Remembering the Plays of the Depression Years . . . by One o’the Nine

This afternoon Hubby and I spent the afternoon at our unmarried neighbor’s house at what will be an all afternoon-into the wee hours party. Being a bit older than most attendees, our bedtime is a bit earlier so after Florida won, we came home. Florida was playing Alabama in a playoff  for the Southeastern Conference championship, and Kevin was showing off his new wide, flat-screen television that made you feel as if you were right there on the field with the players, except that you couldn’t smell the sweat. Some of us there had Florida ties, and it was an exciting game right up to the last couple of minutes before Florida’s win was official even though I don’t really understand the game and have trouble figuring out where the ball went. I think it’s because I grew up at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Maybe I’ll look for a copy of Football for Dummies.

One o’the Nine, an uncle now deceased, wrote and published this about competing in games played as he was growing up during the years of the Great Depression. It was first published in the Florida Free Press on January 1, 1987.

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009_9-2I was watching the Mayo Hornets as they practiced at the Mayo High School last week. They are truly a great team. But, when I was a boy going to the little country school we had no football team, no basketball team, or even a baseball team.

The little school that my eight brothers and I attended had only two rooms and we only used one of the rooms. We had one teacher that taught all the classes through the eighth grade. Sometimes there were only one or two pupils in a class.

There was a porch that went halfway around the school with a pine floor. If one of the boys had a jack knife, we would play “stick frog” on the porch floor. If we did not have a knife to play stick frog with, we would play marbles. I was just a small boy and did not have much of a chance to win as one of the boys in the third grade was sixteen years old and drove an old car to school.

Sometimes we would play a game called “jump board.” I wonder if any of my readers have ever played jump board. (If you have, drop me a note in the comment section so we’ll know how may know what I’m talking about.) The way you play jump board is to have a board about two inches thick, about one foot wide and about ten feet long, and place the board across a log and one person gets on one end and another on the other end.One jumps, and when he comes down and hits the board [with his feet], it will send the other one up into the air. I have seen two people jump for half an hour without stopping.

I was always real small and couldn’t throw my partner very high, but we had a boy that weighed about two-hundred pounds in the fourth grade. He would stand on the school porch while I stood on one end of the board on the ground. Then he would jump off the porch onto the other end of the board and send me through the air like a rocket.

I saw the [Mayo High] football players make a touchdown, but they never made a touchdown like I did when that fat boy jumped on that board.

We played another game that was supposed to be softball. The only thing that was wrong was we had no softball, only a ball made of twine (string) wrapped around a rock until it was large enough to play with. Our bat was usually a piece of board we had torn off the old outhouse.

We played hard at school at lunch time and worked hard when we got home in the afternoons. We were poor but since everyone we knew was poor also, we never thought anything of it. Still, I can’t imagine we could have been any happier with the bought stuff children play with today than we were with our makeshift toys and games.

Postscript from Wintersong: The school I attended not many years later was a little better than the two room school house my uncle remembered. We actually did have a basketball team for both boys and girls, and the boys competed in softball as well. I don’t remember football at all. What I do remember is that all our sports efforts taught us at Mason was how to be good losers. To my knowledge, for as many years as I and my two older brothers and sister went there, we NEVER won a game, not even once! What else could we expect from a high school with probably less than 40 people total for grades 9-12–not a great pool for a coach to draw from.

Poor Mrs. Guthrie got really good at peptalks after all the practice she had over the years. It’s not whether you win or lose, she’d remind us, but how you play the game that counts. I suspect what she really meant was that what really counts was how well we learned to handle losing. Let me tell you, I grew up to be a winner at losing (games, that is), so much that I still avoid competition whenever I can. But in spite of that, with all the blessings I around me in Hubby and family, I’m a winner at what really counts.

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2 thoughts on “Remembering the Plays of the Depression Years . . . by One o’the Nine

  1. Thank you so very much for the wonderful notes you have been leaving me. Goodness…..I feel I have to live up to them now.

    Slowly, ever so slowly, I’m learning to write.

    Have I told you recently how much I enjoy these columns by your uncles. He’s a good looking young man too. Very 1960’s in that slim suit and skinny tie.

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