August 29, 2009

We May Be Dolts, But at Least We Don't Wear Gymnasium Suits

I recently adapted, updated, and expanded on a 1910 book on games, namely Jessie Bancroft's Games for the Playground, Home, School & Gymnasium.

In it, I was disconcerted to learn that the children of yesteryear apparently possessed powers that make modern adults look like dolts. Bancroft’s game players were assumed to be able to play the piano (or other musical instrument) and also to have the ability to compose short speeches on the spot. Some games even required the players to possess a working knowledge of diverse fields like botany and the classics. (Gasp!)

In addition to quaint anachronisms (girls needed to wear “gymnasium suits” for active recreating), political correctness had not yet been concocted. To wit, here is a paraphrased version of the game of “Gypsy”:
One player is selected for gypsy, and one for the mother. The other players are children. The gypsy hides while the mother says to her children:

I charge my children every one
To keep good house while I am gone;
You and you, and especially you,
Or else I’ll beat you black and blue.

The mother then goes away and the gypsy comes in, takes away a child, and hides her, repeating this until all of the children are gone. The mother returns and, finding her children gone, searches for them. When all the children are brought back home, the whole family chases the gypsy.

Other games in the volume:

—Misleadingly Doesn’t Involve Lunchmeats: “Wee Bologna Man” (sort of a Simon Says game)

—Mind-numbingly Boring: Bargain Counter (“
Each player is required to find the names of twenty-five textiles that may be purchased in a dry goods store…”)

—Bewildering: “Dumb Crambo”

—Made Me Briefly Question the Author’s Sanity: “
[Tetherball] is one of the most delightful and vigorous games…

—Misleadingly Bawdy: “Spanish Fly” (an innocent jumping game)

So what did my book adaptation lead to? Why, I'm glad you asked!

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