Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Remembering Recess


Milk River Elementary. My home away from home.

The Milk River Elementary School, house of learning to some two hundred children, was on the north-east corner of the town.
On the north and east, it was bordered by farmland.
On the south, by houses.
And on the west, by the field that stretched between it and the high school two blocks away.
The only playground equipment was a set of teeter-totters (see-saws) at the east end of the school building, and a monkey-bar on the west.
Oh and sometime between grades three and four, near the garbage, they installed a tether-ball pole.
The very latest in school-ground play equipment.
Let’s face it, dependance on toys and/or playing apparatus for entertainment wasn't expected.
Or necessary, as it turned out.
Because we made up our own games.
And two hundred-plus kids pooling their collective imaginations can come up with a lot of 'entertainment'.
We held impromptu races.
Which Kathy 'The Jet' Angyal always won.
Flag football games.
I should probably mention, here, that I never saw the use in just grabbing the flag when you can grab the whole kid.
And Lloyd Eagleson has the scars to prove it.
Climbing 'the rock'.
But that was only for the older, cooler kids.
Hide and seek.
Fun, but limiting when you had nothing but an open field in which to hide. (Or the neighbour's barley crop, which stood some feet over our heads. Just FYI.)
Tag. In its many incarnations.
Regular.
Frozen.
Poison.
Kick the can.
And King of the Castle.
Games of hopscotch.
There was one time we tried to get really creative and have some fun 'off site'.
And had an early brush with the law.
But that is another post . . .
Several of the girls played jump rope games.
Very popular and truly amazing to watch.
I, who had a hard time walking and breathing at the same time, was astounded at what many of those girls could do.
And while chanting/singing, too.
I never saw the use for it, though I did try.
But after getting my feet knocked out from beneath me for the 40th time, I gave it up as hopeless.
And put the jump ropes to better use.
I should remind you that we were mostly farm kids.
And I and many others, like me, were completely infatuated with horses.
Thus, skipping ropes immediately brought to mind – harnesses.
Because.
We would pass the rope around the middle (waist) of our chosen horse, hang onto the ends, give the accepted 'start' command in a firm voice.
Giddyap! or something similarly creative.
And we were off.
Horse pulling.
'Driver' . . . umm . . . driving.
Around, over and through the other kids on the playground.
It was fun.
When we tired of running, we would nip into the aforementioned barley crop across the road and pull up armloads of green, sweet-smelling 'hay'.
As feed.
And to build little nests for our steeds.
You know, now that I think of it, I wonder what the farmer thought when he saw the ragged south-east corner of his crop.
As Milk River still went on to produce three 'Barley Kings', I guess our armloads of stolen barley stalks didn't make too much of a difference.
Back to my story . . .
I was there recently.
At Milk River Elementary, I mean.
The school now has extensive and obviously expensive playground equipment.
And trees.
And tall fences.
The monkey bars are gone.
As are the teeter-totters and tether ball.
There are still farmer's fields to the east.
But a large ball-diamond had been constructed on the west side, between it and the high school.
And houses and development on the north, completely eliminating our old barley field.
I stared at the 'developed' space and pictured us kids playing and laughing at recess and noon hour.
Do these modern children, with their modern conveniences, have as much fun as we did?
Somehow, I doubt it.

13 comments:

  1. Diane, no doubt about it. These children are not having as much fun as we did! Have I ever told you I was tether-ball champion in fifth grade? I acquired the title by beating the reigning champion one hot afternoon. When my children were little, I found a portable tether-ball at Kmart and promptly purchased it. My kids never bothered to take it out of the box and sadly, I ended up returning it. That's why I know children nowadays don't know what real play is about. I remember playing "jacks," pick up sticks, hopscotch, and tag. For hours! This post served to trigger so many beautiful memories. I was able to clearly see that tether-ball swing around the pole and hear someone say, "We have a new champion!" :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And you say you're not an athlete!!! I've never been champion at anything! Congratulations!!! I forgot jacks! I loved jacks! I always screwed up on sixies. I could do fine up to then. Sigh. The memories!

      Delete
  2. Kids at recess now are heavily supervised and controlled, young kids separated from older etc, everyones eagle eye out for bullies. In my day the teeter totters already looked like they came out of Noah's Ark, the swings were just holding in there and that was all we had. We had strict orders to keep out of the old driving shed out back but we didn't (of course). No one kept an eye on us and tattle tales and whiners were not tolerated. Ah, those were the days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have the kids now been 'supervised' right out of using their imaginations? I was doing a school presentation a few months ago, trying to encourage the kids to start writing their own stories and I talked to them about what THEIR make-belief world could be like. I was amazed at the sparkle that came to their eyes. Their teachers said that, afterwards, they couldn't get the kids to STOP writing. They just need to be encouraged to use that imagination out on the playground!

      Delete
  3. You know, I give the little guys all the credit in the world. They don't know what they're missing, so they make their own fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm just happy when they make their own fun WITHOUT electronics! :)

      Delete
  4. I remember carrying our books from the old school down the hill to the new school up the hill a couple of months before the school year ended. I was in 2nd grade then... Can you believe that was over ----- a long time ago? I remember my 3rd grade teacher. What a ----- I think I'll tell that story another time...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. Third grade is where I remember you when I started. So I was the in the first grade one class to start the year in that building? I had no idea! I knew it was fairly new, but not THAT new! And I'd love to hear about your third grade teacher . . .

      Delete
  5. I doubt they have as much fun either... I loved skipping and hop scotch. We used our brains and played game after game, many that we made up. We were never bored that I remember :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aha! So you're one of those amazing kids who could skip. I'm so envious . . .

      Delete
  6. I think kids today miss out on a LOT having their entertainment designed for them... you're right. We had to invent our own - and I believe we're better off for having done so!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved our made-up games. I saw a series of cartoons in Calvin and Hobbes once when they were playing 'Calvinball'. It sounded a lot like what we used to come up with . . .

      Delete
  7. Ahh. Sounds so much like my own elementary years in Northern Minnesota.

    We were just kids, and that's all we needed to be.

    Pearl

    ReplyDelete

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