The Ides of March
How Kids Whiled
Away the Time in the 1930s
I dont know what other
kids did for fun in the blustery March days during the 1930s,
but in the neighbourhood of Parent Avenue between Tecumseh Road
and Hanna, weather was never a deterrent. Our skating rink, one
of the best in the city, had melted, but we played street hockey
using a ball for a puck and a couple of bricks about four feet apart
as a goal.
In those days, there werent
as many cars on the road. In fact traffic was so sparse, if a car
came along every 15 minutes or so, we considered it a heavy traffic
When the vacant lot where we
played ball was too muddy, we took to the streets to play bat and
ball games, like "Hit the Bat," or "21." There were other games
we played on the street whatever our vivid imaginations could
Parent Avenue, with its long
boulevard down the centre for streetcar tracks, made an ideal configuration
for racing and thats just what we did. Hoop races,
where wed speed around the boulevards pushing buggy-wheels
with sticks nailed together like drafting T-squares. There were
no prizes for the winners; all was for fun.
Or, wed have tire races
wed race around the boulevard slapping at tires with
the palm of our hands. Steering them around curves required dexterity
to keep the tire from getting away or knocking over an unsuspecting
pedestrian, who were more numerous than cars.
One of the strangest games we
played was bowling with an iron ball. About the size of a regular
lawn-bowling ball, it weighed about 12 pounds. Bowling it towards
a group of kids standing by the next lamppost, they had to stop
the ball from crossing a chalk-mark, serving as the goal line.
Some kids used garbage cans,
thrown at the oncoming ball. Others used brooms, two-by-fours or
cinder blocks as goaltending tools. But the balls force only
caused the ball to deflect in any direction, causing kids to scramble
The garbage can was the best
tool, but someone forgot that the balls force could carry
the garbage can halfway down the street before coming to a stop.
Or if someone was brave (or stupid) enough to hold the can, the
ball crashed through, taking the bottom with it.
A much more dangerous variation
of this game was when we substituted 6-inch diameter rings from
engine blocks "borrowed" from Meretskys junkyard on Howard
With a cross-section one-inch
wide and about 1/16 of an inch thick, no one had presence of mind
to figure out these rings were lethal projectiles that could inflict
Wed throw these rings
down the street, and one had to have a sharp eye because it was
not easy to spot or dodge. Again, kids at the other end of the boulevard
had to stop it from passing by.
The same "goaltending" devices
were used. In hindsight, if a ring had careened off and flown sideways,
a kids head could have been scalped. Youth is wasted on the
young, I guess!
During one round of "ring toss,"
an elderly couple sat on their porch steps watching the action.
Suddenly a ring spun out of control straight at them. Ive
never seen two old people move so athletically and with such blinding
speed to dodge that missile. After that close call, we decided to
quit the game.
When street games became boring,
we played basketball in the alley, using bushel baskets nailed to
telephone poles and whatever we had on hand. Oftentimes we used
a Carnation milk can wrapped with burlap sacking if no ball was
Another form of amusement was
target practice, played in the alley behind our place. One of the
kids owned a B-B- gun, and believe it or not we only had three B-Bs,
as we couldnt afford to buy any, and therefore, couldnt
afford to lose them.
We devised a way to ensure the
BBs recovery by nailing a magazine against the door of a little
clubhouse On the front cover was a figure of a man as our target.
We played other games in our
vacant lot, including French and English, Pump-Pump-Pullaway, Jimmy,
Jimmy long tail. In the evenings, we played Kick the Can or
In short, there was neighbourhood
activity for kids night and day. And if the sun did peek out and
warm us up, wed play shooters (marbles, as others kids called
it) on packed clay in our vacant lot.
Never a moment wasted on Parent
Avenue unless our parents had chores for us. When the rains
came wed gather on the front porch for word games.
My house was the gathering place;
I think my mother put up with the neighbourhood kids because she
knew where her own kids were and didnt have to worry about
them for once!
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