I had equal amounts of farm toys and little girl toys and equal interest in those two areas of play. The dolls I got for Christmas on two or three occasions were amazing wonders to my eyes and so very much appreciated. I had a very small dollbed, about a foot wide and perhaps 14 inches long, with a little curved headboard. It had been built by Dad and also featured a small patchwork quilt with squares of velvet and wool, that were leftovers Mom had from a quilt she made around 1950. The doll quilt is just in the other room here now in 1911. My appreciation of “the stuff of memories” has everything to do with who’s behind the stuff. My parents’ faces are behind “all the stuff” described in this piece.
My brother and I had a rather extensive collection of miniature farm machinery which actually did function, in its little tiny way. We had tractors, disks and harrows. The only piece of standard farm equipment that we never had that would work well was a plow–so we would use an old teaspoon from the kitchen. We could imitatea plow furrow for the little 2 foot X 1 foot fields of our little farm by holding the spoon on edge against the dirt, dragging it the length of the field and turning up the dirt with a “plowing effect.”
We laid out elaborate little arrangements of fields for our farm, featuring little roads to drive the little machinery from the little farm house area and a few cattle, power poles and electric wire. The power lines were represented by small sticks, sticking out of the ground perhaps 2-3 inches and had string strung between them along the little road. It was good, dirty fun.
We also played tennis in the summer, but it wasn’t “pretty town tennis.” We had a tennis net. We had two tennis rackets. We had two tennis balls. We had rough bare ground between the house and the barn, where one tall pole that supported one side of the swing stood about 25 feet from another tall electric pole that was the yard light. The tennis net would be strung between those two poles, and wrapped as tightly as possible so that it would stay in place. It would be tied fairly high on the poles, for a reason. With the rough bare dirt containing knots of tough crested wheat grass there was absolutely no potential for bouncing the ball on the ground as would be done on a standard tennis court: the ball needed to remain airborne at all times. Therefore, the batting of the ball back and forth was at a fairly impressive altitute–straight across the net at about 8 or 10 feet (the top of the net being at about 6-8 feet height). It was fast, powerful tennis that was served up this way! Not a task for weinies! Some summers we actually got pretty got at pounding that thing back and forth with an impressive series of “WHAAAAPS!”
I had a little cupboard with little sets of dishes and kitchen things. They got more attention and playtime in the winter when it was time to be inside.
When the weather was really bitter (temperatures dropping to more than 30 below zero [F] was about the point where we considered it “really bitter”)…when we couldn’t safely play outside at all, we would sometimes be allowed to set up the pingpong net on the dining room table, and play pingpong all day, or if not there, we might rig something in the basement that we could play pingpong on. I would also roller skate, in rather tight circles, in the basement in winter.
We were good company for one another and stayed busy with chores and lots of board games, like Uncle Wiggly, Sorry and Old Maid, and reading of all kinds.
When we had company, playing hide and seek with cousins or neighbor kids was the best fun. And if all our parents visited into the evening as darkness fell, the hide-and-seek got better as the hiding places among the outbuildings and the tree line became even a better and better hiding place. The two large yardlights provided opportunity for shadow tag which was often the last game of the night, until the visiting parents would come out of the house after the last cup of coffee, call their children to the car and then–the very final event of the evening would have them touching us and running like crazy for their car, calling as they went, “Touched ya last!!” and we would pursue them, running as fast as we could, hoping to swish our hand across their back before they got the car door shut, so we could dance back from the car, celebrating our own victory as we called to them, “Touched you last!!!”