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Peter Ponders... Old-School Games

Featured Photo from Peter Ponders... Old-School Games

Are your children too cool for old school? - Peter Reilly

Listen up kids: Today, we’re talking old-school fun.

You can have your expensive video-game systems with enough computing power to steer a self-driving car. We’ll take a cut-off broom handle and a 99-cent pink Spalding, thank you very much, and launch the rubber ball to the roof of a house a block away.

You can have social media and post smartphone pictures of what you had for lunch to millions of viewers. We’ll draw chalk pictures on the sidewalk and keep score of who’s winning in hopscotch. 

You can waste your time fighting imaginary zombies on post-apocalyptic battlefields for hours on end. Or, you can try it old-school, like my generation. We ran around and played outdoors after school and on weekends until the streetlights came on and the fireflies lit up.
And I’ll bet we had more fun than you.

Parents of millennials often spent about two hours a day playing outdoors. Today’s kids spend less than half that time. In a generation, high-tech electronic games have lured kids inside and locked the door behind them. 

Summer heat in Seminole County does play a factor in keeping kids indoors; as do modern safety concerns. But in the process, dozens of outdoor games that stimulated their imaginations, kept them physically fit, and taught them to resolve conflicts with others are at risk of being lost.

There is a chance of minor injury with outdoor games. But when we played, a Band-Aid on a skinned knee was a bandage of honor for prowess on the playground.

And compared to the bloody and gory violence in some video games, old-school pursuits like Johnny-on-the-Pony are harmless horseplay.

Here is a brief description of some old-school, outdoor games. Make sure you have permission from your parents, schools, and playground supervisors before playing:

Johnny-on-the-Pony, a.k.a. Buck Buck – One team forms a single-file line in which each player crouches and puts his arms around the waist of the player in front of him. Then, one after another, players from the opposing team run and leap on the other team’s backs in an attempt to break the line (search YouTube to see the game in action). As a husky child, I can still remember the groans of the opposing players just before I would launch my run. 

Stickball – We all know this one. It’s baseball with a broom handle and a rubbery Spalding ball. Eddie Iacomini was the Babe Ruth of my old neighborhood. He used to hit towering home runs that landed on rooftops a block away.

Double Dutch – Two children gripping a pair of long jump ropes in both hands twirl the ropes in opposite directions creating an opening for one or more jumpers to enter and jump the ropes without getting hung up. Historians believe the game was created by Dutch settlers in New York City.

Ace-King-Queen – This is a form of handball with three players who line up in front of three chalk-drawn boxes on a flat wall. The boxes are ranked from Ace to King to Queen. The object of the game is to hit your opponent’s ball back to him or her before it bounces a second time. If your opponent misses your return and was in a higher-ranked box, they have to trade boxes with you. The number of points scored is based on which box you were in. 

Red Rover – This classic starts with two lines of opposing teams locking hands with their teammates. One line starts by saying, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Billy on over.” Billy’s mission is to run and break through the enemy line’s weakest point. If he succeeds, he returns to his team with a captured prisoner. If he fails, he stays with the opposing team. 

When I used to play these games as a kid, I remember one time a contest was called because of darkness – at high noon. It was a solar eclipse that made midday look like midnight.

That’s something you’ll never see indoors while playing video games.

Peter Reilly lives in Lake Mary with his wife and son. He can be reached at

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