When Esther was growing up most children had very few toys and the ones they did have were simple ones. In What the Moon Said, Esther jumps rope, plays jacks and hopscotch, balls, marbles, and table games. Rollover the games below and learn more.
Jump rope was a favorite because it could generally be made from rope already available at home. (Clothes were hung on rope clothes lines because there were no dryers, so an extra piece of clothesline was usually handy.) There were many different games that could be played, especially when there was a long enough piece of rope to have someone at each end turning it and one or two girls or boys jumping in and out. In What the Moon Said, Esther jumps to "Buster Brown" but there were lots of other songs. Here are two examples, but you can find lots more in jump rope song or chant books at your library.
Dressed in yella
To meet a fella
How many fellas did she meet?
(Count by tens as you jump and the rope is turned faster and faster.)
Down in the valley
Where the green grass grows,
There sat Janey
Sweet as a rose.
Along came Johnny
And kissed her on the cheek.
How many kisses
Did she get this week?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5. . . .
(Turn the rope faster and faster when the counting begins.)
Playing "Jacks" was very popular when Esther was a girl.
This is what the game pieces look like--10 jacks and a small rubber ball.
Sit down on the floor or sidewalk and roll the 10 jacks in front of you. Toss the ball into the air and while it's in the air, pick up one jack using the same hand that you threw the ball with and then catch the ball in the same hand before it lands.
Repeat until you've picked up all 10 jacks. Then toss all of the jacks out onto the playing surface again.
This time, toss the ball into the air and pick up two jacks and catch the ball before it hits the ground.
Repeat until all jacks are picked up. Then keep on playing, always adding one more jack to the number that must be picked up on one toss of the ball until you pick up ALL TEN at once! It's not easy but it can be done with lots of practice.
If you miss catching the ball or pick up the wrong number of jacks, you pass the ball to the next player and they follow the same steps. When it's your turn again, start with the number of jacks you left off with on your last turn and keep trying to build up to scooping up all ten jacks on one toss to win the game.
One of the fun things about this game is that you can play it alone as well as with friends. When you play alone and you miss, you start over from the beginning (picking up just one jack) to keep improving your skill.
The game of "Hopscotch" was probably the most popular sidewalk game and it looked like this (although it was sometimes drawn differently in different places).
Players took turns tossing their marker first into the #1 square, then hopping on one foot OVER the square with the marker and onto the 2, and 3. 4 and 5 were a landing of two feet, one again on the 6, and two feet on the 7 and 8. Then the player jumped up and turned around (feet landing in 7 and 8 again) and hopped back to the beginning, again hopping OVER the space with their marker. Then they toss their marker into the 2 square and repeat the play. When they miss a toss or a hop, they leave their marker where it is and the next person begins their turn. They have to hop over their own marker as well as the first player's. As the tosses get farther away and there are more markets in squares the game gets harder, but eventually someone will get their marker to all the numbers in order and win the game.
There were lots of other sidewalk games, too that boys and girls alike enjoyed. "Red Rover", "Mother May I”, "Duck, Duck, Goose," and “Red Light, Green Light” are just a few, and of course the still popular Tag ("It") and "Hide and Seek".
Balls were useful for playing any number of games, from "Catch" to "Monkey in the Middle" (sometimes called "Keep Away") . Boys played kick ball, dodge ball, stick ball, and of course baseball.
Marbles was a hugely popular game boys played during this time and could be played any number of ways, even by just one person, as Walter did in What the Moon Said."
Table games were very popular too, especially Checkers and Chinese Checkers, Tiddly Winks and Dominoes. Card games were extra popular because one deck of cards could be used to play so many different games, from the very simple War to Old Maid, Crazy Eights and Rummy.
Imaginative play was important growing up in Esther's time and still is today. Young girls enjoyed pretending to be mothers, playing House with their dolls. Boys pretended to be policemen and cowboys and soldiers.
Girls usually moved on from actual dolls to Paper dolls as they got older. It was fun cutting out the beautiful dresses and then acting out make-believe adventures with the pretty cardboard figures.
Like Esther, boys and girls enjoyed going to the movie theater to see the latest films but although the movies started to have sound in the 1930s, they were still all in black and white.
Radio Shows. A much more popular entertainment that the whole family enjoyed, just as Esther's did, was listening to radio shows. If you'd like, you can listen to samples of actual old radio shows. Ask your mom or dad to help you do an online search for "Radio Shows Early 1930s." You'll find samples of "The Lone Ranger", "Fibber McGee and Molly" and many others, and it will help you to imagine what it was like when Esther was growing up.
Like Esther, boys and girls enjoyed going to the movie theater to see the latest films, but although the movies started to have sound in the 1930s, they were still all in black and white.
An equally popular entertainment that the whole family enjoyed, just as Esther's did, was listening to radio shows. If you'd like, you can listen to old radio shows. Ask your mom or dad to help you do an online search for "Radio Shows Early 1930s". You'll find samples of "The Lone Ranger", "Fibber McGee and Molly" and many others, and it will help you to better imagine what it was like when Esther was growing up.