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
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
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.