Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Games we played in Queens, New York in the late 1950s


My daughter was asking me why I fought so much as a kid in Whitestone, Queens, NY. I probably fought once every two weeks with my friends, and once a month with kids I didn't really know. And yes, I lost almost every damned one. When I got someone down I would ask if they gave up and if they said yes, I would let them go. Then they would jump on me as I walked away and darn, I'd lost again.
Those fights were pretty regular between say, 8 years old and 15 or 16. A few broken noses, a lost tooth, a broken jaw, broken wrist, broken fingers and knuckles. Normal wear and tear, though, for an Irish, Italian, German neighborhood.
But then my daughter asked me what was the craziest game we played. Well, it wasn't one walled handball, which was great, or stoop ball, or punch ball, or stick all, or baseball, or football, or card flipping, or even skolsie, the bottle cap game where you snap your bottlec aps along the gravel street with your thumb and forefinger, trying to get your bottle caps in certain places on a chalked board on the street surface.
No, the odd game, and I will bet a lot of you played it as well, had a name i forget. You stood, facing your opponent, about 4 feet from one another. You spread your legs out as far as you could. So did your opponent. Then, after flipping a coin or using "rock, paper, scissors" to determined who started, one guy would take out a folding knife or bowie knife, and throw it in the dirt in the space between the other fellow's feet.
He'd make it, of course. then it was your turn. You did the same. Both players moved their feet in by a few inches. You threw the knives again.
You would both make it, and then move your feet closer together and throw again. And again. And again.
It generally took about 7 or 8 throws to get feet a foot or so apart. That's where it got tricky. Cause if your opponent made the throw into the dirt, and you did too, you next throw would be at a space that was only 6 inches wide. And if you both made that throw, the next throw was at a space about one inch wide. And that was the throw that was going to hurt, because it was going to hit your sneakers, go through them, and the knife would embed itself in you foot.
A lot of guys would chicken out when it got that close, but the point of the game was to see who would stick with it, knowing the pain was coming. And knowing that the guy who threw his knife into your foot was going to have to stand there will you did it to him, while his knife was still in you.
I forget the name of that game but I probably played it hundreds of times and have the scars and some broken upper foot bones to prove it.
1951 was a great year to be born. We had it all. Including crazy shit.

1 comment:

Bill Freimuth said...

Isn't that a version of mumbly-peg?