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 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
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