Poking around the internet after watching a rousing Glenn Ford western movie on Criterion, I noticed a plea from a father for advice on a good gaming system to play with his eleven year old son. Gaming system? Does that suggest that some digitally produced artificial world of challenges and decorative gore is preferable to those modes of entertainment that do not need to be plugged in?
What happened to playing cards? Are they only to be used for Texas Hold’em nowadays? Even Solitaire is played on the computer screen making, I suspect, card shuffling a lost art. When I was quite young my grandfather taught me how to play Spades and Casino and we would play in the evening while he waited for the wrestling to start on KTLA. My Aunt kept several dice in a small drawer ready for a quick game of Bunko and my Father drew pips on two sugar cubes so we could play Cootie on the back of an envelope with an old stump of a pencil. Not to mention Tiddlywinks, Parcheesi, and Uncle Wiggley.
For real excitement there was cutthroat marbles with the kids of the neighborhood. I kept my envious collection in a light blue corduroy drawstring bag. Back then having a good shooter (never smooth or shiny) was better than having peach ice cream at a summer picnic (although churning the ice cream maker was torture for your pitching arm).
When we were kids it was our responsibility to entertain ourselves and, hopefully, avoid physical injury. If it was pleasant outside, we were not allowed to stay in the house. If it was raining, the go-to card game was War! I’m fairly certain I played War! at least four thousand times. One good thing about War! is that you could play it by yourself. War! was one of those games that required no skill: in fact, it required no conscious thought.
A Deck of Cards, a Fli-Back, and a Yo-Yo: how could you ever get bored? But today, get a fancy game system and one of two things happen: you are turned into the living dead staring at the monitor or you get bored and go watch television.
Television. There’s another thing we didn’t rely on for entertainment. Hey, I was ten before my family got its first television. I grew up on the radio.
I still prefer the radio.