School Daze: Games We Played

My class at Elizabethtown Library
My class at Elizabethtown Library

Here we are all bunched up together for a photo documenting our excursion from Rheems Elementary School to the library in town about 3 miles away. But we’ll soon board buses, and go back to our two-room school-house in Rheems where we’ll probably have lunch or recess. And we’ll lose our serious faces, eyes agape.

Recess, yes! After Miss Longenecker, grades 1- 4, or Mrs. Kilhefner, grades 5 – 8, excuses us, we all scram out to the playground equipped with a slide, see-saw, and jungle gym with bars for climbing and twirling our bodies around. Before we go back to class, most of us will pay a visit to the typical wooden outhouses, one for girls and one for boys, right next to each other and both regularly anointed with lime to quell the smell.

Group Outdoor Games:

1. Softball  (Need an extra inning? Teachers, not so pressured by students’ test scores, may extend our play.)

2. Red Rover “Red Rover, Red Rover,” let ________ come over!) involving mad dashes around school building.

3. Crack the Whip  Classmates in a line, running, then strong body at one end stops short, so others flip around. Cheap thrill!

4. Tag   When someone chases you down on the playground and touches you, you are IT!

5. Hide and Go Seek   HideGoSeek

Games with Just a Few:

1. Simon says

2. Hop-scotch

3. Four square

4. Jump rope

5. Double jump rope  Each child has a handle on two different jump ropes and flicks them one at a time in opposite directions.  “I dare you not to trip up!”

Rainy Day Games:

1. Jacks  Jacks game

2. Pick Up Sticks

Courtesy: Google Images
Courtesy: Google Images

3. Tiddly-Winks  (Players try to snap small plastic disks into a cup by pressing them on the edge with a large disk.)

Treat for Teacher:

Someone, probably Ralph, announces in the middle of class “Fruit Roll!” and kids behind every desk in class jump up with an apple, orange, or grapefruit to roll along the oiled, wooden schoolhouse floor toward the teacher’s desk, an unexpected treat!  [In an era when teachers fear spit balls or worse–guns! even, such a gesture is most endearing.]


I wish I could show a photo of the school and outhouses, but one cold evening during Christmas vacation, the school burned down, suspiciously, and was replaced by a standard- issue concrete structure, not nearly as nostalgic as the steepled one with a bell that I remember.

I was already in junior high in the big school uptown when the fire occurred, but my sister Janice remembers being shifted to Washington School, the building adjacent to Bossler’s Mennonite Church, where our Daddy and Aunt Ruthie attended. This old school had a large furnace in the basement with a sizable flat top, and students would bring potatoes wrapped in foil to bake on top of the furnace for a nice hot lunch on cold, cold days.

Like Mildred Armstrong Kalish in her memoir, Little Heathens, depicting Iowa farm and school life during the Depression, I have fond, fond memories of Rheems Elementary School in the 1950s.

Fun time resource for parents, grandparents:

 *   *   *   *   *

Add some memorable games to the list!


13 thoughts on “School Daze: Games We Played

  1. What a nice piece of nostalgia. I love the way your posts bring back so many fond memories of my childhood and the stories I was told in my youth. My Great Aunt Belle was the first schoolteacher in Harris Co. GA. A spinster as most were in those days. The older of the seven sisters, she taught her younger siblings and many of the county children in a little schoolhouse called Sunny Side, which is now the community clubhouse in that rural community. (The whole community gathers there now for a potluck on the first Saturday night of each month.)There were four classrooms, an auditorium complete with stage and a kitchen/diningroom area. My grandmother said they used to have to walk to school in the dead of winter and carried hot baked potatoes in their pockets to keep their hands warm, and then ate them for lunch.


    1. I love your variation on the theme of hot baked potatoes. Wow, who knew they could be hand-warmers too! I hope you are enjoying your grand-children this weekend, and partially detached from cyber-world. Thanks for stopping by to comment.


  2. I remember Red Rover, and it was deadly. As the skinny kid, some overweight bully was always hurling my way, trying to snap my twiggy arms in order to break the line. It was much safer to dangle upside down from the monkey bars over the bed of concrete below 🙂


    1. I didn’t mind being hurled by the pimply hunk at the head as the line unfurled. But I must confess I was too scared to twirl on the top rung of the monkey bars and there wasn’t even “a bed of concrete below.” I think it was simply grass, but I graduated from grade school never having conquered my fear. Oh, well.


  3. If I were the recipient of a “Fruit Roll” I would have encouraged the rollers to include a package of Twinkies or maybe even a Snowball, the kind with the chocolate center, marsh mellow with coconut covering. But I guess they wouldn’t roll so well.


  4. I remember all of these, but my favorite, by far, was softball.

    I talk about both softball and outhouses in my own memoir. Love the photos.

    And the thing I am most nostalgic about is the sense of freedom and wide open spaces on the schoolyard in those days. Like you say, today seems frenzied by comparison. Yet we learned.


    1. I am sure any day now your book will arrive in my mailbox. Reading it will probably be like looking at myself in the mirror. Can’t wait! Best wishes as you travel to Lititz this week for the birth of BLUSH, to the public that is.


  5. No outhouses or softball in my memoir, but memories have surfaced reading this post. One favorite rainy day game (if you have a basement and stairs leading down) was Rock School. “Teacher” would stand with a rock in one hand, and if you selected the correct hand, you were asked a question. If you answered correctly, you advanced up one step. First to the top was the winner and now assumed the role of “Teacher.” My cousins and I played this so much on bad weather days. Thanks for the memories, Marian.


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