The Invented Games Boys Played

by J Pinsent

Baseball was  big with us growing up but you needed a playing field plus a large number of boys. This was not always possible especially when most of us went away on summer vacation. Also our baseball field filled with water after a big rain fall and it took days to dry out. During these down times something had to fill the void.

We invented our own game that was very similar to Cricket, in fact that’s what we called it.   Instead of wickets we used three tin carnation milk cans, stacked in a pyramid fashion. Set up the same way as the original game, with a player/batter at both ends. Scoring runs was also the same. Both batters had to touch the “hole” in front of the milk cans in order to score a run.  No such things as the ball being “out of bounds” when hit. Of course, the ball had to bounce at least once before it reached you. No fastballs like baseball. You just kept scoring runs till the other team found the ball and put it back into play. Not as many complicated rules as in our baseball games. If both players had their bats in the “hole” before the cans were toppled over by the ball, you were safe.

 The ball was normally a hard India rubber ball,  bought at Goodyear’s for about a quarter. Red on one end and blue on the other with a white strip around the middle. It really hurt when it hit you. The bat was generally anything that you could grip and swing to hit a ball. Sometimes just a piece of board with a handle chopped out with an axe. Our cricket field was the gravel/cinder road, closed to traffic, behind our apartment building.  And we only needed a few boys to play, roughly 4 or more players to a team. Sometimes one or two of the girls would play if we were short. You played till either you had to go in and eat or it became dark.

 That was summer fun. Winter was different. We played hockey but not all of the time. One of our invented games, we called “Clinging Cars”. The most exciting game ever invented for 10-12 year old boys. Strictly forbidden by our parents. That’s why it was so exciting. For background, the streets in Gander were never salted. Mainly because they didn’t salt the runways so there wasn’t any salt to put on the streets. The streets in the winter consisted of compacted snow, which more than often turned into ice. When the streets became too slippery they were “salted” with cinders from the four heating plants in Gander (another story).

 Our goal was to hide along the intersections where cars had to stop or slow down. We would creep out, beneath the rear view mirror’s scope of vision and “cling” on to the bumper of the vehicle in a squat position. Then it was a “bull” ride to see who could cling on the longest after the car started to speed up. You would bump along just hanging on for dear life trying to keep your balance in the squat position. Sometime you would loose you balance and end up on your knees. Oh God that hurt. You would have to let go and loose the challenge. If the ice on the road was really rough, you might just rub through your snow pants and maybe even your long underwear. Justify that when you get home. More reason to keep your balance.  Most of us had leather patches on the knees of their snow pants so wearing a hole in your pants didn’t occur often. But the biggest problem was having your mitts sticking to the bumper of the car.

 The bumpers in those days were made out of metal. The combination of wet mitts and a frosty bumper was a learning lesson in physics in our young life. After loosing your mitts a few times you start to gain a little more intelligence. Not enough intelligence to stop clinging cars but only to cling cars you knew that weren’t  going any great distance. Therefore you never cling cars going out of the Army side. Only those entering and staying in the area.  So knowing the cars was important.  If you did loose your mitts, see where the car was going so you could go over and get your mitt/mitts, from the cars bumper after it was parked in the driveway. If you had dry mitts, just starting off, you might take a chance on a car leaving the Army side. Sometime you would cling a car going to the Signals Centre and loose a mitt.  Big trouble. That was a long walk and spooky if it was at night. I did have a curfew till 8:00 but wanted to get home by 7:30 to listen to “Come Be Gay” on the radio. So in those situations you had to go home, minus 1 mitt. Now the options came into play.

 I always had more than one pair of mitts. Maybe, as many as three pairs, if my grandmother had lots of wool and time to knit. Option # 1: If more than two pairs, throw away the odd mitt, mom would never miss it. Option #2 If you lost both mitts just bluff. Say you left them at school. Option #3 :If it was late in winter and option #1 & #2 had already been used more than once, then just keep your mouth shut and mom may not notice you are missing your mitts. I could always borrow dads. Problem with option #3, dads mitts were so big, your chances of loosing them next time you went clinging cars was doubled or worse. As a kid, I was becoming stressed out about losing mitts.

 One day in particular, I decided, at the last moment to run across the road , away from the other lurkers, in order to get a jump on everyone. Only so many could cling at the same time so it mattered who could get out of the starting gate first. One of the guys (probably Morley) tried to stop me but I bolted across at the last moment. It was bad timing, trying to stop me had slowed me up. The car hit me and sent me flying through the air into the snow bank along side of the road. It was more of a glancing blow because I was running and almost clear of the car when it hit me. The driver jumped out of the car concerned about my condition and wanted to take me to the hospital. I just wanted to get back into action plus mom would find out and I would get hurt more.  I wasn’t injured, just a little sore and I could walk. Well, with just a slight limp. No broken bones. I insisted I was OK and he let me off the hook. That evening when I undressed for bed, I found a fairly large bruise on my hip and thigh area. Couldn’t let mom see that. She would know for sure what happened.

 Getting caught clinging cars occasionally happened and my mother would scold me. That was disgraceful.   Not clinging cars, but getting caught. I can still hear my mother. “Don’t you go clinging no cars” whenever I went out through the door, as I headed for our favorite “clinging” intersection. “No Mom I won’t cling NO cars”. The double negative always let me off the hook.

 We certainly had our games to play growing up in Gander. Boredom was a word we didn’t understand.


Morley & I