He told me she was confined to a nursing home now having suffered a heart attack and a severe stroke. He said she was unable to speak. That saddened me because it meant I couldn't visit her and chat about those bygone days.
If we could have that chat, she no doubt would recall how childhood play and games are so different now from back then.
Games were seasonal and divided into indoor and outdoor activities. They also had a definite gender classification. Some games were for boys only, some for girls only and some could include both. For instance boys had a penchant for making zoom noises and bang-bang sounds as they ran a great deal flying their stick airplanes or shooting their finger pistols. Boys also galloped a good bit, slapping their backsides, urging their imaginary horses to greater speeds.
Boys instinctively knew when marbles stopped and baseball started. They were content throwing, kicking, knocking or catching a ball of any kind or size. They also included all comers into their group or circle. Whoever wanted to play of the male gender was welcome; the more the merrier. Boys loved to climb everything in sight, and they had little interest in protecting their clothing or staying reasonably clean. Of course, one of their favorite pasttimes of all was tormenting and teasing girls, who did not share their interest in wiggly-slimey things.
Girls, on the other hand, did have a great deal of fun playing hopscotch, rock school and jumping short and long ropes. Hassie was probably a very good long rope jumper, who recited with us one of the many verses accompanying the game, as we threw the rope in a high arc: "Cinderella, dressed in yellow went upstairs to kiss her fella; made a mistake, kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take? One, two, three..Hot Pepper!" Hassie probably jumped as fast as she could while counting to a hundred or more before tripping.
Jumping a single rope, another favorite verse for girls to recite was: "Bubble gum, bubble gum tastes so sweet. How many pieces can you eat?" One, two, three...or they might have preferred "Strawberry shortcakes, blueberry tarts tell the names of your sweeethearts:"
Allen (Howard), Billy (Rice), Clark (Bailey),David (Nesbitt), Frank (Atkins), George (Finley Smith), Howard (Pope), Ikie (Burns), Jack (Howard), King (Rice), Leonard (Hayes)...which was about as far as anyone could have gotten before running out of names or stumbling and having to begin all over again with a new "jumper."
Bobjacks was a favorite game with girls as well. It took a good bit of eye-hand coordination to throw a small ball into the air, swoop up the proper number of jacks and then catch the ball without misplacing or touching another jack.
Probably at home, Hassie played board games and card games, like the rest of us, such as Parcheesie, Monopoly, Bingo, Old Maid, Rook and Flinch. Of course, family members and neighborhood children could join in those games as long as they didn't have a falling out over rules or suspicions of cheating.
It was common practice to mark the Old Maid card, for example, so as not to draw her from some other player's hand.
The boys were bad about peeping into other players' hands, and I guess, too, some of the girls were a little guilty of that as well.
Children used to play a great deal out of doors and came in only at dark and at mealtime.
They made up many of their own games and imagined their own toys or made their playthings themselves out of scraps of cloth, wood, tin, clothes pins, paper and cardboard.
When playtime was over, boys chopped wood, carried coal, banked fires and did their chores; girls set the table, helped with meals, tended the younger ones and made the home tidy.
Boys learned from the men folk how to fix things and build things; girls learned from the womenfolk the uses of household needles, yarns and threads, as well as the art of decorating and preparing food.
If only Hassie and I could communicate, we would dredge up so many more memories of those days, when playing certain games was simple, with no need for electric hook-ups or batteries.
If we could share memories, I would tell her that I remember her with fond affection, and in my mind's eye, as a shy little girl in cotton dresses, one who had a beautiful smile, reddish hair as naturally curly as a Shirley Temple doll and was the best rope-jumper in the whole Harlan Elementary School around 1938.