Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 24: Street Games

              Aunt Helen with my cousins and my sister                                                            

I don't think kids today know how to keep themselves entertained without plugging into a video game, but when we four kids weren’t working in the grocery store, we played outside with our friends. In South Philadelphia during the 1950’s, there were electric trolley cars that ran down 15th street. Since not everyone could afford a car in those days, we kids had more room to play stick ball. I can see the puzzled looks already. Stick ball? Yep, that was another term for baseball, but without a field, bat or even a regular ball. If you check out this site, you’ll get the gist: http://www.streetplay.com/stickball/

                                                          Sample of stick ball game
I honestly don’t remember any of the kids on our street belonging to any baseball leagues like we have today. I don’t know how it was in the suburbs, so if there are any readers who lived outside of South Philly and were part of a junior baseball league, let me know.
                                  15th and Porter Streets--Fred's Grocery Store
We kids were resourceful back then and could make up games to play at the drop of a hat, but let’s get back to stick ball on 15th Street. There was always an old broom stick that was used as a bat and of course the most important equipment; a pimple ball.
My father sold pimples balls for 10 cents and then he would slice the pimple ball in half for the kids. This was the only way you were allowed to use the ball. As far as the bases, we usually designated whatever cars were parked on the street, and Home base was usually a neighbor’s step.                                                                   
Whenever a car drove down the street or the trolley came by, we would stop the game until it was safe to continue playing. Sometimes we were so into the game, that we didn’t notice the approaching car. It was a wonder that we weren’t killed, but maybe it’s because there weren’t that many cars on the road during the 50’s. The game lasted until the neighborhood Moms yelled out their front doors to tell us that dinner was ready.                                                                    
Jailbreak was another neat game, where one person was the jailer and the person who was 'It' had to capture the crooks and stand them in front of a designated neighbor’s house.
The trick was to keep the people in jail from breaking free while you capture more prisoners. Tag, jacks, hopscotch, and roller skating were other favorite games that we neighborhood kids loved to play until the call for supper sounded.
                                           Jane and Michael                              
We didn’t have video games or computers in those days and the television only had 3 to 5 stations, so it was up to us kids to make up our own games. We were never bored and if we even dared to say we were; our moms had plenty of work for us to do around the house.                                    
One time, my cousin Annie from New Gretna, New Jersey came to spend the week and I had lent her an extra pair of skates to go street skating with us. These were the skates that attached to your shoes and you had to use a key to tighten them.
While we were skating on the street, a big street sweeper turned the corner and headed up the street towards us. Poor Annie, who’d never seen a machine like this, panicked. We were little and I don’t think the driver saw Annie, but I was able to grab her arm and pull her to safety.
The streets were noisy with the laughter of children as we ran, jumped and tumbled our way through childhood on a South Philly street. We were innocent of the evil lurking behind closed doors and only came face to face with it when one of our friends sported a black eye given to them by good ole dad or mom. But that is a story for another time…maybe saved for my book, as I want these blog posts to be about happy times.

                Next week’s post will be about Uncle Ralph’s visit from Naples and King Kong.


  1. I'll never forget playing stick ball on our street. But, we also played hockey more than anything else. We were such an interesting group to hang around!

  2. Hi Jack:) I don't think we even knew what hockey was back then, but if we did; we would have played the game ,especially since the boys on our street outnumbered the girls. Thank you for visiting my page.