I need to do one more column on old-time schooldays while they are still fresh on my mind, otherwise I’m apt to forget about it. Since a number of people have taken the time and trouble to relate stories about playground equipment of which I am only vaguely familiar and at least one game I’d never heard of, I feel compelled to do this piece before we let the subject rest a spell.
Bill West told me last week that, like most other schools, it was also against the rule to play marbles for “keeps” when he was in grade school at Paint Lick in the 1940s, but that didn’t mean it didn’t happen.
Bill remembered the year the school got a new principal after one who had served for years retired.
Said principal had a son Bill’s age and it wasn’t very long before the son owned most of the marbles in Paint Lick because he was a crack shot who obviously wasn’t dead set on setting a good example for the rules his dad laid out. Besides that, nobody could afford to tell on him without getting in trouble themselves.
Bill West also remembered one of their schoolyard games that I’d never heard about before he described it. I would love to hear from anybody else who has ever played “Sheep, Meat, Mutton,” He couldn’t remember all the rules, but the game involved drawing a large circle, perhaps 10 feet in diameter on the ground.
It started with two kids in the middle while numerous other kids tried to run across the circle without getting tapped twice on the back the kids in the circle. If you got tapped out, you had stay in the circle and help try to catch the next one. By the time five or so kids were inside the circle, the next one to try running through was likely to be tackled.
“ It could get pretty rough,” according to Mr. West.
Carolyn Rush, who lives in London, told me about a piece of playground at a school in McCreary County back in the late 1950s called a “Flying Jenny.” It was a cross between a merry-goround and a seesaw. It not only teetered and tottered, but spun around from a center axle at the same time. I’d never heard of one but Carolyn sent me an Internet link and, sure enough, there are pictures of Flying Jenny’s just like she described them. If you have a computer, Google “Flying Jenny” and let me know if you’d allow your kids to play on one.
Grant Robinson, who lives in northern Garrard County at Bryantsville, told me about the maypole that used to be on the playground at Bryan Station Elementary when he was in grade school way back when. It consisted of a 12 foot or so tall steel post with a wheel at the top. Six or eight chains dangled from the wheel and each had a circular steel grip attached to the end. The notion was to grab hold of the grip, stand as far back from the pole as you could and run around the pole to make the wheel spin and then hang on for dear life. If you got half a dozen kids playing at the same time, they had to hang on tight because their feet would be off the ground.
I know for sure that there was one of those contraptions at a school somewhere in Letcher County, Stuart Robinson, maybe. If anyone up that way remembers, please let me know.
As was the case with the “Flying Jenny” you can find examples of schoolyard maypoles and Oil Barrel Bulls on the Internet and wonder how so many survived our childhood schooldays.
My email address is: email@example.com.