using three dice and a scorecard - my Padres always beat the other team for some reason. I didn't worry about balls and strikes - just roll the dice and a total of 3 was a home run, 18 was a triple, 4 and 17 were doubles, 5, 6 and 16 were singles, 7 was a walk, 15 was a strikeout, 8, 9, 13, and 14 were ground outs, 10, 11 and 12 were flyouts. I would announce the games just like Al Schuss the Padres radio guy (his home run call was "And There It Goes") and kept score.

Outside, we played bicycle tag all over the neighborhood and "cops and drivers" on the block using our flexible flyers (sleds with wheels and brakes). We used chalk on the sidewalks for stop signs, one guy was the cop and tried to stop the others and give them tickets for infractions or reckless driving. We made big stop signs and tried to control traffic on the street, but the cops came and talked sternly to us and our mom.

My brothers and I grew up being very competitive but fair-minded. We invented games and played them with abandon. We played baseball and football in the street and down at the park. I was almost always the quarterback and play-caller and couldn't tackle worth a lick. I couldn't hit in baseball, so I was usually a pitcher.

2) Did you play any particular games with your family as a child? Easter egg hunts? Thanksgiving Day football games? Scavenger hunts? Charades?

At the dinner table, the family played "Ghosts" (I have no clue why it was called that!). This was a spelling game - the words had to be more than 4 letters, and the player who spelled a word got a point - five points and you were out of the game. This got me into the dictionary, and when the first letter was "b," I always said "d" and the word had to be "bdellium." When the first letter was "m," I always said "n" and the word had to be "mnemonic." I could often control who got the point. We eventually modified the game so that you could add 2 letters if a word would be spelled with the next letter - and got words like "antidisestablishmentarianism" and "pneumonoultrasilicos... darn, can't remember it now! ) I found lots of great words that way, and still remember some of them. My folks loved this game since it was competitive and educational for us.

We usually played outdoor games as a family in the small patio - whiffle ball, kick ball, dodge ball, ping pong and basketball. My mother used a different ping pong grip than the rest of us, and we learned to slice, carve and spin. I finally was able to beat my mother and father in ping pong when I was 12 or 13.

There were Easter egg hunts all over the yard. The family occasionally played Canasta (a card game), and Monopoly and Parchesi board games.

We had a Lionel O-gauge train set and ran tracks all through the house with at least two engine controls. We spent our allowance on train engines and box cars and tried to create collisions at intersections. My dad loved playing with us on the trains.

3) What were some fun places you visited as a child? Did your family go camping? Did you take family vacations? Was there a local destination that was a family favorite?

The family vacations we took were mainly to state bowling tournaments in the 1950's - we went to Fresno, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Barbara, and Stockton, as I recall. We stayed in motels with pools and visited tourist sites (I remember the Winchester House in San Jose!). One year we came down Highway 1 south of Monterey for some reason - and the road was washed out.

Our first family vacation was in 1954, and we went to Bass Lake, just south of Yosemite National Park (500 miles away). I learned to swim there, and it was my first camping experience. We hiked, boated, swam, and had a lot of fun.

Living in San Diego, we went to the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park a lot. It was free for kids, and we spent many days at the Zoo - we played hide and seek there. When Disneyland opened in 1954 in Anaheim, we went every few years.

4) What activities did you do with family members? Did Grandma teach you to sew? Who taught you to cook? Did you go fishing with Grandpa? An uncle? Who coached your baseball team?

My grandparents lived in Point Loma just above San Diego Bay, and we would go to the fishing pier there with my grandfather.

My brother and I had stamp and coin collections, and my grandfather supported that interest with plate blocks every month or so.

My grandmother was a dear - she loved us, taught us and fed us. She raised me for several years during WW2 when my dad was in the Navy and my mom was working. Some of my most precious memories are singing Christmas carols at their house in bed with her leading.

My dad managed my brothers' baseball teams from 1956 to 1971 or so. I coached and kept score for him for many of those years.

My mother was an only child so there were no aunts or uncles or cousins around from that side. My father's family was back East - an uncle, 4 aunts and some cousins, so we didn't know them. My dad had one cousin in San Diego that we saw at Christmas time.

Cook? Sew? Wash? Who, me? I was way too busy playing games as a kid.

5) Did you enjoy watching professional sports? What was your favorite team? Do you have any special memories of sporting events?

The Padres were my favorite baseball team (AAA Pacific Coast League 1936-1967). I listened to the radio for almost every game (sometimes beneath the covers!) from 1949 to 1960 or so. We occasionally took the bus downtown to go to games at Lane Field at the harbor, and then to Westgate Park in Mission Valley. The Pads were the farm team for the Cleveland Indians in the 1950's, and we saw Herb Score, Rocky Colavito, Bob Lemon, Luke Easter, Bob Elliott, Earl Rapp, Max West, Jack Graham and other players on their way up or on their way down. The Pads won the PCL pennant in 1954 which was real exciting.

The Chargers came to town in 1961 and they became my favorite football team. They won the AFL championship in 1963 and were a playoff team in 1961, 1964, 1965 and 1966.

The 1950's were a really fun period to grown up as a kid in San Diego. This was a fun set of questions!

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