Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Indoor games

At this time of year, my memory reminds me of the joy I had as a child with indoor games. I learned the classics, checkers/drafts and chess. I also learned how to play poker in my early teens, although often without stakes, or with minimal ones. (Except in the rare instances when the odds were in my favor, gambling never held any charm for this tightwad.)

I also used to enjoy contract bridge, it's older cousin (auction bridge), and it's primitive ancestor, whist. "Snap" and "Beggar-my-neighbor" were other enjoyable past times in the early years.

I was particularly entranced by board games Dover Patrol, in which two players position their fleets, made up of small cards with the type of vessel visible only on one side, were a lot of fun, as were the military version (L' Attaque) and an aviation one, the name of which I have forgotten, were also favorites. Then there was a combined version known as Try Tactics.

I attended a wonderful British-style Prep school (from age 8 or thereabouts until 13). All boys enjoyed a "hobby hour" every weekday evening. One could go to the library and read the paper, or read a book, but also it was permissible to play a board game. Well over 70 years ago, the best game of all appeared on the scene: Monopoly. There was a British version, in which the cheapest properties were in the East end of London, and the most expensive were Park Lane and Mayfair. One problem with that wonderful game (essentially "stolen" from it's forgotten inventor by Parker Bros.) was that it was almost impossible to finish a game in one session.

There were two moderately successful spin offs from Monopoly.Totopoly was a horse racing game, and Bulls and Bears was, as it's name implies, based on stock exchange transactions.

When I wasn't playing games of that sort, I always had my trains to play with. These were Hornby "Gauge 0" trains, originally clockwork, but later electrified. I was allowed to turn the loft over our three-car garage into a semi-permanent railroad layout.

At children's parties, and with the gathered family over Christmas, our favorite game was a form of "Charades". Our version was known as "Dumb Crambo". The first team would send a representative to the "secret" gathering of the rival team, in a far corner of the room. The representative would be given a word, and she or he would then try to act out the word in dumb show. The remaining members of the first team would try to guess the answer and call it out. Sometimes this was quite easy: If one observed the actor miming the action of sawing, and then of riding and perhaps whipping an animal, one knew it was "Sawhorse". Imagine trying to act out a phrase like "moral hazard"! It seems to me that young people of today are more likely to watch TV than engage actively in indoor games at their parties.

However, we now have a granddaughter, who entertains children at their birthday parties.
In my time, we would hire a professional conjurer. Justine performs as a "fairy", but she also performs some "magic" tricks.


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