Whitesburg KY
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We called it ‘Base’



I’ve lost track of the total number of readers who have either emailed or posted to my Facebook page on the subject of games they used to play in grade school back in the days when most of us knew what a school bus looked like but had yet to ride one because we walked, often more than a mile in each direction to and from school.

Actually Truman Caudill only walked one way. He rode his Schwinn Racer bicycle nearly two miles to school because it was downhill all the way and his schoolmates literally fought for the right to push it back up Blair Branch on the way home. But that’s a previously told tale and I’m trying, really hard, to not get side-tracked here.

Anyway, I’ve had well over a hundred contacts regarding playground activities at small, rural schools from all over eastern and southeastern Kentucky and I have come to the conclusion that we Blair Branch grade-schoolers were, perhaps, victims of our isolation because I’ve been told of numerous recess games that we never played nor did I know they existed.

Spatial limitations prevent me from getting into the details of such games as “Blind Duck”, “Bear Tracker”, “Dingle Doodle” and “Swap Meet” among several others that were popular in different counties but never known to Blair Branch. Those are only four of the games I’d never heard of but, suffice to say, an entire column could be devoted to simply listing the names of schoolyard games I’ve heard about over the last few days without devoting a single phrase to describing them.

Several games like Red Rover, Hopscotch, Round Town, Dodge Ball and Basketball seemed to be universally popular throughout the region as well as dozens of different marbles games, but I only received a single mention of, arguably, the most popular game ever played at Blair Branch Grade School.

Richard Cornett, who taught first and second graders at Blair Branch one year, I’m thinking 1959 or ‘60, was one of the few teachers who enjoyed getting outside and playing “Base” as much as the kids. Now I’m wondering if the game was a well-kept Blair Branch secret or if other “kids” of my generation played, what we called “Base” but with a different name?

While Base was mostly a boys’ game, more athletically inclined girls sometimes joined what can factually be called the fray.

Our basketball court had goal posts, locust saplings, on which the backboards and hoops were mounted. These posts served as bases for the game. We usually had two older boys choose sides from among as many kids as wanted to play. The objective of the game was to have a player from one base run around the opposing base without being tagged by an opposing player.

Any player who left his home base could be tagged out by an opposing player who had touched his home base or the hand of one of his teammates who was touching home base after the first guy left base. This was called having “base on” somebody. If you were tagged by someone with “base” on you, you had to stand in a block called “dunce” marked off beside the opposing teams home base until one of your teammates managed to tag you out of dunce without getting caught.

Anyway, I do intend to keep the subject of school playground games of yesteryear going in this space from time to time over the next several months and I am especially interested in hearing from anyone who ever played Base.

My email address is: ikeadams@aol.com



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