Kids today don’t know what they’re missing

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

My generation, like the generations of children that preceded us in Tustin, looked forward each spring to warm weather and playgrounds without mud.

This was the time to abandon shoes and dig into our secret hiding places to root out toys that had scattered during the cold, winter months. We’d untangle grubby jump ropes, count marbles and jacks and replace knotted ties on their drawstring bags.

If a jack ball was missing, we’d hunt for a replacement. Inevitably we’d have mislaid a few of these treasurers, necessitating a campaign for a trip to Santa Ana to buy replacements. Clean, white cotton jump ropes, cellophane bags of sparkling glass marbles and cards of shiny jacks with bright red balls waited on the toy counter at the dime store.

Taking our jump ropes, jacks and marbles to school was as important as remembering our lunch or homework. Teachers insisted that marbles and jacks stay buried in our desks with jump ropes stashed in the cloakroom until recess. But most of us couldn’t resist cautiously lifting the battered lid of our wooden desk a few inches to sneak a peek during class. Sheltered by the child sitting ahead of us on a pull-down seat attached to the front of our desk, we were rarely caught, but if the teacher glimpsed a jack or marble outside of our desk, the penalty was putting the entire bag on her desk for the day.

As we sat penned into rows of desks anchored to the floor, reading or laboring over arithmetic, a marble would sometimes roll down the aisle alerting the teacher to someone one checking out his aggies.

At recess and lunch, girls would crowd onto any smooth surface, dividing up to play jacks. After scattering the jacks, the player would bounce the ball and use the same hand to pick up a jack or jacks and put them in the free hand before catching the ball. “Onesies,” then “twosies”, advancing to picking up the entire pile in a sweep, was the basic game. We added features such as brushing the surface or tapping the jack before dropping it into the other hand. If you fumbled a jack or the ball bounced before you completed your maneuver, the next player took over.

Boys drew a rough circle on the ground with a stick for playing marbles. After tossing the marbles into the ring, they took turns shooting from outside it, flicking an aggie between thumb and forefinger, aiming to knock another marble out of bounds. Marbles knocked out were claimed by the shooter whose turn ended when he failed to eliminate another marble.

Jump rope could be an individual or group sport. If a long rope was used with a turner on each end, the players lined up, waiting to run in as soon as the person in front of them faltered. All players chanted a verse that set the pace and action. When it was our turn, we’d shout out the name of our favorite version, such as Red Hot Pepper.

Kids today don’t know what they’re missing.


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